OATMEAL BUTTERSCOTCH COOKIES: Thick And Chewy!

oatmeal butterscotch cookie textOnce I fine-tune a recipe to my liking, I move on. However, I’m not a gal so set in her ways that I’m not willing to be flexible about revisiting a recipe. (This does NOT apply to household activities in which I’m constantly suggesting (okay, nagging) that my husband put his keys and wallet in the same spot so he doesn’t have to spend 15 minutes daily looking for them.)

Three years ago I created an OATMEAL CHIP COOKIE which I loved. So when I recently saw a chewy oatmeal cookie recipe in Cook’s Illustrated magazine, I nearly gave it a miss. But, I like to learn about the science of cooking, so I read it. One thing lead to another and I decided to make them, adding butterscotch chips…just because.

They were chewy, moist, and the butterscotch was a perfect additional to the bland oatmeal. I’m a convert!

QUEEN OF FREEZE TIP:  Cookies (both baked and the batter) freeze well. Surprisingly, they don’t loose moisture when thawed. Just set the frozen cookies on a plate for a couple of hours and, presto – dessert!

OATMEAL BUTTERSCOTCH COOKIES – makes about 22-23

  • 5 oz (1 cup + 2 T) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 4 T butter (salted)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 5¼ oz (3/4 cup + 2 T) dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, whole
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats (not the quick cooking kind)
  • 2/3 cup butterscotch chips

NOTE:  It’s best to weight ingredients like flour and brown sugar. This gives you an exact amount, which is important in baking. Even 1 tablespoon too much or little makes a difference. I included cup amounts, just in case. But, if you don’t have a scale, put it on your birthday wish list!flour on scaleIn a small bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

Put butter in a light colored (such as silver) small skillet or saucepan. Over medium/high heat, melt and brown butter until it’s amber. There will be a lovely fragrance! This will take 2-3 minutes, so DON’T LEAVE UNATTENDED! Immediately pour into large mixing bowl.browning butter textStir in cinnamon until blended. Then, using a large spoon, add in brown sugar, granulated sugar, oil, and vanilla, mixing until smooth.oatmeal cookie mixing1Lightly beat together the whole egg and yolk, then mix into batter. (Don’t add this with the sugars – the butter is still warm and you don’t want to cook the eggs.)egg beatenStir in the flour mixture until most of flour is incorporated.oatmeal cookie mixing2Finally, stir in oats and butterscotch chips.oatmeal cookie mixing3Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.

Note: Don’t make smaller cookies or you’ll loose the chewiness.

Place about 2½ – 3 T dough blobs on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Smoosh together to form cookie. Don’t crowd them – they’ll spread. You can get about nine per sheet.oatmeal cookie unbaked Bake at 375º F for 9-10 minutes. The key is to look at the edges, not the center. The edge should start to look baked, but the center should not be browned. Because the cookies will continue to cook on the hot sheet out of the oven, if you wait to remove them from the oven until they look baked, they’ll be overcooked.oatmeal cookie bakedLet cookies cool on cookie sheet before removing them to a wire rack.

 

KING CAKE: Pistachio Sweet Bread Works For This Mardi Gras Favorite!

king-cake1-textMardi Gras is filled with a number of traditions. A yummy one is King Cake – a rolled cake decorated with purple, gold, and green. Often a plastic Baby Jesus or treat is hidden in the cake for some lucky person to be served.

This particular cake (actually, it’s technically a bread), Pistachio Sweet Bread, is a favorite of our family throughout the year. My husband loves it with a cup of coffee.

NOTE: Because I was decorating the cake for Mardi Gras, I used colored sugar. And because I’m a wee bit obsessive, I made my own homemade colored sugar with natural ingredients. Of course, this takes longer. I’ve put directions at the end of the post for those of you who choose to be chemical-free.

PISTACHIO SWEET BREAD

  • 2¼ tsp active dry yeast (1 packet)
  • 1 cup milk (I use nonfat)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 T  +1/2 cup  + 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3½ – 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup salted pistachio nuts, chopped & toasted
  • egg wash: 1 T egg + 1 T water, beaten together

At least an hour before starting the bread, cut up 1/4 cup butter and leave out to soften. (You’ll be using another 1/4 cup butter later.)

In a small saucepan over low flame, heat the milk, 1 T sugar, and water to 100º – 104º Fahrenheit. Remove from heat and stir in yeast. Let proof for about 5 minutes.

