A beloved L.A. bakery gave us the best oatmeal raisin cookie formula
I am baking your Salted Chunky Peanut Butter Cookies this weekend…which leads me to a Culinary SOS request: Zooies Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. I know they received an award for their Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, but this variety is especially special!
— Carla Meyer
It’s not easy to make something as humble as an oatmeal raisin cookie exceptional, but Arezou Appel, the founder and baker of Zooies Cookies, has managed to create the perfect one with a light twig-snap crackle at the edges and a tender yet chewy center that’s not too sweet. She devoted as much time and energy to nailing that classic as she does with her original creations, such as her panda cookie, which is striped black and white with hunks of Oreos baked into dough studded with white chocolate.
For her oatmeal raisin, Appel experimented to achieve her goal of “making something really good, something you feel in your heart and gut when you eat it.”
Since childhood, Appel has pursued her love of food by watching her mom and grandmother cook their family’s Persian dishes and devouring cookbooks like novels. When Appel stopped working as a chiropractor, she began baking at home for her family and her business grew from there.
“I tell my kids nothing has to be perfect,” Appel says, “but if we have to name one thing, that would be baking. The more exact you are, the better it will be and the better chance at success. When people eat my cookies, I want them to really enjoy and make that mmmmm sound. That is my reward and what pushes me to do what I do.”
To achieve that primal pleasure with this recipe, Appel mixes old-fashioned and quick oats for a soft cookie that still has a chew to it. A bit of whole wheat flour adds a deeper flavor to the dough, as do cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla.
Mixing the ingredients properly is just as important as getting the proportions right. Appel starts by thoroughly beating room-temperature butter with the sugars to ensure no pockets of butter create craters in the cookies. She then whisks the eggs lightly before streaming them into the blend so they’ll incorporate quickly. Overbeating the eggs after adding them results in a cakier texture.
For the dry ingredients, Appel always tells her bakers to undermix when they’re added, so there are still visible streaks of flour, which will disappear once the oats and raisins go in. This prevents the flour from being overmixed, which can result in tough cookies. Packing the dough too tightly can do that too, so Appel scoops the dough lightly and handles it delicately. Scooping and shaping the soft dough is easier at room temperature, so she forms rounds and flattens them before popping the discs in the fridge; this improves the cookies’ final taste and texture.
The last two steps of baking and cooling are crucial to Appel’s formula. She says, “Make sure you don’t bake the dough all the way through because you don’t want all the moisture to evaporate. As soon as you see the golden brown ring around the edges and a crust on top, take them out.”
She also emphasizes the importance of transferring them to a wire rack to cool after a short stint of settling on the hot pan. That detail keeps the outside crisp and the inside moist. As Appel says, “That’s a big part of finishing off your cookie in the right way. If you don’t do it right, you don’t get that glorious end product.”
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