Do you remember that chain letter than went around in the wee days of the internet? The one with the recipe for Neiman-Marcus cookies? It’s probably still circulating, but I came across it almost twenty years ago (woah — time flies!) and every bloody time I walk into a L’Aroma Bakery in Anchorage I think of that email. You see, I’m difficult to impress when it comes to bakery cookies. Most are too huge and way over-baked. Plus, in what is likely a cost-cutting measure, the cookies are usually missing something delicious and they fall flat on their faces on the palate.
But L’Aroma is different.
I’m also not usually a huge fan of oatmeal cookies, but their version — which uses cranberries instead of the archetypal raisin — will sucker-punch you with their sheer deliciousness and you won’t even mind.
So, the point is that many of us have a list of “I want this recipe for my very own” from our various favorite haunts. L’Aroma’s oat-cran cookie is definitely on the short list. (Oh, the other stuff on the short list? The triple-berry scones from — of course — L’Aroma* and the chocolate-chip cookies from A Sweet Affair in Walnut Creek, CA.) Would I pay $250 for the recipe? Well, given that The Hubs and I are prone to taking foodcations to Anchorage every year and we certainly spend more than that on just getting there, it doesn’t seem unreasonable. And since we can’t go this summer (which is killing me), maybe I should just cajole them into selling their recipe instead — it would be cheaper than a trip up there.
Failing that, I have this recipe. No, it’s not exactly the same as my L’Aroma favorite since there are pecans and chocolate and the flavor is a bit different, but these cookies are almost as good. But let me tell you, this is almost the recipe That Never Was. For some reason, I had to do battle with these cookies FIVE TIMES before I finally got the better of them. I referred to one of my failures — attempting to make brown sugar at home — already, but the other failures generally had to do with forgetting how to read a measuring cup and over-baking (which really surprised me, given that these sorts of errors don’t usually happen in Cook’s Illustrated recipes, especially when they have an admonishment that says “Do not over-bake!”). But I have emerged on the cookie gauntlet successful, after learning to stock my freaking kitchen with the right kind of sugar, rembmering that fluid ounces and tablespoons are NOT the same thing, and pulling out every trick I know to maximize a cookie’s chew. Now that I’ve done the behind-the-scenes work, I implore thee: go out and bake these too!
* When we were last in Anchorage last summer, The Hubs and I pulled off The Great Scone Heist, in which we hit every singe location in the city that sold the scones and bought them out so we could freeze them and take them home with us. If you understand how quickly each morning the residents and tourists buy out those scones, you’ll be impressed by our feat. Also — and this is a total digression here — whenever I go to the Kaladi Brothers Coffee (Alaska’s far-superior answer to Starbucks) in Seattle, I’m always slightly disappointed that they don’t carry L’Aroma pastries like their more northerly locations do.
Oatmeal chocolate-chunk cran-pecan cookies
Adapted from the May/June 2005 issue of Cook’s Illustrated
Makes 16 cookies
- My goal here was a very chewy cookie. The use of bread flour brings more gluten — and thus more chew — to the mix. If you want an even chewier cookie, melt the butter before you mix it with the sugar, which will make more water available for gluten formation. You could also cut out another tablespoon of fat and sub in a tablespoon of water.
- If the cookies are a bit crisp the day you bake them, if you can possibly wait another day to eat them, they will soften and chew-ify some more.
- You can substitute chopped dried cherries for the cranberries and toasted hazelnuts or walnuts for the pecans, if you like.
- For some reason, my oats measure weirdly: 1 1/4 cup does not weigh 3 1/2 ounces. When in doubt, I go by weight.
You will need:
- 1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 ounces) flour (an approximate 50/50 mix of unbleached all-purpose and bread flour will give you better chew)
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1 1/4 cups rolled oats, old-fashioned, (3 1/2 ounces)
- 1 cup toasted pecans (4 ounces), chopped
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks about size of chocolate chips (about 3/4 cup)
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened but still cool OR 10 tablepsoons refined coconut oil plus 2 tablespoons water
- 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar (10 1/2 ounces), preferably dark
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions; heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large (18 by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. In second medium bowl, stir together oats, pecans, cherries, and chocolate.
- In standing mixer fitted with flat beater, beat butter (or oil and water) and sugar at medium speed until no sugar lumps remain, about 1 minute. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula; add egg and vanilla and beat on medium-low speed until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl; with mixer running at low speed, add flour mixture; mix until just combined, about 30 seconds. With mixer still running on low, gradually add oat/nut mixture; mix until just incorporated. Give dough final stir with rubber spatula to ensure that no flour pockets remain and ingredients are evenly distributed.
- Divide dough evenly into 16 portions, each about 1/4 cup, then roll between palms into balls about 2 inches in diameter; stagger 8 balls on each baking sheet, spacing them about 2 1/2 inches apart. Using hands, gently press each dough ball to 1 inch thickness. Bake both baking sheets 10 minutes, rotate them front to back and top to bottom, then continue to bake until cookies are medium brown and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will seem underdone and will appear raw, wet, and shiny in cracks), about 6 minutes longer. Do not overbake.
- Cool cookies on baking sheets on wire rack 5 minutes; using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.