I cannot tell a lie, while "S" cookies have a place in my heart, they do not have such space in my belly, which is why I also baked some cookies for Thanksgiving that I could be more excited to eat. The "S" cookies may have been a nod to family tradition, but for pure, unadulterated, indulgent deliciousness I baked up a batch of one of my favorites: oatmeal toffee cookies. They are everything that the "S" cookies are not: chewy, rich, unfussy, and somewhat homely, but for what they lack in looks they more than make up for in flavor.
My quest for a perfect oatmeal cookie dates back to Easter of 2005, when I was still in college, and Dad's cousins invited me over to celebrate the holiday with them. One of my cousins had baked a batch of oatmeal cookies, and despite the fact that I was an avowed oatmeal cookie hater (since they almost always have raisins in them, and I more or less consider there to be no room for fruit in my cookies), the smell wafting off of them was intoxicating. I bit into one, and was taken aback by its utter perfection. There was a nutty, caramel-y flavor that I couldn't put my finger on. I thought perhaps peanut butter was involved, but I really couldn't be sure. I consumed an embarrassing number of those cookies that day, and I brought back a goodie bag of them to my dorm. I tried to get the recipe, but no one seemed to know for sure at the time who had made them, although I suspected it was my cousin Abby. The memory of those cookies would haunt me for the next several years as all of my attempts to replicate them failed.
Flash forward to 2008: I was trolling my usual collection of food blogs when I came across a recipe for oatmeal toffee cookies. I had just visited the north of France the previous year, where I was introduced to the splendors of salted caramel and was still deep in the throws of an obsession with all things caramel. I needed something to bring to a barbeque I was attending, so I hunted down the Heath toffee bits that the recipe called for, only to discover that the recipe had been stolen straight from the back of the package! Thankfully, I didn't let my annoyance at the plagiarizing blogger stop me from making the cookies, because they were fantastic. I've ultimately made a few changes since that first batch, such as omitting the cinnamon, which I found to be a distraction from the buttery toffee flavor. In the past year or so, these oatmeal toffee cookies have emerged as one of the most-baked recipes in my cookie repertoire.
Because they are so tasty, I brought along a batch to Thanksgiving in St. Louis last week, only to be asked by my cousin Julie if it was the recipe from the back of the Heath Bits O' Brickle bag. When I responded in the affirmative, she exclaimed, "Oh, Abby makes those! They are SO good!" Turns out, I had stumbled across the recipe for the vaunted cookie of my memories and not even realized it. All I knew was that I had discovered a damn good cookie.
Humble but delicious.
Oatmeal Toffee Cookies
adapted from the Heath Bits O' Brickle bag
1 c. unsalted butter, softened
2 c. light brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 c. quick-cooking oats
1 8 oz. package Heath Bits O' Brickle Toffee Bits
1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Beat butter, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until well-blended. Add flour, baking soda and salt; beat until blended. Stir in oats and toffee bits with spoon.
3. Drop dough by rounded spoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto a parchment-lined sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool 3-4 minutes and remove to a wire rack to cool completely.