In the kitchen, I am definitely a one-trick pony. While Leigh’s passion for cooking, cleaning and yard-work are legendary in our household, I am typically relegated to the more mundane tasks like writing, selling, and golfing. It’s a burden I must bear for the sake of maintaining the delicate balance of power in our household. While I have long maintained that I just can’t cook, Leigh has always replied, “If you can read, you can cook.”
While this is a lesson that I have been slow to fully embrace, it’s this time of year where my inner–culinarian becomes a little restless.
With Thanksgiving behind us, Christmas lights shimmering on the bushes, and the leg lamp reverently gleaming from its “Only in December” showcase in the window above our front door, the curious inner urgings begin to overtake me.
It’s time for holiday baking.
This is the 15th Christmas I have baked these cookies. I remember this because it was in August 2000 when I was shamed/challenged into developing cooking skills during my Outward Bound course in the Colorado Rockies. While pulling our stores together for our 3 day trek to a 13,000’ peak ascent, I mistakenly made the announcement that I would be happy to carry extra weight up the mountain since I would be of no value in preparing meals for the team. As I recall, after carrying said extra weight I was informed that Outward Bound was about pushing beyond our personal boundaries. I was assigned to the help prepare dinner our first night out.
I don’t remember many specifics about that first supper, other than a rambling discussion on just how much a “dollop” really constitutes. When I asked the question all I got was giggles and head-shaking. This led to a discussion of other ambiguous, non-specific measurements such as skosh’s, smidges and pinches. It’s precisely this kind of ambiguity that has always kept me from cooking; I can read, I just can’t always comprehend!
In preparation for our first reunion of my OB friends, I made a commitment to plan and cook for those that made the trek to Pennsylvania just 6 weeks after the completion of the course. I did. The desert was an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie that received encouraging praise.
I’ve stuck with the baking, though generally only during the holidays. I’ve experimented, both intentionally and unintentionally. I once accidentally substituted Old Bay Seasoning for the prescribed measure of Cinnamon. The importance of the whole “reading” thing was brought home pretty clear to me after that particular faux pas.
On the positive side, the move to white chocolate chips and cran-raisins was a key modification, and of course my favorite, replacing vanilla extract with almond extract. When said with a dramatic pause and hushed confidence, even the most seasoned cookie eaters nod their heads with admiration.
2 sticks butter
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups uncooked oatmeal
1 cup cran-raisins
1 cup white chocolate chips (plus a smidge, skosh or dollop to one’s preference)
1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
2. Beat butter and sugars in large bowl until creamy.
3. Add eggs and almond extract; beat some more.
4. Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon; mix in.
5. Add oats, cran-raisins and white chocolate chips
6. Drop dough by rounded dollops (us pros use two tablespoons) onto cookie sheet
7. Bake for 9 minutes (not 8-10, exactly 9!)
Depending on the size of your cookie dollops and taste-testing skosh’s along the way, this should make about 4 dozen cookies.
And remember, in this recipe, Old Bay bad!