One-Bowl Formula Cookie

Old-fashioned, soft, spicy Hermit cookies have never really gone out of style, but they certainly could use a make-over. Here is an updated version designed to meet today’s taste for cleaner, brighter flavors and textures—with less fat and more fiber.

It is my latest go-to cookie because it lasts well, is very tasty, and nearly foolproof to make. I call it my formula cookie because it can be easily varied, depending on need, mood, and availability.

For example, the 2 cups of flour can be replaced with nearly any type or combination of flours. For best rising, I tend to use a base of at least 1 cup all-purpose flour. Any variety of dried fruits and nuts will work, I especially like to include dates because they are meltingly sweet and moist.

The ingredient variations listed below are a recent favorite, but don’t let that stop you! The warm spices of cinnamon, coriander, and ground ginger are an excellent combination that works well with a variety of dried fruits and nuts, especially dates, dried cranberries, and a few pumpkin seeds.

This cookie is easy to assemble and best of all, it requires only one bowl. The fairly heavy dough comes together very quickly, yielding a soft cookie when baked. Best when not overcooked, plan on about 10 minutes per batch.  Store these airtight at room temperature for a week or longer.

Hermits Redux

Ingredients
2 cups AP flour, or of choice:  1-1/3 cups AP flour, 1/3 cup whole wheat flour, 1/3 cup cake flour
2 teaspoons warm spices of choice:  1 tsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. coriander, 1/2 tsp. dried ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup quick oats
¾ cup dried fruit and nuts: 1/2 cup pitted dates, 2 tbsp. dried cranberries, 2 tbsp. pumpkin seeds
1 egg
2 tablespoon oil: coconut, safflower, or canola
2/3 cup light or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk or sour milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.  Line baking sheet with silpat or parchment.
  2. On waxed paper, sift flour through salt; mix in the oats, add the dried fruit, nuts and toss to coat.
  3. In mixing bowl, whisk egg and oil together, whisk in the brown sugar and milk, then the vanilla.  Stir in dry ingredients with large spoon only to combine, it will be thick.
  4. Using a small scoop or form rounded teaspoons of dough and roll into balls, place 2″ apart on baking sheet.  Flatten with a moistened fork while rounding the edges.
  5. Bake 9-11 minutes, until barely set and the tops begin to brown. They should be soft and seem undercooked; they will firm up as they cool.  Cool on rack and repeat.  Yield:  27 cookies.
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Peanut Butter Cookies to Impress

We’ve talked about peanut butter before. There are times when nothing is more satisfying than creamy, rich peanut butter—with a spoon, right out of the jar.  The next time that impulse strikes, you might want to consider a slightly more civilized approach.

Here’s an opportunity to have an easy peanut butter fix in cookie form.  These seductive thumbprint cookies are tailor-made with five basic ingredients, and they bake in ten minutes. If you can recruit any tiny hands, their simple shaping contribution will make everyone happy.

The thumbprint variation allows for the option of quickly filling the little center imprint with whatever pleases you:  jelly, jam, Nutella, dulce de leche, or perhaps marshmallow crème.

Roll the cookies in granulated or brown turbinado sugar before baking for an extra sparkly touch.  When cookies are set, remove them from the oven and fill the center of each with the product of your choice. Briefly return the cookies to the oven to finish baking and set the filling.

Beware.  Do not be tempted to eat these standing up, directly from the pan. Let the hot cookies rest briefly in their pan to firm up and then cool on a wire rack.  You will avert scorching any hovering open mouths.

Peanut Butter Thumbprint Cookies

Ingredients
1 cup peanut butter, either creamy or chunky
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ cup granulated or turbinado sugar (optional, for rolling)
Filling of choice:  berry jam, grape jelly, Nutella, dulce de leche, or marshmallow crème

Directions 

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a baking sheet with baker’s spray or line with parchment or silpat.
  2. In a medium bowl stir the peanut butter and sugar together with a spoon. Add the beaten egg and baking soda and stir to evenly combined.
  3. Using a teaspoon, shape rounded spoonfuls of dough into balls. Roll in sugar, if desired.  Set on the baking sheet about 1” apart. With a water moistened thumb, press down in center about ½” to make a well.
  4. Bake for 7 minutes until puffed.  Using back of small spoon, press the thumbprint down again and fill with jam or other filling.  Return to oven and bake another 3 minutes.
  5. Let the cookies cool a couple of minutes and remove with spatula to cooling rack.  To store, layer cookies between sheets of waxed paper.  Store airtight for up to a week.   Yield: approximately 24 cookies.

