After a recent dinner out, my dad and I popped into a tiny grocery store and picked up a random sampling of items: Mexican cactus fruit, strangely flavored popsicles (think salted chili cucumber), and a bag of dried white mulberries from Turkey. (That’s one of the things I love about my dad, and something I think I inherited: food curiosity. He’s known to order the most unusual dish on the menu, while I can’t stop experimenting with new ingredients.) Tonight we’d both expected the popsicles to serve as dessert, but we instead ended up polishing off the mulberries before we knew it. They were simply addictive: sweet, tender and almost crispy, with warm notes of vanilla and a buttery essence.
Well, I couldn’t stop thinking about those mulberries after my dad went home. I meditated on their delicate earthy flavor and their complex texture akin to dried figs. The next day, I headed back to the little market for more mulberries, then came home and paired them with whole wheat flour, browned butter, nutmeg, and brown sugar. The concoction proved not only to pay tribute to the fruit, but also to exalt it to a wondrous new level: soft, spiced mulberry oat cookies. Allow me to introduce them.
Mulberry Oat Cookies (makes 24 – 28 little cookies)
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1.5 cup rolled oats (not quick)
- 1 cup dried white mulberries
Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper; set aside. In a small to medium saucepan, heat the butter over low to medium heat, occasionally stirring gently. Let cook just until melted butter is medium brown and fragrant, being careful not to burn. Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm. (Browned butter is almost always strained at this point, to remove the sandy milk solids, but not in these cookies — I wanted to use all parts of the nutty deliciousness let those slightly smoky speckles shine alongside the complementary flavors.)
Stir the brown sugar and vanilla into the pan of lukewarm browned butter, whisking until mixed. Transfer to a large bowl, and make sure the temperature is not too hot (warm room temperature at most) before adding the egg. Beat in the egg until completely incorporated. Sift over the butter mixture: flour, baking soda and powder, salt and nutmeg. Stir well, until a smooth pasty dough is formed. Fold in oats and mulberries until evenly dispersed, scraping sides and bottom of bowl with spatula. (Unless they’re really large and sharp, there’s no need to remove the berry stems; they soften as they bake.)
Using 1 tablespoon of dough per cookie, form dough balls and place them 2 inches apart from one another on the lined cookie sheets; you should have about 24 – 28 little cookies. Place in freezer for at least 15-20 minutes, preheating the oven to 350 F while the raw cookies chill. (At this point, you can store the frozen dough balls in a sealed container and bake at your convenience within a week or two.) Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, then remove from oven and let them sit on the hot cookie sheets for 10 minutes before touching or moving. Once cooled, store cookies in an airtight container if not eating right away.
With their soft, tender bite and their deliciously complex texture, mulberry oat cookies are a new favorite in my crowd. Warm with molassesy brown sugar and rich browned butter, the chewy whole mulberries find a perfect home in a hearty and succulent format. Speckles of butter and spice bring on the decadence, while whole wheat and oats offer a balance of wholesomeness. This combination of qualities will make dad proud, and it’s definitely time to bake him some, since my first batch disappeared instantly.
Maybe next time… I love that nutmeg takes center stage in these cookies, but if you prefer less nutmeg or other spice(s) in its place, feel free to reduce, omit or replace it in this recipe. Also I find browned butter to be heavenly, but these cookies work just as well with 1/2 cup softened butter instead; just cream it with the sugar and egg. You’ll miss out on the rich nuttiness of browned butter, but plenty of other great flavors are present. To add even more zing, a spoonful of orange zest would be a nice addition to the dough.