Bananas. I’m not sure I could do with out them. So you’ll understand my feelings when, right after returning home from the grocery store, I dropped my precious four bananas on the ground. The horror! Dropping any fruit is bad, but I feel like bananas take it the worst. The insides turn to banana pulp! Crazy! And the way I dropped them was such that more than half of each banana was horribly bruised by the impact. I tried opening one to eat but couldn’t do it without a spoon, and I was a little put off by the bruising. Feeling sad and defeated, I put them in the fruit basket and tried to forget about the whole incident.

About four days later, the bananas started to get spotty. I was worried; I didn’t want to throw them out but didn’t want to eat them as is. What was I to do? A little voice sounded inside my ear and said things like, “You bake things! Bake banana things! You paid for those bananas! Use them!” I usually eat bananas too quickly to allow them to ripen, which means I don’t get the chance to bake with them. Not this time! So all is not lost, in fact, my love for banana baked goods is found again, especially with these waffles. The banana flavor isn’t pronounced, but you know it’s there, and you’ll love how the banana is complimented by oatmeal, cinnamon, and raisins. I’m going to count the banana dropping as a blessing this morning (but I promise to be more careful next time). Happy bananas for breakfast! Happy Breakfast Tuesday!

Oatmeal Banana Raisin Waffles

(Recipe only slightly adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance)

Yields exactly 4 Belgian waffles or up to 12 regular waffles

Notes: Instead of using both all-purpose and whole-wheat flour, you can use one cup and two tablespoons all-purpose flour. If you decide to use quick cooking oats, you don’t need to soak the oats in liquid mixture before adding to dry ingredients. If you don’t have nondairy milk on hand and/or don’t require waffles to be vegan, substitute whatever milk you have on hand.

Ingredients:

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

½ cup whole-wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup rolled, or old-fashioned, oats

1 very ripe banana, mashed well

1 ½ cups nondairy milk

3 tablespoons maple syrup

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

¾ raisins

Method:

1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

2. In a medium-size mixing bowl, mix together oats, banana, milk, syrup, and vegetable oil. Let mixture soak for 10 minutes while you preheat the waffle iron.

3. After ten minutes, pour wet ingredients into dry and mix just until combined. A few lumps will remain. Fold in raisins, taking care not to over mix.

4. Waffle according to manufacturer’s instructions, greasing waffle iron between waffles.

If you would like to keep the waffles warm between taking them off the iron and serving, preheat the oven to 200 degrees while the oatmeal is soaking and keep waffles in the oven, on a baking sheet lined with foil, up to 30 minutes before serving. Waffles will keep, refrigerated, up to a week, and frozen up to a month.

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These cookies come to you sans story. In elementary school we learned that the key to a good story, or any story, is a hook in the first paragraph or sentence, and I realize beginning a blog entry with a complaint about not having a story is not necessarily the way to make people want to read what you have to say. Now that I’m thinking about it, it’s almost as if I baked these cookies because I didn’t have anything to say.

I’m re-reading that first paragraph and shaking my head in shame. Sorry, folks. I’ll try to explain.

Baking is something that I fell into and love for many reasons. It engages my brain and my senses, almost like flipping a switch that makes me more conscious of the world around me and all the amazing things that can happen when you combine certain parts of the world – research and ingredients and recipes and baked goods being a kind of microcosm of the world in general. Conversely, baking allows me to disengage when I need to, in the sense that the process has become so natural to me that the mechanics are soothing, and the baked good at the end of the journey is of great comfort to my sometimes overly exhausted mind. I baked these cookies on a whim because I love the blog they came from, had the ingredients on hand, and had to take a serious mental vacation, if only for an hour or two.

The bloggers who made these white chocolate apricot oatmeal cookies were not super impressed with them, but I definitely loved them. It might just be that I’m a total sucker for dried apricots, and oatmeal in any way, shape, or form. Verdict is still out on that one.

Before sending you out into the world with this recipe, I’ll pass along a tip I learned while reading about oatmeal cookies. Most of the recipes I’ve read concerning these treats say that chilling the dough for the appropriate amount of time is key to a chewier, thicker cookie. Some say that the cookie dough is best after an evening in the fridge, and some recommend scooping the cookies onto a baking sheet, freezing them, and baking them as needed (which you can do for just about any cookie). I definitely noticed a difference between the cookies that got more time in the fridge before baking and the ones who were able to stay cold a little longer. I say this because I’m usually that person who sees chilling time in a cookie recipe and makes the executive decision (of an impatient cookie monster) to skip it, and in this case it really paid off to be patient.

Also, happy Memorial Day!

