My daughter has a knack for finding old bits of food around the house; crumbs and odds and ends of things that apparently my eyes and vacuum cleaner are unable to detect.
“Oooh! Is it an old Cheerio or a new Cheerio?” she’ll ask, knowing full well that the answer is always the same (it is old, Elle) and that her reaction will be as follows: runs out of my reach, tosses said food in mouth, rubs her belly in appreciative delight, and declares, “so tasty!”
I have no idea how or why this habit of hers started, but it appears that she has taken it upon herself to unearth all of the crumbs in our house as if she is on an archaeological dig for stale food. I tell her that I am happy to just go get her some new Cheerios (or whatever) but she seems more interested in hunting down and eating the relics of past snacking sessions. It’s kind of cute, I guess, and this “kind of” cutness almost makes up for the gross factor in all of it … kind of. Not really.
In the town where I grew up, there was a collection of small, mostly locally-owned stores and strip malls on the South side of town, within walking distance from my house. Actually, the term “walking distance” is relative here. In this case, these little stores and local businesses were within walking distance if you were say, a teenager on a non-school day with very little else to do but walk around town looking – waiting – for something interesting to happen. “Interesting” is also a relative term here.
There was one day, during one summer in the height of these “relative” years when a friend of mine proposed that we walk to the Mexican restaurant down on South Main Street for chimichangas. She didn’t have to ask me twice, as those chimichangas were easily one of my favorite things in the world – not just to eat, I mean in general. Family. Friends. Pearl Jam. Chimichangas. I guess “favorite” also makes the list of relative terms …
So, I donned my white Keds and Meghan and I trekked down main Street to El Guadaloupe’s where we dined on extra crispy fried beef chimichangas and bottomless bowls of greasy, perfect tortilla chips and the ubiquitous, runny restaurant style salsa. Sitting there in the oversized sticky red booth with a similarly oversized red sombrero on my head, I pretended to read the dessert menu, as if I didn’t have it memorized from top to bottom, in both English and Spanish. I was engaged in a mental tug-of-war game in my head, debating whether to choose the fried ice cream or the sopapillas when Meghan informed me that we’d be enjoying our dessert at the bakery outlet store just down the road.
Huh? That seemed like a head scratcher to me. “A bakery outlet store?” I reiterated, to ensure I’d heard her correctly.
“Yes! It’s so awesome,” she’d assured me. “It’s filled with tons of like, Little Debbie and Hostess stuff but it’s all marked way down.”
Oh. Okay. Cool.
She was correct in her description, Meghan was. We entered the peculiar bakery outlet and it was filled with rows upon rows of boxes upon boxes of snack cakes; a cast of characters whose names with which you, my dear reader, would most certainly be nostalgically familiar. The thing I remember most about this bizarre store, where less-than-fresh sweets were sold to the lowest bidder, was the smell. Or rather, the lack of it. Call me crazy, but I feel one of the most pleasurable and anticipated aspects of a bakery visit is the aroma that hits you as soon as you step through the doors. Such was not the case in this bakery outlet, as one might imagine. Due to the effective plastic packaging and otherwise past-their-prime nature of the goods sold there, a pleasant aroma was nowhere to be found. I walked through the doors and was hit with an overwhelming amount of nothing, if that’s even possible.
“These things would outlast the apocalypse,” I joked, as I read the “sell by” dates on all of the boxes. “Like, even a zombie apocalypse.”
“Totally,” Meghan laughed, her arms filled with colorfully labeled boxes of stale-ish cakes and cookies.
I am of the opinion that baked goods should NOT be able to withstand the apocalypse, to be clear. That is to say, if I were a cookie in your cupboard, I sure wouldn’t want to go around bragging about the fact that I have a longer shelf life than most of your canned items … even the ones in the WAY way back. Cobweb territory. No, “long shelf life” isn’t among the list of admirable attributes that I seek when selecting a baked good from a store, bakery, or the like. Delicious. Sweet. Flaky. Buttery. Rich. Light. Airy. Creamy. Dreamy. These are all viable options in the baked goods adjective assigning department, (depending on the item in question, of course). But as for “long shelf life?” It need not apply. I do not want to age faster than my cookies.
It was truly one of the strangest food experiences I’ve ever had, the concept of a discount bakery store totally boggling my mind as I wandered up and down the aisles. But, in case you’re wondering, I bought a double pack of oatmeal cream pies and ate the whole of both of them, searching for every last crumb before tossing the wrapper in the trash. Elle would have been proud.
Because at the end of the day, or even the end of the world, apocalypse-proof cookies are better than no cookies at all.
1 cup butter (unsalted), at room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark molasses
1.5 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 cups uncooked quick-cooking oats (not whole rolled oats)
2 cups (or to taste) semi-sweet chocolate chunks
Flaked sea salt, for finishing
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch of salt, to taste
1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper (or spray with natural cooking spray). Set this aside.
With a stand or handheld mixer, cream the butter and sugars together at medium speed until creamy. Add the vanilla, egg, and molasses, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go. Set this mixture aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cloves. Whisk to combine evenly. Add the oats, and stir to combine. Add the chocolate chunks and stir just until incorporated.
With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet (it will be sticky). Using an ice cream scoop, drop the dough in large mounds on the prepared baking sheet(s) (about 2 tablespoons of dough per cookie, two-inches apart on the cookie sheet). Press down slightly on the top of each cookie mound with your fingers, to flatten just a little. Sprinkle each cookie with a pinch of flaked sea salt.
Bake for 10 minutes until the cookies are lightly golden brown around the edges. Allow the cookies to cool on the sheets for a few minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.
for the filling:
With a stand or handheld mixer, beat the butter for one minute, until light and creamy. Add the powdered sugar and mix on medium speed for one to two minutes. Pour in the heavy cream and the vanilla extract. Add the cinnamon. Mix on high for about 3 minutes, until fluffy. Taste and add a dash of salt if needed. If the filling is too thick, add a tablespoon or two of cream to thin it a little bit, to a nice spreading consistency.
Spread 1.5 tablespoons of the filling onto the bottom sides of half of the cookies, top with the remaining cookies, right side up.