Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thick & Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cranberry Cookies

This post is actually coming from Auntie Lollie's soul since anyone that knows Lori knows she never cooks on weeknights, let alone baking for the office.

I've often thought of oatmeal cookies as boring but can "hit the spot",  just as a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a shortbread cookie is acceptable at times.  But today, after lunch, the guys and I stopped into Border's for our afternoon dopio and they happened to have samples of their cranberry raising oatmeal cookie.  Kevin was our "Mikey" and gave it a try and was surprisingly impressed.  So i decided to brave the world of coffee house samples and i, too, thought it was great.  So i'm now determined to find a delicious oatmeal cookie.  I checked some of my fellow bloggers and decided that Smitten Kitchen had what sounded like the best -- the Thick, Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies with a little tweaking by Auntie Lollie.  My modifications were:
  • i used natural demerara instead of brown sugar.  Demerara is a natural, unrefined cane sugar so it's coarser that regular brown sugar and provides more texture.  Also, because it's unrefined you can taste the molasses.
  • i like to make sure the butter and eggs are closer to room temperature.  I keep the egg out as long as it takes the butter to soften.
  • i figured no need to stop with raisins.  I LOVE golden raisins and happened to have just enough that i bought at the farmer's market last week.  I also decided to add dried cranberries.  
  • i'm thinking that adding some chopped up semi-sweet chocolate pieces could also be a nice touch.  
Light Demerara (natural cane sugar)

Chewy little nuggets with golden raisins and cranberries.
    Because i have now made them, i think i should have used more sugar, or perhaps the demerara isn't as sweet as regular brown sugar.  I like them, but they're not as sweet as the coffee house cookie i had yesterday.  Also, they didn't puff up as much as i would have thought.  They're thick, but they're a small cookie.  I did use a small scooper.  I'll let the judges at my office decide if there are any issues with this cookie.  One piece of advice that Smitten Kitchen gives is the importance in chilling the dough before baking the cookies in order to get a really thick, chewy cookie.  So, while writing the post my dough is chillin' in the fridge.  She doesn't say how long to chill, so i'll play it by ear.  Ok, i've decided it will chill overnight.

    1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, softened
    2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed (i used natural demerara)
    1 egg (i suggest room temperature)
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon salt (i used a dash more because i like a little more salt in my baked goods)
    1 1/2 cups rolled oats
    3/4 cup raisins (i used 1/2 golden raisins and 1/2 dried cranberries)
    1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

    Preheat oven to 350° F.

    In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth.
    In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together.
    Stir this into the butter/sugar mixture.  Stir in the oats, raisins, cranberries, and walnuts, if using them.

    At this point you can either chill the dough for a bit in the fridge and then scoop it, or scoop the cookies onto a sheet and then chill the whole tray before baking them.  I opted for the former.  You could also bake them right away if you're impatient, but Smitten Kitchen suggests chilling them for the extra thick cookie.

    Place the cookies two inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, taking them out when golden at the edges but still a little undercooked-looking on top.  Let them sit on the hot baking sheet for five minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool.

    Hopefully I (or someone from my office) will post reactions.

    Sunday, July 25, 2010

    Lemon Limencello Pound Cake

    When i was in Italy i discovered Limencello - the lemon flavored liqueur made of vodka, and it is delish! I was thinking that it would be a good addition to a lemony dessert, and Rosa at my office told me about her favorite Lemon Almond Poundcake recipe from Bon Appetit that has Limencello brushed on top of the cake. Yummm! Since i'm going to a dinner party this evening, i thought it would make a terrific dessert to bring. But i fear not everyone will like the almond flavor which can be overpowering. I did, however, find another lemon pound cake recipe by Bon Appetit that got rave reviews. I've been looking forward to making this one because it's made with 1 cup of sour cream, but i thought i could use Fage plain yogurt instead. I figure it will be super moist.

    I also decided to make "schlag", or homemade whipped cream to dollop on top of the cake.

