I am not the pink flower type.
I am not, for that matter, the pink type.
To be perfectly frank, I am not the type to ply the phrase "not the type". It has always made me cringe. Itch, even, allergic-like. It's the implied confines, I think, the connotation of limitations. I've always felt a little claustrophobic around conformity, always avoided typecasting. Almost as much as pink flowers.
But time passes and people change and peonies happen.
The peonies bloomed last week.
Peonies are extremely pink, urgently flower.
Peonies are not tulips, or pinks, or even roses. Those are also pink flowers, and I nod at them and carry on. Peonies are all those combined and then some, inflated, exaggerated, taken to extremes. They're flamboyant and brash and over-the-top, Greenspan's prototype for 'irrational exuberance'. They are bossy and bold and shameless show-offs, holding center stage in any landscape. They're a commotion of ruffles, a tempest of frill, a Civil War petticoat posing as flora.
And that's only their form. Let's talk color.
Peonies come in white, as well, but ours are pink, scratch that, PINK. Not the sheer whisper of a clam's private quarters, not the pale blush of a bunny's inner ear.
We have two stands of peonies, and they vary slightly in color, the one taking its cues from Barbie's Dream House, the other tending towards magenta-fuschia-flushed cheek. I have never liked fuschia, magenta, or flushed cheeks, and apart from a brief stint between age six and eight, never cared much for Mattel's McMansion, either.
I do not like our peonies, either. But I must confess, I'm completely enthralled.
I can't explain it.
Henry got at it the other day when he asked, "How do all those petals fit into that one little bud?" There is mystery, there, and magic, of the highest order. Zoë got at it, also, when I asked if she'd yet noticed their scent. She buried her face in a bloom, then stayed so long, I wondered aloud whether she could smell anything at all. "Yes," she muffled, her nose still in situ, "and I don't ever want to leave."
What she said.
I guess the only other thing to do is to pull a Walt Whitman, admit I contradict myself. "I am large, I contain multitudes."
About peonies and butterscotch chips, both, it would seem.
I have always avoided what I think of as "weird chips", by which I mean peanut butter, mint, cinnamon and such. This isn't based on reason, or even experience, seeing as I've never tried most of them. It is, more than anything, self-defense, the sense I've enough almond-lemon-fruit-chocolate-jam-butter-spice baking to keep me busy for fifteen decades, without flavored morsels muddying the waters.
That was then. People change. Scotch Chippers happen. Have mercy.
We first made these Scotch Chippers a few months back, on a thunderstorm-y Spring afternoon. It was just us girls, and out of the blue, Zoë suggested we make cookies. Specifically, she suggested we make chocolate chip cookies "but with those chips that match our floor." Our floor, for the record, looks nothing like chocolate, so I stared and puzzled for a few moments. "Peach chips?" she offered. "Butterscotch?" I returned. I knew by her giant grin that I'd nailed it. I knew by my groan that I had my work cut out for me.
See, I've made my fair share of butterscotch cookies over the years, and I've never found them much more than okay. They are always too stiff, too sturdy, too sweet, too not worth the butter and sugar they're baked with. So I decided I'd do the one failsafe thing: google a recipe and go with a proven winner. And darned if I didn't uncover this gem, 4 1/2 stars, per 333 people, as close to guaranteed as a drop cookie gets.
And darned if I didn't veer from it, instantly.
I meant to follow it to the letter, truly. But I could tell, as I read it through, it would never do. Not enough butter. Insufficient salt. Inadequate vanilla. Excess egg. Time to teach our beloved chocolate chip cookies to speak oatmeal butterscotch.
(Spoiler alert: they are absolutely fluent.)
In the end, all I borrowed from the original was an abundance of oats and an abbreviated baking time. Slam dunks, both.
The oats, three cups, enough to be called legion, do two very important things, here. As the backbone of the dough, they bring all sorts of texture, melting in the middle, toothsome on top, and every lucky now and again, toasty at the edge. They are playful, if such can be said of an oat. To this, add their flavor, their innate oat-i-ness, the gentle sweet that is necessary ballast to the butterscotch.
