The OATdessey

Cherry Berry Oatmeal Cookies with White Chocolate & Walnuts

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Far from being the Great Unifier, I think that oatmeal, sadly, is actually the Great Divider.  Few people will say, “Meh, I kind of like oatmeal.”  Usually, people are either violently opposed to oatmeal — whether on principle or because of issues with consistency or bad childhood experiences — or they love it almost as much as they love life itself.  I definitely fall in the latter group of oatmeal enthusiasts; you could probably call me a JehOATvah Witness and not be exaggerating by much at all.

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Oatmeal cookies, too, seem to be equally polarizing.  Sometimes aversions stem from a root dislike of oatmeal, while, other times, the distaste comes from a generalized opposition to anything remotely wholesome in a cookie (add enough butter, and most people can get past this one).  Those who enjoy oatmeal cookies reeeaaaalllllly enjoy oatmeal cookies; again, I’m team leader of this group.

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That being said (for some reason, I always think “that being said” is one word), a good oatmeal cookie is something of a unicorn.  The dough itself is super easy to make and even easier to make badly.  Though flavor is typically not a problem with oatmeal cookies, dryness is.  Even though oatmeal cookie dough contains less flour than a chocolate chip cookie dough, the reduction in flour is rarely sufficient to combat the inherent drying power of the mighty oats.

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In my long-time quest to make the perfect oatmeal cookie, I have tried a few different things to attempt to keep my cookies from being dry.  Everything from changing the oat type, to changing baking temps/times, to using a mix of butter and canola oil, to using entirely canola oil, to chilling the dough extra long to try to soften the oats, to adding milk to the dough, yet still, that dreamy soft and chewy oatmeal cookie eluded me.  Changes to butter and oil proportions yielded me many batches that spread too much or stayed raw in the middle while the outsides burned.  Excessive chilling seemed to make my dough even drier than before, and the milk addition just plain didn’t work.

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Finally, I stumbled upon this recipe, from Serious Eats.  Soaking the oats!!!  Why had I never thought of this?!? Reading through the recipe, I chose to make customize the recipe with some technique changes and ingredient substitutions to incorporate a few of my more successful oatmeal cookie – and general cookie – strategies (an extra yolk, a combo of oil and butter, and decreasing the amount of granulated sugar).  Additionally, rather than soaking the oats in plain water, as recommended in the Serious Eats recipe, I soaked my oats in 100% black cherry juice with wonderful results.

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Classic oatmeal cookies flavors are cinnamon-raisin, chocolate-chip, or white-chocolate-cranberry.  Playing on that last classic flavor combo, I opted for a cherry riff, with hints of blueberry, blobs of creamy white chocolate, and chunks of walnuts.

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Personally, I am so happy with the outcome of my cookie crusade that I am inclined to always make these cookies the exact same way in the future, but, let’s be real; I’m a tinkerer.  I foresee future non-dry oatmeal cookies featuring chai-tea-soaked oats or matcha-latte-soaked oats and white chocolate chunks, or perhaps espresso-soaked oats with dark chocolate chips and almonds, or maybe even rum-soaked oats with butterscotch chips and cashews. You can certainly expect to find the results of my future flavor experimenting documented here, and feel free to share your own variations!

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Cherry Berry Oatmeal Cookies with White Chocolate & Walnuts

Inspired by Serious Eats
2 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 cup 100% cherry juice
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Large pinch nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a bit more for sprinkling
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled 10 minutes in fridge
6 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg + 1 yolk, room temp
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup blueberry- or cherry-infused dried cranberries (or straight-up dried blueberries or cherries…but I’m cheap and opt for the disguised cranberries)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
4.4 ounces good quality white chocolate (I like Lindt…who doesn’t?), coarsely chopped/shaved heterogeneously
Combine oats and cherry juice, and set aside for at least 10 minutes.  In a large measuring cup or small bowl, use a fork to combine and aerate A-P flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  In a large mixing bowl, beat together the cooled, melted butter, canola oil, brown sugar, and white sugar, on medium speed, for ~3-4 minutes.  Add in egg, yolk, and vanilla, and beat for an additional minute.  Turn off mixer, and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Turn mixer to low, and gradually add flour mixture, then the oats.  Do not mix longer than it takes to JUST incorporate the flour and oats.  Turn off mixer, then use the rubber spatula to fold in the dried fruit, walnuts & white chocolate.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and chill 6 hours or overnight.
Remove chilled dough from fridge 1 hour prior to handling.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit, and line your baking sheets with parchment paper.  Use a cookie scoop or rounded tablespoon to scoop out 1.5-tablespoonfuls of dough, gently compress the dough to form a coherent mass, and plop them on the prepped baking sheets, spacing ~1.5″ apart.  Slightly flatten the dough balls with your palm, sprinkle with kosher salt, then bake for 12-14 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through baking.  Cookies are ready to remove from the oven when the edges are slightly brown and the tops have JUST started to form tiny microcracks on the surface and no longer appear wet (they should still look a bit moist on top though!).  Let cookies sit on hot sheets for 4 minutes, then use a spatula to transfer cookies to wire racks for complete cooling.  Cooled cookies may be stored in airtight containers, at room temp, for up to 5 days.

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