There is nothing that aggrieves me more than being out of biscuits (or cookies, if you will), particularly on a holiday. Instead of having my usual tea and biscuits for breakfast, I have to revert to (gasp!) toast or cereal!
I know it sounds unhealthy but I have an agreement with my stomach: he won’t hurt, if I feed him high cocoa chocolate based foods at various points throughout the day. Sometimes he shirks on his agreement and hurts anyway but I continue to eat chocolate regardless.
So, what’s a girl to do without biscuits and/or chocolate? Make chocolate biscuits of course! And for one of the best cookie recipes I have ever cooked, I turned to Great Cookies by the wonderful Carole Walter. This is is a fantastic book, beautifully photographed with every type of cookie recipe imaginable, from drop cookies to speculaas, pinwheels to biscotti and everything else in between. Of course, I have only ever cooked one recipe from this book: Walter’s unbeatable Oatmeal Cookies.
I used to hate anything with oatmeal because it would always provoke an outbreak of stomach ache, so I avoided this wholesome tasting cereal like the plague. However, since I now have the aforementioned agreement with said stomach, I like to experiment with foods that I previously couldn’t eat. And fortunately, I have discovered there is quite a lot now that I can eat without too much discomfort.
IBS is a really unpleasant disorder. In my case, it causes severe bloating, headaches, cramping and nausea if I eat too much wheat or dairy produce. I take medication before each meal which does greatly reduce the symptoms but fellow sufferers will know that this isn’t always the answer. I have suffered from it since I was old enough to suffer from the stresses of the real world, sixteen or seventeen years old and when I first approached the doctors with my complaint about persistent stomach aches, they put it down to poor diet. IBS didn’t really exist (in the UK at least) back then.
Thankfully, reasonably effective anti-spasmodics have been introduced and some people (like my work colleague who finds that beer causes his outbreaks) can control theirs purely by cutting out ‘trigger’ foods.
I, on the other hand, rely purely on the tablets because I refuse to let the illness spoil my culinary life. The only foods I have strictly cut back on are dairy based foods like yoghurt, milk (and milkshakes), coffee with milk, and ice cream. Also, chocolate with a high milk content has to be eaten with care. Fortunately we have 70% cocoa which I can eat. Nuts are usually a big no-no if they are of the harder variety (for example, peanuts, brazil nuts or hazelnuts).
“But, enough about your stomach!” I hear you cry, “what about those cookies?”
Ah yes. The Cookies. Oatmeal cookies, studded generously with large chunks of dark chocolate and mahogany hunks of pecan. The original recipe calls for walnuts but I find that Pecans have a sweeter taste but generous bite.
The wonderful thing about cookie recipes is that you can alter the flavourings to suit your palate (or in my case, stomach) or store cupboard. These would taste just as good without the chocolate or nuts, just plain old fantastic oatmeal cookies.
Going against most recommendations, I halved the recipe, straight down the middle, for the simple reason that whilst I could eat 3 dozen of this oatie beauties, my stomach and I would come to serious blows. And despite this, the recipe turned out perfectly: these cookies/biscuits are crisp on the bottom, chewy in the middle. If you eat them still hot, the chocolate chunks still run fluidly throughout and there is nothing nicer than eating melted chocolate. When cold, they are just as good.
Being the true American that he is, Paul ate his with a glass of milk. I simply ate mine whilst watching the Road to Perdition, crumbs falling all over as the film reached its tense crescendo.
Other variations of this cookie could involve swapping chocolate for raisins or dried cranberries, various nuts or seeds, if you want a slightly healthier version.
OATMEAL COOKIES adapted from Carole Walter’s Great Cookies
Makes about 20 cookies that are 2.5″ wide, roughly
1/3 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
1 1/4 Cup Oatmeal (not instant)
1/6 Cup Caster (or granulated) Sugar
3/4 Cup Plain Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter (not really soft)
1 Tablespoon Corn Syrup or Golden Syrup
1 Small Egg
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Chocolate Chips (I hit a bar of Lindt 70% chocolate repeatedly against a work surface to break them into decent size chunks)
1 Cup Chopped Pecans, or nut of your choice
Preheat oven to 180c. Line two baking sheets with baking paper or lightly oil them.
In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the brown and white sugar and a third of the oatmeal until sand-like. This will take about 3 minutes.
Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder together. Stir in the rest of the oatmeal. Set aside.
Using your stand alone mixer or electric hand whisk, blend the butter with corn syrup on low speed until light.
Beat in the processed oatmeal/sugar mixture in three additions. Add the egg and vanilla extract.
Turning the speed up to medium, add the sifted flour in three more additions, mixing until only just combined.
Finally, fold in the nuts and chocolate chips.
Using either a couple of teaspoons or a small ice cream scoop (which I highly recommend!), drop spoonfuls onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each scoopful. They will spread out during cooking but not horrendously.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until starting to turn golden around the edges.
Leave to cool for a couple of minutes on the baking sheets then remove to a cooling rack.
According to Walter, these cookies will last 2 weeks in an airtight tin. I doubt that they will last that long!