Graham crackers

September 2, 2010 § 1 Comment

It’s hard to think about anything but the fact that I’m moving to Paris. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it: I’m moving to Paris. It is at once terrifying and terribly exciting. Every time I start to think, my mind drifts to what I imagine my life to be like there and then I have to catch myself before the daydreaming goes too far and I start planning out the future too much. But really, it’s hard to flip that switch in my brain for long enough to write about my last few days in San Francisco.

But they were definitely good ones. On Friday night, I headed up to the Sonoma Wine Valley with my family for a night of camping. The vineyards stretched out before us on the ride up in pretty green rows, red fruit hanging off the vines almost ready for picking. Everywhere we looked, wooden signs offered daily wine and olive oil tastings, and we stopped by a local bakery, which sells its crusty bread to several stores in San Francisco, for a cinnamon twist and a latté. We got to the campsite pretty late in the evening, in time to set up our tents as it got dark and roast marshmallows by the campfire. We only have one camping chair, so the roasting required a bit of coordination but in the end there were some toasty golden brown marshmallows with chocolate and my homemade graham crackers.

These graham crackers are rich and buttery, with a fairly strong taste of honey. Slightly thicker and more crunchy than your standard store-bought graham cracker, these are also great on their own as a snack. In fact, my family was of the opinion that they were better on their own than in s’mores. I made them with half wheat flour and half white.

Graham Cracker Recipe
Adapted from Nancy Silverton’s Pastries from the La Brea Bakery (Villard, 2000), via 101 Cookbooks

1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole wheat four
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen
1/3 cup mild-flavored honey, such as clover
5 tablespoons whole milk
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

Ina bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt until the mixture is uniform and crumbly.

In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, milk, and vanilla extract. Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and mix with your hands until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.

Lightly flour a work surface and shape the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.

After two hours has elapsed, remove the dough from the refrigerator. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. Cut crackers into squares, using a square cookie cutter (or I found the edges of a tupperware container worked nicely). Place cut crackers on baking sheets lined with parchment paper and chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch.

SHF: Salted Browned Butter Shortbread

August 26, 2010 § 2 Comments

Right as I was enjoying wearing boots and sweatshirts, an ungodly heat wave hit San Francisco. On a Monday afternoon, people flocked to the parks to picnic and schools kids complained about having to go to school right as the San Francisco summer finally got started. A run along Ocean Beach saw large clumps of people playing in the waves and cars overfilling the lots along the Great Highway. At midnight, I climbed to the top of Bernal Hill and walked out along Pier 1 with some old friends — all without long pants or a scarf, which is my standard get-up in this city.

This morning I stumbled out of bed, still in pajama boxers and my hair sticking every which way, and out the front door to take pictures in the gentle morning sun. In a couple of hours, the hot, dry sun will be beating down and I’ll have started a run along the tide line, hopefully barefoot, if I can find someone to shuttle my shoes around the city. Or maybe I’ll wait to run until the evening and cross the peak of Diamond Heights as the fog rolls in, when you can barely see three feet in front of you. As you climb to the peak, the air seems to thin and the wind comes from all directions, its cold blasts spurring you down the hill on the other side. Today, the day is temperamental, summer one moment and the perfect misty setting for a horror film the next.

But as I settle in to write, it is still morning and I am back in the house. I’ve poured myself a tall glass of iced tea with a kick of mint and made open-faced sandwiches with juicy heirloom tomatoes that were just waiting to be sliced. Ah, summer.

These browned butter cookies pair just as well with iced tea as they do with a cup of hot tea. And with the weather changing every day, I keep a roll of cookie dough in the fridge, so that I am ready to bake off a couple when the winds change. Nutty and sandy, with a touch of sea salt on top, these cookies bring to mind summer days collecting sand dollars, with your toes in the wet sand and the harsh coastal wind in your face.

I made these shortbread cookies for this month’s Sugar High Friday, hosted by Elissa at 17 and Baking. Elissa picked browned butter or beurre noisette as the theme of the month, you can see all the details on her blog. Sugar High Fridays were started by Jennifer at The Domestic Goddess. This is the first time that I am partaking in the group challenge.

