These are Gross Anatomy Cookies. A strange name, I admit, for what are the very BEST chocolate chip cookies I have ever tasted. EVER. The texture is perfect, soft and slightly underbaked and fudgy. They're actually oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, and that adds a complexity of flavor and texture. And the recipe comes with a great story to explain the name.
I met my friend Laura Crossett freshman year at Vassar College. We were sitting on the stairs of Skinner music hall, waiting for our turns to try out for the orchestra, and I made a reference to Garrison Keilor's A Young Lutheran's Guide to the Orchestra (yes, I was a public radio geek even at that early age). And Laura actually got the reference, and we've been friends ever since.
Laura is a magnificent writer and storyteller (you should definitely check out her book, Night Sweats), and one day, as we baked these cookies together at her place, she spun the tale of how they came to be a favorite in her family.
Laura's mother, when Laura was small, decided to go to medical school to become a psychiatrist. As with any M.D. program, Gross Anatomy is one of the first classes you have to take. You know, the class where you dissect a cadaver. (Yeah, this is a cookie story, bear with me.) Laura's mom's Gross Anatomy professor would always bring a plate of these cookies in to class for his students, because one of the lesser-known facts about Gross Anatomy is that formaldehyde triggers a hunger reaction in humans. So there these young, impressionable, idealistic med students are, carving up their first bodies...and feeling hungry. It could be really unsettling, if you weren't expecting it! So the students always appreciated the cookies, not just because they were filling a need, but because they were delicious.
Laura's mom went on to teach in the medical school at the University of Iowa, and she always made a batch of these cookies for her small-section students, and told them the story of how she got the recipe and how the recipe got its name.
I will never forget Laura telling me the story of the cookies, the magical experience of eating them for the first time, and I wouldn't dream of calling these absolutely divine oatmeal chocolate chip cookies anything other than Gross Anatomy Cookies.
If you'd like to skip straight to the printable, one page version of this recipe, scroll to the bottom of the page.
Gross Anatomy Cookies Recipe (aka the BEST Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies):
- 2 sticks butter, softened
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 2 cups oatmeal
- 1 cup wheat germ
- chocolate chips, to taste (I like about a cup)
Cream the butter and sugars together, then beat in the two eggs. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the chocolate chips, and mix to form a thick dough (this is a very forgiving recipe, and you can totally just dump it all in there and mix). Add the chocolate chips at the end and mix just until spread through the cookie dough.
Scoop the dough out on a parchment-lined or greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 350 Fahrenheit for approximately 10 minutes. Let cool COMPLETELY before removing from the parchment.
These are the perfectly soft, chewy cookies you can imagine. Crisp, crunchy cookies have their place, but I will choose a soft (but not cakey) cookie like this every single time.
Don't think about leaving the wheat germ out of the recipe. It is worth the trip to the store to buy it. This is the only recipe I have ever used wheat germ in, in all of my years of baking, but I make sure that I always have some on hand, in case I happen to have a desperate need for Gross Anatomy Cookies. It happens. The recipe is that good. I just store the wheat germ in the freezer, so it doesn't go rancid between making batches of these cookies.
Do you have a favorite family recipe that comes with a great story? I'd love to hear it!