Little Black Dress of Desserts

We love our nuts in the Pacific Northwest, especially hazelnuts. When you throw in a little chocolate even the French would agree life doesn’t get much better.

Here’s a chocolate-nut torte I have been making for so long, I have no record of the original source.  What I do know is this combination has been making folks happy for quite a while.  A chocolate center is surrounded by a bottom citrus laced cookie crust and crowned with a gooey, crunchy, layer on top.

choc-nute-torteIt is easy on the cook because it is made in three simple steps.  The crust is a snap with the help of a food processor. It’s pressed into the bottom of a springform or other easy access pan and briefly baked until set.

Hot out of the oven, a few handfuls of excellent chocolate are scattered across the crust, left briefly to melt, then spread evenly across the bottom.

Meanwhile, the top layer is whizzed up in the same food processor bowl. A couple of eggs are whipped well, brown sugar, a few dry ingredients are added to stabilize the batter, and chopped nuts are thrown in to pull it all together. In the blink of an eye, it is spread over the chocolate and back in the oven it goes for a brief 20 minutes.

Beyond this simple execution, the torte is nearly indestructible—especially if kept in its protective pan for transport. It does not need to be refrigerated for a day or so. Take it down the road to a potluck or dessert at a friend’s house. Unmold to a platter, give it a light dusting of confectioners’ sugar, and finish with a sprinkling of nuts. You’ve got a dessert for all occasions.

Chocolate Hazelnut Torte

Ingredients
Crust
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chilled butter, cut up
1/2 package semisweet chocolate chips (6 oz.)
Filling
2 large eggs
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups hazelnuts or walnuts, chopped (6 oz.)

Additional:  powdered sugar for dusting,  toasted nuts for garnish

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
  2. For crust, combine flour, sugar, grated rind and salt in food processor; cut in butter and whirl until crumbly.  Press evenly on bottom of 8″ or 9″ springform or tart pan.  Bake at 375° F for about 10 minutes, until firm to touch.
  3. Sprinkle with chocolate chips, let stand 2 minutes to melt the chocolate; spread evenly over the crust with spatula.
  4. For filling, beat eggs until frothy; add sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla, and stir until smooth.  Fold in nuts.  Spread over chocolate.  Bake at 375° F for 20 minutes longer, until the top is firm and golden.
  5. Cool completely.  Remove from pan and dust lightly with powdered sugar and top with nuts. Store in cool place up to 24 hours, do not refrigerate.  Serves 8.

Holiday Ready and Paleo Friendly

apricot-postApricot Almond Balls are a continuum of the previous post on holiday gifting in tandem with Raw Truffle Bites.

These raw sweets are made from dried apricots, almonds, dates, and hints of lemon and coriander. A quick roll in desiccated coconut dresses them up and makes them holiday ready in literally no time.  Use the best dried apricots you can find, the lemon zest really brings them to life and the almonds add the perfect counterpoint

Pretty Apricot Almond Balls aren’t just for holiday tables and gifting. The moist and satisfying bites are handy paleo friendly treats designed to take the edge off hunger or provide a quick pick-me-up when faced with a mid-day slump.  Stored air tight in the refrigerator they will last well beyond a week.

Apricot Almond Balls

Inspired by Apricot Energy Balls at paleogrubs.com.