Salted Browned Butter Shortbread
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook via Bake List and Kitchen Meditation

1/2 cup unsalted butter, browned and cooled to room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 generous pinch kosher salt
Fleur de sel for topping

Cream the butters and sugar together. Then add the vanilla, and slowly add the flour and kosher salt. Shape the dough into a log and refrigerate for at least half an hour. Preheat oven to 350F. Cut slices of the log approximately 1/4 inch thick and put cookies onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the edges are browned. After removing from the oven sprinkle each of the cookies with a touch of fleur de sel.

Seriously vanishing oatmeal cookies

August 14, 2010 § 1 Comment

I tend to hoard a lot of things — I collect little notebooks and spend about a week writing in each one, I have enough dresses to never repeat one on a night out for a year, and I buy all sorts of new ingredients, only to make one dessert with each one and then feel lost as to what to do with the remainders. I buy fresh lavender, rose water, seven different types of dark chocolate (semisweet, orange-scented, 75%, 85%, unsweetened, you get the picture) and all kinds of different nuts and dried fruits without usually a very coherent idea of what to do with them. Thus, I often end up with random quantities of ingredients, so that there is always a handful or two leftover after I have made whatever I fancied making that day.

So this week it came time to start thinking about packing to go home to San Francisco. I encountered piles of clothes I didn’t remember I had, multiple newly-acquired cake and tart pans that I have no idea where to pack, and a very random assortment of dry ingredients in the pantry that I knew none of the boys who usually live in this house will ever use. I had half a bag of large, unsweetened coconut shavings that I used to decorate this cake. I had half a bag of mini chocolate chips, which I had originally bought to replicate the chocolate chip scones Cloister Inn serves at breakfast. This has never happened but somehow the chocolate chips started to disappear on their own anyway. I have a handful of walnuts and a cup or two of sliced almonds, none of which I remember buying. But here all these things are in the kitchen and I’m leaving for good in a week and not taking them with me.

Luckily, the Quaker oatmeal cookie recipe came to rescue of these ingredients and supplied my house with cookies for at least 24 hours. I love oats, any kind of oats. Oatmeal in the morning (and maybe for lunch too), oatmeal on the top of fruit crisps, oats in granola and granola bars (more on this soon) and of course, the obligatory oatmeal cookie. My grandma makes fantastic oatmeal cookies, but until I finally decide to buy margarine, mine never turn out quite like hers.

These cookies were chewy with a crisp outside, packed full of coconut, chocolate and nuts. Yummy.

Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies
From Quaker Oats

½ cup (1 stick) plus 6 tablespoons butter, softened
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt (optional)
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup raisins (or nuts, coconut, chocolate chips etc. I probably doubled or tripled the amount of add-ins).

Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed of electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; mix well. Add oats and coconut, nuts and chocolate chips; mix well.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Store tightly covered.

My week of ginger cookies

July 27, 2010 § 1 Comment

You know how some kinds of cookies are just seasonal? Like you are only supposed to make gingerbread around Christmastime, when it’s cold out and you are huddled by the fireplace to keep warm. Well I don’t believe in seasonal. I would like to dress like it is summer every day of the winter. And make gingerbread every day of the summer.

Ginger cookies might well be my favorite kind of cookies, as well as a favorite of my brother’s. The smell of molasses and ginger in the kitchen is, for me, the ultimate comfort. I used to spend Saturday mornings in 9th grade baking gingerbread men before I even knew I liked the taste of gingerbread; I just knew they were supposed to epitomize Christmas, and Christmastime always brings you back home, where you belong. I used to argue with my brother over which cookie cutters to use — whether it was a bells and stars day (me) or an elephant day (the brother). I would liberally drizzle each cookie with icing, leaving extra icing in the cracks between the leaves of the table sticky. This took forever to clean up, not that I was often the one to do the cleaning.

But when we think about gingerbread men, we often overlook the other ginger cookie. These ginger molasses cookies, with the crackly sugarcoated outside and the chewy center, are what I turn to when I’m stressed out, upset, otherwise feeling under the weather. After several days of buying huge ginger cookies from the Firehook Bakery after work, I finally decided it was about time to start baking again.

