“Vesna, these are the best cookies you’ve ever made!”
That’s what my husband said when he bit into one of these last night after a long and busy day at work, driving cab through a blizzard. And that’s how I knew I’d hit a bull’s eye with these oatmeal cookies. Rich, moist and chewy, these have the smooth sweetness of molasses underlined with satiny vanilla and bolstered with whole wheat flour and wheat bran.
“But most important,” he added, “How does he like them?” He indicated our six-year-old son.
“He loves them,” I said.
I hope you will, too.
These cookies, like my prune-bran muffins, are great for what ails you, if what ails you can be fixed with some fiber in the form of wheat bran and raisins, if you catch my drift. That is to say — and I’m sorry to have to spell it out, but I want to get the keywords out there so that people searching for something like this can find it — they’re great for constiptation, because of the natural laxative effect of bran and raisins.
Notice that these cookies are made with raisins and wheat bran. They’re not made with Raisin Bran cereal, and the bran is not oat bran. If you found this page searching for Raisin Bran cereal cookies with oat bran, please stay and peruse this awesome recipe, anyway! Who needs industrially produced cereal? They say Kellogg and C.W. Post were ahead of their time in inventing processed grains you can pour out of a box and eat cold out of a bowl, but I say it’s too darn bad that their kooky ideas caught on. (Check out Alan L. Watson’s book Cereal Killer if this line of thought interests you.) If you’re going include grains in your diet, or your family’s diet, I say, do as much of the processing as possible in your own kitchen.
I based this recipe on the Quaker Oats recipe for Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies I made several times years ago, which I gave up on after always coming up against the same problem: cookies that flattened out way too much into thin, tough, candylike sheets that affixed themselves mightily to the pan. I tried different pans, including the expensive kind with air sandwiched between two layers, but it didn’t solve the problem. I tried oiling or buttering the pan, but that made no difference. I tried parchment paper — in fact, I first got turned onto parchment paper in trying to get these cookies to work — and, while that at least prevented the cookies from gluing themselves to the baking pan, they still spread out and were still tough to eat. I tried reducing the baking time. That didn’t help, because the spreading happened early in the baking. The only reason I kept trying was that the cookies had worked a few times — and then they just quit working.
This time around, I was armed with a new idea. Cook’s Illustrated came out with a pair of gingerbread cookie recipes in the late aughts. One was soft and chewy, and the other thin, sturdy and crispy, suitable for Christmas tree ornaments. But the doughs are identical; the only difference between the recipes is that the hard cookies are rolled thinner and baked at a lower temperature for a longer period of time.
That got me thinking: the longer time gives those gingerbread ornaments more opportunity to dry and toughen. The lower temperature buys time, so that they can stay in the oven longer without burning.
What if my 10- to 12-minute oatmeal cookies, which I was baking at 350° F (I had also tried — futilely — lowering the temperature, thinking that more gentle baking might yield more tender results) needed a more assertive blast of heat? What if raising the temperature 25° would bake the cookie dough through before it had a chance to flatten, before the sugar crystals had a chance to melt and mingle with the butter? What if a hotter temperature would improve the spring, so that the acid molasses could react with the base baking soda more quickly, and could make the dough rise enough to be a little fluffier, and a lot more tender?
Come to think of it, I thought, I could also increase the molasses considerably, to a full tablespoon, and hopefully the additional acid would give the base more to react against, resulting a bit more bubble
I also doubled the vanilla, to keep the molasses from becoming cloying. Since noticing how much more vanilla Mexican baking uses compared to American baking — and noticing how delicious Mexican baking is — I double vanilla amounts often. This alteration was a winner too: the molasses-cinnamon-vanilla balance in these oatmeal raisin cookies is, I have to say, exquisite.
Another difference between these and my Quaker Oats label source: I use whole wheat. Whole wheat flour can’t be simply substituted in every instance for white AP flour, but when you have something with a rustic sort of texture and a dark coloration, sometimes you can get away with just swapping it in. In this case, because these cookies are enriched with wheat bran, you can think of it as whole wheat plus even more of the main thing that makes whole wheat different from refined white flour: bran.
Oatmeal raisin bran cookies
If your raisins are hard and dried out, place them in a bowl and add water to cover for one-half hour to one hour before adding them to the batter. (Drain any excess water before adding the raisins to the batter.) If you bake with very dry raisins, they’ll suck out whatever moisture they can from the batter, leaving you with dry cookies studded with unchewable raisin pellets.
You can reuse the parchment paper again and again and again. I wipe mine clean of crumbs and store them nested with my cookie sheets.
These freeze well. Store in a zip-top bag.
Oatmeal raisin bran cookies
About three dozen cookies
Baking temperature and time
375° F for 8 to 10 minutes. (Preheat oven.)
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/4 cup wheat bran
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt (not coarse)
- 1 1/2 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
- 1/2 cup raisins
Equipment that bears mentioning
- Stand mixer or handheld mixer
- Cookie sheets
- Parchment paper
- half-ounce scoop, or two tablespoons
- cooling rack
In a nutshell
Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and molasses. Mix together flour, bran, soda, cinnamon and salt. Mix powdery mixture into creamed mixture. Mix in oats. Mix in raisins. Bake until soft, and remove — parchment paper and all — to a cooling rack immediately.
Using a handheld mixer or a stand mixer with the mixing paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar. (That is, beat them together on medium-low speed for about two minutes or until creamy.)
Turn off mixer and add egg and molasses. Beat together at medium-low speed until well blended.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, bran, soda, cinnamon and salt.
Add this dry mixture to the bowl with the creamed mixture. Mix together on low or medium-low speed until well blended, about 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Turn off mixer and add oats. Mix them in at low speed or medium-low speed.
Turn off mixer and add raisins. Mix them in at low speed. You will have a thick, concrete-like batter with raisins mixed more or less evenly throughout.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Using a half-ounce scoop or a pair of tablespoons, portion 12 lumps of cookie batter evenly over the sheet. Each portion should be 1 level tablespoon (which equals 1/2 ounce; hence the half-ounce scoop). You don’t need to press these down or smooth them out; they’ll spread into lovely circles while baking. Leave plenty of spreading room between cookies.
Bake at 375° F for 8 to 10 minutes. In my stove, the perfect timing is 9 minutes.
Start checking the cookies each minute starting at 8 minutes. They are done when they no longer appear watery in the crevices. They will still be quite soft and bendable when they’re ready to come out of the oven. Do not overbake, or they’ll be tough in a peanut-brittley sort of way, thanks to the melting sugar and butter that will fuse together into an unwelcome toffee.
After you pull the cookie sheet from the oven, carefully pick up the parchment paper, cookies and all, and transfer the whole thing to a cooling rack. Carefully. Quickly.
Make sure the cookie sheet is cool before you load it up again with cookie dough. You don’t want the butter melting before it gets into the oven. You can use two cookie sheets; by the time one comes out of the oven, the other will have had time to cool and get reloaded.