Ingredients
1 cup almonds, chop
1 cup dried apricots, chop
7 Deglet Noor dates, pitted, light chop
1 ½ teaspoon lemon zest
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
3-4 tablespoons unsweetened desiccated coconut, for rolling (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place the almonds in a food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped.
  2. Add the apricot, dates, lemon zest, and coriander and pulse until a dough forms.
  3. Roll by rounded teaspoon of dough into small balls.
  4. Roll the balls lightly in coconut flakes.
  5. Store airtight in refrigerator for up to a week. Yield: about 30

Holiday Bon Bons and Changing Times

There was a time when shipping was a reasonable part of the Christmas gifting equation.  I would create schedules for preparing, baking, wrapping, and shipping elaborate holiday gift baskets for friends and family. Often there was a theme; once everything was smoked: from cheeses, to sausages, salsas, jerky, and nuts.

As shipping rates escalated, packages got smaller. Now, I’ve pretty much abandoned the whole shipping idea. Instead I turn to Amazon Prime and send something obscure and generic—no doubt these gifts are appreciated just as much as previous crumbled cookies or the occasional exploding jar.

truffle-postThis year I really wanted to share my latest discovery of high flavored sweet treats made with raw (paleo approved) all natural ingredients featuring dried fruits, nuts, flavorings, and no additional sugar.

Of the two I made, I can’t decide whether I like the chocolate or the apricot more, but it doesn’t matter because they complement each other beautifully. The Raw Truffle Bites have high quality unsweetened cocoa powder, pulverized roasted hazelnuts and Deglet Noor dates, and rolled in cocoa powder. They are a bit like an adult Nutella nugget.

Their companion Apricot Almond Balls, are made with dried apricots flavored with grated lemon zest, pulverized almonds plus a few dates for sweetness, and then rolled in desiccated coconut for contrast. Use the best dried apricots you can find, the lemon zest really brings them to life and the almonds are the perfect counterpoint. You’ll find more on the apricots in my next post coming up.

Much like fine bon bons, I reasoned less is more here and the smaller quantities would certainly suffice. Thus, I settled on US Postal Service small flat rate boxes which meant in round numbers, 8.5”x5.5”x1.5” box/postage at $7.00 each; about as reasonable as it gets.

Marginally reminiscent of a candy box, it also meant that the box would likely hold only one layer deep.  After the complicated packaging of previous baskets this would be pretty straightforward; I was more concerned with the strength of the box to do its job.

The raw balls came together in a hurry and in no time I was filling individual candy cups. Next I strategically packed them in colorful beribboned cellophane bags along with gift ingredient labels. The packages were then snuggly bound in bubble wrap and slipped into their waiting boxes—no rattling or shifting here. According to all accounts they arrived safely and fairly unscathed.

Raw Truffle Bites

Inspired by Raw Brownie Bites at paleogrubs.com

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups roasted hazelnuts (walnuts or pecans) light chop
pinch of salt
1 cup pitted Deglet Noor dates (or other excellent quality), chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions

  1. Add roasted hazelnuts and salt to food processor and process until nuts are finely ground.
  2. Add the dates, vanilla, and cocoa powder and process until mixture begins to come together. If necessary, add a couple drops of water at a time.
  3. Transfer the mixture into a bowl. Using a slightly rounded teaspoonful, roll with hands into small round balls and chill well. Roll in cocoa powder if desired. Yield: 17 – 20 truffles.

Note:  These are best eaten cold. Store in airtight container in refrigerator for about 1 week.

 

Pear Butter: Crazy Good

Using a slow cooker for jam is pretty unconventional, since popular wisdom leans toward cooking the fruit down rather quickly to maintain the fruit’s freshness and suspend it in sugar.

But these days I’m throwing out the rule book and giving my small crock pot a real workout. I’m also learning that using a slow cooker is not an exact science and there is a learning curve of sorts. In particular, the amount of liquid given off by ingredients is not always predictable. It’s reminiscent of recipes in old cookbooks that use the expression, “Cook until done.”

pear-butterIt seemed to me that winter pears should be the perfect candidate for my tiny crock pot.  Armed with a few lovely Comice pears and spurred by a bunch of different ideas, I formulated my approach and got busy. Several hours later I was completely enamored with the results.

