Sunday, March 7, 2010

Susanna's gluten-free salty oatmeal cookies

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I've been blogging about food for more than a year, and the people with whom I talk and email regularly know it. But it wasn't until a few weeks ago that I got up the nerve to send a mass email to my wider net, letting them know about this blog, my LA Cooking Examiner column, and the opportunity to raise money for ovarian cancer research with Kelly Ripa's Cake-Off for a Cause. (Thanks to all of you who voted for my team's Snow Day cake - we didn't win, but it doesn't matter, because your votes put money in the bank for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, and that's the important part.)

One of the benefits of having "come out" as a food blogger is that suddenly people I've known for years are asking me for advice and chatting me up about food. A few weekends ago, for example, my neighbor Susanna rang our doorbell and invited me to come down the street to her house to sample some cookies she'd made from a cookbook she'd borrowed from the library.

Susanna's gluten-free salty oatmeal cookies

Every time I see Susanna, I'm both amazed and dismayed that we see each other so little. When I met her and her family, I was mourning the departure of the family who'd sold them the house - good friends with whom we'd shared vacations, family dinners and more than one parenting milestone. But Susanna and I fell in right away. We'd overlapped in New York in the late 80s, and a short round of "six degrees" revealed that she'd spent a year at an investment bank working with one of my closest childhood friends. It was good karma, I thought: One friend moves away, another shows up.

But one thing after another has gotten in the way of our good intentions. Our kids don't get along as well as we'd hoped. Susanna was pregnant with her third when they moved in, and while my kids were getting older and more self-sufficient, she was having a baby and nursing a baby and juggling the baby with her older kids. When we met I was an at-home mom, but Susanna had a high-powered full-time banking job; now we both juggle work and family. Months go by when we wave but exchange no more than a few sentences of adult conversation. Occasionally we run into each other on the street and stand on the curb catching up while one child or another whines and pulls our arms, eager to move along.

That's why I was so happy when Susanna showed up at my door. I grabbed my camera and followed her down the hill to her house. She'd taken out All Cakes Considered by National Public Radio's Melissa Gray, a collection of sweets recipes that came together over a year of baking treats for the NPR offices. On the kitchen counter sat a big plate of these salty oatmeal cookies, which I thought were extraordinary.

The headnotes for the recipe, which I scanned while eating my second (maybe third) cookie in Susanna's kitchen, said that Gray tried hard to replicate the expensive cookies at a snooty coffee shop near the NPR offices, and that it took several attempts. The secret to the crisp, light, crumbly texture turned out to be brown rice flour, and the final recipe was gluten-free - even more appealing to Susanna, who says she feels better when she avoids wheat.

I took some pictures, ate a few more cookies, and savored the half-hour of girl talk. And then her men reappeared, back from camping, in need of attention and showers. And back up the hill to my own house I went. It may be months before we can steal another half-hour, but I hope not. I'm working on a gluten-free cookie recipe of my own, so next time I'll have an excuse to drag Susanna up to my house.

Susanna and Scout with her salty oatmeal cookies - the dog showed remarkable restraint

I don't have the book, so I can't give you the specifics of the recipe. (And I wouldn't, anyway, because that would be unauthorized borrowing.) But here are a few recipes I've found online that come close. They all seem to have started with the desire to replicate the salty oatmeal cookies from a certain DC coffeehouse, so we're clearly on the right track.

1 comment:

Laura said...

yum! I like the idea of salty sweets! Girl time is hard to come by but so needed.

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