Monday, December 28, 2009

The art of understatement

When I was younger, Christmas morning was unlike anything else.

A man, a big, bearded man, would actually climb smack down into my living room, and he’d bring presents, or that was the idea. It baffled me, but I loved it. I’d leave him notes to thank him for so graciously remembering our house, and he’d always neatly take a bite out of the cookies I’d put out, a scant sip from the glass of milk. Every year.

I don’t remember the moment when I realized that logically, the idea of Santa didn’t quite add up, but since then, Christmas has become an entirely different day. Instead of lists for Santa, sleepless Christmas Eves, and being followed around by video cameras, my family became experts at the art of understatement. “Now, don’t get too excited,” they always say, “things are going to be pretty lean this year.” Every year, no fail, they set out to lower our expectations, as if priming us for receiving only the clementines that were always in our stockings, and the pairs of socks that always make it under the tree.

Also every year, exactly the opposite happens. Like when we were kids, and expected a nightly visit via the chimney, the present pile still seems to magically grow, our stockings almost bursting at their knit seams. They truly outdo themselves. This year, they’ve done it again.

Among the stars under my tree this year was a fancy-pants new camera lens, which has about as much heft as the camera itself, and about as much street cred as there is, at least in the world of Canons. There were also books, copious books, and chocolate galore. Oh yeah, there was also the stand mixer.

You should see this beauty. It’s cherry red, and as sexy as a piece of kitchen equipment can be. On Christmas day, it was sitting atop the counter, all seductive-like, begging to be put to work. Naturally, I had to start mixing.

I set aside my hatred for baking, and got to work. Or rather, I threw everything in my new mixer and watched it do the work for me. Several hours, pounds of chocolate, and sticks of butter later, I had an impressive spread. But I think, for today, I’ll share just one recipe, and maybe string you along a bit, much like the days leading up to Christmas do. The recipe below is for a tricked-out version of oatmeal cookies: they’re beefed up with not one, or two, but three different kinds of chocolate, and they have cranberries thrown in for good measure. Stay tuned: I have peppermint bark, macaroons, and scones (that rose!) to tell you about.*

Triple-Chocolate Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
(Adapted from

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips (The amount here, for the chocolate, is a bit flexible. Whatever you have on hand.)
1/3 cup milk chocolate chips
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried cranberries

Make sure rack is in the center of the oven, and preheat to 350°F. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, preferably one that's cherry red, beat butter and both sugars in large bowl until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture and oats and stir until blended. Stir in all chocolate chips and cranberries.

Drop batter by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until edges are light brown, about 14 minutes. Transfer to cooling racks after a few minutes.

*Thank, thank, thank you so much to everyone this year; you have all sufficiently fortified my library, my kitchen, and my camera bag.

1 comment:

Lauri said...

Loved your take on overly inflated stockings and trees knee deep in presents but you made it sound like your parents gave you the sexy red stand mixer when we all know that it was your "Significant Other" so desperately trying to convert you into a lover of baking!! Hope he succeeds and we all get to try out your puffy scones!