Please don't be daunted by the title. It's not 72 hours of straight labor to get these perfectly plump oatmeal raisin cookies out of the oven. Those 72 hours are actually optional, but let me tell you why you should take the time to make this recipe.
As David Leite discussed in his article about Jacques Torres's chocolate chip cookies, resting cookie dough allows the eggs to hydrate the flour. This makes the dough bake more evenly, but more importantly, allows the flavors to meld and deepen, resulting in an intense toffee flavor. Another secret to Torres' recipe is the combination of bread and cake flour. Bread flour is high gluten, which results in a chewy texture, and cake flour is low gluten, which gives fancy cakes their trademark light and airy crumb. In cookies, this translates as deliciously crunchy edges.
I wanted to try this two-flour combination in oatmeal raisin cookies, since the best of their kind are praised for both a chewy center and crisp edges. I also thought that letting the dough rest would not only hydrate the flour, it might soften the oats and plump the dried raisins, making for juicier bites. (Spoiler: it did!)
For extra oaty flavor that isn't overly fibrous, I use a blend of old-fashioned rolled oats and instant oats. If you don't want to buy both varieties, blitz some of the old-fashioned kind in a food processor until more finely ground.
Torres' recipe calls for 36 hours and up to 72. Those extra 36 are definitely worth it. However, you can bake the dough the day of, but try for 4 hours of chilling. If you bake the dough without chilling for at least 4 hours, the cookies will spread and crisp around the edges, leaving a wan, light-colored center. That’s not to say they won’t be delicious, they just won’t be evenly baked.
I am indebted to two oatmeal raisin cookie recipes that helped me get to this end point: Joanne Chang's recipe in her cookbook, Flour, which is my favorite baking book, and the Silver Palate Cookbook.
I have included weights in grams for bakers who like to use a digital scale. I am a huge fan since I don't have to dirty measuring cups.
72-Hour Oatmeal Raisin Cookies Recipe by Lindsay Hunt
Makes 2 dozen cookies
Ingredients: 1 cup bread flour (140g) 1 cup cake flour (100g) 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon fine salt ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (150g) 3/4 cup quick-cooking oats (75g) 1 ½ cups raisins (260g) 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature 1 cup packed light brown sugar (200g) 3/4 cup granulated sugar (170g) 2 eggs 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Equipment: Two baking sheets, ideally without rims, parchment paper or nonstick cooking mats such as Silpat, an airtight container to store the cookie dough in, and a digital scale (if you have one)
Directions: Combine the flours, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Whisk until thoroughly combined. Stir in the oats and raisins; set aside
Place the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or use a hand mixer). Cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Stop the mixer occasionally and scrape down the sides and paddle with a rubber spatula.
Add the eggs and vanilla and mix on medium speed until well combined, about 1 minute. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds.
Transfer the dough to an container and refrigerate at least 2 hours, but preferably 72 hours.
30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350º F. Line two baking trays with parchment paper or silicone mats.
Portion the dough into 2-ounce (55 gram/2 heaping tablespoon) scoops. Roll gently with your hands into balls. Space the dough 3 inches apart on each tray, about 12 to a tray. Flatten gently with your hand.
Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, rotating the trays front to back and top to bottom halfway through. Pull the cookies out when they look just set—they will continue to cook when they come out of the oven. They will not be mostly blonde with small spots of golden brown. They will turn completely golden brown as they cool on the cookie sheets.
Cool the cookies on the sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Special thanks to Cat Emil for testing this recipe.