Before my mother moved into her retirement residence, where units come with microwaves but not stoves, she was a one-woman, cookie-making machine. She made Swedish cookies, sugar cookies, pinwheel cookies, chocolate cookies, peanut butter cookies, and more recently, crackle-topped, chewy-crispy ginger cookies, and chocolate chip cookies. She gave away almost everything she made, to her neighbours, to her kids, to anyone who came along. She was famous for her cookies.
My mother is not sad to give up baking – after all, she just turned 90, Happy Birthday Mom! – but lots of people visit in her new place and, following tradition, she would like to serve them a cookie with their cup of tea. I feel a certain responsibility to help her out, having a big kitchen as I do, so I’ve inadvertently fallen into the cooking-making business myself in order to keep her supplied.
One of my favourites from my mother’s repertoire are these thin, crispy oatmeal cookies, so simple, homey and old-fashioned, just butter, sugar, egg, flour and lovely oats. Like many olden-day recipes, hers is written out by hand and short on details, so I have taken the liberty of filling in a few of the blanks. The trick is to to flatten the dough firmly with a fork before baking; that way the cookies will puff up slightly in the oven but fall back down again into thin crispness as they cool.
Once cool, I put them into a cookie tin and pop it into the freezer. That way the cookies will stay fresh until the next visit with my Mom. She also stores them in her freezer, taking out a few at a time and warming them up in her toaster oven before serving. I’d say we have a good system going.
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1½ cups quick-cook oats
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
- ½ cup white or cane sugar
- 1 large egg
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, soda and salt. Add the oats. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream butter with a hand-held electric mixer. Add sugar and beat until mixture is fluffy, 2-3 minutes. Scrape down sides of the bowl with a spatula. Beat in the egg until just combined.
- With mixer on low, add the oat-flour mixture, beating just until combined.
- Drop spoonfuls of dough onto prepared baking sheets and flatten firmly with a fork, dipping fork into water if necessary to prevent sticking. Bake until cookies are uniformly golden brown, approximately 14 minutes.
- Let cookies cool on baking sheets until set, about 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container.