Ever since I can remember, the raisin has been my sneaky dessert nemesis. On more than one occasion, little Younger Self bit into what she thought was a perfectly normal chocolate chip cookie, only to be horrified to taste the squidgy, sticky goo of a raisin. (I guess I still do that on occasion; but at least I’m now mature enough to refrain from spitting it out. When anyone’s watching.)
Luckily for my Younger Self, the raisin often came with a helpful marker: the oatmeal. I quickly learned to avoid like the plague any cookie that looked unreasonably bumpy or craggy, and that bit of caution worked beautifully for most of my life.
But then, to both my joy and dismay, the world began slowly producing chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. There was joy because, as I soon discovered, the things are absolutely delightful; they might actually be my favorite cookie. Nutty, chocolaty, and chewy, all in one glorious and golden-brown package. But of course there was also dismay; I was no longer able to rely fully on the old warning that had been so simple. Oatmeal cookies no longer equal raisin cookies; sometimes, they equal something I really want to eat.
I now must poke and prod and examine an oatmeal cookie very closely to determine the level of safety. It’s just unfair to get a girl’s hopes up, only to dash them with the realization that those dark bits are raisins. Disappointment from a cookie is the worst kind.
You can see, then, why I was just about to pass over a recent Cookie of the Day from Martha Stewart: they were called Oatmeal-Raisin Bars. But the photo caught my eye. I am a bit of a sucker for bar cookies in general (you can cut them into any shape or size you want!), and those. Looked. Awesome.
What’s more, the recipe looked about as simple as breathing. No waiting for butter to soften, no creaming, no portioning individual scoops of dough. Just melt butter, whisk with wet ingredients, mix in dry ingredients. Bake. Cut. Eat. Repeat. They were right up my alley, aside from those damned raisins.
As easy as they looked, and considering that I had all the necessary ingredients on hand, I decided to give them a try (swapping the raisins for chocolate chips, of course). The smell from the oven while they baked was fantastic; the butter and brown sugar mingled into an almost butterscotch scent, while the toasting oatmeal came through warm and cheerful.
I may have let them bake a minute or so too long; I think I would prefer these with a slightly under-done center. But really, I’m just being picky; these are an excellent oatmeal cookie, pleasingly firm and easy to cut. The oats soften into an appropriately chewy texture, which I was initially a little concerned that they might not do, due to the relatively high percentage of them in the batter. The oats also provide a sort of ersatz “flaky layer” effect and texture, which is quite pretty. A touch of cinnamon and vanilla deepen the flavors, and play quite nicely with the chocolate. A splash or two of Bourbon would not have been out of place, but I restrained myself this time.
I guess if you insist on using raisins, and no one around you finds them objectionable, they’d probably go quite well. I did briefly consider using currants or dried cherries instead, and once this batch is gone (and those buckeyes, curse you for being so tasty), I may have a go at that. They couldn’t possibly be simpler to make, and I can almost guarantee acclaim if you bring a plateful along to anywhere.
And for the record, I have nothing personal against raisins; I just have never really enjoyed eating them. We have an understanding: as long as they stay in their little red box, and I don’t put them in my shopping cart, we do just fine.
Adapted from Martha Stewart Everyday Food
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus extra
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 cups (7 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
- 1 cup (6 ounces) chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Butter an 8 inch square baking pan thoroughly, and line the bottom with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides. Butter the parchment as well.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, sugars, salt, cinnamon, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Add the flour, oats, and chocolate chips. Gently fold together until just combined.
3. Spread the batter in the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Bake at 350º F until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely in the pan, at least 1 hour. Using the paper overhang, lift onto a cutting board and divide into 16 bars.