When I was about ten years old, my aunt and uncle moved into a new house. They had a swimming pool in the backyard, a kitchen with French doors, an old wall heater in the hallway, and a pullout bed in the living room couch. I don’t remember too terribly much from the handful of summer days and sleepovers my sister and I had in that house, but I do remember a terrible sunburn (the result of childhood naivety of UV rays and my negligence to reapply my SPF 35 Glitter Sunscreen). I remember seeing my mom in a swimming pool for what I’m almost certain was the first and only time in my life. I also remember these cookies my aunt made – they were unlike anything I had ever tried or have had since. They were chewy and crunchy and had a hint of cinnamon. They had Rice Krispies and oatmeal and M&M candies. She said they were called Ranger Cookies, and I imagined they were named such because they had everything in them that would keep you happy and full while out on the range (I guess I imagined cowboys invented the recipe).
We were sent home that day with a big Ziploc bag full of Ranger Cookies, and I remember later offering one to my best friend. She reached into the gallon Ziploc bag, pulled out a cookie, and took a bite. She didn’t seem to immediately like or dislike the big bite she’d just taken. She looked baffled, stared at the cookie in her hand, and said “this is the most confusing cookie I’ve ever had.”
With nearly everything but the kitchen sink in them, Ranger Cookies were definitely a confusing and interesting cookie. Maybe that’s why those Ranger Cookies have been so unforgettable to me for nearly two decades. I had never had them before, nor have I since, but that crunchy, crispy, gooey, chewy, texture and combination of flavors has stuck with me.
Jump ahead to many summers later when I find myself standing in my kitchen staring at a half-eaten box of cinnamon toast cereal, wondering why I bought it and what I can do with it. I don’t eat a ton of cereal and I don’t like to be wasteful, so I wanted to find a way to use up the remainder of the package before it went stale. Then it dawned on me – those confusing cookies my aunt made used cereal, so why don’t I try my own version of a Ranger Cookie?
Using crushed cinnamon toast cereal in my cookies was a game-changer. It inspired me to find other substitutions to create new flavor combinations and completely reinvent the Ranger Cookie of my past.
I decided to replace the M&Ms with toffee bits. The crunchy cinnamon squares combined with the subtle flavor of toffee complement each other so well and keeps the cookie from becoming overly sweet. I also added coconut (which I recalled from my aunt’s version) and chopped pecans. All of these ingredients got dumped into an oatmeal cookie base, and the result was a warm, nutty, cinnamony, cookie with both the chewiness and crunch I want out of all my cookies.
I took a test batch of these cookies to my faculty lounge on the first day of school, and they were gone in a heartbeat. Some of my colleagues even asked me when I was bringing more!
There’s a lot going on with these cookies, and I thought long and hard about calling them Confusing Cookies in honor of my best friend, but I finally settled on Cinnamon Scout Cookies. Maybe cowboys didn’t invent them, but I can’t help but imagine my cookies would keep them happy and full out on the range, scouting out… whatever it is that cowboys scout.