The Expert Maple Syrup Tip For More Flavorful Oatmeal Cookies

There is nothing more disappointing than a sub-par oatmeal cookie; you're expecting something rich and chewy, with the perfect balance of sweetness, only to bite into something hard or overly dense, either bland or so sweet it almost makes your teeth hurt. To combat this, Tasting Table solicited advice from Amy Emberling, a managing partner in Zingerman's Bakehouse in Ann Arbor, Michigan and one of the company's original bakers. Zingerman's is well known for its fantastic Big O oatmeal cookies, which have graced the bakery's menu for more than two decades and have been featured in its cookbook.

To what does Emberling credit with the Big O's enduring success? "I think [our oatmeal cookies] are particularly tasty because of the pure maple syrup in the recipe and the freshly milled whole wheat flour, which we've upgraded to since the recipe was published." But it's not just any maple syrup that's used in the Big O recipe: Emberling notes that Grade B is key to the cookie's unique flavor.

Taking oatmeal cookies to the next level

According to Emberling, Grade B maple syrup is superior to Grade A when baking oatmeal cookies because of its intensity. Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture continues to rely on letter grades, maple syrup producers have their own system of grading based on color and flavor — thus, bottles may use labels like Golden, Amber, Dark, and Very Dark. The first three are color shadings of what the USDA calls Grade A; Very Dark equates to Grade B and boasts the notably strong flavors Emberling favors.

In addition to buying the preferred grade of maple syrup to upgrade one's oatmeal cookies, Emberling also recommends purchasing a tabletop mill to grind your own whole grains. The process of milling at home does add extra time to cookie baking, but not much, and the expert says it brings a significant improvement in terms of flavor over flour you'd buy preground in the store. So if you follow Emberling's advice, your oatmeal cookies will turn out better than ever.