Friday, December 23, 2011

Tomorrow's Just an Excuse -- plus Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

One recent morning, as I sat down to write, Smashing Pumpkins' "Thirty-Three" played on one of my Spotify playlists. I didn't come to Smashing Pumpkins until I was an adult, or at least not really, even after listening to my friend Sanna talk about them pretty often when we were in 7th grade, and even after trying to listen to them around that same time.

I guess you could say I wasn't ready for that type of music then.

In fact, it took until a curly-haired friend with a big smile and always-a-twinkle-his-eye expressed amazement at  a bar in Iowa that I hadn't heard (or, as it turned out, didn't realize I had actually heard) "Tonight, tonight." He went up to the DJ and requested it, then as it came on, started rocking out at our table. This friend caused me to relax a lot around myself, and around him, because he seemed so comfortable in the man he was--and because of that, could act with kindness toward pretty much everyone he met. I admired this about him, and wanted to emulate it until it became part of the way I saw myself, and the world, as well.

Travels -- literally and figuratively -- made me ready for The Smashing Pumpkins, and for sitting down at the table, at the bar ($2.50 your call!) with that friend. That same night, he handed me a copy of the book Shantaram, a gift, the first time someone who didn't know me all that well had given a book that, when I read it (pretty much starting immediately), I liked. Or loved. I'm still not sure. It's a book I will need to revisit -- a book about travels, finding a place, learning about oneself, about, to some extent, the things I've been doing for the past four years (only on a more extreme level).

Listening to "Thirty-Three" also seems particularly appropriate for the season, because of the line "Deep in thought I forgive everyone," --what we should be doing this season, and every day.

Although I like to listen to music when I write, I also like to have music playing while I'm baking. Making these cookies, I listened to my Spotify mix that I titled simply The Stranger, after the Lord Huron song -- but it includes music from The Beatles and The National to Jonathan Coulton (re: Your Brains), Iron & Wine, and Chain of Lakes, among many others. The songs on the playlist are about distance, about the people we thought we knew (but discover we don't), about strangers, lost love, and missed connections, about becoming (or being) a stranger in the place you live. The songs explore the distances between us. Maybe I listen to this mix while I bake because I like to imagine that baking brings us together--even with people who have left us, even with people we never met--if nothing else, through the sharing of recipes.

This recipe is adapted from one by Deb from Smitten Kitchen so that it's gluten-free. Pretty much though, if I wasn't avoiding gluten, I would make these cookies as she describes. Oatmeal-raisin are among my favorite cookies (something like tied--depends on my mood--with spice cookies and/or gingersnaps). If you haven't checked out Deb's recipes, please do yourself the favor of exploring Smitten Kitchen. The photography is beautiful, the recipes tasty (and often quite innovative), and the writing wry, tight, and honest.

Remember, some people who are gluten-intolerant also react negatively to GF rolled oats (oats contain a different type of gluten than wheat--so many people are okay), so if you're making these for someone else please ask first.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (Gluten-Free)
1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, softened
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup GF oat flour
1/4 cup corn starch or tapioca flour
3/4 teaspoon guar gum
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 1/2 cups GF rolled oats soaked in 1/3 cup warm water
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk the flours, guar gum, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt together. Stir this into the butter/sugar mixture. Stir in the oats, raisins and walnuts, if using them.

At this point you can either chill the dough for a bit in the fridge and then scoop it, or scoop the cookies onto a sheet and then chill the whole tray before baking them. You could also bake them right away, if you’re impatient, but I do find that they end up slighly less thick.

The cookies should be two inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake them for 10 to 12 minutes (your baking time will vary, depending on your oven and how cold the cookies were going in), taking them out when golden at the edges but still a little undercooked-looking on top. Let them sit on the hot baking sheet for five minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool.

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