In my small slow cooker set on low, I peeled, cored, and chopped 5 good sized pears, then added sugar, a little lemon, a pinch of coriander and cardamom.  Smuckers likes to tell us they use “a cup to a cup,” or equal amounts of fruit and sugar. But since I was not making enough for canning purposes, I decided to cut back and use an amount of sugar more suited to my taste.  Rather than 4 cups of sugar, I opted for 2 cups (which still seemed like a lot).

After about 30 minutes worth of maceration I kicked the temperature up to high.  I decided I would not cook it overnight in usual slow cooker fashion. Since ripe pears are fairly soft to begin with, it made more sense to keep an eye on it and cook until the fruit was soft and breaking down—and go from there. That took a little under 4 hours with the lid ajar to allow for moisture to escape. In spite of this attempt to reduce liquid there was an unbelievable amount left.  I tasted it and decided it was worthy of fine syrup status: excellent on just about anything from pancakes to ice cream. It was so good, I wondered if the fruit was worth saving—perhaps it had lost all flavor to the syrup? But I moved on.

The syrup was strained, 2 cups were decanted and set aside. I left small liquid puddles in the bottom of the pot to aid the fruit as the immersion blender was introduced to break it down into a smooth mass. In no time it was transformed from grainy chunks into a compelling, silky, slightly pink-tinged butter. When dropped from a spoon it held its shape naturally, but was not firm-set.

I could not have asked for more: the pears earthy perfumed flavors shined through gloriously. It was perfectly sweet, elegantly balanced with a whisper of citrus, and an exotic hint of coriander and cardamom.  Crazy good.

Pear Butter, Slow Cooked

Ingredients
5 large Comice pears, about 4 cups, peel, core, cut into chunks
2 cups granulated sugar
½ lemon, zest and approximately 1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
quick grind of sea salt

Directions

  1. Set slow cooker or  crock pot to low and add pears as they are prepped; then add sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice, coriander and cardamom. After 30 minutes, turn the heat to high; when mixture comes to a low simmer set lid to slightly ajar.  Cook for approximately 3-1/2 hours, until fruit is very soft and beginning to break down.
  2. Strain most of the syrup off the fruit and set aside for other uses.
  3. Using blender or hand held immersion blender, puree fruit until smooth and silky.  If desired, cook a little longer to eliminate any unnecessary liquid, about 30 minutes. Yield:  about 10 ounces.

 

Must love peanut butter

When it comes to food, I’m always in search of something new and interesting.  This isn’t exactly new, but it is interesting.

It’s a very cool homemade cookie that requires only four ingredients—and very little time or effort.

Peanut Butter Cookies, Fast

Peanut Butter Cookies, Fast

Faster than it takes to preheat the oven, I had the aroma of freshly baked peanut butter cookies wafting magically from the kitchen.  A mere wave of the wrist resulted in crisp, slightly chewy cookies with perfectly balanced peanut-buttery sweetness.

Well, there is one small catch.

These addictive cookies are so good, any attempt at self-restraint goes right out the window. Enjoy for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and random snacking.peanut-butter-cookies-rack

 Peanut Butter Cookies, Fast

Inspired by a popular cookie originally in Gourmet magazine, reprinted in Gourmet’s Five Ingredients by Gourmet Magazine Editors.

Ingredients
1 cup peanut butter, either creamy or chunky
¾ cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon baking soda

Directions 

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray a baking sheet with cooking oil or line with silpat.
  2. In a medium-small mixing bowl, with a spoon beat peanut butter and sugar to combine; then beat in egg and baking soda.
  3. With hands, roll rounded teaspoons of dough into balls and arrange about 1” apart on baking sheets.  Flatten balls with tines of fork to about 1-1/2” diameter, making a crosshatch pattern.
  4. Bake in batches about 10 minutes, until puffed and golden brown.
  5. Cool cookies on baking sheet for 2 minutes to set, then transfer with spatula to rack to cool completely.  These will keep 5 days stored airtight at room temperature.  Yield: 2 dozen approximate.