Into the work bowl of your food processor, put 3½ cups flour, salt, 1/2 cup sugar, and the softened 1/4 cup butter. Turn on machine then slowly pour in the proofed milk mixture. Let run about 30 seconds before deciding if more flour is needed – the dough should begin to pull away from the sides but not form a clump. (I usually need to add about 2 T-ish.) Empty dough into a greased bowl, flip dough so both sides are greased, cover, and let rise 1½ hours.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board. Pat into a rectangle, then let rest about 5 minutes before rolling dough to finished size. (Letting the dough briefly rest decreases its elasticity.) Roll dough to 18″ x 12″. Brush on the 1/4 cup melted butter all the way to edge. Sprinkle on 1/3 cup sugar and pistachio nuts, patting them gently into dough. Roll up dough from long side, leaving seam on bottom of log. (Try not to let the ends taper, so the ring is uniform in size.) Bring ends together to form a ring. Using a little water on your fingers, pinch dough together.

Carefully transfer dough to a greased cookie sheet. (Don’t use a dark sheet – it browns the loaf too much.) Cover and let rise 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375º F. When oven is hot and dough has risen, slice about halfway through dough in 1½” increments (I use kitchen shears). Brush with egg wash and bake 30 minutes, rotating cookie sheet after 15 minutes for even browning. Top should be lightly browned. Remove to wire rack to cool.

Let cool completely if you plan on frosting. If not, let cool about 20 minutes and serve warm.

WHITE FROSTING – makes 1 cup

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-4 T milk

Beat together the butter, salt, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Add in milk one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. If frosting becomes too loose, add more powdered sugar.

COLORED SUGAR

Orange

  • 1/2 cup mango cubes
  • about 2 inches of carrot sliced very thinly

Boil carrots in water, covered, about 15 minutes. Let cool. Purée mango and drained carrots in blender.

Purple

  • 1/2 cup blackberries or blueberries

Purée berries with a little water, until paste-like.

Green

  • 1/2 cup spinach (don’t worry – you won’t taste spinach in the frosting)

Boil spinach with a little water for 15 minutes. Drain and purée.

To Make The Colored Sugar:

Place about 1/4 cup sugar in 3 bowls. Add about 1 tsp (depending on preference) of colored pastes to each bowl. Mix with backside of spoon until color is well distributed. It will be very thick. To dry, spread each color on a plate and let air dry. After a couple of hours or so, mix to break up clumps. Keep doing this until it’s pretty dry. Then smash out crystals with a flat bottomed glass or measuring cup. Spread out on plate and let dry some more. Repeat until you get dried colored sugar. Drying time will be dependent on weather and how much coloring you use. But, it will eventually dry.

CHOCOLATE CHIP BANANA BREAD

banana-bread-choc-chip-textOn its own, banana bread is delicious. Add in chocolate chips and you really up your game.

So often banana breads are mushy, especially along the top. This recipe, adapted from America’s Test Kitchen, is moist, but not mushy – even days later (if it lasts that long).

CHOCOLATE CHIP BANANA BREAD

  • 6 T butter
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips (I use Nestle’s)
  • 3 bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt

Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.

Melt butter, then set aside to cool a bit while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

Into a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and chocolate chips.

Slice bananas, then mash them well using a fork.

Into a large bowl, beat the eggs with a fork. Stir in the bananas, vanilla, yogurt, and melted butter. Fold in the flour mixture just until incorporated – you don’t want to overmix or it will become tough.

Grease and flour a loaf pan (I use Pyrex). Pour in batter, smoothing top. Bake at 350º F for 55 minutes. Let rest in pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool.

WHITE CHIPS CHOCOLATE CRINKLE COOKIES – A Chocolate Lovers’ Dream!

choc-crinkle1If you’re craving a rich, chocolate dessert, then look no further. WHITE CHIPS CHOCOLATE CRINKLE COOKIES will satisfy your urge, and then some! Warning: they’re a bit messy from the powdered sugar…so just wear white and you’re good to go.

No need to drag out the electric mixer for this one – these cookies are made by hand. There’s even some rolling in sugar to do, so put the kids to work.

WHITE CHIPS CHOCOLATE CRINKLE COOKIES – makes 18 to 22, depending on size

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa – sift to get rid of any lumps
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips (I use Nestle’s)
  • 4 tsp instant coffee crystals
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1½ cups dark brown sugar, packed
  • 4 oz unsweetened baking chocolate (I use Ghirardelli)
  • 4 T butter
  • about 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • about 3/4 cup powdered sugar

In a bowl, mix together flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and white chips. Set aside.

In a small bowl, dissolve coffee crystals in vanilla. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and brown sugar, smashing out any lumps. Add in the coffee/vanilla and mix well.

