It’s easy to get tucked into the cradle of comfort in the kitchen: bake the same things over and over, use tried and true recipes in your back pocket or from the very best food bloggers or cookbook authors. Tweak nothing. Why diverge from what works, has always worked, has been proven to work? But when you want to turn your favorite oatmeal into cookies, tried and true doesn’t always translate. So this week, with a little time on my hands, I experimented with versions 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 of peaches and cream oatmeal cookies.
For the first go-round, I was pretty convinced that my back-pocket oatmeal chocolate chunk cookies could be the perfect blueprint. I would swap out the chopped chocolate for white chocolate chips and a pair of wonderful fresh peaches that I had found in my local greengrocer, minimize the cinnamon, and up the vanilla just a bit. No dice. The brown sugar weighed down the “cream” concept, and they were too flat, too sweet, and were falling apart. I added a dash of cinnamon for the next batch, just to try to balance the flavor and compliment the peaches. But it just deepened that molasses flavor. A bit more salt in the next? Well, it helped temper the sweetness a bit, but they still tasted more like oatmeal cookies with splashes of intense white chocolate and a couple of peaches here and there. And fresh fruit is not a cookie’s friend — they baked up too soft and turned to mush after sitting in an airtight container overnight.
For the next experiment I knew that I had to reduce the amount of brown sugar and maybe even out the ratio of oats to flour — the original recipe used a whopping 3 cups of oats to 1 ¼ cups of flour. Two teaspoons of vanilla would hopefully raise the “cream” profile. And for the peaches? I wanted to up the peach flavor throughout the cookie, so thought perhaps using peach preserves might be just the ticket. I cut way back on the sugar to compensate for the sweetness of the preserves, and added a dash of cider vinegar to add the acidity and complexity I thought may have been lost. I kept the fresh peaches out entirely, convinced that they were doing more harm than good to what I hoped would be a crisp but chewy cookie. I also froze the balls of dough for 20 minutes before baking to help achieve a higher rise. The result was so much closer to what I wanted, in both texture and flavor. They were crisp on the edges and chewy in the middle, and had a lovely saltiness and mellow bite, despite the presence of the white chocolate. But still, not peachy enough.
For the fifth and final experiment, I chopped up about half a cup of dried peaches and reconstituted them in boiling water and a couple of splashes of orange juice, to help soften, brighten, and bring them back to life. Could they compare to the flavor of fresh peaches without exuding too much moisture and degrading the texture of the final cookie?
The answer was yes. They came out of the oven still crispy on the edges and chewy in the middle, and had pops of bright, peachy flavor from the reconstituted, dried peaches. A hint of cinnamon was still a beautiful compliment, but not overbroadly so. They tasted like a sweet — but not too sweet — bowl of peaches and cream oatmeal, in cookie form, perfect with a rich cup of coffee or hot cup of afternoon tea. And the best part? Because there are no seasonal ingredients, there’s no need to wait for summer. They can be made — and consumed at startling speed — any time of year.
Peaches and Cream Oatmeal Cookies
These cookies are definitely best the day they’re baked. They’ll turn a bit softer in an airtight container — still delightful, but if you’d prefer the fresh-out-of-the-oven consistency every time, you have two options: bake only what you what you want to eat by freezing balls of cookie dough on a baking sheet for 1-2 hours and storing them in a zippered bag in the freezer, and baking as directed when desired; or reheating baked cookies in a 425-degree oven for 4-5 minutes.
Yield: about 24 cookies
1 ¼ cup (149 grams) all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cups (124 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
⅓ cup peach preserves or jam
⅓ cup (73 grams) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
½ cup white chocolate chips
½ cup dried peaches, diced small
Orange juice, for reconstituting peaches
Place diced peaches in a small bowl and cover with boiling water and a splash or two of orange juice. Let sit for 10-15 minutes while you prepare the dough, then strain the liquid.
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, oats, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar, and brown sugar on medium high until light and fluffy. Add egg, vanilla, and vinegar and beat until combined. Add preserves and beat on low until combined.
Add flour and oat mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. Fold in white chocolate chips and peaches.
Scoop out with a 1.5 tablespoon cookie scoop and place on a lined baking sheet, spacing at least an inch and a half apart. Cover with plastic and freeze for 20 minutes. Cover the rest of the dough and refrigerate in between batches.
While the cookie dough balls are chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake on a center rack for 14-17 minutes, or until the edges are beginning to crisp to a golden brown but the center is still soft.
Let cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove to the rack to cool the rest of the way.