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make ultra soft oatmeal cookies

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Photo: Allie Chanthorn-Reinman

The search for cute cookies always starts the same way:mash butter, flour, and liquid together—and yet it can end in many ways. Aside from the crunchy and occasionally dry cookie, the most frequent sad result is a hard, rubbery cookie due to overworking the dough. Aside from becoming a southern grandma, there is a way to minimize the chance of a cookie getting tough, even if you tend to mess around with your dough. Instead of relying on conventional gluten-filled flour: Make oatmeal cookies instead.

When making soft cookies, or any other type of pastry, we always fight against the development of gluten. On the contrary, we too need to develop gluten, so that the cookie, pie dough, or puff pastry can hold its shape and perform other important functions, such as containing air pockets and coming out. Getting the perfect balance of gluten development is often where bakers struggle. Work the dough under and there won’t be enough gluten to hold it together, making it impossible to shape and even resulting in dry, cracked dough. Overwork the dough and the gluten becomes so strong that you lose flakiness, height, and the ability to bite into it with your natural teeth.

To formulate a less finicky cookie recipe, I decided to remove a large percentage of the gluten-causing all-purpose flour and replace it with oatmeal. This drastically reduces the gluten content by about 87%, which means you don’t have to worry about every stir or making an extra fold. There are other gluten-free flours out there, but I prefer oatmeal in this application because it features an all-purpose flour-like texture with a very subtle and lovely oatmeal flavor knoble texture. Other gluten-free flours are made with starchy beans or roots, and while they’re used in many recipes, they can have off-flavors, rubbery textures, or require numerous add-on ingredients. Oatmeal is a 1:1 ratio, and can do it at home by pouring old-fashioned oats into a food processor and blending for two minutes.

Please note that this is not a gluten-free recipe; it is more of a low gluten recipe. If you have gluten allergies or other gluten restrictions, this may not be the cookie for you. Anyway, that it is the cookie for you if you like oatmeal, or if you can’t seem to stop overworking your cookie dough to the point where you’ve considered giving up. Although oatmeal has better binding abilities than many other gluten-free flours due to its available gelatinous starches, it can’t do everything. A quarter cup of all-purpose flour is left in the mixture to hold it together, along with a little cornstarch.

This cookie dough is made the same way traditional buttermilk cookies are made. Mix all of your dry ingredients in a medium bowl and add cold butter chunks. Mix the butter the way you normally do (break, pinch, use a stand mixer, cut with two knives, use a fork, grate, whatever, I like), until the butter is about the size of without peel. edamame or a little smaller, but no smaller than the size of a pea. Add the buttermilk and mix with a fork or plastic bowl scraper until it holds together. Pour the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat it into a ½-inch-thick rectangle with your fingertips. Make a letter fold on itself (fold the dough into thirds, like the bills you get in the mail), and use a rolling pin to gently roll it out until it’s a ¾-inch-thick rectangle. Use a circle cutter or knife to make six cookies. Egg wash them and bake in a 425°F oven for 15 minutes.

These oatmeal cookies will fill your kitchen with a toasty aroma that most people won’t be able to identify. Not exactly oatmeal or granola, the buttery oatmeal smell has a caramelized nutty fragrance. The finished cookies are so tender that it only takes a little pressure to loosen a toasty layer. These cookies are sugar free. because I like the option of putting an egg on top, but you could add a tablespoon of sugar to the dry ingredients if you like a slightly sweet cake. For a cozy fall breakfast, spread these babies with a butter made with cinnamon, honey, and a touch of salt.

Soft Oatmeal Cookies


  • 1 ¾ cups oatmeal
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick of cold butter (4 ounces)
  • 4 ounces of buttermilk
  • Egg wash (optional)

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix the first six ingredients. Cut chunks of cold butter into the dry mixture. Use your fingers, or any implement of your choice, to pinch and break the butter into the dry mixture until the butter pieces are about the size of shelled edamame beans and no smaller than peas. Add the buttermilk and use a fork to mix it in until it holds together and there isn’t much dry mixture left on the bottom.

Lightly flour a countertop and pour the cookie dough onto the floured surface. Using your fingertips, gather the dough together to reclaim any dry bits that tried to escape. Flatten dough into a ½-inch-thick rectangle. make a letterfold to create three layers of dough. Use a rolling pin to gently roll out the dough, keeping the rectangular shape, until it is about ¾-inch thick. Using a round cookie cutter or square knife, cut out six cookies. Depending on how you like to bake cookies, place them with the remains (or without) on lined baking sheet. Egg wash only the top of the dough (don’t let it drip down the sides).

Bake in a 425°F oven for 15 minutes. The cookies will be golden brown on top and soft but firm. Enjoy warm or at room temperature with butter and honey, or with sausage gravy. These cookies freeze, tightly wrapped, for up to three months. To revive them, toast them in a 350°F oven for 5-10 minutes.


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