Monday, July 30, 2007

The Ultimate Oatmeal Cookie

I have finally cracked the baking dry spell.

The real beginning of this drought occurred several weeks ago when Josh's office drastically reduced in size. I sort of lost my momentum and wasn't sure if the smaller, and busier, crowd would care to try my creations. Now that work is back to normal though, and the people who are in the office are as starving as ever, I think I can get back to baking with a receptive audience.

Saturday afternoon I found myself alone for the first time in months. Now that Josh is out of school we spend most time together so this was a strange phenomenon and I cannot say I enjoyed it very much. I did decide to bake to pass the time but once I opened up my fridge, the reality of its contents hit me. I had nothing, nothing to bake with. Normally I would curl up with a good book and forget the whole idea but I was at a loss for things to do that afternoon so somewhere in my vast collection of untried recipes I had to find one that fit the sparse cupboard parameters.

Enter oatmeal cookies. I think these are perhaps the most versatile and comforting of all cookies. Very few people do not like oatmeal and, so long as I don't add raisins, they are always well received.

This recipe was really good. I substituted a chopped up Cadbury White Chocolate Dream Bar for the white chips. I would definitely grease the cookie sheet regardless of the 1 cup of butter in the recipe though because my cookies stuck just enough to be annoying. The flavor and the chewiness were fantastic and Josh was quite upset when they ended up living at A & J's house instead of the leftovers coming home with us.

White Chocolate Butterscotch Oatmeal Chippers
(Adapted from Canadian Living)
2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
8 tablespoons shortening
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1/3 cup toffee bits
Preheat oven to 350.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, coconut, baking soda and salt.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter, shortening and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg, making sure to scrape down the bowl. Beat in vanilla.
Add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.
Using a wooden spoon, stir in the white chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, pecans and toffee bits.
Using a tablespoon cookie scoop, drop the dough onto parchment lined baking sheets.
Bake until the bottoms are golden, about 10-12 minutes. Remove and let sit on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about 48 cookies.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Change Is Hard

I helped my Grandma pack up her kitchen last night. After 29 years, she is leaving her duplex - the only home I have ever known her in - and taking up condo life. There have been so many memories in this kitchen that it was a very emotional experience. I think my Grandma has taught me the most about cooking and baking than anyone else. We have made jam and Christmas cookies and all of the wonderful German recipes she has saved in her memory. I managed to salvage two very important cookbooks that she no longer wants. "The Vermont Cookbook" and "Massachussets Cooks" were written decades ago and contain so many homey, delicious recipes that require very few fancy ingredients. I cannot wait to dive into them and rediscover some of my Grandma's gems.
Here is to many more years of cooking success with her, just in a different kitchen.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


So I have returned from 10 days of delicious relaxation. Yes, I went on holidays to the Okanagan Valley, possibly the hottest part of Canada last week. We swam, we ate, we shopped, we ate and then we topped it all off with copious amounts of Naramata wine and summery, girly sangria's. Now that my shoulders are burnt and every freckle on my nose is showing, I must come home and face up to the grim truth of the scale - vacation food is not kind. Luckily for me, Bon Appetit's August edition has arrived and it is full of Farmer's Market inspired recipes. I am so excited to cook some healthy meals where the veggies will not all taste like hothouse mealy cardboard.

For starters, I went grocery shopping which was sorely needed in my house. I must admit I over-indulged on items such as cheese, but what else accompanies a summer salad better than a sprinkling of Greek feta or a few crumbles of blue cheese? To test my theory on cheese and salad, I made a baby spinach salad last night with thin shavings of red onion and a gorgeous pint of raspberries. Then I added cubed goat feta - the only kind there is! - and we decided to try a new viniagrette from the produce section - Guava Pear. I think the dressing was amazing but I don't think it was amazing mixed with this salad combination. I had the remaining salad for lunch today with Kraft's Poppyseed dressing and it seemed much better. But the Guava Pear with fresh baby greens, toasted pumpkin seeds and tomatoes I think would be heaven.

Anyway, stay tuned for the new recipes (and of course I managed to find a dessert in there that I just have to try) and with any luck I will be back to my energetic self, the kind of energy that, sadly, only seems to come from vegetables and fruit.

As an aside, my dear fish Martin was given two new buddies a few weeks ago, in the hopes that he wouldn't feel lonely. Well, I thought he might be lonely, Josh doesn't think that fish can possibly have feelings. Anyway, we bought another goldfish and a creepy algae eater that was definitely not my idea but Josh thought he was cool. Two days later, Frasier II was dead. Then, yesterday upon arriving home from our vacation, creepy algae eater was dead as well with moss growing on his head. I have come to the conclusion that Martin does not play well with others. I think I will keep him an only child.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Moving Day Snickerdoodles

As I mentioned, it was the big moving weekend and my baby sister has a beautiful new home of her own. I would like to say that I helped put together the copious amounts of Ikea furniture but I hate Allan keys and all the teenie tiny fiddly bolts and screws that come along with their products, so I did what I do best in these "crisis" situations, I bake.
I wouldn't call it a crisis exactly but it was hectic in its own way. A goofy dog slipping across the wood floors, a baby toddling along in all her cuteness, two boys, and a whole lot of adults. I think we accomplished quite a bit and I, for one, built two bar stools using the stupidest wrench ever created. So that is a victory in itself.

