While driving home through a particularly nasty thunderstorm yesterday afternoon, I had a good long think about what I wanted to do for Sunday Night Cookie Blogging. I really wanted a simple cookie, without any chocolate after last week’s brownie blitz, and with a strong butterscotch flavor.
On getting home, I rummaged through the cupboards for more candidates in the pantry elimination, and, noticing the unopened tub of old-fashioned oats, remembered the recipe for crisp oatmeal cookies I’d been meaning to try from Cook’s Illustrated several months back. Digging the magazine out of the pile on top of the microwave, I was pleased to see that the coconut variation conveniently called for exactly the amount of sweetened coconut I had left. The decision practically made itself.
While the recipe sounded great, I didn’t think it would have quite the butterscotch depth I was craving, so I decided to really amp things up by browning the butter first. Because I also prefer smaller cookies, I cut the size of the cookies in half.
The resulting cookie not just met but exceeded all my expectations, and was wildly popular with the coworkers, who snarfed them all up well before lunchtime. It’s unassuming in appearance, but those humble little freckles pack a wallop of noisette intensity, and the texture is shatteringly crisp and light. It’s a very grown-up oatmeal cookie, elementally airy and earthy at the same time, and I’ll absolutely be making it again. Next time, I might make it even more sophisticated by trying the suggestion of sprinkling with flakes of Maldon salt or fleur de sel on top before baking.
In the win-win-win column, it also used up all my remaining coconut and half the oats, but the important thing is that these are spectacularly delicious.
Brown Butter Coconut Oatmeal Cookies
( Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated January/February 2008 )
Makes 5 dozen
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
2 cups rolled oats (old-fashioned, not instant or quick)
1 1/2 cups sweetened coconut
In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and bring to a simmer. Lower heat as necessary to maintain a vigorous simmer and continue to cook, swirling occasionally, until butter separates into a dark golden liquid layer and a deep brown layer of caramelized milk solids and gives off a nutty aroma. Be careful not to let the solids turn black.
Pour butter into a liquid measuring cup, making sure to get all the delicious brown solids out of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until it solidifies.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugars until fluffy, scraping down the sides once. Beat in the egg and vanilla. With the mixer running on low, mix in the dry ingredients until just combined. Scrape down again, return to low, and mix in the oats and coconut until uniformly incorporated. Cover the dough and chill until firm enough to roll into balls, at least half an hour.
Preheat oven to 350, and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Scoop dough by rounded tablespoons (I use a small scoop) and roll into balls. Place balls on sheet 2 inches apart and flatten to 1/2 inch thickness with your fingertips.
Bake until golden, 14-16 minutes. Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool completely on the sheet. Once cool, store in airtight containers to maintain crispness.
In case you’re nervous about browning butter and want to have an idea of what it should look like, here’s an expert’s take on it.
If you’re not a coconut fan, you could leave it out and increase the oatmeal to the 2 1/2 cups in the original plain version, although I still urge you to brown the butter.