These oatmeal cookies filled with frosting are a homemade version of the popular Little Debbie treat. Credit: Courtesy of Sandy Oliver

Each summer, our library’s friends group holds a book and bake sale. Not just cakes and cookies, breads and pies but jams, jellies, pickles and chutney are snapped up by summer and year-round residents alike.

This summer, one of the delectables found its way post-sale to a potluck supper I attended where it was served for dessert: truly yummy, fat oatmeal cookies filled up with vanilla-flavored frosting.

When I tracked down their maker, I discovered it was Ina Hollins, who lives in Northport and spends time on Islesboro in summer. She willingly shared the recipe which she originally found on carlsbadcravings.com.

That’s when I learned that the recipe was intended to produce a homemade version of a popular commercial treat in the Little Debbie family. Those kinds of treats weren’t ever part of my childhood, though my mom bought Fig Newtons and Pecan Sandies and a few others. I may have lusted after factory-made pastries, but if my grandad gave me a dime I always favored a Three Musketeers bar.

Generally, little chocolate-covered cupcakes with white squiggles on top or gooey, cellophane-wrapped anythings were relegated to a category of throwing good money after bad. I recall thinking that probably the fruit-flavored sugar syrup Zarex was wonderful, but Mom and Grandma, too, called it “belly wash,” so that was that. Probably a good thing.

Nowadays, there is a whole species of recipe found online that replicates popular commercial dishes and products. While it’s not exactly what you’d call health food, the following is a perfectly good recipe for a sweet treat made of the best ingredients you have, leaving out preservatives or other highly processed substances.

Ina tweaked the recipe somewhat in her making. For instance, she says that if you haven’t got dark brown sugar, just use light and add a little more molasses. She really approves of cloves in it. Despite the instructions to use quick cooking oats, I used standard rolled oats, pulsed a few times in the food processor. Lacking heavy cream, I used half-and-half.

This is a good time to use your stand mixer if you have one. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and make sure that you stir in, by hand if you need to, any dry ingredients that drift to the bottom of the bowl.

Ina pointed out that the cookies really spread, so make them small or be sure to give them plenty of room to expand. Make sure you chill the dough. The original recipe calls for a whacking 3 tablespoons of dough per cookie, which I suppose makes a cream pie the size of the commercial original. I made them smaller because I don’t think I need that much dessert in one sitting.

When you bake them, figure on 10 to 12 minutes, and you will notice that the dough puffs a little then settles flat when they are done.

The filling is really a frosting thickly applied. It occurred to me, though, that if you like ice cream sandwiches, these cookies would be terrific with your favorite ice cream layered between them. Pop them into the freezer to harden up before serving.

Now I wouldn’t know a Little Debbie knock-off from any old oatmeal cookie with frosting inside so the particular flavor of these cookies is pretty irrelevant to me. Here’s a heretical idea: If you have an oatmeal cookie recipe you really like, why not use it, and fill it with the frosting made according to the directions below, or your favorite frosting or ice cream? Or maybe just have the perfectly delicious cookie all alone, no frosting. The frosting, though, is very good, and you might like to use it on some cake or other. Or you could just eat it out of the bowl with a spoon.

Oatmeal Cookies for Cream-Filled Cookies

Makes a variable number of filled cookies depending on their size.

1 cup, or two sticks, butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves
3 cups rolled oats, preferably quick cooking

Heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line your cookie sheets with parchment paper or grease them very well.

Cream together the butter and sugars until the mixture is pretty light.

Add the egg and vanilla and beat together.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda and spices, then add the oats and mix to distribute the oats and flour together.

Add to the butter and sugar mixture and be sure to gather up dry ingredients at the bottom of the bowl.

Place balls of dough on baking sheets and bake for 10 minutes, then cool.

Frosting

¾ cup, or 1 ½ sticks, of butter
3 cups of confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons cream or half-and-half
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cream the butter in the mixer, gradually adding the confectioners’ sugar.

Beat for at least a minute, then add cream and vanilla.

Beat until fluffy.

Spread frosting on one of a pair of oatmeal cookies, then add the other cookie and squeeze lightly to push the filling to the edge.

Can be stored, wrapped individually, in the freezer.

Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...