Soft Oatmeal Cookies

How software engineers make cookies

Or a true story about over thinking everything…

Hmmm. I think I would like to bake some cookies. Chocolate chip cookies? Nope, no chocolate chips. I don't really have much beyond the basics in my cupboard. How about snickerdoodles? Not my favorite, but not much to them. Grab the Surface; find a recipe.

Got that, yes, yes…what the fuck is cream of tartar? Sounds like something that goes on fish. Okay…Bing for “cream of tartar”. Scraped off the barrel when making wine? Very appetizing. Potassium bitartrate--interesting chemistry. Fascinating. But not helping with the cookies. Bing for “cream of tartar substitute.” Looks like I could use baking powder, but feels like things could go wrong quickly here…

Hmmm. How about oatmeal raisin cookies instead? No raisins. Well surely just oatmeal cookies would work. And indeed, recipes are abundant. Pick the top one—it's probably the best. Why do I always think that when I know that the rankings are based on ingredient product marketing not how good the recipe is? Still, people seem to like it. Soft oatmeal cookies it is.

Fifteen minutes prep time, ten minutes to cook, ready in two hours. That doesn't make sense. Do they take a long time to cool or something? Oh well. I won't bother with all the cooling.

Step 1: In a medium bowl, cream together butter, white sugar, and brown sugar. Hang on, doesn't the oven need to be preheated? Yes—the last step says to preheat to 375. Why don't they put that in the first step so it will be ready? Oven on. Hmmm. I think my oven isn't really calibrated very well. Unless I just get impatient with the preheating too often? I'll set 390 instead. Done.

Okay, cream together. So that's just mixing something creamy basically? Maybe you are supposed to do it a special way? Never mind…mix that stuff. Now add eggs one at a time…but I halved the recipe so I only have one egg. Should I add half the egg first then the other half? I guess it depends why the eggs need to go in one at a time? Is it about proportions? But trying to half an egg is stupid…okay throw the egg in. Pick out the bit of eggshell. Mix.

Combine the dry ingredients. Does it really matter if I combine them before they go in? Maybe it makes for an even distribution? That could matter. Fine; combined.

Cover and chill dough for at least one hour. Fuck. Do I really have to wait an hour? That doesn't seem normal for making cookies. And now I know why it didn't say to preheat the oven in the first step. Switch off oven. And why these things take two hours to make. Shouldn't the hour chilling be included in the prep-time? But I guess it's an asynchronous operation, so it makes sense not to include it. Wish I knew what I was doing here!

What does “chill” mean anyway? Fridge or freezer? It probably means fridge or I'll likely have a frozen lump of cookie dough. But the freezer will get the process started faster—so I'll throw the dough in the freezer for a few minutes first. Just time to chill with some Petzold.

Petzold is good—there's a reason Programming Windows 95 looks like its been through the washer. Oh shit! The dough as been in the freezer for half an hour. Better get it out. I'm calling it chilled—half an hour in the freezer must be about equivalent to an hour in the fridge—or not, but I'm bored of waiting. Now preheat the oven. 390 it is.

Roll into walnut sized balls? How big is a walnut? Hmmm. It makes a dozen cookies so I'll divide into twelve balls—why doesn't it just say that rather than assuming I know how big a walnut is? And what if walnuts are like cucumbers? Big thick ones in Iowa; long skinny ones in England?

Flatten each cookie with a large fork dipped in sugar. Why dipped in sugar? Is that just to stop it sticking? Isn't flour better for that? How do you get sugar to stick to a fork anyway? Maybe the fork just needs to have the spirit of sugar around it? Maybe it's caster sugar or whatever it is called here? Maybe the sugar gets on the cookies and helps the taste? And what is a big fork anyway? Does that mean a serving fork, or just an overly large table fork? Fuck it. Flour on my hands; flatten the balls with my fingers. Shove them in the oven.

Cool on a wire rack? I have no wire rack. A plate will do.

Eat. Mmmm. Wonderful. Whatever I did wrong they still came out great!

This page is up-to-date as of February 17th, 2014. Some things change. Some things stay the same. Use your noggin.