White Chocolate Apricot Oatmeal Cookies

(Recipe adapted from The Bitten Word)

Yields about 4 dozen cookies

 

Ingredients:

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (or 1 cup whole wheat flour and ½ cup all-purpose)

1 ½ cups old fashioned, or rolled, oats

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 cup, or 2 sticks, unsalted butter, softened

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

8 ounces white chocolate, chopped or chips

7 ounces, or 1 ½ cup, dried apricots, chopped (I chopped the apricots pretty irregularly and really liked the different-size pieces in the finished product.)

 

Method:

1. In a medium-size mixing bowl, stir or whisk together flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, or bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy.

3. Stir in eggs and vanilla extract (on low speed, if using a stand mixer) and beat until well combined.

4. Gradually add flour and oat mixture just until combined. Stir in chopped apricots and white chocolate.

5. Cover cookie dough and refrigerate for at least a half hour. While dough is in the fridge, preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

6. Scoop cookies by the tablespoonful (or with a cookie scoop) onto baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart because the cookies will spread a bit. Bake cookies for 14 to 16 minutes.

7. Let cookies cool on baking sheets for 2 to 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

We all have foods that we consider our comfort food, the refuge we have when the world around us keeps changing and throwing us for loop after loop after loop, ad infinitum. You’ve seen two of my major comfort foods this week, chocolate chip cookies and grilled cheese, and now you’ll see my favorite comfort food, pancakes. When something big is going on, you can bet your bottom I’m either thinking about pancakes or eating pancakes. This is why, instead of a baked good on Variety Flour Thursday, you are getting a recipe for pancakes. (Sometimes I think that I just should have started a pancake blog, because of all the pancake recipes thrown in here. But if I ate pancakes all the time, where would I go when I needed a meal to make me feel warm and safe?)

Today I’m baking with oat flour for the first time, which is yet another reason why you are seeing pancakes today. Pancakes have the remarkable ability to take on any sort of flour you thrown at (in?) it, helping you understand flavors and how the flour itself bakes up. I wasn’t going to post this recipe and just use it as a trial run and a way to fulfill my pancake craving, but was really impressed with everything about the final product. Cooked oatmeal makes the pancakes denser than normal, but keeps them most and gives you a neat, chewy texture that you’re not accustomed to with pancakes.

I didn’t mess around with the recipe, being the first time I’m using oat flour, except for my carelessness in adding equal amounts oat flour and all purpose. To make up for it, I added two tablespoons milk and crossed my fingers. Luckily for me, the pancakes still turned out amazing; just what I needed today.

Oatmeal Pancakes

(Recipe adapted from Good to the Grain)

The book says recipe yields 18 pancakes; however mine yielded 14 using a ¼ cup ice cream scoop.

Ingredients:

¾ cup oat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons granulated or light brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

1 ¼ cups milk (recipe calls for whole but 1% worked)

1 cup cooked oatmeal

1 tablespoon molasses, preferably not blackstrap

2 eggs

Butter for greasing skillet

Method:

1. If using a cast iron skillet, preheat over medium heat. In a large bowl, whisk dry ingredients.

2. In a separate, medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, milk, oatmeal, molasses, and eggs until completely combined.

3. Gently fold wet ingredients into dry, taking care not to over mix but making sure there aren’t any hug flour streaks.

4. When skillet is preheated, coat bottom with butter (half a tablespoon, thereabouts) and scoop batter into skillet using a ¼ cup measuring cup, ice cream scoop, or ¼ cup guess-timation.

5. Once bubbles have formed on top side of pancake and batter looks a little dry around the edges, 3 to 4 minutes, flip pancakes. Cook pancakes until golden brown on bottoms, about another 5 minutes, and make sure to grease pan with extra butter when necessary.

It is recommended you serve these pancakes immediately, however I usually store pancakes refrigerated in an air tight container up to 3 days. To reheat, I wrap them up in tin foil and heat them in the oven. The quality of pancake decreases with each passing day, but I’m not all that picky, especially when it comes to having an easy, homemade breakfast to go before work.

Because communication is key, I’m going to confess that I fear the scone. Making the scone, at least, because scones are usually my breakfast baked good of choice at any given café. Why, then, do I fear the scone?

The first reason is that they are time sensitive, meaning that as soon as they come to room temperature the quality of the scone decreases rapidly. They are best eaten the day they are made, and if you don’t plan on eating all of the scones right away, you either freeze the dough unbaked, or stick them in the freezer just as they cool to room temperature. Anyone who bakes more than a few times a week understands how your freezer can look after a few weeks, full to the brim of flour and wrapped baked goods.