    Silly me... after i popped the pound cake in the oven and sat down to write this post, i realized i forgot to add the yogurt. Meantime, i lost that cake. Don't ask. All i can say is maybe these silicone cake pans aren't the easiest to use. Apparently that cake just wasn't meant to be so i decided to do it again but make sure i add the yogurt this time.

    Sour Cream Lemon Limencello Pound Cake
    Adapted from Bon Appetit

    3 cups cake flour
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
    3 cups sugar
    6 eggs, room temperature
    1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
    1 tablespoon grated lemon peel (i used 4 tablespoons)
    1 cup sour cream (i substituted with greek yogurt)
    1/3 cup Limencello (you might want to make sure you have a little extra to sip while you're waiting.)

    Preheat oven to 325° F.
    Spray and lightly flour a tube pan, and set aside.
    Sift flour, baking soda and salt into medium bowl and set aside.
    Using a mixer, beat butter at medium speed until fluffy.
    Gradually add sugar and beat 5 minutes.
    Add eggs 1 at a time, beating just until combined after each addition.
    Beat in lemon juice and peel.
    Using a rubber spatula, mix in the dry ingredients.
    Now mix in sour cream or yogurt.
    Transfer batter to prepared pan.

    Bake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Let cake cool in pan on rack 15 minutes. Turn out cake.

    Carefully turn cake rightside up on rack and cool completely. Take wooden toothpick and punch holes throughout the top of cake. Brush with limencello and sprinkle with confectioners sugar. Voila!

    Schlag, or Whipped Cream

    1 cup heavy cream
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1-2 tablespoon of confectioner's sugar

    Put cold heavy cream, vanilla and sugar in mixing bowl.
    With standing mixer, use the whisk attachment and, start out slowly otherwise you have cream all over your kitchen.
    As the cream thickens, turn the speed up. As it gets foamier, start checking for a soft peak, which is what you want. The peak should bend over at the top when you remove the whisk. As it gets close, slow down, because if it goes too far, it will clump and separate (essentially become butter).

    This dessert turned out to be a success! Everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. My parents, who are both real fans of lemon desserts, thought it was fantastic, and nobody had thoughts of "next time try adding less of this or more of that". In fact, Laurence said it was his favorite dessert that i've recently made. I particularly liked the crusty outside and very moist inside.  This is definitely a keeper.

    Sunday, July 18, 2010

    Jacked-up Banana Bread

    Adapted from

    My office always has a few extra bananas at the end of the week which always get thrown out.  I'm always telling people they should be taking them home to make banana bread.  Well, years later and still no banana bread, i decided to see what i could do with those over-ripe bananas.

    This recipe looks rather simple and, disappointingly, no need to use my new KitchenAid stand mixer, but i decided to give it a try anyway.  The smittenkitchen recipe called for light brown sugar, but i opted for dark brown muscavado.  I like the richness and coarse texture of muscavado which i thought would enhance a ruggid bread like this.  I'll let you know after my office tasters try it tomorrow.

    3 to 4 ripe bananas, smashed
    1/3 cup melted saslted butter
    3/4 to 1 cup light brown sugar (i used 1 cup of lightly packed dark brown muscavado)
    1 egg, beaten (oops, i forgot to beat the egg first)
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla
    1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    Pinch of salt
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (i omitted and used a little extra cinnamon)
    Pinch of ground cloves
    1-1/2 cup of flour

    Preheat the oven to 350°F. 
    With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. 
    Mix in the sugar, egg (already beaten), vanilla and bourbon, then add the spices.
    Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in. 
    Add the flour last and mix.
    Pour the mixture into a buttered 4x8 inch loaf pan.
    Bake for 50 minutes to one hour, or until a tester comes out clean.  Cool on a rack.  Remove from pan and slice to serve.

    The banana bread smells delish and is very moist.  I just hope everyone likes banana bread, because i'm not sure i do.  Oh well, there's always tomorrow to try something new.