I’m afraid I don’t actually have a recipe for these. You see, I started off with this recipe for Molasses Cookies from SammyW and distractedly added almost twice the amount of molasses necessary. So I upped the flour, spices and baking soda until the cookie dough felt and tasted right. While I ended up making a TON of cookies, they are all gone today; yet somehow, even without another cookie to look forward to, the week is looking up again.

Read your mind: Hazelnut thumbprint cookies

June 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

You know that feeling when there is one thing that is bothering you and no matter what you do and how much is going on in your life, it is always on the forefront of your mind? Well that is me today. It’s like I’m incapable of thinking about anything else. Luckily, I have a batch of cookies ready. Cookies that could not be further from my mind right now but are nonetheless good and quite addicting. I’m sorry I can’t do them justice right now, you’re just going to have to trust me that they’re good. I tried both the chocolate and jam varieties and liked the jam-filled thumbprints best.

Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen, Adapted from Gourmet

1 almost-full cup (4 ounces) hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and cooled
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate chips or jam for the filling

Pulse hazelnuts, sugar, flour, and salt in a food processor until finely ground. (Be careful not to grind to a paste.) Transfer to a bowl and stir in butter, egg, and extract until combined well. Chill dough, covered, until firm, about 30 minutes.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Drop level tablespoons of dough 1 inch apart onto 2 ungreased baking sheets (though I lined mine with parchment paper, for an easier lazier clean-up). Roll dough into balls, then chill until slightly firm, about 10 minutes.

Press one piece of chocolate firmly into the top of each ball of cookie dough and bake, 1 sheet at a time, until tops are pale golden and undersides are golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Be careful not to overbake. Transfer cookies to a rack and cool completely.

To fill with jam instead: After balls of cookie dough have been chilled for an additional 10 minutes, make a 1/2-inch-wide (1/3-inch-deep) indentation in center of each ball using your thumb, index finger, or the rounded end of a wooden spoon. Fill each indentation with 1/4 teaspoon jam.

Photo by Yuna Sakuma

Life loves: Brown butter brown sugar shorties

May 31, 2010 § 1 Comment

This morning I went for a run in Golden Gate Park. My plan was to follow John F. Kennedy Drive all the way down to Ocean Beach, run along the sand dunes and then make my way back. Unfortunately, I only got about 15 minutes along JFK before I completely wiped out on the gravel trail. The rest of the morning was spent picking gravel out of my hands. I know you really wanted to hear that right before I tell you about everything I’ve been baking.

Fortunately, I got patched up enough in time for a family brunch by the Bay at the Epic Roasthouse. Brunch is probably my favorite meal of the day. The waiter, who was a little standoffish, brought out a selection of cheese-chive popovers, cornbread in the shape of madeleines and white crusty bread with a pad of salty butter. I ordered an asparagus omelet, while my mother ordered the crab cake benedict and my brother and father, typical picky non-brunch eaters, ordered sides of steak fries, onion rings and scalloped potatoes. Tall glasses of champagne and lavender lemonade completed my love for brunch, and my father’s disdain for brunch. Apparently, it’s strange to drink champagne at 11:30 a.m. Who knew?

Speaking of other things I really love. Shortbread cookies. Brown butter. Brown sugar. And those three things altogether? Heaven. We really didn’t need any more cookies in the house, but after reading the heated comments on this recipe, I decided I had to give it a shot for myself. I mean, who doesn’t like a challenge? Deb at Smitten Kitchen swears that every time she has made these brown butter brown sugar shorties, they have come out heavenly. About half of the commentators agree. The other half complain about sandy, crumbly cookies that don’t hold their shape or, alternatively, lacy flat cookies that are more like florentines than shortbread. There’s some debate about how long to let the butter re-harden for and how long to chill the finished dough but not many conclusive answers either way about why people seem to be having different results. Luckily for the people in my house, these cookies came out perfectly for me. Unluckily, they were so good there were only three left by the end of the day. These cookies are wonderfully sandy and simultaneously salty and sweet. Hey that’s an alliteration.

