Back in the good old days before the Internet bubble burst, I was living in northern California and was the co-leader of a Wiccan group – yes, a coven of Witches. Now, as you may or may not know, as part of many rituals there'll be some sort of "cakes" passed around near the end of the ritual. They don’t have to be cakes, actually, but can be any sort of baked goods – cookies, breads, and so forth.
Though our group members had many talents, it didn’t take long before we figured out that only one of us had any real talent for baking. Thus, it usually fell to me to provide the aforementioned cakes for our meetings. Now, sometimes the pressures of Real Life get in the way and you have to fall back on a box of cookies from the grocery store, or a nice cake from the bakery down the street, but it’s always nicer if you make something yourself. After all, vanilla wafers and mass-produced chocolate chip cookies only go so far.
So I took over the baking duties. We had a few months of fairly boring plain cookies, brightened only by the occasional appearance of a commercial cookie called Le Petit Ecolier (a rather tasty shortbread cookie topped with a layer of very dark chocolate) on those occasions when I wasn’t able to bake myself.
I decided it was time for a little experimentation in the kitchen. I had always been partial to homemade oatmeal cookies and peanut butter cookies, so I began to think about combining the two.
Searching through my grandmother's old recipe box, I found a few possibilities, but nothing that really made me want to go tearing into the kitchen and whip up a batch. Time to go through my stack of recipes, then … and there I found a fairly decent generic peanut butter oatmeal cookie recipe. I’ve played with some of the ingredients and adjusted some measurements, and come up with something really tasty that I present here to you. This recipe makes a nice, slightly chewy cookie with a nice balance between the tastes of oatmeal, peanut butter, and a slight butterscotch flavor from the butter and brown sugar.
I dubbed them "Witchly Wafers", and vaguely fantasized about marketing them under that name. Katharine Hepburn would do the voice-overs on the commercial ads, and I’d become the next Mrs. Fields. Obviously that didn’t happen. They’re damn fine cookies, though, and suitable for any occasion.
- ¾ cup (175 ml) butter or margarine. Butter will make firmer cookies; margarine (the type you can bake with) will make them a bit more chewy. Butter also shows you care.
- 1 cup (250 ml) peanut butter. Use the best you can get. The cookies will be much, much better if you can get freshly ground peanut butter and don’t use the commercial 'peanut butters' that are usually full of sugar and preservatives.
- 1½ cups (375 ml) firmly packed light brown sugar.
- ½ cup (125 ml) water
- ½ teaspoon (2 ml) vanilla extract
- 1 medium egg
- 3½ cups (750 ml) rolled oats, either old-fashioned or quick cooking (doesn’t matter)
- 1½ (375 ml) cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking soda
Mix together the oats, flour, and baking soda, and set aside. In another bowl, mix the butter or margarine, peanut butter, and brown sugar, and beat until creamy. Then, beat in the water and egg. Add the combined dry ingredients and mix well.
Important: cover the bowl, and refrigerate for at least two hours, overnight is even better. This not only allows the flavors to 'meld', but makes the dough much easier to handle.
When you’re ready to bake, heat your oven to 350° (160° C, gas mark 3). The dough should be chilled, firm and easy to handle. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls, about the size of an average walnut, and flatten each upon an ungreased cookie sheet with your fingers – pat 'em down until they’re a nice cookie shape. Bake for about ten minutes or until the edges just start to turn brown.
Allow the cookies to cool slightly and then remove them to a plate. Keep the finished cookies in an airtight container to preserve their chewyness. That’s assuming they last long enough to be kept.