Test Kitchen: Oatmeal-Cranberry Cookies

So before I mailed cookies to Seth, I was contemplating ways to use up things in my kitchen. The chocolate chips gave me a pretty easy way out — just followed the recipe on the bag as always and sent off the delicious chocolate chip cookies to Seth (who, at the time, had no friends* in Michigan… according to recent reports, he now has more than one! I’m proud!).

But in poking around the kitchen, I remembered my trusty oatmeal-raisin cookie recipe. That, along with the Costco-sized bag of Craisins in the pantry, sparked the idea of doing a little experimentation. So here goes, the first Test Kitchen run of summer 2011.

Craisins, despite their name, taste nothing like raisins. Yeah, pretty much anyone could have told you that. They also don’t really plump when baked the way raisins do in cookies. So these are two things to remember when replacing raisins in a recipe with Craisins. The recipe I use usually gives pretty soft, moist cookies normally, so I didn’t change much for the plumping issue. Next up was flavor. Cranberries bring to mind autumn and Thanksgiving — I went with oranges, walnuts, and cinnamon to go with the Craisins.

Walnuts? Safeway, check. Cinnamon? Got it. Oranges? Fruit trees in the yard!

Orange tree. Conspiciously orange-free.

Crap. Luckily we have two orange trees!

These are some pretty pathetic oranges. Notice they're not very orange.

Well that’s just GREAT. But hey, lemons are like yellow oranges right? Right?

When life can't give you good oranges, maybe it'll give you lemons.

I tested the zest potential on these while out in the yard by pressing a fingernail into the rind.

Mmm, smells orange-y! (It's kind of yellow, but trust me, this was an orange.)**

Back in the kitchen, I zested the orange and lemon I’d picked with the handy dandy lime-shaped zester I bought at Safeway last summer.

Kinda looks like 3 lemons and an orange, doesn't it?
Zested!
Chopped up the zest a bit to avoid long strings.

I followed the original Quaker Oats oatmeal-raisin cookie recipe, with my usual modifications (less sugar, whole wheat flour — see end of entry for final recipe). After adding oats, I halved the dough and added 2 tsp of zest (orange to one half, lemon to the other). Then I halved each half and added 1/8 cup of walnuts to one of those halves.

3/4 of the dough shown

So in short, the dough was quartered to: orange, orange-walnut, lemon, lemon-walnut. I guess if I were a more thorough scientist, there would have been a control section with no zest, but then I would’ve also had to do the non-Craisin vs. Craisin (vs. raisin!?), and I just didn’t have the patience for that.

The results were offered to my family for taste testing. (The recipe is supposed to make 2 dozen cookies; I made 14. Apparently my halving was a little too approximate, and the cookies were bigger than intended.)

Eat'em and vote.

Feedback: not enough citrus zest to tell the difference between lemon and orange, although my sister claimed a preference for lemon. My dad prefers walnuts, but that’s just because he likes walnuts (he also admitted, “I’ve never met a cookie I didn’t like…”). And the Craisins weren’t too dry in my opinion.

On Monday, I baked up a double batch of lemon-cranberry-oatmeal cookies (half with walnuts, half without), and sent off about half of them to Tessaly! I upped the final amount of lemon zest and added a little more cinnamon, too. Also, unlike the test run, I added the lemon zest to the butter mixture — I’ve seen other recipes do this, and I suspect the flavor from the rind oils comes out better when mixed with the wet ingredients (especially the butter).

Lemon-cranberry-oatmeal cookies
Based on the Quaker Oats oatmeal-raisin cookie recipe

Ingredients
1/2 cup butter (softened)
1/3 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp lemon zest (can replace with orange zest)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
3/2 cups oats
1/2 cup Craisins
1/2 cup walnuts (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cream butter and sugars together with a fork or mixer.
  3. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add in the lemon zest.
  4. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl. Gradually add dry ingredients to butter-egg mixture.
  5. Mix in oats and Craisins by hand (do not use a mixer). Mix in walnuts if desired.
  6. Form into 1-inch balls (I make 1.5-inch balls and flattened them slightly), bake on ungreased cookie sheet 1 inch apart for 10-12 minutes until golden brown on the edges. Let cool on the cookie sheet for 1 minute then move to a rack to cool completely.

(Makes 2 dozen cookies… purportedly.)

Test Kitchen success!

*Admittedly, he’d only been there for a day.
**Notice the camera on my phone is really bad at focusing.

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