Sunday, December 29, 2013
No matter what name you know them by, Preacher Cookies, Chewy Charlies, Cow Patties, Candy Cookies, or Poodgies, most of you will know these cookies by site. Even if you've never made them I can bet you've eaten at least one in your life. In my house they've never been known by anything more than "no-bake cookies".
These cookies seem to have taken a toehold all across the country, but from where I'm sitting, nowhere more so than the state of West Virginia. If we were to declare an official state cookie, this would be the one, hands-down. No-bake Cookies are present at every potluck, Christmas party and baby shower from Welch to Wheeling. They are available for sale near the check-out area at most gas stations and convenience stores from one end of this state to the other. And even though there isn't any baking involved, it's rare to find a local bakery that doesn't display them proudly.In some quiet, unassuming way, these cookies have crept into the consciousness of these mountains like edible tribbles.
It's no accident that this cookie is so popular, after all, it has a lot going for it. The texture is soft,almost fudge-like. Then you have the nuttiness of the peanut butter, that pairs so well with the chewiness of the oats. They're so easy to prepare that you can literally have a dozen cooked and ready to eat within 30 minutes. And their versatility lends them to being customized to suit a variety of tastes. You don't like cocoa? No problem there are recipes out there that tell you how to make peanut butter their primary flavor. Not happy with the oats? Substitute coconut instead. Think they would benefit from nuts or raisins? Go for it. I've tried a wide variety of extracts in place of the original vanilla that the recipe calls for, all of them bringing something new to the party (almond extract has become my favorite, but orange extract runs a close second).
Just because they're easy to make, doesn't mean that things can't go wrong. Undercook them and they won't firm up enough to actually be called a cookie. But eating them with a spoon doesn't make them any less delicious. Overcook them, or add too much peanut butter and they will become miniature, tooth-chipping, boulders. Again, still edible, but the texture and coloring are unpleasant. They should be soft and pliable but still solid enough to hold in your hand without breaking. The coloring should be a deep, chocolate brown.
When I think about the cookies of my childhood, this one dominates those memories like no other. I think their praise is long overdue.
2 - cups granulated sugar
4 - tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 - cup butter
1/2 - cup evaporated or whole milk
1/4 - teaspoon salt
2 1/2 - cups quick or old fashioned oats
1/2 - cup creamy peanut butter
1 - teaspoon vanilla extract
In a medium sized sauce pan over medium high heat add butter. sugar, cocoa powder, milk and salt.
Stir until butter is melted and ingredients are incorporated. Bring to a rolling boil, and boil for 1 1/2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter until completely melted Add vanilla and oatmeal, mix well.
Working quickly before the mixture cools drip by tablespoon (I use my small cookie scoop) onto wax paper.
Let cool completely on waxed paper. Remove the cookies when they have set up.