And then there's the timing, always important, especially here. It's a delicate thing, these oats, this dough, a deal sealed by care taken in the baking time. All drop cookies benefit from being pulled just shy of done, and allowed to firm up on the tray. Scotch Chippers need pulling just shyer than most. They are done when the centers are just barely set, when a bit of shine is still evident on top. They will not look done, and they won't be done: handle them in the next 30 minutes, and they'll collapse. They must rest on their trays a full half-hour, for which you'll need faith and discipline in equal measure. After 30 minutes, you'll need only the discipline. Because what you wind up with is small, still-warm discs, stippled with the sweet smack of butterscotch, underscored by brown sugar, educated by salt, illuminated by vanilla and inflected by oat.
And nutmeg. I forgot the nutmeg. The nutmeg is haunting. It doesn't scream, doesn't even whisper, just pads silently around the edges, everywhere and nowhere and essential. Like oxygen.
Lots of discipline, if you're me.
Other things left our oven, last week. Quite a few other things, quite a lot of them good. Two loaves of bread, and then another two. A double batch of pizza crust, and of cake. Possibly the best cake I've eaten. Ever. Also, two dozen cupcakes. And rice krispie treats. And chocolate chip cookies, and sugar cookies, and oat brittle bars, which were new to me and which separated me from my socks. We need to talk oat brittle bars, soon.
Other headlines happened, also: the bean poles went up, mud pies were made, Sculpey sculpted, summer tickets to Seattle bought (!), excitement over Mamo's arrival (!!) tonight (!!!) grew. An entire pound of wildly out-of-season blueberries was devoured, over one apparently berry-starved afternoon. But these Scotch Chippers, which I'd thought my own little love, were shared with friends who asked after the details. And while I reserve the right to wake up each morning and step into whatever self seems to fit that day, I have never been the type to withold cookies from friends.
I prefer Ghiradelli butterscotch chips, because they're smaller, and so distribute themselves more frequently throughout the cookie. That said, Nestle chips are fine, here, but I use an extra half bag to get the same distribution. Proportions are everything. As to the flour, I prefer white or a white/wheat mix, here. Last week's cookies were all whole wheat, and while great the day of, they lost a little luster 2-3 days out.
As to that all-important baking time: get your oven good and hot, giving it a good 20 minutes to get up to temperature. At a solid 350°, 10 minutes are perfect in my oven. When I cheat and only preheat for 10 minutes, I find I need closer to 11-12 minutes. Ovens vary, so if you do find that, after their 30 minute rest, your cookies will not hold their own, just return them to the oven for a final 3-4 minute firm-up, and make notes for next time.
1 cup + 2 tablespoons salted butter (2 cubes + 2 tablespoons)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 extra-large egg
1 tablespoon pure vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups unbleached flour, all white, or half white and half whole wheat
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 package Ghiradelli butterscotch chips or 1 1/2 packages Nestle chips
Preheat oven to 350°. Position two oven racks just above and below center. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Into a medium bowl, measure flour, oats, baking soda and baking powder, and stir to combine. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter, both sugars, salt and nutmeg, until well-combined but not fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Scrape sides, add egg, and mix well to combine. Scrape sides, add vanilla, and mix to combine. Scrape sides, add oat-flour mixture, and stir on low a few seconds, just to combine. Add butterscotch chips, and stir again on low, just until incorporated.
Scoop ping-pong size balls onto prepared baking sheets, flatten slightly to around 1/2", place one tray on each rack, and set timer to 8 minutes. When the timer rings, reverse and "rap" cookies: remove each tray, give it a few sharp raps against the edge of the stove, and switch its oven position, top to bottom, front to back. Set the timer for another 2-4 minutes, and remove. Cookies are done when they are just set but STILL SHINY between the cracks, just dry along the center surface, and not yet browned at the edges. Do not overbake, and do not remove to a cooling rack. Let cookies cool and finish cooking on their trays for 20-30 mintues: they firm and crisp up once removed.
Made with white flour, these hold well for three days. In theory.