Brown Butter Brown Sugar Shorties
Adapted by Smitten Kitchen from Gourmet

Makes about 32 cookies

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (preferably dark)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt (flaky salt would be great in these)
Demerara sugar (Sugar in the Raw) or sanding sugar for rolling (optional, I didn’t use it)

Cut butter into four or five pieces and cook butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it has a nutty fragrance and flecks on bottom of pan turn a light brown, anywhere from 4 to 7 minutes. It helps to frequently scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan in the last couple minutes to ensure even browning. Transfer butter to a bowl and chill until just firm, about 1 hour.

Beat together butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Beat in vanilla, then mix in flour and salt at low speed until just combined. Transfer dough to a sheet of wax paper or parchment and form into a 12-inch log, 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Chill, wrapped in wax paper, until firm, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Unwrap dough and roll it in coarse sugar, if using, and press the granules in with the paper you’d be using to wrap it. Slice dough into 1/4-inch-thick rounds, arranging 1 1/2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake until surface is dry and edges are slightly darker, 10 to 12 minutes. Let sit on sheet for a minute before transferring to a rack to cool. (Cookies will quite fragile at first, but will firm up as they cool.)

Dough keeps, chilled, up to 1 week, or in the freezer,

Up High on a Hill: White chocolate cashew cookies

May 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

Right as I only have six days left at home, I am finally getting back into embracing this city. It started standing on top of my hill this morning on the way back from Cortland Avenue. From there, you can see the entire city, the downtown skyscrapers, the Bay, the bridges and you look out across the sky and find yourself eye to eye with the Twin Peaks Towers. It was a surprisingly clear day, not foggy at all, in sharp contrast to yesterday’s downpour, and I marveled at how quickly this city turns around. Not quite like New York City with the hustle and bustle of people in a mad dash (or frantic scramble) to get their lives together, but full of floaty changes like a quick switch in direction of winds in the outer ocean. Then I started out on a run, crossing Mission Street, with its liquor stores and the Indian pizza parlor I’ve been dying to try, building up the tempo down Church through Noe Valley before hitting the hills by Dolores Park. I ran down Market towards Twin Peaks, passing a street closed down and now brimming with stands of fresh produce, the Baghdad Café where we used to eat jam filled donuts late at night, and Hot Cookie, where you can order a chocolate covered macaroon in the shape of a penis, or a vagina, whatever suits your preference.

Most of my love for this city can be summed up by my running and my eating. The paths I run by day are the paths I eat by night. Whether it’s a slice of tiramisu at the Italian place on the corner of Dolores and 30th with an old friend and a long chat with the owner, a delightful old man with a sweet Italian accent whose business has seen hard times, or a breath of fresh air by the ocean at the base of the Cliffhouse hill, I live and inhale this city every time I come back. In my break from running, I had almost forgotten that. I’m so happy it is not too late to change that. Next up, a taste of garlic ice cream and a class on mixing spices because nothing is more San Franciscan than pushing the edge of your taste buds. And then there’s a return to the old favorites, the crab cake sandwiches at the Ferry Building farmers’ market and picnics in the park with old friends.

And then there’s the combination of three deliciously sweet and rich ingredients to make these cookies that I just have to tell you about. Browned butter, buttery cashews and innocently sweet white chocolate all melted into one golden cookie. Now that tastes like home.

I found these cookies on For the Love of Cooking, who in turn got them from The Crepes of Wrath. Instead of just melting the butter, I browned it, which gives it a wonderful nutty aroma and really deepens the taste. For a full tutorial of how to brown butter, see here. I made half the batch with cashews, because they may well be my favorite kind of nut, and half with macadamia nuts, as is more standard. For probably the first time in my life, I measured out the nuts and chocolate chips as per the recipe, but I think I’m going to go back to just eyeballing it because these cookies were so packed with add-ins that it was hard to form them into balls. They were also so packed that I had to flatten the spoonfuls before putting them in the oven in order for the cookies to spread. That said, I don’t hear anyone complaining.

