Friday, July 25, 2008

Oatmeal Chocolate Date Cookies

In the last couple of decades, oatmeal has experienced a renaissance. Studies that linked oatmeal consumption with lower blood cholesterol came out in the 1980s, and in 1997 the US Food and Drug Administration allowed products with oat bran or rolled oats (which contain beta-glucans) to claim that they reduce heart disease when combined with a low-fat diet. Oatmeal is high in complex carbohydrates and fiber. It has long been a staple in the diets of athletes and labourers who benefit from a slow-releasing source of glucose.

Oatmeal is a product of ground oat groats. It is a staple in Scotland where it is well-suited to the short, wet growing season. The Scots use oats in baking and a wide variety of dishes including poultry stuffing, porridge, haggis, and black pudding. In the United States, Vermonters consume more oats per capita than any other state. Traditionally, the oats are soaked overnight, cooked and then served with sugar and spices.

Before its health benefits were clear, I was a huge fan of oatmeal cookies. My father made his with honey and they were large, thin and chewy. My recipe makes dense and satisfying cookies that are perfect for breakfast or as a snack. The dates add an unusual, natural sweetness that complements the hearty oat and chocolate flavors.

Makes 24 cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups quick oats (reduce to 2 cups for lighter, larger cookies)
1 3/4 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cups dried date pieces (use dried cranberries or dried cherries if dates are unavailable)

For lighter, healthier cookies change ingredients as follows:
Increase flour to 1 1/2 cups
Reduce butter to 1/2 cup and add 1/4 cup applesauce and 2 tablespoons canola/corn oil
Reduce granulated sugar to 1/4 cup
Reduce chocolate chips to 1 cup

1. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).
2. In a medium bowl, mix flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl beat butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well. Add flour mixture and beat until incorporated.
4. Using a spatula, stir in quick oats. Then stir in chocolate chips and date nuggets.
5. Drop batter in two tablespoon pieces onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until light brown. The cookies will not spread very much. If you use 2 cups of oats, the cookies will spread so space 2 inches apart.
6. Cool for 5 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to a wire rack. Store in an airtight container for up to 10 days or freeze for up to 3 months (to defrost leave at room temperature overnight).


Anonymous said...

I am making these today! What a fantastic recipe -- it also seems fairly healthy (as these things go) -- dark chocolate and dates = antioxidants and fiber.

Thank you for your luscious blog.


Denea Banning said...

These cookies are fantastic. I decided to be a bit clever though and changed the recipe slightly. What I came up with has enhanced them even further! See below -

Rather than the baking powder add 1 tablespoon of self-rising flour

Once the cookies have been placed onto the baking sheet drizzle each cookie with approximately 10-15mL of golden syrup. Bake until the golden syrup pools around the outside of the cookie (about 10 minutes). The cookies should be JUST cooked when you pull them out.

Let them stand and once they're cooled they easily peel off the baking paper with their surrounding golden syrup candy.

The syrup which soaks into the cookie while it's baking keeps them moist and gooey on the inside while the outside crisps up. They'll stay like this for days, even in the fridge.