Reality check

True confession:  I am no longer shopping all-local.  COVID restrictions have caused me to reconsider my food choices. As much as I support local produce, I have had to shop beyond my 10 mile preference—by a long shot. 

For fresh fruit, I regularly buy local apples and pears, but beyond that, I must opt for what is available and affordable. At first I argued with self, but then there’s the banana situation. I have always been able to justify buying them from other countries because bananas aren’t readily available in US.  Plus, they ship well, arrive in their own thick-skinned wrapper, and supply plenty of much needed potassium.

Then, it was blueberries, a much loved Oregon staple. I struggled at first, but rationalized they were not locally in season. Still, they remain competitively priced and readily available —arriving clean, plump, and juicy from Mexico, Chile, and elsewhere.  Another reality check, and I’ve moved on. 

So, today’s cookie may cause some to freak out —but, consider the Blueberry Banana Cookie!    

Blueberry Banana Cookies

This is the time to use any soft aging banana you may have on hand. These cookies mix up quickly in one bowl with a whisk and spatula. A touch of nutmeg blends beautifully with both the berries and bananas.

Throw in a handful of fresh blueberries and you will have soft cookies peppered with purple pockets. A scoop of quick oats gives fiber, deliciously absorbs any excess berry juice, and contributes to their shelf-life. 

Of course, lacking fresh blueberries, you can always substitute an equal amount fresh nuts, seeds, or chocolate.

Blueberry Banana Cookies

From Banana-Oat Cookies, Counter Cuisine

Ingredients
1 cup AP flour
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp each salt, cinnamon, nutmeg
1 egg, room temperature
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 banana, mashed
2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted or vegetable oil
½ tsp vanilla
 1 cup quick oats
½ cup or more cut up fresh blueberries (or nuts, seeds, fruit, chocolate bits)
1 Tbsp demerara sugar

Instructions
Preheat oven to 375°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or silpat, or spray with non-stick spray. 
On waxed paper, combine flour through spices.
In large bowl, combine egg through vanilla.  Stir in the dry ingredients, mixing to just combine. Stir in the oats, plus blueberries.
Drop by tablespoons onto baking sheet. These will not spread much.  If desired flatten tops slightly. Sprinkle with a pinch of demerara sugar. 
Bake for 12-16 minutes, until evenly browned; rotate pan once.  Cool slightly and remove to rack,   Makes 24 cookies

Half-time Biscotti

No, this is not about football food—although that is a possibility. Today, we are talking about super-friendly biscotti that’s made in less than half the usual time.

Given that biscotti loosely translates to “twice-baked” in Italian, the second bake was originally meant to protect cookies for longer term storage—by further drying them.

Ginger Cardamom Biscotti

In my opinion, biscotti is generally defined by a slight eggy flavor, mild sweetness, and crumbly texture. It’s true I’ve never met a biscotti cookie I didn’t like, but frankly there are times when a frequently hard and dry biscuit is not what I’m after.

I wondered what would happen if I reworked my favorite biscotti elements and baked them only once? To get there, I’d include a little fine cornmeal or polenta for character and crunch, lace them with the sweet nuttiness of toasted almonds, and weave in floral notes from dried apricots.

Short & Sweet Biscotti

Rather than fuss over the patting, shaping, and cutting steps required for traditional long fingers, I’d further expedite the process and go with quick, rustic rounds.

The Outcome:  A short and sweet labor of love—and delicious, dippable cookie.

Short & Sweet Biscotti

Ingredients
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup yellow cornmeal or fine polenta
½ tsp each baking powder and baking soda
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
1 beaten egg, divided
1 Tbsp milk, divided
½ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp each almond and vanilla extract
¼ cup dried apricots, chop
¼ cup toasted almonds, coarse chop

Egg wash: 2 tsp of the beaten egg + 2 tsp of milk; 1 Tbsp granulated sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 °F. Oil or line a baking sheet with parchment or silpat.
  2. On waxed paper, combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the egg, remove 2 tsp of it and set it aside for the egg wash. Remove 2 tsp milk and add to the egg wash. Whisk milk into egg in bowl, then whisk in the sugar until light. Add the extracts.
  4. Stir in the dry ingredients, then the apricots and nuts. Shape into a round mass. (If the dough is soft, chill it 20-30 minutes until firm.)
  5. Divide the dough in half. With floured hands shape each into ¾” rolls. Cut into ¾” lengths and set upright pieces on baking sheet; they tend to spread slightly. Brush tops with egg wash and sprinkle lightly with granulated (or cinnamon-flavored) sugar.
  6. Bake until cookies are set, shiny and browned,18-20 minutes. Cool on rack. Yield about 20 cookies

Holiday welcome cookies

It’s hard to imagine the holiday season without making some sort of ginger cookie—and I’ve run the field, from simple cookies, to decorated gingerbread figures, and handmade houses. This year I’ve made my favorite basic molasses cookie and packed it with an assortment of ginger:  fresh grated, powdered spice, and candied pieces.

These cookies mix up in one bowl.  So fast to make, with little clean up, I’ve gotten in the habit of stirring them by hand without a mixer.  Another bonus with this cookie is that the dough can be prepared ahead, stored in the fridge, and baked on demand.

loaded ginger cookies

For a soft, chewy cookie, take them out of the oven while soft when pressed and slightly under baked. They will continue to cook. If you prefer a crisper cookie, bake them longer.

I like to bake off a batch for immediate enjoyment and shape the rest of the dough into a cylinder, wrap it well, and chill for later.  It’s incredibly satisfying to slice off rounds and pop a batch in the oven for a quick bake.  When family or friends arrive,  nothing says ‘welcome’ like the spicy scent of freshly baked cookies.

Ginger Cookies

Ingredients
1¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ tsp baking soda
2 tsp powdered ginger
⅛ tsp each salt and cloves
¼ cup crystallized ginger, cut up
⅓ cup butter, room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, well beaten
¼ cup molasses
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp mild vinegar
Icing:  ½ cup confectioners’ sugar thinned with 1 Tbsp lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with silpat or spray with non-stick spray.
    On wax paper combine flour, baking soda, ginger, salt and cloves.
  2. In mixing bowl, beat butter with a wooden spoon, stir in sugar until well blended and light. Beat in the egg, molasses, grated ginger, and vinegar.
  3. Add the dry ingredients and combine well, it will be thick. Shape dough into 3/4″ balls and roll in granulated sugar if desired. Place on baking sheet 2″ apart for spreading. Bake 15 minutes, until surface begins to crinkle on top, but slightly soft when pressed. Cool on rack.
  4. To ice cookies:  combine confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice to thin. Let icing drip off tines of a fork and drizzle over cookies.  Makes about 2 dozen.