Are you a baker, or a cook?
I have been both for very close to 50 years, and the distinction has always made sense to me. People always say you either prefer cooking or baking. And, until very recently, I would say I thought of myself as primarily a cook. I have always enjoyed both, but I felt I had to choose, so I chose cooking.
The reasoning, as I understood it, had something to do with precision. Cooking is more holistic, organic, and intuitive; baking more precise, like chemistry. And when faced with these distinctions, I clearly fell into the cooking camp. I love to throw in a little of this and a little of that. I don’t usually measure. I am a language more than a math person. I have always loved to bake, but I never felt quite as competent at it. Similarly, in the studio, I feel a bit more competent as a thrower than as a glazer.
But in recent years, I have gravitated more towards baking. Someone gave me a batch of sourdough starter, and I began making beautiful, delicious breads several times a week. As soon as I have a full size oven again, I will do a sourdough post. Meantime, I am making Mindfulness Bread in the toaster oven (it doesn’t rise, so the toaster oven works well enough). And I have always loved baking quick breads, and the occasional layer or sheet cake. But my favorite baked goods are cookies.
I have been famous in Warwick for my chocolate chip cookies for years. Yes, I know I told you I was famous for my ice cream…well, cookies too. I remember, oh, a dozen years ago when Sam had a crisis because he’d given up chocolate for lent and I, unknowing, baked cookies for his weekly sleepover. There was a late night phone call to his dad, Father Scott. I know Scott had a private chuckle, but solemnly, he told his son that God would understand and that he would learn a lot either way. I wrapped the cookies to be put into the freezer for the end of lent. And Sam learned about his relationship with God, about integrity, about delay of gratification, about his kind and loving dad, and about friendship. Since then, I have made sure that every time Sam walks into my house, I have freshly baked chocolate chip cookies for him.
My dad adores my oatmeal cookies. I make them for him on special occasions. I bring him a big batch and he puts them in the freezer and takes one out every night until they are gone.
We celebrated Dad’s 80th birthday a couple of weeks ago and I baked him his favorite cookies. And an interesting thing happened. Usually, my kids prefer their cookies with chocolate chips, no nuts or other ingredients to mar the purity of the chocolate/brown sugar/vanilla experience. But they tasted these oatmeal, chocolate chip, raisin, walnut cookies and loved them. Brian thinks it means he’s an adult now.
So with this new recipe, I took it a step further with the addition of black sesame seeds. These cookies are really interesting, with a slight savory quality from the sesame, a salty note, and a tang from the sour cherries. The recipe is an adaptation of one from Cook’s Illustrated. They are fat and chewy and nutty. I hope you love them!
Black Sesame Loaded Oatmeal Cookies
If you can’t find black sesame seeds, hulled or unhulled white ones are fine. And feel free to substitute raisins for the cherries and walnuts or almonds for the pecans.
These are really great served with homemade ice cream. Sprinkle the ice cream with some black sesame seeds, too!
¾ cup all purpose flour
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup toasted pecans, chopped
½ cup tart dried cherries
½ cup bittersweet chocolate chips
¼ cup black sesame seeds, plus 1 tbs. extra for sprinkling
6 tbs. unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Cream the butter and sugar, preferably in a stand mixer. You may do this by hand or with a hand held mixer, but the stand mixer makes the job a snap. Add the vanilla and egg and beat to combine thoroughly. Add the flour, baking powder and soda and mix slowly to combine. Add the remaining ingredients (except the sprinking seeds) and mix until everything is evenly distributed.
Use a 2 tbs portion scoop to form the cookies, and place the cookies on a cookie sheet; sprinkle with the remaining seeds. Put the whole sheet into the freezer until the cookies are solid, at least 2 hours. Then put them into a big zip top freezer bag and bake as many as you want at a time.
When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment and place 8 cookies on the sheet, staggered. You may bake 2 sheets at a time. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until they just begin to show a hint of golden color. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from sheet. Serve with milk or ice cream.
PS If you haven’t yet, I would be so grateful if you would take a minute to nominate me for a Saveur 2015 Blog Award. They are encouraging nominations in more than one category, so choose all you think apply. And thanks! So very much.