It all started a few months ago, when I was writing about a new Michael Ruhlman cookbook for The Jewish Week. The book's name? The Book of Schmaltz, of course. (For anyone who doesn't know, schmaltz is Yiddish for chicken fat). It was filled with some of the recipes you might expect - knishes, potato kugel, chopped liver, etc. But at the very end was hiding a recipe for oatmeal cookies with dried cherries. And I was intrigued. Of course, when I interviewed him I just had to ask about them. "Everyone was scratching their heads over it until they made it and tasted it," he said. "I had a lead recipe tester in Canada... another goy such as myself, and she was astonished by how good it was."
Well that settled it. I had to make some schmaltz cookies. No matter how many faces my family members made at the thought. And I did. I cheated a little bit, mixing some store-bought shmaltz with my homemade version.
So how did they taste? (That is, after all, why you're still reading isn't it?) The short answer is: good. They were good cookies, a great texture, crisp but a little chewy, and a nice but very subtle savory undertone to their sweetness. Of course, the problem was more the "ick factor," and even my family members who agreed they were tasty just couldn't bring themselves to reach for them too often. Plus there's the fact that, since my family keeps strict kosher dietary laws, each time we ate a cookie meant we couldn't eat any dairy products for six hours. Which is quite a commitment for a cookie.A slight warning though: The dough is a bit offputting. The smell of the chicken-ness is much more pronounced in the raw version than the baked ones - this is one batch of cookie dough that isn't in danger of being eaten before going in the oven.
As you know, I try to be as seasonal as possible so - this works well with schmaltz, but it would also work great with turkey fat! So this Thanksgiving (uh, I mean Thanksgivukkah), save your turkey drippings (unless you're turning them into gravy) and make cookies! Speaking of seasonal, I'd love to share a real Chanuka recipe with you here soon, so.... if I get my act together - watch this space!
Recipe (for the brave):
Cut the schmaltz into chunks and beat it together with the sugars until light and fluffy and well mixed. Add the egg, vanilla, cinnamon and salt and mix to combine.
Add in the flour and baking powder and mix until just combined, then stir in the oats until evenly distributed.
Scoop the dough into about 2-tablespoon sized balls and place abut 2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Flatten slightly with your hand or the bottom of a glass.
Bake at 350 F for about 15 minutes until crisp around the edges. Let cool 5 minutes on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.