In a small saucepan over very low heat, melt together the butter and baking chocolate. With a spoon, begin stirring the egg mixture. Dribble in a small amount of the melted chocolate, stirring constantly, to temper the eggs. Slowly add more chocolate while stirring, continuing on until all the chocolate is incorporated. (If you add the hot chocolate to the eggs too quickly, you could cook them.)

Pour the flour mixture into the chocolate and stir until blended. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool and firm up.

Preheat oven to 325º Fahrenheit.

Fill 2 shallow, wide bowls (such as a cereal bowl) – 1 with the granulated sugar, and 1 with the powdered sugar.

To form cookies, drop about 3 T batter into the granulated sugar (you don’t have to roll them first). With your fingers, start tossing the dough until it’s well-coated with sugar, gently pressing dough into a ball. Then drop into the powdered sugar. Gently toss until it’s well-covered with powdered sugar. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Don’t crowd cookies – you can get about 8 or 9 on a large sheet.

Bake for 12 minutes at 325º F. They probably won’t look done, but remove from oven – they will continue to cook on the hot sheet. Let cool completely on cookie sheet before removing to a wire rack.

These cookies taste great for days – if they last that long!

 

FLAN -There’s Always Room For This Silky Dessert!

flan-textI’ve been known to suggest (some might say ‘nag’) ALWAYS setting a timer when directions call for a specific amount of time. Even if it’s 5 minutes! It’s so easy to get distracted.

I, now, need to expand on this edict. Set a timer AND make sure it’s the kind that keeps beeping until you shut it off.

Lesson learnt last night when I ended up having to cook 2 batches of FLAN because I became so engrossed working on my computer that I didn’t hear the timer – even though I was in the same room. By the time I remembered I was baking something, my FLAN had overcooked by 20 degrees, transforming my creamy dessert into rubber. Sigh!

Fortunately, Batch #2 came out perfectly: silky smooth that melts in your mouth.

Note #1:  FLAN is a very easy dessert to make, but needs to be prepared the day before to set properly and chill.

Note #2:  As Queen of Freeze, I feel obliged to encourage you to freeze the unused egg whites for future use.

FLAN

  • 1/4 cup + 2 T water, divided
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz)
  • 1 can evaporated milk (12 oz)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt

The first thing to do is make the caramel. For those of you multi-taskers, try and restrain yourself to this task – caramel goes from nearly done to burnt in an instant!

In a sturdy saucepan (I use my All-Clad for this – it conducts heat evenly), pour in 1/4 cup water. Add sugar in the center of the pan, not letting the sugar touch the sides. Very carefully stir water into the sugar so it’s completely moistened but still not touching the sides of the pan or it could crystallize.

Turn the burner to medium/high and let sugar-water boil – without stirring – until it begins to turn golden – about 5 minutes. You’ll notice it becoming thicker as the water evaporates. Once it’s golden in a few spots, slowly swirl the pan to even out the caramelization. It will continue to darken in color. When it’s light brown throughout, lower the heat to very low, continuing to swirl. Once it becomes reddish color (and you may see steam puff up), swirl in 2 T water. Immediately pour caramel into a loaf pan. (You can use either a metal or glass loaf pan, but cooking time will vary accordingly.)

At this time, preheat oven to 300º Fahrenheit and boil about 4 cups of water.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the whole eggs and yolks together, just until blended. Add in the condensed milk, evaporated milk, whole milk, vanilla, and salt. Whisk together gently – you don’t want air pockets. (I’ve found sliding my whisk down the sides and lifting it up in the center, letting the liquids run back into the bowl, works well.)

Hold a strainer over the loaf pan and pour egg mixture through it onto the caramel – the strainer will catch unwanted tiny bits. Cover with foil. Put loaf pan in a larger pan (such as a casserole dish), and pour the boiling water around the loaf pan to about halfway up the side of the casserole dish.

Place in oven and bake at 300º F for about 75 minutes (1 hour, 15 minutes). SET TIMER! The goal is for the flan to reach 180º F – you need to use a thermometer for this. If you’re using a metal pan, it will probably be done. The glass Pyrex loaf pans are not as wide, and taller so, if you’re using glass, plan on another 20 minutes.

Once the flan reaches 180º F, remove from oven, leaving it in the water bath for 90 minutes, UNcovered. Then, remove pan from water bath, cover with the foil, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

To serve, run a round tipped knife (so it doesn’t scratch the metal pan) along the sides, place serving platter on top, and invert. The flan will plop down. Carefully lift off loaf pan. You can scrape any caramel remaining in the loaf pan over the top of the FLAN – one can never have too much caramel!

 

 

 

 

 

BLONDIES – Locked & Loaded!

blondies2 textI’ve finally achieved my idea of the perfect blondie. (A blondie is a cross between a chocolate chip cookie and a brownie.) While there may not such a thing as a BAD blondie, there are definitely sub-par ones.