White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies
For the Love of Cooking, The Crepes of Wrath

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (chopped, if needed) macadamia nuts
2 cups white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl then set aside. Beat together the melted butter, brown sugar, white sugar, egg, egg yolk and vanilla with a mixer until creamy.

Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture until just mixed. Stir in the macadamia nuts and white chocolate chips by hand. Drop by the spoonful onto a greased or lined baking sheet.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the edges look golden brown. Cool on the baking sheet for at least 4-5 minutes (so cookies can set) before moving to a rack.

My new favorite chocolate chip cookie

May 24, 2010 § 2 Comments

I’ve always shied away from making chocolate chip cookies. I don’t really know why as they are such a standard in America. But it could be because they are such a landmark cookie, so simply yet so difficult to get absolutely perfect. It starts with people having different ideas of what a perfect chocolate chip cookie is, some like them thick and dense, or chewy with crisp edges and a few even prefer a cakey cookie. Some like dark chocolate and some like milk chocolate. Nuts or no nuts. Chips or chunks. The variations on this standard cookie go on and on, and I’ve never found a recipe I thought was absolutely perfect.

Actually that’s not true. There is one recipe, the Stars Desserts chocolate chip cookie, that I think is absolutely perfect; it produces a light buttery cookie with a slight, soft chew in the middle and caramel note — from a full tablespoon vanilla — to accompany the chocolate chips. When my mom makes them that is. I’ve tried making them a couple times and have never achieved perfection, but my mom never failed to pull beautiful cookies out of the oven right as I was rushing out the door to high school. That is one of the many things I miss about living at home, I mean who wouldn’t kill for freshly baked cookies on your way to your 11 a.m. class?

But I’m not really here to complain about my lack of chocolate chip cookie making skills. In fact, I think I’ve finally found my match. And it comes in the form of whole wheat flour and semi sweet chocolate chunks, all courtesy of Kim of Good to the Grain. These cookies seriously look exactly like the cookies photographed in the book, with lots of melted chocolate and a crackly top. Make them big, like coffee shop sized. I swear they’re better that way.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Kim Boyce, Good to the Grain

Dry mix:
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

Wet mix:
8 ounces (2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, sifting and then pouring any bits back into the bowl. Cream the butter and sugars in a bowl until just blended. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is combined. Add the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and blend until the flour is barely combined. Add the chocolate to the batter all at once. Scoop mounds of dough about 3 tablespoons onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, leaving about 3 inches between them. Bake the cookies for 16 to 20 minutes or until the cookies are evenly dark brown (I took some out when they were golden). Transfer the cookies, still on the parchment, to the counter to cool.

And eat, because whole wheat flour is good for you right?

A cookie with your coffee: Chocolate-sheathed almond biscotti

May 23, 2010 § 3 Comments

There are some things you just never really think of making yourself. For me, biscotti are one of them. I never, ever order biscotti in a café, or pick one out at a dessert table. The only time I ever really eat biscotti is when it comes as an accompaniment to the coffee I ordered after dinner. And then, I absolutely refuse to dunk the biscotti into the coffee — I mean, I can’t think of any other situation where it’s socially acceptable to eat a soggy cookie. But after reading several accounts of biscotti making that ended an ambivalence towards the cookie, I decided to give it a shot. I chose a recipe for Chocolate-sheathed almond biscotti out of my trusted Christmas cookie book, the same one that brought you those sugar cookies way back when. The chocolate coating — I left out the shortening because I just don’t like cooking with it — makes these totally more than edible without the cup of coffee. They are good just plain too, nicely spiced with cinnamon with a good crunch from the almonds. Homemade biscotti are softer than most biscotti you find in stores, which tend to be rock hard. To get the desired texture, you cook them twice (hence the name, biscotti), first as a big log and then as sliced cookies.

I’m not entirely convinced that biscotti are the best things ever but they were a good treat to bring up to my grandparents this week. We enjoyed more than a couple with our afternoon tea.

