Baking for Bookworms: Oatmeal Cookies from The Puttermesser Papers by Cynthia Ozick


Cynthia Ozick’s book is a veritable treasure trove of unique Baking for Bookworms worthy dishes. It’s not that there’s such an amazing number of dishes mentioned, but the ones in the book are just such a far cry from eggs and toast.

Each stage of Ruth Puttermesser’s life, a different dish is important to her, or multiple dishes. When she’s young, she has a thing for fudge and other sweets. Later, she eats vegetable soup with her lover. The cookies come from one of the last definable phases of her life, when her niece comes to her from the USSR.

“They sipped their tea. Lidia produced the half-dozen oatmeal cookies she had been slipping into the pocket of her new leather coat–emptying or filling pockets seemed to be in the family line–at the very moment Varvara [Barbara] was firing her.

‘Foolish Varvara,” Lidia said. Nibbling her cookie, she looked almost childlike; her nostrils vibrated.”


Lidia, Ruth’s niece, is always taking from people, and never giving back. She is cynical, worldly, and out to get what she can before it can be taken from her. However, she’s also clearly looking for a kind of sustenance and warmth. There are aspects of her personality, like her optimism about new plans, that are “almost childlike.” Cookies bring that out in you.

Now I definitely don’t advocate stealing cookies from your former employer–especially when it’s much more delicious to make them yourself.


You can easily put add-ins into these cookies. I kept it simple. Mainly because when I was little, I never got oatmeal cookies with just the yummy oatmeal part. They always stuck raisins in. Of course, now I actually really like raisins. But we didn’t have any in the house, and chocolate chip oatmeal cookies aren’t really my thing. If they’re your thing, by all means toss them in at the end.

This recipe is adapted from Maureen Kirk’s. The cookies I baked turned out a little flat, so I’ve adapted the recipe for you. The pictures are from my test run, so this recipe should give you prettier, puffier cookies.

Maple Oatmeal Cookies

  • 1 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups Scottish oatmeal (if you aren’t able to find this, you can use another 1 1/2 oats, I like the smoother texture it brings to the cookies, and it also has a great flavor)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup (the maple flavor is subtle, but lovely)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of your preferred mix-in like chocolate chips, raisins, dried cranberry, etc. (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix together the oats, flour, salt, and baking soda. Stir around so everyone gets comfortable with each other.

With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar for about 3 minutes, or until paler and fluffy.

Add in egg, vanilla, maple syrup, and cinnamon. Beat until combined. In two additions, add the flour mixture. Beat until just combined.

Line two baking trays with parchment on nonstick mats. Using two spoons, dollop tablespoon size balls down. Bake for 8-11 minutes or until browned on the edges. Let cookies begin cooling for a few minutes on the sheets and then transfer to a cookie rack.

These have a wonderful flavor and nice chewy texture.

Is there a food that reminds you of a particular period of your life? Croissants remind me of college. I’d have a coffee and croissant for breakfast on Friday mornings before class.

Women Writers Reading Challenge #28: The Puttermesser Papers by Cynthia Ozick


Some books rush by, leaving little impression. Others linger, force you to examine them a bit more slowly. Cynthia Ozick’s book demands this consideration. It somehow manages to be a recounting of the most mundane and the most fantastic and surreal, where golems are mentioned in the same breath as city corruption and Russian immigration.

Ozick’s book follows the life of Ruth Puttermesser, a lawyer from a lapsed Jewish family. At her peak, she becomes the mayor of New York, and at the end she is revealed to be as human as everyone she encounters. Her intellectual passions fuel her life and her story is told with humor and wit.

What Ozick’s novel manages to do is chronicle a whole life. You see Puttermesser (which means butterknife, if you’re interested) as a young woman, and then see what happens as life presents its disappointments and challenges, its opportunities and setbacks. Remarkable things happen and then are taken away. You see a person age until their past seems like it happened to somebody else with stages that are marked by such distinct events that they are linked only by the thread of personality, which spins tighter and unravels as it goes.

On the whole it is a remarkable book, quiet even when it speaks of noisy things. The writing takes you somewhere without really taking you very far away. It’s an amazing gift to make amazing things seem not only possible but positively unremarkable.