Oatmeal cookies and summer go together for me. Growing up, summer at my house meant days of swimming punctuated with lazy breaks featuring an outdoor table laden with hot weather treats: an icy pitcher of lemonade, a bowl of grapes and cherries, and a big plate of oatmeal raisin cookies. I fondly remember the taste memory of those oatmeal cookies studded with juicy raisins.
A few years ago I was lucky enough to visit Zingerman's Delicatessen in Ann Arbor, Mich. I had heard about this famous deli and bakery for many years and just had to make a detour to experience it firsthand. I tasted a Big O (oatmeal) cookie and was wowed by it. I was immediately taken back to my youth and those lazy days of summer.
In "Zingerman's Bakehouse," the authors share the story of this classic cookie that has been on their menu for more than two decades. You might ask how these are different. The answer is the addition of maple syrup, lots of sweet unsalted butter, old-fashioned rolled oats and plump flame raisins, as well as the large size of each cookie. If you're not a fan of raisins, get creative and substitute with dried cranberries or cherries. You can't go wrong.
In addition to this famous oatmeal cookie, the authors share many of their 25-year secrets of the best of Zingerman's bread and pastries. For the bakers in your life, this is a book to consider giving for its group of well-tested and interesting recipes such as Bakehouse Bagels, Foccacia with Gorgonzola and Caramelized Onions and their very own Hunka Burnin' Love Cake. I personally can't resist the Ginger Jump-Up Cookies and Walnut and Currant Rugelach. There are stories plus sage baking advice throughout the book. Even as my kitchen heats up from our warm weather, I can't wait to get in the kitchen and bake more of their goodies.
Zingermans's Big O Cookies
Makes 21 large cookies
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 3/4 cups Flame raisins
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. In a large mixing bowl, with a wooden spoon, cream the butter with the brown sugar until it is light and fluffy. If using an electric stand mixer, use the paddle attachment and mix on medium speed.
3. Add the maple syrup in thirds to the butter and brown sugar mixture, beating well after each addition. If too much syrup is added at once, it will be more difficult for the butter to absorb it all, and the mixture will look permanently curdled. Add it slowly, and it will blend in easily.
4. Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix until thoroughly incorporated.
5. In a separate large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix the ingredients with a spoon to evenly distribute the spices, leavening in the flour.
6. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and stir by hand with your wooden spoon until evenly combined. If using an electric mixer, combine on low speed.
7. Add the oats and raisins, and mix until they are distributed evenly throughout the batter.
8. Using a 1 1/2-ounce portioner, or scooping up about 3 tablespoons of dough with a spoon, form the cookies into round balls, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Gently press the balls to slightly flatten them out to 1/2-inch thick disks. Since the cookies will double in size, leave plenty of space between them to give them room to spread.
9. Bake the cookies for 15 to 17 minutes, until golden brown around the edges and just set in the middle. Cool the cookies to room temperature.
Tip: This dough can be refrigerated raw and kept for a week. Bake the cookies right from the refrigerator. Expect to bake them for 2 to 3 minutes longer because they are cold.
Art: "Zingerman's Bakehouse" by Amy Emberling and Frank Carollo, with permission by Chronicle Books, 2017.
(Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including "Seriously Simple Parties," and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at www.seriouslysimple.com.)