Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Iced Oatmeal Cookies

Sometimes I can't believe that I have become this person--and I mean that in the best possible way. I fold their clean t-shirts and make their dentist appointments and read Farmer Boy and dig splinters out of their toes and kiss them when their school day is done, and I think, "These are my children! I am their mother!" Me. I mean, I am practically a child still myself--at least in my own mind. But I don't think the kids even think twice about it. I don't think they ever shake their skeptical heads and think, "We're onto you and the gappy way you inhabit your mom costume." They see me, and I am their mother, the one with the boobs that have been nursed down to the floor where they drag along righteously, the one with the morning smell and the busy work life and the good dinners on the table and the irritable loathing of loud noises and the affection that twinkles like a whole galaxy of stars lit up across the heavens just for them. The tax forms come, and that word "dependents" always puts a lump in my throat: my dependents! They are dependent on me. I am dependably theirs.

And as rushed and crazy as I can feel packing their lunchboxes (this morning, for instance, when I remembered at 7:40 that Ben had to be at school for recorder rehearsal at 7:45), I also kind of love it. It's like that horrible peanut butter commercial we saw during the Olympics, the one that made me cry, where the mom and daughter are in tears over the phone because boo hoo hoo the daughter is at college and boo hoo hoo the mom sent a jar of Jiff or Skippy or whatever and boo hoo hoo that's her favorite peanut butter and she's homesick. But still. I put a cookie in the lunchbox and it is, plainly and simply, an act of love, and I love to do it. (Of course, now I feel like I'm going to be quoted in some kind of dreadful conservative propaganda literature about how fulfilled mothers feel by mothering, and how right and proper it is, etc. And I'm not saying that at all, as you know, given that I work, like, a million jobs and could write a whole other column about how every day I think, similarly delighted, "I'm working! I can't believe I'm getting away with this!" And I could also write about the millions of times I thought to myself, "Brush your own damn teeth, you parasites!" But still.)

All of which is to say: this is a great lunchbox cookie, and a total "mom" cookie. In fact, Kim Boyce, whose recipe this is, actually compares them to the "Mothers" brand of iced oatmeal cookies--which is just too perfect, given their momliness. They are comfortingly spiced and wholesomely crunchy (thanks to oats and whole wheat flour), and then they've got this sweet and pretty drizzle of cinnamon icing that practically screams "I love you" from your kids' lunchbox. It's like those howler letters in Harry Potter, the kind you take it out of its envelope and it shouts and rants at you--only it's a cookie, and all it wants to say is, "You're mine."

Iced Oatmeal Cookies
Makes 3 dozen
Total time: 1 hour

This recipe is adapted from one of my favorite baking books, Good to the Grain: I use half whole wheat and half white flour (instead of her more complex but doubtless fabutastic whole-grain baking mix), and I make them a little smaller because, well, then there are more of them. If you make cookies often and don't have one of those spring-load scoops, I really recommend getting one; I've had mine for less than a year, and don't understand how I lived without it. Also, a nutmeg grater is a very small and worthwhile investment (unless you need this Peugeot one!).

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg (ideally freshly grated)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled (I actually used unsalted for these!)
2 eggs

Heat the oven to 350 and line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

In a food processor or blender, grind the oats to a coarse meal that still has some large flakes, around 10 seconds.

Sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices, then whisk in the sugars and the oats. Whisk together the butter and eggs, then use a rubber spatula to combine this mixture with the dry ingredients.

Use a cookie scoop or heaping tablespoon to scoop balls of dough onto the cookie sheet, leaving plenty of room for them to spread (I did 9 per sheet). Bake in the upper and lower third of the oven for around 14-17 minutes, reversing the sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through. When they're done, the cookies should be evenly browned. Cool them on a rack and bake the remaining cookies.

When the cookies are all baked and cooled, use a fork or whisk to drizzle the icing over them, then let them set for half an hour before storing them airtight.


2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
5 to 6 tablespoons whole milk
1 tablespoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Whisk together all the ingredients: the icing should be smooth and the drizzling consistency of honey; add more milk or powdered sugar to achieve this.