Cowboy Cookies

See all our favorite Christmas cookies here!

There was a time when Phoebe and I had this little, you know, cookie conflict. As you’ll know if you read every word of our book’s introduction or have ever glanced at our about page, back in the day, just a couple of years after we met in the seventh grade, we were engaged in an oatmeal cookie competition. I stood by one recipe, Phoebe another, and like any good world political conflict, there appeared to be no middle ground. We used to make our friends taste test, of course, and in the end more importance was placed on the delicious sweetness of the goodies–both kinds–than on the competition.

There was also a time in the same era of my life when my sister, Jill, was obsessed with pretzels. I think it started as a high school health concern (this was the ’90s, before low-fat trends became low-carb), but it gave way into an overarching preoccupation with crunch. Jill ate pretzels with everything, savory and sweet. I remember one night, it must have been in eighth grade, when my then-boyfriend Adam came over for dinner. We were having pasta with tomato sauce–pretty standard–and all was well until Jill got up from the table, walked to the snack drawer, and came back with a handful of pretzels. She plopped them into her bowl, mixing the pretzels with the spaghetti and sauce, and recommenced eating. Adam was deeply amused, or perhaps his amusement masked a feeling of bewilderment: “she’s putting pretzels in spaghetti?!”

We’re clearly much more advanced in our eating habits these foodie days, and it’s not so unusual to see pretzels in dishes where, back in 1999, they would not seem to have belonged. Pretzel-crusted chicken appears in recipes from time to time, and who has not yet tasted salted caramel ice cream with pretzels? I’ve been putting pretzels in my favorite rendition of chocolate bark for years.

The time, in other words, had come take the pretzel out of the snack drawer and fit it in again to places where it totally didn’t belong. The slight discord it provides–both theoretically, and in its actual salty crunch–would only enhance my old, beloved chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.

While for some Christmas might mean decorated cookies or traditional seasonal favorites, like snowballs or Kourabiedes, for us in 2011, it means these homestyle oatmeal cookies laced with an extra bit of salt and crunch. To check out what our friends around the web are making this Christmas in this lovely virtual cookie swap, organized by Food Network, scroll down below the recipe. So much decadence and deliciousness!

From our kitchen, swapping sweets online, to yours,



Cowboy Cookies
Makes about 36

Why “cowboy”? Beats me. I read about my favorite flavor combination (pretzels and chocolate) in the Baked cookbook and saw they’d given it this name. Maybe because, like the cowboy fave chili, it’s a giant but delectable hodgepodge?

1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 egg
2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips or chopped semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup broken-up pretzels*

Note: to break up the pretzels, but a handful in a sealed plastic bag. Use your hand or a heavy kitchen utensil (like a potato masher) to make chocolate chip-sized pieces. Don’t pulverize them. Measure after you break them up, and then add more if necessary.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer if you have one (otherwise, use a large bowl and a handheld mixer, or your really strong arm), cream the butter and brown sugar until blended and creamy. Add the vanilla, the espresso powder, and the egg and beat until light and fluffy. Stir in the oats, flour, baking soda and salt, mixing just until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Then add the chocolate chips and the pretzel and stir to distribute.

Make balls the size of golf balls and place them at least 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet.

Bake for about 9 minutes, just until the tops of the cookies are firm. Let cool 2-3 minutes on the cookie sheets, then slide the parchment straight onto the counter or a wire rack and cool completely.

Check out the other participants in this virtual cookie swap!

All You Magazine: White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies Sugar Cookies
Gilt Taste: Milk Bar Holiday Cookies Drink in the Holidays
Cooking Light: Iced Sugar Cookies Ultimate Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Food52: Ginger Spiced Molasses Sugar Cookies
Cooking Channel: The White House’s Molasses Spice Cookies “Gingersnaps”
BlogHer: Triple Chocolate Almond Cookies
CafeMom: Marvelous Mini Apple Crisp Cookies
The Daily Meal: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
Food Republic: Gingerbread Cheesecake Cookies
EatingWell: 5 Tips for Perfect Gingerbread Cookies
Redbook Magazine: Candy Cane Cookies
Gourmet Live: Pistachio Cranberry Icebox Cookies
AP/ J.M. Hirsch: Ginger Fig Crumb Bars
Fox News: White Chocolate Cherry Oatmeal Cookies
Epicurious: Italian Almond Cookies
FN Dish: Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip-Bacon Cookies
Thursday Night Dinner: Peppermint Bark Cookies
Dishin and Dishes: Pecan Sandie Thumbprints With Cherry Frosting
Mooshu Jenne: Biscotti
Cooking With Elise: Sweet and Salty White Chocolate Cranberry Oat Cookies
Yahoo! Shine: Nutmeg Rosettes
Food & Wine: Chocolate-Espresso Snowballs
YumSugar: Coconut Date Balls
What’s Gaby Cooking: Peppermint Bark Chocolate Cookies
CIA Dropout: Walnut Wimpy Balls
And Love It Too: Snowball Cookies (Grain-Free, Dairy-Free and Vegan)
Taste With The Eyes: Olive Oil Oatmeal Cookies (pictured above)
Jones Is Hungry: A Cookie for Chocolate Lovers
From My Corner of Saratoga: Gooey Butter Cookies
The Sensitive Epicure: Speculaas Dutch Windmill Cookies
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Salted Chocolate & Dulce de Leche Fudge
Virtually Homemade: Chocolate Mint Snowballs
Sweet Life Bake: Polvorones de Chocolate
Daily*Dishin: Cherry Topped Cream-Drop Cookies
FN Dish: Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip-Bacon Cookies

Posted in: Baking For Others
  • Helen Conroy

    Love these!  My favorite cookie monsters are going to be all over them. Plus, it will be great to have another use for the pretzels that will be left over after I make your — 
    truly awesome — chocolate bark.  ;o) aka  AntoniaJames

  • SeattleDee

    I love Cowboy Cookies, make them all the time, but just can’t wrap my mind around adding pretzels. Heaven knows I add coconut shreds, cranberries, nuts and other stuff, but pretzels? It sounds odd enough to try – maybe just once.

    • BGSK

      I promise! They’re not that bad. Just imagine extra crunch and extra salt–nothing to be scared of :)

  • Anonymous

    These have scant resemblance to what I have hitherto been presented under the rubric of Cowboy Cookies. Briefly, the CCs people have given me were toll-house thingies baked in a cake pan as a single confection and then cut into squares with a knife or spatula. Almost Blondie Brownies, really. I suspect I would prefer this new recipe.

  • JennV

    Just made these. Perfect. I was going to abandon the idea of espresso powder (mainly because I had no idea what it was and figured it would be hard to find) and I’m so glad I didn’t as it MADE the cookies!! Thanks for posting this. I’m bringing these to my first cookie swap ever tonight!

    • BGSK

      So glad you liked ’em! The espresso really does add a little something…

  • Anna

    Can I use a little coffee instead of espresso powder?

    • BGSK

      Ground coffee? It’ll be different but should still be delicious!

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