Wednesday, December 2, 2009

recipe: drunken-raisin oatmeal cookies with pecans and tangerine

I'm a food blog junkie, infatuated with foodie recipe sites, and a sucker for slick, high-production-value cookbooks. And I'm here today to tell you: Sometimes the recipe on the back of the brand-name lid really does work best. For example, my favorite pumpkin pie is the kind you make with a can of Libby and the recipe that's printed on the label. (The first year that my family nouveau & I hosted our See We Are Totally Grownups Thanksgiving, we slaughtered a pumpkin and made the pie from scratch. It wasn't as good.) Same goes for oatmeal cookies -- honestly, the Quaker Oats kids know what they're talking about. They've made some cookies in their time. Trust in the label. It wants you to eat delicious cookies.

....Okay, confession: I don't entirely trust in the label. 'Cause, see, the Internet told me that parbaking the pie crust will prevent sogginess and that simmering the pumpkin and cream together will make a richer filling, and the Internet never semi-rarely steers me wrong. I can never just follow a recipe. This is possibly why I started a food-related blog.

In the case of oatmeal cookies, I mostly just add a few little touches for maximum deliciousity. The base recipe creates soft, chewy, comforting oatmeal cookies. With a few little additions, I wind up with something that tastes like home and warm and the holidays: pecans for a buttery crunch, whole wheat flour for nutty richness, cloves and tangerine zest for tastes-like-Christmas, and whiskey for smokiness & extra moisture [and also 'cause dude, most things about the holidays are better when you (or, y'know, your raisins) are a little tipsy].

Drunken-Raisin [Vanishing] Oatmeal Cookies, with Pecans and Tangerine
Adapted from the inside of the Quaker Oats lid. Makes ~3 dozen cookies.


1/2 cup raisins (dried figs would also be awesome, just chop them raisin-sized)
1/4 cup whiskey (or bourbon -- you want something sweet rather than peaty, I used Jack Daniels)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 tangerine (or orange, or clementine, for 1 tsp of zest)

1/2 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark is fine, I like dark)
1/4 cup granulated white sugar (minus a tablespoon if you like less sweet desserts)
1 stick unsalted butter (we're gonna soften it)

1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups whole oats (regular or quick-cooking)
1/3 cup pecans (we're gonna chop them small & toast them)


At least an hour before you start working, measure out your raisins into a ramekin, small bowl, or coffee mug. Add the whiskey and stir. Set aside, and stir whenever it occurs to you that you haven't in awhile. (You could do this the night before, even, if you have way more foresight than I do.) Don't worry, all the alcohol will bake off. No one will get tipsy from the finished cookies.

When the raisins have soaked up some of the whiskey, you're ready to start working. Set out your butter and egg to allow them to warm up a bit.

Chop your pecans to pea-sized-or-smaller chunks, and toast them until fragrant and warm-golden colored. That'll be ~2 minutes in a toaster oven or in a pan on medium heat on the stovetop, ~10 minutes in an oven that's just been turned on and is heating up to 350 (which is what the cookies will bake at), or ~5 minutes in a hot oven. Watch them carefully. If they burn/blacken, start over with fresh pecans. Set aside.

Measure out your dry ingredients (flours, baking soda, cinnamon, and clove) into a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Zest your orange-colored citrus of choice, and if the pieces are more strip-like than granular, chop them fine (a teaspoon is approximately what you get from one tangerine or clementine, or ~1/2 of an orange, if you're not being extremely industrious about zesting). Add the zest to the dry stuff and whisk again to combine.

If you haven't heated up your oven yet, now would be a good time to get that going towards 350.

Measure your sugars into a separate, larger bowl and add your softened butter in chunks. Cream them together using an electric beater on medium for 3 minutes, then add your egg and vanilla. Use a spoon to strain 2 tablespoons of whiskey off of the raisins, and add that to the wet mixture as well. Use that electric beater on medium again for 1 minute to combine.

Add your dry ingredients to the wet ones, and stir by hand to combine. Drain any remaining whiskey off your raisins, and add the raisins to the bowl. Also add the toasted pecan bits and the oats. Stir, again by hand, to combine.

Drop by rounded tablespoon (ping-pong ball sized bits) onto a cookie sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. They'll look a little shiny and underdone in the very middle of their tops, but they'll continue cooking a bit after they come out, so that's okay. Cool for 10 minutes on the pan, then carefully remove them to a wire rack to cool completely. They'll be crumbly while they're still warm, and chewier once they're cool. I'm a chewy-texture fan, so I'd recommend waiting.

If you don't need that many cookies right now, you could refrigerate the dough for an hour or so until it's solid enough to work with, and then mold rounded tablespoons of dough into balls, wrap them in plastic wrap, and freeze in a plastic bag or container for up to a month. (Just let them defrost in the fridge for a few hours before baking, and use the full 12 minutes of baking time to compensate for the dough being chilly going in.)

Store the cookies in an airtight container, and they should last a week. Freshness-wise, anyway. They don't call them "vanishing" for nuthin.


If, like I did when I made these, you find yourself without brown sugar but with both white sugar and molasses, you can haz a substitute. White sugar is just brown sugar with the molasses removed. So, to substitute for a half cup of dark brown sugar, use a half cup of white sugar plus 2 to 3 teaspoons of molasses. (I say "2 to 3" because honestly, measuring molasses is an imprecise science. Just get about that much in the mixing bowl, and don't worry about it.)

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