I am largely a self-taught cook. My mom taught me the basics of baking -- particularly the difference between a wet and a dry measure -- but she doesn't particularly enjoy being in the kitchen, so after that I was on my own. However, the way I feel about cooking and baking is largely inspired by my Grandma.
Grandma was an excellent cook. Feeding four kids on a shoestring budget and years of working in the school cafeteria gave her lots of practice. There was nothing gourmet about her meals, but they were always delicious. Perfect for their place and time. I always looked forward to her Christmas cookie assortment, and to the fruit salads that accompanied all of our meals with extended family. She made the best sloppy joes, hands down, but that recipe, like nearly all others, lived only in her head.
At the time of her passing, I was the only grandchild (of 8) with an interest and flair for cooking, so many of her kitchen implements were passed along to me: liquid measures, her Tupperware cookie containers (which now hold my sugars), a shoebox full of recipe clippings and notes, a beautiful cake stand, and all of her hand-sewn aprons. The mug shown in the first picture above is the same one she served me milk in as a child. It was the only thing I requested when the time came to sort through her belongings.
I wish Grandma could be here to see the kind of cook and baker I've turned out to be. She would love the neat kitchen tools that are available now, and, I think, be just as enthused about using them as I am. I wish I could share my recipes with her and, in turn, learn how to make sloppy joes, dandelion wine, grape jelly from the arbors in our yard, and all of the other classic, rural fare she excelled at making.
Of the handwritten recipe notes in the box I received, very few were complete recipes. In fact, there were maybe only one or two. She might jot down a list of ingredients or a name, but rarely ever instructions or measurements. This oatmeal cookie recipe only exists in writing because at some point when I was a child, I asked her to tell it to me so I could write it down. The index card of instructions in my childlike scrawl now resides in my mom's recipe box in Illinois, but I keep a picture of it on my phone for easy reference.
Grandma's oatmeal cookies are crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, buttery, and slightly salty. They're perfect for dunking. While I usually say this Martha Stewart oatmeal cookie recipe is my favorite, Grandma's recipe yields a cookie that is equally delicious and satisfying in a different way. (Martha's cookies are big, thick, soft, and full of texture, but not so great for dunking.)
I've made a few changes to the recipe over the years: swapping the Oleo Grandma used for unsalted butter, and reorganizing/modernizing the steps. Grandma always used a wooden spoon to stir in the oats at the end, but I think she would have a good deal of appreciation for the arm energy I save using the stand mixer instead.
[This post was encouraged -- but not sponsored by -- the Patience Brewster gift company as a part of their efforts to start a conversation among food bloggers about heritage recipes.]
Crispy Oatmeal Cookies
Adapted slightly from my grandma's recipe
Yields about 4 dozen
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 1/2 cups raisins (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time until combined. Mix in the vanilla.
Add the flour mixture to the mixer bowl in 2 additions, mixing until thoroughly combined. Add the oats and mix on low until just incorporated. Stir in the raisins, if using.
Using a 1 1/2" scoop, drop the cookie dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, spacing cookies at least 2" apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
For crispy cookies that are chewy in the center, store in an airtight container. For completely crispy cookies, store in a loosely covered container.