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You Don’t Have to Be a Cowboy to Love These Cookies

Saddle up because I have a new cookie to tell you about: cowboy cookies. Yes, the yeehawing, bootstrapping, twang-a-langing cowboys have their own namesake cookie and it’s pretty darn good.

Most recipes for this all-American cookie involve an oatmeal cookie base studded with coconut, chocolate, and pecans: An oatmeal cookie taken to the max, if you will. The cookie’s noteworthy name alludes to a dessert that has enough substance to sustain a cowboy as they explore lands unknown. This trifecta of add-ins are what defines most modern-day cowboy cookies, and thus what I personally point to as their defining characteristic. So as I began developing my own version of the cookie, I focused on these three elements.

The first, coconut, is key to giving them their unique texture and flavor. While most recipes throw in a pile of sweetened coconut straight from the bag, I opt for unsweetened shreds that I toast before adding them into the dough. This helps heighten their flavor, allowing their subtle tropical notes to stand up to the sea of other ingredients. Next up is chopped pecans, which are also toasted to unlock their nutty potential. The last is chocolate; and while most cowboy cookies use chocolate chips, I opted for chopped semisweet bars to create pockets of molten chocolate in each bite, creating a chewier, more fudge-like texture in the center. These three elements combined with a subtle cinnamon-scented oatmeal cookie base creates a hearty cookie fit for a rodeo.

While you can certainly stop there and bake the dough as is (there is plenty going on), I pushed it a step further and rolled my unbaked cookie balls in even more shredded coconut and chopped pecans to give them an outer crunchy coating. The resulting cookies are crisp on the outside, chewy in the center, and loaded with everything good: A raisin-free oatmeal cookie hearty enough for a cowboy.

While the cookie is plenty interesting all on its own, no cowboy cookie story would be complete without talking about the elephant in the room: Laura Bush. Yes, that Laura Bush. In 2000, Family Circle magazine published Bush’s recipe for cowboy cookies as part of their ongoing tradition of publishing family recipes from political candidates’ wives as a folksy way to humanize them.

It was the year of cowboy cookies (Bush) versus gingersnap cookies (Gore). The two recipes went head-to-head in competition—“predicting” the results of the election—and we all know how that story ended. While Laura Bush might not be the inventor of cowboy cookies, the former first lady certainly popularized them and put them on the map, and this just might have been the greatest achievement during her political life.

Cowboy cookies on a plate made with coconut flakes chopped chocolate and pecans.

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Cee Gei
Author: Cee Gei

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