In which the author tells you how to run your life -- or at least how to make the most of the fun parts of it.

For instance, inside these pages you will learn how to weather a mortar attack in good spirits; how to avoid booking yourself on the Internet into a bed and breakfast full of twee quilts and dusty tchotkes; and how to plan a dinner party that will stun your guests with deliciousness and style and not destroy your will to live with the amount of work you have to do to pull it off.

These are things I know firsthand, and things people who know me often ask me about (though I usually just book them into bed and breakfasts myself -- identifying ruffled death traps is an acquired skill). I am almost always right about everything (food, style and travel-related, anyway, and often many other things) and if everyone would just do as I say, dinner would taste better, cupcakes would not be dry, your parties would be more fun (for you), and mortar attacks... well, they always suck. I can't do anything about them.

*except laundry. I can't manage my own laundry, much less yours.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How to Improve Your Oatmeal Cookies

We're on sort of a salt roll here at How To Run Your Life*. We generously salt our bitter greens and Brussels sprouts, lightly salt our coffee, and now we're salting our baked goods.

(and on Modern Family last week, salted chocolate milk featured prominently in the plot. I haven't tried but intend to.)

It's quite trendy. Salted caramels are all the rage of course... and if you've ever had chocolate dipped pretzels (or meditatively consumed pretzel sticks dipped in Nutella while watching TV... highly recommended), you'll want to give this a try.

Salt elevates the sweetness of the standard oatmeal cookie -- it's hard to explain but it just sort of gets you in the back corners of your mouth near your molars. You'll eat one and say, "mm delicious" and then walk away, and then you'll walk back and eat another and will repeat ad nauseum (literally). They are hard to not put in your mouth.

These are a perfect mix of caramelly (from the extra brown sugar), salty, toothsome and tart. Plus they are oatmeal so hello: fiber. (You can tell yourself as you eat them for breakfast, which you will.)

Little story. Boyfriend once expressed revulsion at the notion of fruit in cookies. I made him these. He recanted.

This is my recipe, adapted from a Martha classic, but considerably tweaked.

Makes about 3 dozen
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
Coarse sea salt or Kosher salt for the top of cookies -- just enough for a few grains per cookie.

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle or whisk attachment, cream butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs; mix on high speed to combine. Mix in vanilla; set aside.

3. Combine oats, flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and beat on low speed to combine, 10 to 15 seconds. Remove bowl from mixer, and stir in cranberries.

4. Lightly sprinkle the raw cookies with large-grained sea salt. Hold your hand about a foot above the cookies and spread that salt -- not too much. But enough. It provides that mysterious salt hit before the sweetness and tartness, then the salt in the dough gets you on the back end (so to speak).

5. Using a large metal scoop, drop dough onto prepared sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake until golden and just set, about 18 minutes. Transfer sheets to wire rack to cool.

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