HISTORY OF OATMEAL COOKIES
By Jennifer A. Wickes
For me, there is nothing more attractive than a man that cooks. My husband is adorable, but he cannot cook. So, I have made it my mission to teach my children to cook. This week, I am working with my eldest and he wants to make oatmeal cookies. This got me thinking...who came up with the oatmeal cookie? Where did it come from?
So...here is my research!
When the Romans conquered England, they had no idea how hard it would be to fight the Scots, whom were invincible. Highlanders were noted for carrying oatmeal in their pouches. In fact, England used to say, "A grain which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people." With a comment like that, the Scots replied, "England is noted for the excellence of her horses; Scotland for the excellence of her men."
It was only at the end of the 1800's where oatmeal made a turn into the confections department. It first appeared as a cookie in the late 1800's.
Since then, variations have blossomed all over the world with people having health challenges, and others just wanting to be creative. America has even designated April 30th as National Oatmeal Cookie Day! Some pagans consume bannocks (an oat cake cooked on a griddle) in celebration of Beltane, otherwise known as May Day, which is on May 1st.
Today, outside of eating a bowl full of oatmeal (or porridge in Scotland and Ireland), or adding it to your meatloaf, using oats in cookies is by far the most common use of oats in the United States.
Oats come in a variety of forms. Knowing which type is used for what is a good way to start when looking for oats:
Oat groats: unflattened kernels are excellent for use as a breakfast cereal or for stuffing.
Steel-cut oats: featuring a dense and chewy texture, they are produced by running the grain through steel blades that thinly slices them. Also called Irish Oats or Scottish Oats.
Old-fashioned oats: have a flatter shape that is the result of their being steamed and then rolled.
Quick-cooking oats: processed like old-fashioned oats, except they are cut finely before rolling
Instant oatmeal: produced by partially cooking the grains and then rolling them very thin. Often times, sugar, salt and other ingredients are added to make the finished product.
Oat bran: the outer layer of the grain that resides under the hull. While oat bran is found in rolled oats and steel-cut oats, it may also be purchased as a separate product that can be added to recipes or cooked to make a hot cereal.
Oat flour: used in baking, it is oftentimes combined with wheat or other gluten-containing flours when making leavened bread.
The Scots may have been ahead of their times. Recent health studies suggest that a diet consisting of oats can help lower cholesterol. Not only do they have large amounts of soluble fiber, oatmeal also contains Vitamin E, zinc, selenium, copper, iron, manganese, magnesium and protein.
Oatmeal cookie dough will freeze nicely. You can shape them first, or you can roll the entire recipe into a ball. In the former case, you can place the whole cookie sheet in the freezer. Once the cookies have frozen, transfer them to a freezer plastic bag. In the latter case, chill first. Then, wrap in plastic wrap, again in foil and place in a plastic bag. Freeze up to six weeks. Individual cookies will defrost in 30 minutes on the counter. Batches of dough should be defrosted in the refrigerator approximately 3 hours. If you like, you can bake the cookies first, then freeze. All you need to do is to allow them to cool completely first. Wrap individually in plastic wrap and place in a plastic bag. They will stay fresh for a year! A good idea: label your packages so you know how long they have been in the freezer!
Anyway you say it, it still means oatmeal!
FRENCH: farine d'avoine
ITALIAN: farina d'avena
SPANISH: harina de avena
JUSTIN'S SPRINGTIME OATMEAL COOKIES WITH CHOCOLATE CHIPS
Yields: 4 dozen
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup avocado pulp, very ripe
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
3 cups oats
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 375.
Beat butter with the brown sugar and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the avocado pulp.
Add the egg and the vanilla extract and mix thoroughly.
Sift flour, baking soda, salt and spices into the butter mixture. Mix in the oats.
Fold in the chocolate chips and walnuts.
For chewy cookies: Bake 8 minutes.
For crisp cookies: Bake 11 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack.
• In lieu of chocolate chips, try dried fruit such as raisins, cranberries, dried peaches or whatever is your favorite.
• In lieu of walnuts, try almonds, macadamias, pecans.
• Many of you may be frightened by the avocado, substitute it with canned pumpkin, mashed banana or applesauce.
• Instead of vanilla extract, substitute with 3 tbsp. dark rum.
Peaches and pecans; rum and raisin; pineapple, coconut and macadamias; cranberries and orange.
Anzac cookies from Australia are similar to our oatmeal cookies.
Jennifer A. Wickes
Food Writer, Recipe Developer, Cookbook Reviews