Having already confessed my love for chocolate chip cookies, there is little left to admit but that I've made them, again. This time the sin was with oatmeal: thick, chewy rolled oats from up towards northern Maine, coupled with a good bit of butter, sugar, and plenty of chocolate.
I was inspired by an interview with Teri Horn, founder of Hyannis-based Kayak Cookies and creator of the Chocolate Salty Oat. We'd talked about the cookies for nearly an hour; she'd run through the oats she used and her butter tips, and we'd laughed through a few stories of disaster.
By the time I reached home, I was in a virtual cookie frenzy.
I pulled out my mother's oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe, warmed the oven, and mixed up a bowl of dry ingredients. Next, it was on to the wet: sugar and butter and eggs and milk, and finally I put the two together. The oven steamed hot, and in they went: 24 perfect drops of gold.
But when the sheet emerged, minutes later, my creations brought to mind one of Teri's calamitous stories. They had spread, thin as a sheet, individual oats stuck to the pan with huge craters of chocolate rising up. They were tasty, to be sure, and at the least not burnt, but they hardly compared to the bag of Salty Oats teasing me from the kitchen counter.
I turned to the Hershey's website to trouble shoot the disaster. "If homemade cookies spread too much during baking, the following problems may have occurred," it instructed with a militant groan. The oven could have been too cold, the baking sheets greased too heavily, oil substituted for butter. The cookie sheet could have been hot when I'd dropped the cookies, or perhaps fructose sugar was substituted for cane? No, at none of these had I failed.
But when I came to the section on brown sugar, I knew what I'd done to deserve disaster. "Dark brown sugar was used instead of light brown sugar," the accusation read, and I blushed at the strength of its truth. Yes, certainly that had been it. Despite the Maine organic flour and thick rolled oats, the stick and a half of Kate's Homemade Butter, and the hand-cut chunks of Baker's Chocolate Semi-Sweet (in varying sizes as Teri recommended, no less!) my cookies had spread. All on account of a sugar substitution I'd never even thought to suspect.
OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Makes 24 small cookies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat 1 cup light brown sugar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 3/4 cup butter, 1 egg, and 1/4 cup water in a large mixing bowl. Mix in 1/2 cup white flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 3 cups raw rolled oats, and 1 package chocolate chips. When well mixed, form into small balls and drop onto well-greased cookie sheet; bake 10 minutes or until golden.