Chocolate-sheathed Almond Biscotti
The Christmas Cookie Book
Lou Seibert Pappas

3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/2 cup toasted raw almonds, chopping into halves or thirds

Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Grease and flour a baking sheet.
Beat together the eggs and the vanilla and almond extracts in a small bowl until blended. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and mix until blended. Stir in the nuts.
Divide the dough in half. One at a time, place the 2 dough portions on the prepared baking sheet and form each into a log about ½ inch high, 1 ½ inches wide and 14 inches long. Space the logs at least 2 inches apart.
Bake the logs for 25 minutes, or until set and golden brown. Transfer to a rack and let cool on the baking sheet for 6 to 8 minutes. Reduce the over temperature to 300ºF. Transfer the logs to a cutting board. Using a serrate knife, slice at a 45-degree angle about 3/8 inch thick. Lay the slices flat on the baking sheet and return to the over for 15 minutes longer, turning them once, to dry slightly. Transfer to racks to cool.

The original glaze has you combining 6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate and ½ teaspoon vegetable shortening in a double boiler. I just melted some dark Dove chocolates in the microwave and it worked great!

Bring along some trail mix: Chockablock cookies

May 21, 2010 § 4 Comments

I really like Seattle, though I have a very limited view of the city from my seat in the airport. But I know the Seattle Airport has free Wi-Fi and that’s enough to make me love a city. I mean, I’m blogging from the airport.

But I didn’t make these cookies in the airport, though they are high-flying travelers themselves. These cookies are currently on their way in a US Postal box to Princeton, more specifically to one of my best friend’s mailboxes. She is probably one of the most indecisive people I’ve ever met, so it is fitting that these are her cookies, because they are the ultimate cookies of the indecisive. The recipe gives liberty to decide what kind of nuts, dried fruit and chocolate to use and, well, my indecisiveness kind of ran away with it. I used peanuts, dried cranberries, Reese’s Pieces and both dark and milk chocolate chunks, all wrapped up in a molassesy, oaty, coconutty dough. Technically, it’s a Chockablock cookie but it sounds more like crazy intense trail mix to me.

These are different than a standard everything (or compost) cookie because of the addition of molasses. There is quite a bit in there, giving the cookie a really interesting new dimension that is, at first, quite surprising. Dorie and Dorie’s Tuesday Bakers all seem to think this is a cookie everyone will like but my brother was definitely making faces as the dough came together. I think maybe a lighter molasses might be better for this recipe although I was careful not to use blackstrap. I’m a big molasses person (my favorite cookies are gingerbread and soft, chewy molasses cookies) but it does seem a bit strong and out of place here. But my Gran does love them as is, so I guess it’s all up to you.

Chockablock Cookies

Dorie Greenspan, from Baking From My Home to Yours

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup solid vegetable shortening (I substituted butter)
½ cup sugar
½ cup molasses (not blackstrap)
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans or peanuts are all good)
1 cup coarsely chopped dried fruit (such as apricots, prunes, or figs) or 1 cup of moist, plump raisins (dark or golden)
12 ounces of bittersweet chocolate chopped, or 2 cups store-bought chocolate chips
½ cup sweetened shredded coconut (I used unsweetened because that is what I had on hand)

Position the racks to divide the oven in thirds and preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and shortening together at medium speed until very smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another two minutes. Pour in the molasses and beat for 1 minute more. Add the eggs one at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Reduce mixer speed to low and mix in the oats, then add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear into the dough. Toss in the nuts, fruit, chocolate chips and coconut and, turn the mixer on and off quickly a few times to incorporate. Alternatively, you can stir them into the dough with a sturdy wooden spatula. (The dough can be wrapped well and chilled for up to two days. If you’d like, you can measure out the dough onto a baking sheet, freeze until firm, then put mounds of dough in a bag and freeze for up to two months; bake directly out of the freezer, adding a few minutes to the baking time.)
Place the 2-tablespoon mounds of dough on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between the mounds. (I think my cookies were a bit smaller which worked out just fine)
Bake for 15 – 18 minutes, rotating pans from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point, until the cookies are golden and just about set. Remove the baking sheets to cooling racks and let the cookies rest on the sheets for about 5 minutes before transferring them to racks to cool to room temperature.

My cookies definitely weren’t golden, which leads me to believe I was using the wrong kind of molasses.

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