When I lived in Germany, I would make a type of oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies that I’ve been making since my mother introduced them to me when I was a child.
The cookies, along with many sweets I baked, were new to most of the Germans and to the foreigners learning German with me. I would make them for class or a picnic, but I would have to set aside a small plate for the family, lest I be in trouble for not leaving any behind.
The cookies earned so much fame in the family that my guest-mother’s brother talked about selling them in his health-food store. We went through potential costs and margins, how to make the cookies healthier-looking and, finally, investment in a stand mixer. It was not my job to stand with a mixer in my hand all day, after all.
Friends and family members asked me for the recipe, which I translated into German. Translating the recipe for a foreign audience was a bit of an issue. Some of the ingredients weren’t available, and substitutes had to be found. The brown sugar available in North America does not exist in Germany. There, one must use a combination of molasses and white sugar.
Being asked to write the recipe down and translate it did something else. It made me start using weights, or masses, instead of cup measurements. Once I realized how much easier recipes became, I was hooked. Now, I make sure every recipe I write down has the weight alongside the measurement.
When I started baking, I only used white flour. Slowly, I realized I could use whole wheat flour instead. It gave the cookies a slight nutty flavor, desirable to most. It also gave them a bit more texture and I found they were more likely to stay together, and not spread or melt down, in the oven. That has to do with the temperature of the dough when it’s put on the cookie sheets.
One of the biggest issues I faced was the lack of imitation vanilla, which costs proverbial pennies on the dollar in the U.S. In the land of sauerkraut and wurst, there was no imitation vanilla, only the real stuff at exorbitant prices and impossible to buy in quantity.
Chocolate chips! We take them for granted. We should not. I would buy blocks of baking chocolate and chop it up, piece by piece, until I had enough for a full batch of cookies. Many times have my hands wrung themselves in anger and jealousy at the day in the future when chocolate chips are properly introduced into Germany.
Finally, when I was in Germany, I discovered the joys that abound with parchment paper. No more greasing cookie sheets, I cried into my flour-caked hands, leaving white smears on my face. No more terrible cookie sheet cleanings, I bellowed.
The last thing I do is to add a bit of ground, dried ginger, nutmeg and often other spices I find when rooting through the pantry. Sometimes, I even add shredded coconut. It gives the cookies a spicier taste, which goes exceptionally well with the Glühwein (hot, mulled wine) I suggest for cold winter days and nights.
2 sticks butter (250 grams), softened
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar (232 grams)
Half cup granulated sugar (112 grams)
1 teaspoon vanilla or more
1½ cups whole-wheat flour (220 grams)
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups oatmeal (265 grams, roughly) or more as desired
1 cup chocolate chips (roughly 200 grams)
Ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, etc., to be mixed in with the flour and baking soda. Shredded coconut, to be added in with the oats.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a medium bowl, mix the butter and sugars together until creamy. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix together.
In a separate mixing bowl, combine the whole-wheat flour, baking soda and optional spices until well mixed. Add to the bowl of creamed sugars and mix well.
Add the oats and, if using, shredded coconut to the bowl and mix well. Add the chocolate chips and stir in until combined.
Put parchment paper down on a baking sheet.
Using a spoon, or hands, make roundish balls of dough, about the size of a half-dollar, and put them on the baking sheet, spaced about an inch and a half apart. Bake for eight to 10 minutes per cookie sheet.
Allow to cool and set. Then, essen!
Use preachment paper instead of greasing the cookie sheet
Spices will make the cookies taste ... spicy.
Whole-wheat flour gives the cookies a slightly nutty flavor and more texture.
The more oats, the better!