Sunday, March 20, 2011

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

This cookie recipe is like an old, trusted friend. I have been making these cookies since I was 12 years old...making slight changes, until I achieved oatmeal chocolate chip perfection. These cookies are cozy and simple...they communicate 'home' with a single bite. They are also the most requested thing I make. My boyfriend jokes that these cookies are "one of the things I bring to the table" in our relationship. I frequently bake batches of these to pack up and give away, but always eat a few right when they come out of the oven with a big glass of milk.

Recipe: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

-2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature             
-1/2 c sugar                                                    
-1 c brown sugar, firmly packed                          
-2 eggs                                                          
-2 tsp vanilla extract   
-1 1/2 c all-purpose flour 
-1 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp salt
-2 tsp ground cinnamon
-3 c old-fashioned rolled oats
-1 12oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips    

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Using the paddle attachment of an electric stand mixer, vigorously beat butter and sugar together.
3. Add eggs and vanilla, mix to incorporate.
4. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
5. Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients, scraping down bowl to ensure everything is incorporated.
6. Using the lowest mixing speed, add in oats and package of chocolate chips.
7. Using a medium-size cookie scoop ( 1 3/4 inch diameter), scoop dough balls onto cookie sheet leaving a 1-inch space in between each cookie.
8. Bake until cookies have slight golden brown edge. Remove baking sheets from oven.
9. Allow cookies to set up on the cookie sheet.
10. Finish cooling on kitchen towel.
11. Enjoy!

Pictures and Tips:
Step 2. Always bake with unsalted butter. This allows you to have complete control over the amount of salt you are adding to a recipe. After about 30 seconds, I turn my mixer speed up to high to really beat the butter and sugar together. When the sugar crystals penetrate the butter, small air pockets are created. These pockets give the cookies a light and airy texture.

Here is what the dough looks like after I have beat the butter and sugar together.

Step 3.  Use good quality vanilla extract. If you are going to pick a baking ingredient to spend extra money on...this should be it. Vanilla adds the background notes that tie a recipe together. When I think of comfort and coziness in a recipe...I think about vanilla. Don't use imitation, it really does make a difference.

Step 4. As I noted in my last post, I always sift the dry ingredients in a baking recipe. It lightens everything up.

Step 5. Incorporate the wet and dry ingredients, make sure to scrape down your bowl. Here is what my dough looks like after the wet and dry have been incorporated. Pictured here is my favorite spatula...can you guess why?

Step 6. Add in the oats and chocolate chips. A whole package of chocolate chips may seem like a lot, but this dough can handle it...and who doesn't love a chocolate chip in every bite?

Here is a picture of what the dough looks like after the addition of the oats and chocolate chips.

Step 7. Using a cookie scoop, place dough balls onto baking sheet. Give the cookies an inch of space, they will spread out a bit when they bake. Cookie scoops are one of my favorite things...they ensure that every cookie is of uniform size, so every cookie gets baked evenly. They also make the process of getting the dough from the bowl to the baking sheet incredibly efficient.

Steps 8 and 9. This is where finesse comes into the process of baking. You want to underbake these cookies in the oven...pull them as soon as they have a light golden brown edge. Leave the cookies on the sheet and let them set up, the residual heat from the baking sheet will continue to bake the cookies. The cookies are ready to be moved when you can twist them on the sheet and they maintain their shape.

I love soft, moist cookies. I follow this method in almost every cookie recipe I make. Remember, cookies (or any baked good) will continue to bake even after you remove them from the if you wait until they are brown in the oven, you have waited too long.

Step 10. Once the cookies are ready to move, allow them to finish cooling on a kitchen towel. This recipe will yield approximately 36 cookies.. depending on how much dough you sneak while making them :)

Step 11. Enjoy! My favorite way is to eat them fresh out of the oven with a big glass of milk. Pictured here is my Twin Cities Marathon cup...I am currently training for my second marathon. I will be running this one with my dad, to celebrate his 50th birthday. The great thing about running...the more miles you run, the more cookies you can eat. :)

 If you have a recipe that means 'home' to you, I would love to hear about it.

Thanks for visiting.

