Salty oat cookies (with chocolate chips)

It's time to fill that cookie jar again!  There's something really comforting about having cookies around the house.  I like making them and I feel good seeing them nestled in a clear container on the kitchen counter. 
This time, I filled the cookie jar with some salty oat cookies.  The recipe comes from the America's Test Kitchen Christmas Cookies magazine - the one where I found that terrific recipe for banana bread cookies

Now, you know how they say you should always follow a new recipe exactly as written the first time you make it before making any tweaks and playing around with it?  There's a lot of sense in that but why not live a little dangerously once in a while - especially when it comes to something as familiar as the oatmeal cookie.

So I went off-script and did a few things different from the written recipe - I used a little more brown sugar (for a softer texture that we like), added some whole wheat pastry flour into the mix, and threw in some chocolate chips for the majority of my batch.  No, the original recipe does not involve chocolate and is simply salted oat cookies...I think adding chocolate chips is practically a reflex reaction.  A pure salted oatmeal cookie sounds intriguing but something just seems to be missing without the chocolate.  As my son pointed out, "why would anyone want one without the chocolate?" 
The little guy makes a very good point.  I prefered the oat cookies with the chocolate chips, and the boys certainly did too.  Without the chocolate, you can appreciate the pure buttery flavor of these cookies.  And it may even be true that the flaky sea salt accentuates that buttery oat flavor whereas when there's chocolate involved, the chocolate tends to take center stage and overwhelm everything else.  That's okay with me though.  So let me just go ahead and admit that I found myself eating the plain cookies with a piece of dark chocolate on the side!

Like other good oatmeal cookies, these are very satisfying and just the kind of thing to keep around the house in your cookie jar.  The oats naturally provide that wonderful chewy texture I love, while the salt - the flaky sea salt sprinkled over the top before baking - wakens everything up and makes you take notice.  It's isn't exactly earth-shattering stuff but I really like how the salt seems to dance around in your mouth and pop up somewhat unexpectedly.
I watched these carefully in the oven to make sure they come out browned and slightly crisp around the edges but still soft in the center.  I just love the texture of an oatmeal cookie and, naturally, we can all feel good about eating all these oats even if it is in cookie form! 

I made a couple of changes to the original recipe.  First, I substituted half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat pastry flour.  I think oatmeal cookies and cookies with nuts are great candidates for using some type of whole wheat flour since they have that nuttiness and chewy texture already.  I don't think you'd be able to tell the difference here between cookies made with all-purpose flour versus ones with WW pastry flour mixed in.  Next time, I'd even use all WW pastry flour in this recipe.

Secondly, I noticed this recipe relied heavily on granulated sugar over brown.  Since I wanted a soft cookie, I went with a little more brown sugar.  The original recipe has 1 cup of granulated sugar to 1/4 cup brown sugar.  I used 3/4 cup of granulated to 1/2 cup of brown sugar.  I think I could've pushed the brown sugar component even a bit further.
And I added chocolate chips.  I really think you'll miss the chocolate if you go without it.  I did bake a few plain ones up to test them out and maybe you'd like to too...

I also made my cookies a bit smaller than the recommended 2 tablespoon scoops, which is what I tend to do.  That's just a matter of preference but I'd caution you to watch them carefully in the oven and instead of going by the suggested time frame, use it as a very wide window and keep an eye on them early.  Take the cookies out when the edges are starting to turn brown and the center is set but still soft and a bit puffy.  That way, you'll have a crisp edge and a soft center with plenty of chewy goodness all-round!
I love how oatmeal cookies are so easy to make and how well they keep in your cookie jar or container. 


Recipe:

Salty Oat Cookies (with Chocolate Chips)
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen Christmas Cookies 2012

- Approximately 2 dozen cookies -

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (alternatively, use all of one of these flours)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (optional, but highly recommended)
1/2 teaspoon of coarse sea salt, for sprinkling (I used fleur de sel)

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees with oven racks placed in the upper-middle and lower-middle positions.

In a bowl, whisk the flours, baking soda, and salt together.  On medium speed, beat butter and sugars together in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 3 to 6 minutes.  Beat in egg and vanilla until combined, roughly 30 seconds, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.  Reduce speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture, mixing until just combined, roughly 30 seconds.  Mix in oats until just incorporated.  Add chocolate chips, if using, and mix until just combined.

Scoop dough into 2 tablespoon rounds onto the prepared baking sheets, placing them about 2 inches apart.  Flatten the dough balls slightly with your fingers or palm into about a 3/4-inch thickness.  Lightly sprinkle a few grains of the coarse sea salt over the cookies.

Bake until edges are set and beginning to brown while the center is still soft.  Rotate the pans halfway through the baking time, which could take roughly 15 to 17 minutes.  Keep an eye on the cookies and check on them early (particularly if you make smaller cookies - smaller ones I made were ready in less than 12 minutes) if you want a soft cookie.

Let cookies cool on baking sheets for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.




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