This article is part of Spring Bake, a collection of brand-new recipes and ideas that will keep you in cake, buns, and cookies until summer.
My family’s recipes are sort of like snowballs. They roll downhill through generations, picking up a bit of this and a bit of that with every turn. With each new iteration, shot back and forth via email across the country, the ingredient lists get increasingly unwieldy. Take our go-to oatmeal cookies: Oats and flour get you started, but there’s also vanilla, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, nuts, raisins, and the secret touch—unsweetened cocoa. It’s a throw-your-whole-spice-shelf-in kind of recipe, and I’ll admit that in the past I’ve glanced at the list and taken it as an invitation to keep going. More is more. Allspice? Absolutely. A pinch of mace? Why not?
Jullapat’s recipe does not invite you to dump every spice in your cabinet into your cookies. In fact, the only spice on the list is a touch of cinnamon, not a laundry list of flavorings meant to cover up the flavor of a subpar snack. These are not trail mix, and they are not a bland bowl of morning porridge.
Instead, Jullapat’s cookies lean as far as they can into toasty notes, asking if oatmeal cookies are really a textured sort of caramel cookies. The oats offer chew, suspended in a butterscotchy substrate. These cookies are big—you need to bake them at least three inches apart, giving room for spread—which gives you a spectrum of crisp, crackly brown-butter toffee crunch at the edge, and chewy richness at the center. When I say caramel cookies, I don’t mean to make you worry about over-the-top-sweetness—these cookies aren’t saccharine at all. And every bit of sugar in the mix is properly converted into caramel.
To double down on this effect, Jullapat skips the raisins, which are, after all, sort of an interruption in any bite of most oatmeal cookies. Instead, she calls on Medjool dates, which, once chopped, become nearly indistinguishable from the buttery caramel flavor of the chewy cookie, deepening the rich flavor of the dough rather than poking out from it. The cookies feel more cohesive with this swap, and more luxurious, even if you don’t have access to the fresh, plush, locally-grown dates that Jullapat uses at her bakery.
Mother Grains offers an education on whole grain flours, and Jullapat optimizes the flour here, too, pairing locally milled Sonora wheat with old fashioned rolled oats. While you won’t find this flour—one of the oldest wheat varieties in North America—at every local grocery store, I tracked some down at a local restaurant-turned-seller-of-pantry-provisions, and there are a few handy online sources.
“Sonora is what we call a soft wheat,” Jullapat explained to me on the phone recently. “The kernel itself is softer,” which helps give the soft flour not just a creamy texture, but also a creamy flavor that complements the oats and carmelly dates perfectly. Jullapat notes that the Sonora wheat she gets from Grist & Toll—and the one I bought from Hayden Mills—"is very, very finely milled, so you can incorporate all that bran of a whole grain flour and still get a terrific cookie that doesn’t taste healthy.”
“Sonora wheat flour is less glutenous than other flours,” Jullapat adds, but that’s okay, because “you’re not trying to build strength to sustain a loaf of bread here. We want a balance of a crispy edge and chew in the middle, and the creamy, dreamy character of the flour.”
After falling in love with the Sonora version, I tried baking these cookies with regular AP, as well as with a mix of white flour and grocery-store whole wheat—those substitutes, sadly, just don’t work the same way.
While a swap in flour and dried fruit—and skipping the muddled, every-spice profile of so many oatmeal cookies—is pretty revolutionary, the most essential lifestyle change recommended in this recipe is a lesson that can be applied more widely. Become the kind of person, Jullapat urges us, who always has orbs of cookie dough in the freezer, so you’re never more than a few minutes from a warm, homemade dessert.
“You’re about to watch a movie and you can bake yourself just a cookie or two,” she says. “An oatmeal cookie is good in general, but it feels like such a treat to have them fresh.”Roxana Jullapat
Originally Appeared on Epicurious