Friday, January 1, 2010

oatmeal raisin cookies - nutmeg...really, cook's illustrated?

cook's illustrated oatmeal raisin cookie - 34So before I came to visit my parents, their new neighbors stopped by and gave them a plate full of cookies and goodies. I thought it was only fitting to bake my own assorted goodies to give back to them, in place of my parents. So I obviously used this as an excuse to try to new recipes. While thinking of recipes to bake, I opened the pantry and saw a huge box of Quaker Oats. I figured I would try a new recipe (Cook's Illustrated obviously, now that I have my new official subscription) because the last one didn't turn out so well.

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Although not stated in their recipe, I decided to toast the oats first. I read this on many other sites, that toasting the oats before mixing them allows the natural taste to increase, giving it a more nutty and delicious addition. The same goes for nuts, which I never use unless toasting them first. Also, while I was looking for baking sheets, I came across my mom's Food Network pans (lucky!).

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Let's talk about the dry ingredients- Nutmeg... Really? I'm so used to using cinnamon in oatmeal raisin that I found this inclusion really intriguing. Luckily, I had nutmeg on me (I sound like Alton Brown right?) but actually I bought a ton of spices while I was at my grandma's because they were a lot cheaper there. I'm not familiar with nutmeg, nor have I ever used it, so you know I had to do some thorough inspecting. I sniffed, felt, and tasted nutmeg, only to come to the conclusion that it is almost similar to cinnamon, but with its own personality. I can't say that I liked it very much, and I almost went to grab my cinnamon instead, but since I love Cook's Illustrated so much, I had to at least try them first.

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This is the butter, sugars, and egg mixture. The difference between this recipe and that of the Quaker Oats' is that here I used double the amount of butter (I always say the more butter, the better). Also, the ratio of brown sugar to granulated sugar is equal in this recipe, whereas the Quaker Oats has more brown sugar to granulated sugar (which is actually very interesting, because brown sugar tends to always equal a chewier and taster, in my opinion, cookie).

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So just as a typical chocolate chip cookie recipe, you mix the wet and dry first, then add the additions (here being the oats and the raisins).

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I tasted quite a bit of this dough and I couldn't get past the nutmeg flavor. Maybe I just wasn't accustomed to it yet.

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Now I'm completely trusting Cook's Illustrated here, and so I wrapped the dough up and set it in the fridge (like usual, of course).

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The recipe said I should have 16-20 two inch balls of dough, and since I halved the recipe I figured I should have around 8-10. I guess I'm just so used to making my regular sized dough balls (small palm-fulls) that I ended up making 12. Whatever, I figure I'd rather make the cookies the way I wanted.

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So the cookies came out slightly deformed and didn't resemble the typical oatmeal raisin cookie I was used to.

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I also baked them around 20 minutes (I don't really remember) when the recipe stated 22-25 minutes. The outsides look slightly burnt and brown, which was why I took them out before they were supposed to.

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Interestingly enough, the cookie was not overdone, and instead had the perfect consistency. In my opinion, this is how an oatmeal raisin cookie should be- crisp on the outside (should be more than other cookies) and chewy on the inside.

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So basically this cookie surpassed my expectations and so much more. What is even more interesting is how much I enjoyed the hint of nutmeg. It didn't overpower the cookie, as sometimes cinnamon would, and it gave that "what-is-that?" type of effect.

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I'm usually not one to stop at one recipe, but I really think I found the ultimate oatmeal raisin cookie recipe. Cook's Illustrated, you have never let me down thus far, and I am sorry to have doubted you.

Taken from Cook's Illustrated

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened but still firm
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1+1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg (I used not fresh, but from a jar)
3 cups rolled oats (toasted)
1 1/2 cups raisins (optional) (why would raisins be "optional" in an oatmeal-raisin cookie? lol)

1. Adjust oven racks to low and middle positions; heat oven to 350 degrees. In bowl of electric mixer or by hand, beat butter until creamy. Add sugars; beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time.
2. Mix flour, salt, baking powder, and nutmeg together, then stir them into butter-sugar mixture with wooden spoon or large rubber spatula. Stir in oats and optional raisins.
3. Form dough into sixteen to twenty 2-inch balls, placing each dough round onto one of two parchment paper–covered, large cookie sheets. Bake until cookie edges turn golden brown, 22 to 25 minutes (I would use less baking time). (Halfway during baking, turn cookie sheets from front to back and also switch them from top to bottom.) Slide cookies on parchment onto cooling rack. Let cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

Makes 16-20 large cookies

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