I was looking for a moist, chewy, chocolatey blondie with a salty crunch. Is that asking too much? NO!!! Tinkering around with a pretty good recipe, I decided to brown the butter rather than simply melt it, as directed. This added a deeper flavor.

I also found that removing them from the oven promptly at the 22 minute mark (cooking directions suggested 22-25 minutes) was key to a moist result. Even if you don’t think they’re done, fear not – they’ll continue to bake in the hot pan out of the oven.

A bonus feature of my Blondies is that they’re actually better the next day, once they’re firmed up a bit. I love recipes you can make ahead of time! (Don’t get me wrong – they’re DELICIOUS the same day! It’s just they’re still kind of soft and gooey….not exactly a bad thing, but a little messy for guests.

Finally, I added 1/2 cup of 60% cocao bittersweet chocolate chips (Ghirardelli was best) AND white chocolate chips, then topped with toasted pretzel bits for a salty crunch.

NOTE: For the flour and brown sugar I put measurements in both weight and cups. Weight is a far more accurate measurement, which is important in baking. So if you have a scale, use it.

BONNIE’S BLONDIES

  • 7 oz all-purpose flour (1 2/3 cups)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 12 T salted butter
  • 10.5 oz dark brown sugar (1¾ cups)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1½ tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup walnuts (or pecans, cashews) – chopped & lightly toasted
  • 1/2 cup 60% bittersweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli)
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips (I use Nestle’s)
  • 1/3 cup pretzel sticks, broken by hand into small pieces & lightly toasted (unless the bag is fresh)

NOTE: Take care when breaking the pretzels that you don’t knock off the salt.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat, swirling often. Keep cooking until butter darkens and becomes aromatic, but doesn’t burn. Remove from heat and pour into a large mixing bowl. Let cool a few minutes.

butter browned

Mix the sugar into the melted butter. Stir well, smashing out any lumps.

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Beat the eggs and vanilla together in a small bowl. Pour approximately half the eggs into sugar mixture and blend. When smooth, stir in the rest of the eggs.

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Preheat oven to 350º Fahrenheit.

Pour in the flour mixture, folding gently until most of the flour is incorporated.

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Add in the chips and nuts, blending just until flour disappears – over mixing toughens the Blondie.

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Pour into a greased and floured 9″ x 13″ baking dish. Spread batter to cover entire pan, smoothing top. The batter is very thick, so take care when spreading that you don’t scrap off the greased/floured coating – just gently push the top toward the edges.Sprinkle the pretzels on top, lightly pressing into the batter so they stick.

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Bake at 350º Fahrenheit for 22 minutes exactly.  Don’t worry if they don’t look quite done – they’ll continue to cook in the hot dish. Place on a wire rack to cool for, at least, 3 hours before slicing.

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GINGERBREAD COOKIES WITH CHOCOLATE CHIPS – Chewy Goodness!

gingerbread cookies textGingerbread Cookies with chocolate chips are my kids’ favorite. They’re soft cookies with a flavorful bite from ginger, cloves, and cinnamon. The chocolate chips balances them out with with a creamy sweetness.

Once the dough is made, it needs to be refrigerated and then rolled into balls – a great task for little ones (with very clean hands) who want to help. At this point, the dough can be frozen, ready and waiting to be popped in the oven for a last minute dessert.

GINGERBREAD COOKIES WITH CHOCOLATE CHIPS – makes about 3 dozen

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1½ tsp dried ginger
  • 1¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • about 1/3 cup granulated sugar for rolling dough into

Using a standing mixer, cream butter and brown sugar. Mix in egg and molasses.

In a bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Blend into butter mixture on low speed. Stir in chocolate chips. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour to make it easier to handle.

Roll dough into 1″ balls, then roll into granulated sugar – coating well. Place on parchment paper lined or greased cookie sheets. Don’t flatten them – they’ll spread in the oven.

If you want to freeze them for future use (I’m AM the self-proclaimed Queen of Freeze, after all), put the dough balls (without rolling in sugar) on a non-greased cookie sheet and place in freezer until solid. Gather them into a container for storage. When ready to bake, roll them firmly into granulated sugar and place them on prepared cookie sheets, letting them thaw about 20 minutes. Bake as directed.

Bake at 375º Fahrenheit 10-12 minutes. Don’t overbake – you’ll get a dry cookie. Remember, they’ll continue to cook on the hot cookie sheet out of the oven. The edges should look done, but the center should look slightly underdone.

Let cookies set for 5 minutes before removing them to a wire rack.