Spiced Oat Cookies with Chocolate and Fruit

Cookies are the best. They're always a hit, they're easy to make, the options are endless, and did I mention, they're delicious! I'm always on the lookout for a new cookie to try even though I have plenty of good recipes in the archives. You never know when you'll stumble upon the best recipe ever. Recently I came across this recipe for Cardamom-Spice Oat Cookies from King Arthur Flour and they looked just different enough and tasty enough to try. 

Don't ask me how, but I managed to completely forget to add the cardamom to the cardamom-spice cookies so they became just plain "spiced" cookies, but that didn't seem to matter too much in the end. The final cookie was fantastic! Visually beautiful with a wonderful texture, slightly crisp on the edges yet nice and chewy in the center. I've had some trouble with oatmeal cookies in the past always being too soft for my liking but these were perfect. They baked up well, spread perfectly, not too flat, not too round, a smashing success. 

When I started to make these cookies I realized that my brown sugar was as hard as a rock and I didn't feel like dealing with trying to soften it up, so I just replaced it with white sugar and it was fine. I threw in some chocolate and dried fruit, prunes were what I had so in they went! Any dried fruit would do, I'm partial to chocolate cherry myself, but really anything will work. 

I halved the original recipe and didn't want to halve an egg so I just skipped it and added a little 1/2 and 1/2 for fat and liquid. Necessary? Probably not, but they turned out great, so whatever! I ended up getting 8 nice sized cookies out of this recipe, each cookie was about 50-55 grams of dough. I thought they were a perfect size in the end, not too big and not too small. All around delicious!

 
 

Spiced Oat Cookies with Chocolate and Fruit
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Ingredients

  • 5/8 cup (75 grams) all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (60 grams) old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 cup (70 grams) butter
  • 1/3 cup (70 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (20 grams) maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon (15 grams) half and half
  • 1/4 cup (28 grams) chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup (28 grams) prunes, chopped into bite-sized pieces

Directions
Line a baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and syrup together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the vanilla and half and half and beat at medium speed until smooth. Scrape the bowl once again.

Add the dry mixture and mix at low speed until just combined. Scrape the bowl and mix once more for 30 seconds. Add the chocolate and fruit and mix until well blended.

Place the dough and refrigerate at least a couple of hours, or overnight. When ready to bake, scoop out pin pong-sized balls of dough (I did 50 grams of dough each), and place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Place in a preheated 350°F oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, until just golden at the edges and have set in the center. Remove from the oven and cool on the pan for 5-10 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. 

Yields: approximately 8 large cookies
Nutrition: approximately 180 calories per cookie

Rustic Sourdough Bread

For the last several years I've been dreaming of owning and caring for my very own sourdough starter. I knew they were possible to buy, but I just never went out and bought one. A couple of months ago I decided that I was going to do it. So I contacted one of my favorite local bakeries (which sells the most wonderful San Francisco sourdough) if they were willing to sell me some of their starter. And what do you know, they were! So I've had the starter for a while now, not quite sure what to do with it, hoping I would be able to keep it alive. So far so good. Hopefully it's not going to suddenly die on me. I threw together this bread on a whim last week, and it turned out quite well, I was pleased. For my first attempt at homemade sourdough I was happy. I plan on working with it more in the future to see what I will be able to make. With this as a start, I am very hopeful about the future!

Rustic Sourdough Bread

From 

King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sourdough starter
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 5 cups All-Purpose Flour

Directions

Combine all of the ingredients, kneading to form a smooth dough. Allow the dough to rise, in a covered bowl, until it's doubled in size, about 90 minutes.

Gently divide the dough in half; it'll deflate somewhat.

Gently shape the dough into two oval loaves; or, for longer loaves, two 10" to 11" logs. Place the loaves on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise until very puffy, about 1 hour. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Spray the loaves with lukewarm water.

Make two fairly deep diagonal slashes in each; a serrated bread knife, wielded firmly, works well here.

Bake the bread for 25 to 30 minutes, until it's a very deep golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and cool on a rack.

Almond Peach Tartlets

After making my Tomato Tart last week I had a good chunk of tart dough leftover. Not wanting to waste any of this buttery goodness I pressed the pieces I had left into a few mini tart pans and threw them in the freezer. This week I had a few peaches sitting on the counter just crying out to be used. What to do? Then, what do you know, the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion magazine showed up in the mail with a recipe for an almond tart. Out of all of this inspiration these peach tartlets appeared. It was the perfect solution to a very wonderful problem!