-The Delicious Dabbler

Sunday, March 13, 2011

First Dabble: Irish Soda Bread

Irish Soda Bread

I thought this recipe a fitting way to start my foray into the baking blogosphere. My family is proudly Irish, and this is a recipe that has been handed down to me from my mom. I have tested many soda breads, including a few during my study abroad in the Emerald Isle, but this remains my favorite. Pair a slice of this bread with a little Irish butter and a cup of black tea and you will find yourself in a moment of complete contentment. Every year around St. Patty's Day, I make a bunch of loaves of this bread to give away as gifts, and of course to enjoy myself. 

Deliciousness aside, this recipe represents a lot of what baking means to me. I got started baking because of my grandma...a wonderful baker who got me into the kitchen at a very young age. Family recipes and cooking traditions are a big part of my life, and this recipe is no different. Food is a tool of communication and I often use it express how I feel. I really enjoy giving this bread away and spreading a little love in the process. 

So, enjoy this recipe and happy St. Patrick's Day. As a friend of my brother's put it..."When you are sliding down the banister of life, may the splinters point in your favor."♣

Recipe: Irish Soda Bread

-5 c all-purpose flour                         
-2 tsp baking powder                         
-1 1/2 tsp salt                                  
-1 tsp baking soda                           
-3/4 cup sugar
-1 1/2 sticks cold, unsalted butter
-2 1/2 c soaked raisins
-2 1/2 c buttermilk
-1 egg

1. Preheat oven to 350°F
2. Put raisins in medium sized bowl and cover with hot water. Let sit.
3. Sift together dry ingredients. Stir in sugar.
4. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into dry ingredients until texture resembles sand. 
5. Strain raisins and stir into dry ingredients to coat each with flour/butter mixture.
6. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk and egg. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir together using a spoon until incorporated.
7. Separate dough into two standard loaf pans that have been buttered slightly.
8. Bake at 350°F for approximately 1 hour, or until bread has golden brown crust on top.
9. Enjoy!

Pictures and Tips:

Step 2. Soaking the raisins in hot water helps plump them up and make them tender. If you do this right after you preheat your oven, by the time you need to put them in the dough they will be good to go.

Step 3. I sift the dry ingredients in any baking recipe. I don't have a sifter, so I have always used this hand works great. Sifting lightens up the dry ingredients and also helps evenly incorporate everything, like the baking soda/powder and salt. If you haven't tried it before, give it a  might notice a difference in the texture of your baked goods.

Step 4. Cut the sticks of cold butter into a few pieces to help get the process going. The idea here is to spread all of that buttery goodness to every fleck of flour. This part of the process can sometimes be the most difficult in baking recipes. For example in pie crusts, when you are incorporating water into your dry ingredients...if you overdo it, you will have tough crust. However, here, we haven't added any wet ingredients, so this part isn't too complicated. Here is a picture of what the texture should look like:

The texture almost resembles sand. The butter is evenly incorporated into all of the dry ingredients.

Steps 5 & 6. After straining the liquid off the raisins, stir them into the dry ingredients. Coating the raisins in the flour prevents them from falling to the bottom of the bread when you are baking it. This will ensure that you have raisins in every bite. After whisking them together in a separate bowl, add the wet ingredients.

Then, use a spoon to incorporate all the ingredients together. I usually use a wooden spoon. This is a dense batter, and you'll get a mini arm workout stirring it up.

Step 7. Separate dough into two standard loaf pans that have been lightly buttered. If you forget to butter the pans, don't worry. This recipe has a lot of butter and I never have a problem getting the bread to come out of the pan. Traditionally, Irish Soda Bread comes in a round shape. However, I like the rectangular is easy to cut and is a pan that most people have in their kitchens. If you want to experiment with other shapes, go for it!

Step 8. Bake until the bread has a golden brown crust, usually an hour or so. I let the bread cool in the pan for a little while, then run a butter knife around the edges and let it finish cooling on a rack. 

Step 9. Enjoy! My favorite way is to spread a little butter on a slice and make a cup of black tea. Pictured here is a mug purchased in Ireland, where I studied at Trinity College in Dublin. This recipe has been a part of many fond memories, and I hope you can use it to create some of your own.

Thanks for visiting, 

-The Delicious Dabbler.