Baking Tara O’Brady’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies

When I first started cooking for myself, I made a lot of stir-frys. I had watched my mom make it countless times, and it was more of a process than an exact recipe, so I could wing it. My mom usually used onions, carrots, broccoli, and beef, but it could be just about anything in any proportion, which is hard to mess up.

Many dishes take this form: stews, soups, pizzas, omelets are all ways clear out the fridge. Most cookie recipes, however, are quite precise in the ingredients and proportions in the recipe. As I have made more cookies this year, I’m actually not certain that it’s quite so scientific: as long as they aren’t burned, most homemade cookies are still delicious.

However, most recipes are flexible on their mix-ins, and this particular recipe (recommended by a baking enthusiast friend) in fact recommends doing whatever you like. Not only is it a great way to fit the recipe to your tastes, it certainly can clear out some odds and ends from your pantry.

But I definitely didn’t do that. The recipe called for dates, and although I have heard about many bad date stories, I sprung for a box of them anyways. And toffee is also delicious, so I got that, too.

I actually did burn some of the walnuts while toasting them: the back of my toaster oven is much hotter than the front. I threw out the black ones and mixed in some untoasted ones to make up the difference.

The dough itself was relatively normal. I was slower in the kitchen than normal, so my butter may have warmed up too much on the counter. Despite that, the dough came together okay.

The big moment was adding in all of the mix-ins. The oatmeal immediately thickened the dough, and the rest of the mix-ins were evenly distributed by the mixer.

The recipe called for a non-standard 2 1/2 tablespoon sized dough balls. I went to my usual method of measuring by weight. Previously, I had been using a recipe spoon to grab bits, then scraping it off with my fingers. This time, however, I was rummaging through my drawer when I saw this cookie scoop I got from my mom a few years ago.

It’s somewhere between a spoon and tongs: when you press the tongs together, the sweeper moves forward and clears off the spoon.

To be honest, I hadn’t used it before because it isn’t precise with its sizing, but right now, that flexibility is actually perfect for getting the exact weight on dough balls.

O’Brady also recommends knocking the pan against the stove when it comes out to deflate the cookies and get a nice crinkled top. I wondered whether it would make a difference, so I split 12 cookies over two sheets so I could compare the results.

Okay, I actually can’t exactly tell which was which in the pictures, but in real life, there actually was a difference. The unknocked cookies remained slightly more domed, while the knocked cookies flattened out evenly.

Tasting both of them, I actually think I did like the knocked cookies more. It wasn’t by much, but then again, knocking the pans wasn’t much either, so go for it.

Overall, this recipe is indeed a great base for whatever you want to do. I actually didn’t really detect the toffee its in there, or really even the dates exactly, but it does have a nice hint of orange. The headliners, though, are the chocolate and oats, and both of those come through.

If you want to create your own wacky bunch of mix-ins, you can find the recipe here.

Also, I made a Moroccan Stew while the cookies baked. I was skeptical even as I made it, but it actually made a great lunch all week.

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