I took the recipe for the almond tarts and added some delicious peaches. I love the combination of almond and peach so I knew this was going to be good. I spread the peaches on the chilled crust and then topped with the filling. It worked out quite well, but when I try it again I would try to remember to save a few peach slices to lay on top of the filling too. This would make the finished product look even better I think. But they were still delicious as they were. This is a great versatile tart that I can think will be the perfect starting point for many other delicious tarts this summer!

Almond Peach Tartlets

Adapted From 

King Arthur Flour

Ingredients

Filling

  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) soft butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Flour
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups almond flour or finely ground sliced or slivered almonds
  • 3-4 peaches, cut into slices

Glaze

  • 1 cup glazing sugar or confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk

Directions

You'll need to start with 6 mini tart pans filled with your favorite tart/pie dough. I used some leftover  Pate brisee, but whatever you like will work. (Here's the easy press in press in crust that King Arthur Flour suggests)

To make the filling: Beat together the butter, salt, sugar, flour, and extracts. Beat in the eggs, then add the almond flour, stirring just to combine.

Lay sliced peaches onto the well chilled crust. Spread the filling over the peaches.

Bake the tarts for 18 to 24 minutes, until their tops are lightly browned. Remove from the oven, and cool in the pans.

To make the glaze: Stir together the sugar and milk until smooth.

Spread the glaze over the cooled tarts. Top with some whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream if desired.

Yield: 6 mini tarts.

Soft Wrap Bread

Sandwiches are near the top of my list of favorite things to eat. I could eat one at every meal and never get tired of them because the possibilities are endless. There are so many different kinds of breads, meats, cheeses, spreads, toppings etc., you never have to eat the same sandwich twice! I love a sandwich built with some freshly baked bread as the base, but sometimes all I want is a thin, soft sheet of flatbread to roll up my sandwich within, that is where this wrap bread comes in.

Over the years I've used a lot of flour tortillas to make wraps for lunch, and although they are okay, they have never been exactly what I wanted. They are usually kind of dry and stale and just don't have that much flavor. I tried making my own once, but the recipe I used just didn't impress me. When I found this recipe though, I was hopeful that it was what I was looking for. Boy was it ever. These wrap breads are the most delicious thing since, well, sliced bread! They are soft, tender and absolutely delicious. I have yet to be disappointed when these wonderful wraps are the base for my sandwich.

The recipe for this soft wrap bread is a little odd, it starts with pouring boiling water over top of flour and letting it sit for about 30 minutes. King Arthur Flour says that this process basically "cooks" the starch in the flour, making the flatbread easy to roll out, and removes any "starchy" taste in the finished bread. Whatever it is doing chemically, I like it. The bread is wonderful to roll out and the flavor in the finished product is super yummy.

After this initial starch cooking, the dough is put together like most breads I've made. However, the dough you are left with after the kneading is finished is very odd. The texture is very different from most doughs. It may not seem quite right, I was kind of doubtful the first time I made it, but have no fear, it will all work out in the end. After letting the dough sit for an hour (it didn't really rise much for me), all that is left is to cut it up, roll it out, and dry fry it in a skillet. The recipe tells you to roll out each piece of dough into a 7-8 inch circle, but I decided I wanted mine a little bigger and thinner (more like a tortilla) and didn't seem to have any problem with the finished product.

Frying up each piece of dough can take a little bit of time, but trust me, it is so worth it. This wrap bread is on its way to becoming a staple in my house. I don't think I'll ever buy a tortilla again!

 Shaped dough, read to fry

 Make sure you have lots of flour

 Start rolling

 Keep going!

 Perfect, ready to cook

 Into the fairly hot pan

 When it starts to brown, flip it over

 Stack them up as you go

(I made a double batch this time)

Fill them up and dinner is served!

Soft Wrap Bread
Adapted From King Arthur Flour
Ingredients

  • 3 1/4-3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups boiling water
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons (7/8 ounce) vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast*

*This recipe works best with instant yeast because it dissolves during the kneading process, so you don't have to knead liquid into the dough. If you really prefer to use active dry yeast, use only 1 cup boiling water for the initial dough, dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup warm water, and add this mixture to the dough along with the remaining flour mixture. It'll be somewhat "slippery" at first, but will knead in and eventually become smooth.

Directions
Making the Dough: Place 2 cups of the flour into a bowl or the bucket of a bread machine. Pour the boiling water over the flour, and stir till smooth. Cover the bowl or bucket and set the mixture aside for 30 minutes.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining flour with the salt, oil and yeast. Add this to the cooled flour/water mixture, stir, then knead for several minutes (by hand, mixer or bread machine) to form a soft dough. The dough should form a ball, but will remain somewhat sticky. Add additional flour only if necessary; if kneading by hand, keep your hands and work surface lightly oiled. Let the dough rise, covered, for 1 hour.

