I have a confession:  I cheat on recipes.  Whereas I regularly share my supposedly "top secret" chocolate chip oatmeal cookie recipe with the caveat, "measure everything and don't substitute," my friends often complain the cookies don't turn out "exactly like yours".  They almost seem to accuse me of not providing the correct recipe. They subtly imply I've left out a key ingredient, accidentally-on-purpose.  They think I'm a passive-agressive who doesn't want to share a recipe.

I must repeat:  if they don't use accurate measurements and follow the precise list of ingredients exactly, they won't get the same cookies.  AND YET I often don't follow my own rules.  I make this cookie recipe so often I don't even look at the card anymore.  I could make these cookies blindfolded with one hand tied behind my back, juggling geese.  I suppose this kind of familiarity breeds disrespect, because I often fudge the ingredients.

Danger! Danger Will Robinson! This type of fooling around can cause extreme changes in baking. If I add a few anchovies more or less to my Putanesca sauce, that is not going to change the result very much.  But if I add even 25 grams too much or too little of flour or butter, my cookies can vary from pancakes to hockey pucks.  Baking is the picky prima donna humpty-dumpty of the culinary world;  chemistry and physics are involved, and I've learned not to mess with those suckers.  You can adjust seasonings and fiddle with the sauce in your Blanquette de Veau but once your soufflé falls, you're stuck trying to pass it off as a plump crêpe.  You can't break the laws of thermodynamics.

I sometimes substitute whole wheat flour for some of the regular flour. This makes the cookies a bit firmer. I try different brands of chocolate -- I like the easily available "nestle dessert" brands in white,  milk chocolate and a dark variety called "Corsé" which has a very robust, fragrant flavor. This chocolate is only sold in bars, so I have to chop it with a knife into chunks for the cookies.  The chunks have to be the same size every time or the cookies will turn out slightly different.  

When I can get Cacao Barry (Callebaut) chocolate from a professional pastry store, I use those pastilles in my cookies, but it changes the baking time.  When I cook for the grape harvest, I use whatever brand of chocolate bars my employer has purchased, usually Poulain, a French chocolate that is made from Ghana cacao beans. Each type of chocolate has a different melting temperature, cocoa butter content, shape and size.  These physical qualities in turn affect the texture of the cookies and change baking times as well.  The size of eggs varies from 50 gr to 70 gr per egg, so this variation can affect the texture of the finished product. There are slight variations of oven temperature, different baking pans and finally baking times.  You can begin to see why it's difficult to have cookies turn out the same every time unless I use the same brands of butter, chocolate, sugar, etc.  

Maybe you understand now why I feel nervous when people ask me for my cookie recipe.  I'm pretty certain the cookies won't turn out exactly like mine, unless I write down such detailed instructions for the ingredient amounts and types, brands of chocolate, temperatures and preparation that I will look like some sort of crazy cookie lady with "issues", or maybe a neurotic obsessive compulsive baking freak. Or both.  Okay, I'm both.

Today I decided to make chocolate chip cookie dough and freeze it since I bought too many eggs and we are going away on weekend.  It's always nice to have cookie dough in the freezer in case you go to jail and your family needs cookies.  Right Martha?

So I began to assemble my ingredients on the counter, blended up a batch of oatmeal and then I realized I was out of the special "Beghin Say Sucre Vergeoise Brune" -- dark brown sugar.  This is not a trivial thing, because the dark brown sugar is the flavor foundation for my cookies, and without that ingredient, the cookies will not taste right.  White sugar will make the cookies crisp instead of chewy. Furthermore, while I live in an urban area less than a block from four grocery stores,  brown sugar (sucre vergeoise) is not a common ingredient nor easy to find in France.  I would have to drive to one of two large suburban supermarkets, a waste of gas and time for just one missing ingredient. 

So I decided to substitute a mixture of organic raw sugar with golden syrup for moisture.  I just improvised the amounts;  5 parts raw sugar to 1 part golden syrup.  I'm working with my baking intuition, a sixth sense I've honed, like Miss Marple's crime investigation technique, or my auto mechanic's ability to hear engine problems, based on years of experience.  I can kind of fudge the ingredients, and I sort of know what will happen.  Kind of - sort of - has its limits.

The dough mixture turned out a bit fluffier and wetter than it usually does.  When baked, the texture was more muffin-y than usual, while still moist and chewy.  In texture they ressemble my Grandma Merle's chocolate chip cookies I loved as a child, which had a package of vanilla jell-o instant pudding added to the batter.  Although that ingredient makes my grown up healthfood self cringe, the memory of those cookies brought a wave of happy nostalgia.

Here's my recipe, with just a few obsessive-compulsive details, and a huge disclaimer "they won't be exactly like mine!"

Variation Number 23 in b flat… Oatmeal Chocolate chip cookies

1 cup lightly salted butter, room temp

1 1/4 cup raw sugar

1/4 cup golden syrup (dark karo? molasses? it's your call...)

1 tsp vanilla

2 large eggs, room temp

1 1/2  cup blended oatmeal (oats chopped fine in the blender)

2 1/4 cup all purpose flour

12 oz chocolate chips or chunks

Mix the butter and the sugar with the syrup and the vanilla until creamy and light.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each.  Add the oatmeal and stir a few minutes to blend.  Add the flour, mix slowly until thoroughly incorporated, then add the chocolate chips and mix again until distributed evenly.

Make tablespoon sized mounds on a baking tray -- I do 20 per tray.

Bake at 180 C / 350 F for 8 minutes.  (Depending on your oven)