**This recipe was featured in Bon Appetit‘s Blog Envy 2009 Contest, which, although we didn’t win, was fun to be considered for.
In my grandma’s world, there were two good Christmas gifts: clothing hangers, wrapped with their heads sticking out and placed under the tree, and, homemade food.
Every December, she stacked dozens of aluminum tins on the stairs to the dark, creaky attic of her Maywood bungalow. They were all different shapes and colors, some with holiday pictures of winter sleigh rides or smiling snowmen. And for the weeks leading up to December 25th, she filled them with what she baked: fudge, sugar cookies, pecan tassies, kolachkys, peanut butter cookies, chocolate-chip cookies, dessert bars. If you were one of the relatives, you got a tin. If you lived next door, you got a tin. If you were in one of her clubs or helped run her garage sales or somehow in some way knew Caroline, you got a tin. Bonus points if she found a recipe you liked, by the way: after she knew, you’d get it every year after.
This is the woman who gave me my first cookie lesson, letting me sample chocolate chips and lick the bowl afterwards. So I hardly need to say, when it came to baking in my book, she was the queen of cool. I liked everything she made, thought it over-the-moon delicious. And now, almost a decade after she died, I realize by teaching me to love food, she gave me another gift: something to keep when she left, to stay connected to her.
If she were alive, these oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies are what she’d make me for Christmas. They’re my favorites, and, let’s be honest, that’s saying something. The dough is simple: a basic chocolate-chip cookie with the addition of oatmeal. Yet the results are complex: a golden, crunchy texture with a strong bite, the kind that creates tiny crumbs on the corners of your lips and falling from your fingers. Rich with chunks of semisweet chocolate, the shape is bumpy and wrinkled.
Because this recipe is from Grandma, there are two things you have to understand.
(1) All affinities for KitchenAid aside, don’t use your standmixer. For these, it’s hand-stirred all the way, Baby, and, trust me, it matters.
(2) Every time I make this recipe, it turns out a little different, even though I’ve made it so many times, it’s near memorized. See, the thing about Grandma’s recipes, this one having been recorded by my mom, is that they were written cook to cook. She assumed I’d know how many chocolate chips to add when she wrote “Additions: nuts, chocolate chips, raisins” and what order to combine the list of ingredients.
So I’m going to reproduce the instructions here with the kind of specifics that she’d give (with a touch more detail), and you can feel free to tweak—really, you’d make my grandma proud. Just be prepared: Rarely does a batch of these come out of the oven without disappearing as quickly as it baked.
(I promised cookies for this holiday season, and, look, I deliver!)
Oatmeal Chocolate-Chip Cookies
from my grandma, Caroline, the best cookie maker there was
1 stick of margarine (butter doesn’t work as well)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 Tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour (slight, not over)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 to 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
OPTIONAL: raisins, walnuts—amounts up to you
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients but the oatmeal and the chocolate chips. After well-mixed, add the oatmeal and stir together. Then add the chocolate chips (and nuts, if preferred).
Drop by rounded tablespoon onto greased or Silpat cookie sheets. Baked for 12 to 15 minutes.