Without a doubt, my favorite thing about cooking and food is its ability to preserve time, stand witness and take record. Three out of four of my grandparents died young – too young, even for their time. As a result, I’m often envious of my friends who have childhood memories of grandpa and grandma, a deep personal connection to their roots and a sense of history that goes deeper than one generation. Perhaps in spite of this, in my family we hold on tight to each other and maintain closer than most relationships with aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins.
Several months ago on a trip home to Richmond I snatched my mom’s recipe box and brought it back to DC. My goal was to dig through this mish-mash of tattered index cards, magazine clippings and crumpled sheets of scrap paper and see just how much there was to work with and what may be good fodder for this space.
In my perusal, I found recipes both familiar and unfamiliar, old-fashioned smashed next to more modern additions – a general culinary hodgepodge. At first glance, the box was seemingly a chaotic assemblage of main dishes, cookies, pies, sauces and cakes. But by taking the time to read each recipe the box revealed a veritable family tree – a deep root system built on generations of cups, teaspoons and tablespoons.
Seeking a little homey inspiration this weekend I looked to the box and stumbled upon this gem. Though at the time I had no idea who the recipe came from nor remembered ever eating these – the stains, yellowed paper and faded writing were the only testimonials I needed. True to the box’s form, a quick inquiry to my mom yielded a glimpse into her childhood and a snapshot of a woman I never had the fortune to know.
My mother’s recipe and your Aunt Jackie’s favorite. Have not made them in years. We would watch sitting on the steps in our kitchen that led up to the second floor. Our old house had two staircases, one from the living room and one from the kitchen which was on the back of the house. Mother would put raisins in the measuring cups and hand one to each of us as we sat and watched the Sunbeam Mixmaster create the dough. Trick was to make your raisins last till the first batch of cookies came out of the oven. I didn’t even remember this until you asked.
We may have never met, but at least I have the taste memories to fill in some of the gaps. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction.
The original recipe called for the use of shortening but for health and taste reasons, I prefer butter (though it does yield a slightly flatter cookie.) Originally a classic oatmeal raisin cookie recipe I – as a chocolate fiend and not a huge fan of raisins – opted for chocolate chips. I love how the spice of the cinnamon and cloves come together with the sweetness of the chocolate. As the simple title implies, this dough would be delicious with a number of different add-ins – dried cranberries, butterscotch chips, chocolate covered raisins…Let your imagination run wild! Yields: apprx 3 dozen cookies.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups oats (instant)
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup lowfat buttermilk
1-1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, or bowl of a mixer, combine the butter, salt, cinnamon, and cloves. Mix until the spices are evenly distributed. Gradually mix in the light brown sugar, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beater. Add the eggs and mix until completely incorporated. Then gradually add the oats, once again stopping to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking soda. Then, beginning with the flour mixture, alternate adding 1/3 of the flour with 1/3 of the buttermilk until all ingredients have been added. Fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula. Using a cookie dough scoop, or large spoon, scoop out dough onto parchment lined baking sheets, leaving about 1.5 inches between each cookie. Bake for 12-14 minutes until golden. Allow cookies to cool 5 minutes on the sheet pan before transferring to a cooling rack.