Thirty-eight years ago today my mother caught her first sight of me in St. Joseph's Hospital in Chicago. I'm pretty pleased she decided to have another kid and I hope she still is too. I know there have been moments in the last 38 years where she was less pleased but now that I've presented her with a grandson I think I'm golden.
Anyway that is neither here nor there. The point is that I like to bring something nice to work for my colleagues when it's my birthday. It's a nice modest way of acknowledging it's a special day and in return for a small investment in chocolate and flour I get treated nicely all day. And so last night I rummaged through the cupboards looking for inspiration.
I found it in the shape of poor Chairman Mao. He was a little dark chocolate bust of the Chairman that my husband's former boss gave him for his birthday. I say poor Mao because he toppled one day from the counter and all the king's horses and all the king's men could not put him back together again. I decided to use the remains of Mao in a twist on one of my favourite cookie recipes: the Fannie Farmer Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies.
I credit my brother with finding this recipe, which became a cornerstone of my baking life. He probably chose it because the oatmeal made the cookies vaguely healthy. I love it because the dark chocolate is dense, the oatmeal is chewy and the combination of vanilla extract and almond flavouring is inspired.
How can you improve on such a great recipe, you may ask? Well, first off you can slightly increase the amount of chocolate called for in the recipe. (I've always done that!) Next you can add small chunks of Chairman Mao chocolate. And then you can add a few dried cranberries. The tangy cranberries are set off perfectly by the dark chocolate and they add to the chewiness of the cookie. And extra chocolate, well, how can you go wrong there?
After some 30 years of making chocolate oatmeal cookies I can't believe I have actually found a way to improve them, but it's true!
Chairman Mao Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
Go on...be a good little Communist and share these around!
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
2 oz. (plus) of unsweetened chocolate
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp almond flavouring
1 cup oatmeal
1/3 cup (around 30g) of chopped dark chocolate, preferably formerly in the shape of a communist leader
1 oz./25g cranberries
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Or, if you are lazy like me, put them in a small bowl and mix them with a fork. Start the unsweetended chocolate melting in a double boiler or heavy-bottomed pot over a low flame. Cream together the butter and sugar. I used salted butter because this is what we always had when I was growing up, but as a result the 1/2 tsp. called for in the dry ingredients was a scant one. Beat the egg and extracts into the butter and sugar. Add the melted chocolate and mix well. Stir in the flour mixture, the oatmeal, the dried cranberries and the chocolate morsels.
Arrange by heaped spoonfuls on greased cookie sheets and bake at 180c/375f for about ten minutes, or until they are puffed up and a little firm. Cool on cake racks and store in an air-tight container.
Note on the quantity: the FF said this recipe would yield some insane number of cookies and I used to get a lot of slack from my family members who claimed I ate half the dough. Actually, FF must have made miniscule cookies because with minimal sampling of the dough (about one cookie's worth!) you'll end up with about two dozen cookies. Not 56 or whatever the number was. So stop teasing me, okay? Annie was the one who once made a full recipe of chocolate chip cookies and ate all the dough raw, not me! (She contests this story to this day by the way...)