As for the baking, I continued on my quest for the perfect Snickerdoodle. As an aside, I seem to go on quite a few "perfect" quests. I have it in my mind that there is this giant recipe box of perfection itself sitting around, and I do not have all these recipes, therefore I must hunt for them until my recipe box is "Suzy Homemaker" worthy. The Snickerdoodle is one such recipe. It seems like such a simple recipe - it is pretty much just a sugar cookie rolled in cinnamon sugar - yet it is so much more. The texture is what I cannot match. It needs to be more like a biscuit - quite dense and yet still moist. Most recipes usually end up tasting like I took my Christmas cookie recipe and rolled it in cinnamon. Not the desired effect at all. This, by far, has been the most disappointing of all my quests. I did end up with a half way decent Maple Snickerdoodle recipe at Christmas time but it wasn't amazing and I am not sure it would be considered a favorite. So this batch of cookies is one that I found on the internet after searching for the Pepperidge Farms Snickerdoodle recipe. My only suggestion is to make the cookies bigger than walnuts - probably two tablespoons of dough as opposed to one. I think that is the important aspect of a Snickerdoodle, the sheer size of them. Also, the timing is hard to get right. 325 degrees is a good temperature but I suggest pulling them out of the oven when they look puffed up as if they may burst, otherwise they are only soft for that brief warm and chewy moment and then hard ever after. Test your oven with the first batch - 12 minutes was perfect in mine.
My final piece of advice is to use the Cream of Tartar. Do not skip this ingredient. It is what gives them that sour cream taste that a normal sugar cookie just does not have.

Pepperidge Farm Soft Baked Snickerdoodle Cookies
1 cup butter (2 sticks), melted
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 egg
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Use electric mixer on medium speed to combine butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla in medium bowl until smooth.
In separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.
Mix dry ingredients into wet stuff using the electric mixer on medium/low speed until dough is smooth.
Mix topping ingredients together in small bowl.
Measure one heaping tablespoon (or try 2 T.) of the dough and roll it into a ball with your hands. Press half of cookie dough ball into the cinnamon/sugar.
Place ball, sugared-side-up, on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 12 minutes or until cookies just begin to turn light brown. Be careful not to bake cookies too long, or they won't be soft like the originals.

Happy Canada Day - and happy poundcake

I have accomplished what I only dream about - I only made new recipes this weekend. No more shall I use my oldies but goodies as a safety net. I can tackle the strangers with gusto.

It was moving weekend for my sister, as well as dear old Canada Day where many a BBQ was lit and many a hamburger scorched. At least at our BBQ there were a few casualties. My project was to come up with dessert which was certainly fine with me. I am always excited to bring dessert and, as most of the people at the BBQ were relatives, I felt it was safe to try the cake recipe that has been sitting patiently in my Inbox thanks to Canadian Baker. Poundcake, I find, is always greasy moist and has a sickly sweet after taste. That is not what I wanted at all for this dessert. I wanted dense crumbs and a real coconut flavor to offset the chocolate fudge and vanilla bean icecream that I was going to pile on top of the slices. Sure enough, it was delicious. Now this recipe is actually a chocolate and coconut swirled pound cake which was fine and I might make again but, in all honesty, I think I would cut out the chocolate portion (I know, I really did say cut the chocolate!), and increase the coconut. It was not sweet at all so I should have added more sweetened coconut flakes and I might have added more vanilla if I hadn't been too nervous.

I will definitely be putting this cake on a recipe card and using it again. I think it would be delicious with macerated berries and whipping cream to take it in a different direction, but then again, hot fudge and icecream is always en vogue!

Lily's Marble Cake
from Canadian Baker's blog
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 cup whole milk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1/4 cup cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-processed
1 1/2 cups shredded, sweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a 10-inch tube pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.
In measuring cup, combine the milk and vanilla. Set aside.
In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the sugar and salt and continue to mix well for about 3 more minutes.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well to combine after each addition.
Alternately add the milk mixture and the flour mixture in 3 additions.
Continue mixing for 5 minutes (beating a long time is important here).
Stir one third of the batter into the cocoa powder in a medium bowl.
Stir the coconut into the remaining golden batter.
Pour the golden batter into the prepared pan, then drop large dollops of the chocolate batter into it. Cut through the batter once or twice with a table knife to make chocolate marble pattern. Do not stir.
Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a skewer or toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let cool in the pan. Invert onto a platter (for the best taste, cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight. Slice into wedges for serving. Cake keeps well at room temperature for up to 4 days. Makes 12 servings.