Memory’s flavor

oatmeal cookies

I made these cookies trying to recapture something elusive. Was it that feeling of new independence, of being on my own for the first time just after college, fumbling along in ill-fitting clothes to an ill-fitting job, a windowless office, my first summer in New York? I remember how one morning I entered the building where I worked, emerging hours later, blinking like a mole, to discover an incoming thunderstorm had turned the sky a strange yellow-green. My California upbringing hadn’t prepared me for summer storms, how the smell of rain on scorching pavement became almost overpowering, drowning out even the other rank perfumes of a city in heat.

The Greenmarket was just a few blocks away in Union Square, and I would spend lonely lunch hours drifting among the stalls, admiring the jumble of apples or frippery of lettuces, flowers, heavy wholesome breads. I can’t picture the booth where I would buy these cookies, just once in a while. They were unassuming, lumpy, resolutely beige with a chocolate chip winking out here and there. But biting into one gave a taste of the unexpected: a whiff of orange.

Despite four years of fancy-pants college education I was easily dazzled in those days, and I was in the thrall of my boss: ten years older, with a degree in philosophy and a cello-playing boyfriend, she was from a cultured, intellectual family and seemed to me the personification of sophistication and adulthood. She subsisted on bites of salad interspersed with gigantic pastries, so I brought her one of these cookies one afternoon.

“It tastes like childhood,” she said.

I knew just what she meant. For all that we had very different childhoods, it seemed we both recalled the chocolate-orange combination as the flavor of parents’ returns, of special treats brought home in a carry-on or reserved for holidays. I remember them being made by Droste, which don’t seem to be available any more, but but you can still find chocolate oranges. Delicious.

It’s not as though  these cookies somehow forged a bond between my boss and me, but years later, I  found myself thinking of that time, those short  indeterminate years and the infinite possibility of that first taste of being a grown-up. I’m not sure whether this recipe succeeds in recapturing  that feeling, but you will find the taste of orange here, among two types of chewy oats and chocolate chips. Where will they take you?

Oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies with orange

Plan ahead for this one – you need to soak the steel-cut oats for a few hours (preferably overnight) to soften them up. If you can’t find steel-cut oatmeal, just soak a full cup of rolled oats. The cookies seem yummier after letting the dough sit for a day or so, which means you really should get started now!


Makes about 2 dozen cookies

  • ¾ cup steel cut oatmeal
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1½ cups rolled oats (not quick cooking)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup (half a stick, 55 grams) butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp orange zest
  • 1 cup chocolate chips or chopped chocolate


  • At least 4 hours before you want to bake, and preferably the night before, combine the steel-cut oats and orange juice in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate.
  • When you are ready to make the dough, preheat the over to 350°F/180° C.
  • In a medium bowl, stir together the rolled oats, flour, baking powder and soda, and salt. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light. Beat in the eggs one at a time until well incorporated, then stir in the yogurt.
  • After draining off any juice that wasn’t soaked up, add the steel-cut oats to the butter mixture. Stir in the orange zest.
  • Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture until thoroughly blended. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Scoop the dough in 2 tablespoon-ish portions onto a cookie sheet; the dough is soft but don’t worry, it won’t spread much while cooking. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.
  • The dough keeps for about a week in the fridge, longer in the freezer.



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