"There's an oatmeal cookie in there? I see no reason for the existence of oatmeal, particularly in cookies." - Oscar the Grouch
"I'm heading off to my sisters, so I think I'll make some cookies."
I hear a faint, "Oatmeal" from behind The Leader-Herald.
"I am making these for my sister," I further explain.
"But everyone likes oatmeal cookies," the request continues.
I reach for the cookbook and hear, "Besides, April 30 is National Oatmeal Cookie Day."
Now how in the world did he know that? I began to investigate.
My husband likes old fashioned oatmeal cookies with large chunks of nuts; the raisins are optional. Not a chocolate fan, oatmeal always are his first choice, his only choice and his favorite choice. I like mine with raisins and pecans; rum flavorings and dried pineapple, shredded coconut and macadamia nuts; cranberries and orange and, always, real vanilla extract. In other words, I like mine "doctored".
Oats were one of the earliest cereals cultivated by man. They were known in ancient China as long ago as 7,000 B.C. Oatmeal "cakes" have been around since the Roman times when they were used to feed armies while traveling. One account even claims oatmeal "cakes" were used as barter. (Or hockey pucks).
During the 1800s, we finally see this "staple" cake turned into a confection. The recipe for the "cookie" first appeared in the Original Fannie Farmer 1896 Cook Book. I got my copy out (Yes, I have a copy of the original and the Marion Cunningham revised) and was surprised to see it was a rolled rather than a drop cookie. Since then, variations have blossomed all over the world with people having health challenges, and others just wanting to be creative.
Like the 75 percent of U.S. households that have oatmeal in their cupboard, I always have the ingredients to make oatmeal cookies in my house. As kids, we used to eat H&O Oats, but unfortunately they went out of business. Today, my oatmeal box has the portrait of the Quaker man. I understand he has been there since 1877. The Quaker company was the first to put a cookie recipe on their box. Because of this, the oatmeal cookies' popularity and fan base grew - a very clever marketing tool by Quaker.
As I researched, I found that most recipes are a variation of the Quaker original, not the Fannie original. No two recipes are exactly alike, noting the amount of fat, the type of fat, butter or shortening, the type and amount of sugar, whether white or brown, the amount and type of leavening, baking soda, just powder or both, the amount of salt, the type or amount of flour, etc. A large variation from the original cookies is in the style of oats used. One can imagine the difference between the original oats, 130 years ago, and the oats available today.
Here is a quick explanation:
Steel-cut, Irish, Scottish oats: featuring a dense and chewy texture, they are produced by running the grain through steel blades that thinly slice them.
Old-fashioned oats: have a flatter shape that is the result of their being steamed and then rolled.
Quick-cooking oats: processed like old-fashioned oats, except they are cut finely before rolling
Instant oatmeal: produced by partially cooking the grains and then rolling them very thin. Often times, sugar, salt and other ingredients are added to make the finished product.
Oat bran: the outer layer of the grain that resides under the hull. While oat bran is found in rolled oats and steel-cut oats, it may also be purchased as a separate product that can be added to recipes or cooked to make a hot cereal.
Oat flour: used in baking, it is oftentimes combined with wheat as oats do not contain gluten.
Recent health studies suggest a diet consisting of oats can help lower cholesterol. Not only do they have large amounts of soluble fiber, oatmeal also contains Vitamin E, zinc, selenium, copper, iron, manganese, magnesium and protein.
But to be honest, oatmeal cookies are still cookies. They have a large percentage of fat and sugar. Although slightly healthier than some, they are still sweets and not a "health food."
And, yes, there is a National Oatmeal Cookie day; in fact there are two: one is in March for Lacy Oatmeal Cookies and the other is April 30 and celebrates all the other recipes.
So, get out your favorite recipe or try the Fanny's original and celebrate Oatmeal cookies.
(As they appeared in the Original 1896 Fanny Farmer Cookbook.)
cup thin cream
cup fine oatmeal
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Beat egg until light, add sugar, cream and milk: then add oatmeal, flour, baking powder and salt, mixed and sifted. Toss on a floured board, roll, cut in shape and bake in a moderate oven. (350 degrees)