The sweet-and-salty combination is always a hit with me. Even as I try to watch my salt intake, I have a special place in my heart for salty oatmeal cookies.
There used to be a bakery near my house that had wonderful salty oat cookies. Every once in a while I would treat myself to one and usually finish eating it before I got home. Then the bakery changed their recipe, and the cookies, while still good, were not supreme. About a year ago, the bakery closed and salty oat cookies receded into my taste memories.
Although oatmeal cookies are a dime a dozen, the salty oat variety are not so common, at least around here. With an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality, I thought I was done with them. But this week, a craving for them came on like a last blast of winter. Nothing I could do would shake that incredible need for salty oat cookies.
So I headed into my kitchen to create my own version. I consulted plenty of oatmeal cookie recipes, including one for salty oats. None seemed quite right, but I began to build on a few themes I found:
- J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats, a great source of cooking ideas and information, suggested using large grained salt for the salty component and adding it halfway through baking. I used his technique with Maldon sea salt.
- Shirley Corriher, in her fabulous book Bakewise, confirmed my impression that the recipe was “regular” oatmeal cookies on the top of the Quaker Oats canister is pretty damn good and she pointed out that roasting nuts, especially if you coat them in butter while still hot, enhances their flavor. I followed her suggestion and liked the results.
- Amanda Greene, food scientist and fellow HuffPost blogger, did tests to discern what difference it makes in cookies to use baking soda or baking powder. Based on the results of her experiment and her explanations, I used a bit of both.
The resulting salty oat cookie is fragrant and chewy. Filled with nuts, raisins and oats, it comes out of the oven soft and firms up as it cools. I used less little salt in the batter than most oatmeal cookie recipes and only ⅛ teaspoon of Maldon salt (or less) on the top, so I’m not feeling too guilty about these. (López-Alt topped his salty oat cookies with ¼ – ½ teaspoon of large grained salt – way too much in my opinion.) The Maldon variety of sea salt is large and irregular, on the top, so the cookies don’t taste too salty, but when a bite has a big flake, you can really taste it. More common varieties of coarse sea salt work fine too.
For comparison, here is a photo of 4 types of salt. From left to right they are: table salt; Diamond brand kosher salt: Maldon sea salt: and Whole Foods (365 brand) coarse sea salt.
For my husband, who is not a fan of salty stuff, I made a batch of the cookies without the salt topping and added one large chocolate chip so he could tell which ones were his. He liked them that way just fine; you could use this recipe as a template for non-salty oatmeal cookies, perhaps with another ¼ teaspoon of salt in the batter and substituting chocolate chips for some or all of the raisins.
Salty Oat Cookies
Servings – About 30 cookies, each 2 ½ – 3 inches wide Cost – $5-6
- ½ cup (1 stick) + 6 tablespoons butter (unsalted)
- ¾ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
- ½ cup of white (granulated) sugar
- 1 tablespoon unsulphured molasses
- 2 eggs at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ⅛ – ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg (I ground my own, but store-bought is fine.)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
- 1 cup raisins soaked in hot water or hot juice (to plump them)
- 1 cup chopped nuts, roasted (I used a heaping cup of chopped pecans)
- Coarse sea salt or Maldon sea salt for topping
- Cookie sheet/pans with silicone mats or parchment
- 1 large bowl
- 3 small bowls
- Large fork
- Cutting board and knife or wooden bowl and chopper (for nuts)
- Measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
- Rubber or silicone spatula
- Metal spatula
- Wire rack
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Roast nuts on a cookie sheet in oven or in toaster oven at 350 degrees F for about 8-10 minutes and immediately after taking them out, toss them with 1 – 1½ tablespoon of the butter. Chop them roughly and set aside in a small bowl.
- Whisk (or sift) together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and kosher salt in a small bowl and set aside.
- Cream until light and fluffy the rest of the butter and the brown and white sugars. This takes about 3 minutes in a stand mixer on medium to medium-high, a bit longer with a handheld mixer, and a lot of elbow grease if you’re doing it by hand.
- Add the vanilla and molasses to the batter, mixing until just combined. Add the eggs one at a time to the batter, mixing each until just combined with the batter.
- Add the flour mixture to the batter in 3 batches, mixing (on low speed if using a mixer) just until combined. Then add the oats to the batter.
- Drain the raisins. Add the raisins, and nuts, mixing with a rubber or silicone spatula.
- Ideally, refrigerate the batter for about 20 minutes, to make it less sticky before forming cookies. Using your hands, form into golfball-sized rounds and place on a lined cookie pan about 10 to a half-sheet size pan. (Sure it’s messy, but think of it as play dough. If you dust your hands with flour, less batter will stick to them. If you’re really mess-averse, use 2 spoons to form the cookies.) Gently press down on each cookie with a fork to slightly flatten it.
- Bake for about 12 – 14 minutes, taking the cookies out after 6-7 minutes to sprinkle ⅛ teaspoon or less of coarse salt on each one before returning them for the second half of baking.
- When the salty oat cookies are done, cool them for 1-2 minutes on the cookie pans, before removing them to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.