Shaping: Divide the dough into 8 or 10 pieces, cover, and let rest for 15 to 30 minutes. Roll each piece into a 7- to 8-inch circle, and dry-fry them (fry without oil) over medium heat for about 1 minute per side, until they're puffed and flecked with brown spots. Adjust the heat if they seem to be cooking either too quickly, or too slowly; cooking too quickly means they may be raw in the center, while too slowly will dry them out. Transfer the cooked breads to a wire rack, stacking them to keep them soft. Serve immediately, or cool slightly before storing in a plastic bag. Yield: 8 breads.

Soft Garlic Knots

So, I love bread and I love garlic so when these cute little rolls started showing up all over the internet, I knew I would have to try them very soon. Soft, fluffy bread covered in butter, garlic and cheese, it doesn't get much better than this. There are quite a few versions of this recipe floating around, I picked this one because it came from the King Arthur Flour website, a source that I have come to trust.

These rolls did turn out soft and buttery, a perfect pairing for a plate of pasta, or a couple of slices of pizza (see the last photo!). However, I would have liked a bit more garlic flavor, I found it to be quite mild. I did use roasted garlic and not raw, perhaps roasting the garlic mellowed the flavor out too much. I guess I will just have to make these rolls again soon and compare; it's a tough job but somebody has to do it!

Cheesy, garlicky goodness

Dividing the dough into 16 pieces

Roll them out, nice and skinny

 So much potential...

 turned into a lovely knot

Let rise on baking sheet until nice and puffy

 Cover with garlic butter and cheese when 
done baking

Yum!

Serve alongside something equally 
as healthy, you mind as well go all the way!

Soft Garlic Knots
from King Arthur Flour
Ingredients

Dough
  • 3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) All-Purpose Flour 
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) Baker's Special Dry Milk 
  • 1/2 cup instant mashed potato flakes 
  • 1 tablespoon sugar 
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast 
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt 
  • 2 tablespoons (7/8 ounce) olive oil 
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) lukewarm water* 
*Add an additional 2 tablespoons water in the winter, or if you live in a very dry climate.

Garlic Butter
  • 2 to 6 cloves peeled, crushed garlic
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon Pizza Seasoning or Italian seasoning, optional
Directions
Whisk together flour, dry milk, potato flakes, sugar, salt and yeast. Stir in the olive oil and water and knead until a soft, smooth, elastic dough forms. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover it and allow it to rise at room temperature until doubled, about 1 hour.

Divide the dough into 16 pieces and roll each piece into a 11 inch rope. Tie each rope into a knot, tucking the loose ends into the center of each knot. Place the knots on a parchment covered baking sheet, cover and let rise for 45 minutes to an hour until very puffy looking.

Meanwhile, mix together melted butter and garlic, set aside.

Bake the knots for 15 to 18 minutes at 350 degrees. They should be set but only slightly browned. Brush each knot with the garlic butter and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning if desired. Knots taste best when eaten warm (of course!).

Chocolate Chip Scones

Breakfast is probably my favorite meal of the day. First of all because I am a morning person and like waking up to have a delicious breakfast. Secondly, because I love the fact that it's perfectly acceptable to eat dessert for breakfast. I'll admit that I do this more often than I probably should. Cinnamon Rolls, muffins, coffee cake, pancakes, waffles, you get the picture. There are days I eat a hearty, savory breakfast of eggs and toast or something similar, but given a choice, I'll pick the sweet every time.

Scones are one of these sweets that I absolutely love. They are quick and easy to make (no yeast here) and there are endless flavor possibilities. Of course, savory scones are possible, but I've never made these, mine always seem to come out filled with chocolate! I would someday like to try a cheese and onion scone, or one with bacon or sausage, but not today is not that day.

This scone recipe came from King Arthur Flour's website. It's just a basic scone recipe that you can customize how you see fit. They turned out perfectly with a good balance of slightly crispy crust and a chewy interior, while the chocolate chips added that kick of sweetness that I love. All you need to add is a glass of ice cold milk and you have a pretty perfect breakfast.

Golden deliciousness, studded with bittersweet chocolate


Throw all of the dry ingredients together, 
(make sure that butter's cold) 
Add the chocolate chips

Wet ingredients in a separate bowl

Combine

Mix into deliciousness

Shape into two cute rounds

Cut each round into six nice triangles

Bake!

Eat!!!

Note: I added a teaspoon or two of espresso powder, a delicious combination with the chocolate chips. It gives a slight mocha flavor to the scones, very tasty!


