16 December 2013

Eats: no-bake chocolate oatmeal cookies

It’s embarrassing to think back on my college diet, all those boxed, pre-packaged foods I ate during those dorm-free years in my very early twenties. Weeknight dinners were pulled from my massive freezer collection of Hot Pockets and Totino’s pizzas. “Cooking” was either Velveeta shells & cheese or, if I was feeling really fancy: Hamburger Helper. I mean, that involved raw meat! You couldn’t ask me to do anything more complicated than cook raw meat!

Baking was not much better. Nowadays, I avoid even eating slice & bake cookies (they don’t even taste like cookies!!), but back in the day, that was my preferred cookie-baking method. And it’s probably for the best, because the only time I attempted to make cookies totally from scratch in college, it was a complete failure. I was trying to make chocolate oatmeal no-bake cookies, like these right here. They were my favorite cookie as a kid, and I suppose I was feeling nostalgic! But they never solidified, and remained a gooey mess.

I remember to this day, I couldn’t bear to throw them out, so I kept them in my freezer (alongside the Hot Pockets and Totino’s). When I wanted to eat one, I’d carefully try to peel a frozen cookie off the wax paper and inevitably shred the paper in the process. As I’d try to pick the slivers of wax paper off the bottom, the cookie would start thawing and turning into a sticky mess, so I’d shove the whole thing in my mouth.

I did that for the entire batch of cookies. And then I waited a decade to try to make them again.

I’m happy to report that this time, they turned out much better! Like... actual cookies! And if you’re trying to bounce back from a chocolate oatmeal cookie failure, I’m here to help.

As I linked above, I used this recipe, which itself uses a old local cookbook as the source (we’re all retro today!). It’s a little light on step-by-step directions, so I had to figure out exactly how to put this all together. I started by melting a stick of butter over very, very low heat in a large pot.

You just want to melt it, not cook it. (The brownish swirls you see are NOT the butter but the bottom of my pot, from a past and overly-vigorous butter-melting experience.)

Remove it from heat, then add two cups (OMG TWO CUPS) of sugar (SUGAR!) and three tablespoons of cocoa powder.

I have no idea if it helps to combine the ingredients in this order, removed from heat... but it worked for me! Go ahead and stir up the butter-cocoa-sugar mixture.

Also you might wonder why we’re going to make cookies when clearly, this stuff looks good enough to eat with a spoon. Ah, well.

Once the butter, cocoa, and sugar are mixed, add half a cup of milk and return to the burner, this time on medium-high heat. And stir! Stir stir stir until it all comes to a boil!

The idea is that you let it boil for just ONE MINUTE and then remove from heat and stir in the rest of the ingredients. I tried to be fancy and use a candy thermometer (after all I am a scientist) but as you can see above, it’s pretty dang obvious. DO NOT bother with a candy thermometer. DO NOT try to take photos of the boiling mixture with the candy thermometer after the timer expires. DO NOT let it boil for longer than one minute!

Once it’s off heat, it’s time to add a teaspoon of vanilla, a half-cup of peanut butter, and three cups of oats. For the peanut butter, do yourself a favor and spray your measuring cup with cooking spray.

The peanut butter will fall right out! And it’ll create this deliciousness.


After the vanilla and peanut butter come the oats! I added two cups and mixed well before adding the third cup.

The source called for old-fashioned, not instant oats, but I only had instant on hand. I’m not sure if that made my cookies any worse, though.

Once it’s all mixed together, it’s time to make the cookies! You should work as quickly as possible so the... batter? dough? Whatever it is, it needs to stay warm and pliable. I tried to use my cookie scoop to portion it out and keep it speedy:

(Hello there, cookie-scoop-reflection1)

In the end, though, I didn’t work fast enough (hmm, I wonder if stopping to take photos had anything to do with it) and the cookies got crumbly. I eventually decided to forego the cookie scoop and used an alternative method: my fist.

Pro tip: Take off your wedding rings before digging in, lest you get chocolately oatmeal in the setting!

Despite the batter because super crumbly later, I managed to get three dozen cookies from this recipe. They’re not big, but trust me, they shouldn’t be – one cookie can make your teeth hurt from the sweetness. The ones on the right were nice, warm, cookie-scooped cookies, while the left side were, uh, free-formed.

But despite all the crumbliness while forming the cookies, once they solidified, they stayed put! They really weren’t as fragile as I’d thought they might be, especially considering my over-boiling. And best of all, I didn’t have to peel them out of the freezer.

So if you’ve got company coming into town, or if you like to give handmade gifts, or if you’re participating in a cookie exchange, may I humbly suggest you take your own walk down memory lane with these cookies? They come together quickly, perfect for this crazy-busy season. They’re a super-sweet holiday treat that can be enjoyed now or anytime during the year – you could even make them in the months when it’s too hot to use the oven! Enjoy!

Finally, this week’s second-snowy-weekend-in-a-row-that-I-mealplanned-around-having-to-carry-groceries-on-icy-sidewalks:

Sunday: ranch chicken (like with the seasoning packet? I’d never made it before!) with mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus

Monday: sausage pizza and asparagus

Tuesday: Chinese chicken with rice and veggies

Wednesday: Work holiday party! Enjoy those leftovers, Mr. P.

Thursday: chili with baked potatoes

Friday: chicken masala with rice and veggies

Saturday: leftovers until we leave to travel!

Hope you’re having some time to enjoy this holiday season, dear readers! And have a happy Monday!