Chocolate Chip Scones
from King Arthur Flour
Ingredients

Dough
  • 2 3/4 cups All-Purpose Flour 
  • 1/3 cup sugar 
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder 
  • 1/2 cup cold butter 
  • 1 cup to 2 cups chopped dried fruit, chocolate or other flavored chips, nuts, or a combination, optional 
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or the flavoring of your choice 
  • 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup half and half or milk 
Topping
  • 2 teaspoons milk 
  • 2 tablespoons sparkling white sugar or cinnamon sugar, optional 
Directions
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Work in the butter just until the mixture is unevenly crumbly; it's OK for some larger chunks of butter to remain unincorporated. Stir in the fruit, chips and/or nuts, if you're using them.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla or other flavor, and half and half or milk.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until all is moistened and holds together.

Line a baking sheet with parchment; if you don't have parchment, just use it without greasing it. Sprinkle a bit of flour atop the parchment or pan.

Scrape the dough onto the floured parchment or pan, and divide it in half. Round each half into a 5" circle (if you haven't incorporated any add-ins); or a 6" circle (if you've added fruit, nuts, etc.). The circles should be about 3/4" thick.

Brush each circle with milk, and sprinkle with coarse white sparkling sugar or cinnamon sugar, if desired. Using a knife or bench knife that you've run under cold water, slice each circle into 6 wedges. Carefully pull the wedges away from the center to separate them just a bit; there should be about 1/2" space between them, at their outer edges.

For best texture and highest rise, place the pan of scones in the freezer for 30 minutes, uncovered. While the scones are chilling, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Bake the scones for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they're golden brown. When you pull one away from the others, it should look baked all the say through; the edge shouldn't look wet or unbaked.

Remove the scones from the oven, and cool briefly on the pan. Serve warm. When they're completely cool, wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to several days.
  

The Best Burger Buns and A Chicken Pesto Sandwich

I love hamburgers. In the summer I eat a lot of burgers, especially when tomatoes start ripening in the garden. A homemade hamburger with freshly ground beef, grilled to rare perfection and topped with a homegrown tomato is one of the best summer meals ever. What could possible make this delicious meal any better? Why, homemade hamburger buns of course!

Now I realize that it is not August, and tomatoes are not yet in season, however, that does not mean you can't make homemade buns and fill them with other delicious yummys (yummies?). So that's exactly what I did.

These buns were fabulous, and while I can't wait to sandwich a juicy, grilled hamburger between the two halves, they weren't too shabby surrounding marinated chicken breast with pesto and provolone. I may never go back to store bought buns again.


Golden and delicious, beautiful burger buns
A few steps in the process

Take a fresh bun...

add marinated, grilled chicken...

and a few tomato slices...
and some provolone (the cheese missed out on the photo op)

Put it all together and you have a delicious chicken pesto sandwich!

Not the greatest photo, but you get the idea, believe me, it was delicious

If you were wondering, I put mayo on the cut buns and grilled them, then I spread more mayo on the top of the bun, slathered pesto on top of the chicken, topped this with the provolone and placed all of the sandwiches in the oven for a few minutes to get nice and warm and let the cheese melt. When they came out, I put even a little more mayo (if you couldn't tell, I love mayo) on the top of the bun, topped the chicken with the tomato slices and sandwiched everything together.

I thought these sandwiches were delicious; the chicken was juicy and flavorful (it helps to use really thin pieces of chicken), the buns were fresh and all the ingredients worked well together. My dad had one comment, he thought they could use a little mustard, and he may have been right, or not. But that's what I love about sandwiches, they are so versatile, you can do whatever you want and it doesn't matter. If you don't like it this time, try something different the next time!

This was the whole meal we had when my parents came over a few Sundays ago, nothing gourmet, but absolutely fresh and delicious.

The Whole Meal

Beautiful Burger Buns
from King Arthur Flour
Ingredients
  • 3/4 to 1 cup lukewarm water 
  • 2 tablespoons butter 
  • 1 large egg 
  • 3 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour 
  • 1/4 cup sugar 
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt 
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast 
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter 
DirectionsMix and knead all of the dough ingredients — by hand, mixer, or bread machine — to make a soft, smooth dough.

Cover the dough, and let it rise for 1 to 2 hours, or until it's nearly doubled in bulk.

Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a round ball; flatten to about 3" across. Place the buns on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, cover, and let rise for about an hour, until noticeably puffy.

Brush the buns with about half of the melted butter.

Bake the buns in a preheated 375°F oven for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden. Remove them from the oven, and brush with the remaining melted butter. This will give the buns a satiny, buttery crust.

Cool the buns on a rack.

Yield: 8 large buns.