My second reason isn’t really a reason, but if something means something to you it acquires legitimacy, at least in your head and in your space. Maybe. I might be wrong. Not the point. In my circle of friends, acquaintances, and unknowing “testers”, I am really the only one who prefers scones, and who will heartily enjoy one any moment of any day. I could never expect someone to eat a scone if they don’t prefer them, because I couldn’t offer someone something knowing that they’d rather be eating something else. It would make me feel bad.

The third reason has to deal with preparation and the actual making of scones, not only because I’ve heard horror stories, but I’ve read a ton of scone recipes with very specific instructions. I’ve also read so many different accounts of how a scone “should be” as to puzzle me into paralysis. What if I don’t do it right?

But, ladies and gentlemen, we cannot live in fear forever. In honor of Breakfast Tuesday, I present you with scones. Enjoy with jam or lemon curd or slightly whipped cream, or honey, or whatever your heart desires.

Honey Oatmeal Scones, originally “Oatmeal Nutmeg Scones”

(Recipe adapted from Baking, From my Home to Yours)

Ingredients:

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/3 cups old-fashioned oats (not the quick-cook variety)

2 tablespoons honey (OR 1/3 cup sugar, just make sure to whisk it with the rest of the dried ingredients in step 3)

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon nutmeg, or cinnamon, or cardamom, or just nutmeg and cardamom, or the spice mix of your choice up to ½ teaspoon

1 egg

½ cup buttermilk (or a teaspoon vinegar mixed with a half cup milk, left to sit for 5 minutes before using)

1 stick and 2 tablespoons, 10 tablespoons, unsalted butter, cold and cut into ½ inch cubes*

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Stir the egg and buttermilk together in a small bowl. Set aside.

3. Whisk the flour, oats, leavening agents, salt, and spices in a large mixing bowl until the mixture is homogenous.

4. Drop the pieces of butter into the flour mixture and, using your fingers or a pastry blender, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until you see a bunch of pea-sized pieces forming. Keep in mind that there will be pieces of butter of all sizes, which is what you want. This will happen quickly.

5. Add the egg, buttermilk, and honey to the flour and butter mixture. Stir with a fork just until the dough comes together. The dough will be sticky and a mess, and there might be some flour left unmixed, which is okay.

6. Knead the dough gently or fold with a sturdy spatula, between 8 and 10 turns.

7. Split the dough in half. Place one half on a lightly floured surface and press it into the shape of a disk, 5 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick. Cut into wedges, and place on prepared baking sheet.

8. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, though keep an eye on them. Mine almost burned after exactly 20 minutes. The tops should be golden brown.

9. Form and cut the remaining dough and repeat the baking process OR freeze them on a baking sheet and place them, after freezing, in an airtight container to bake later, adding 2 minutes to the original baking time.

10. Let scones cool on a baking rack for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Scones don’t keep well, so once the extra scones come to room temperature, wrap them in an airtight container and stick them back in the freezer. I’ll probably keep a few in an airtight container for the next day, but will freeze the rest. Reheat the already baked scones in the oven when you need them.

Cherry Oatmeal Cookies

December 24, 2010

Second to last coworker request, and four days later than my original goal. Oops.

“Something with cherries would be nice.”

She also doesn’t prefer peanut butter in her baked goods, which is kind of a relief, because peanut butter wears me out. That was kind of a weird thought, but peanut butter is one of those things that I love dearly yet don’t want to indulge in all the time; I tire of it rather quickly.

The recipe explicitly warns against using quick cooking oats, but, when I looked in the pantry, the oats we had were quick cooking. Amazing, because I never eat quick cook oats. It must have been one of those black-out moments at the grocery store, you know, the moments when you’re so overwhelmed that you aren’t conscious of what you’re grabbing? Please tell me someone else experiences these moments. The cookies came out well, not really like oatmeal cookies, but almost like cake cookies, in a good way. They remind me of the oatmeal chocolate chip cake, from Baked Explorations.

Definitely a sweet treat. Consider yourself warned!

Subliminal Nestle advertising?! Oopsie.

Oatmeal Cherry Cookies

(From All Cakes Considered, by Melissa Gray)

Yields about 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

1 ¾ cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

a pinch of salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature

1 1/3 cups light brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

¼ cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 ½ cups traditional, rolled oats

½ cup dried cherries

½ cup butterscotch morsels

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and prepare your cookie sheets by lining them with parchment.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt, and set aside.

3. Cream the butter and sugars until the mixture is light and fluffy.

4. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

5. Add in the milk and vanilla extract, then beat well.

6. Gradually add the flour mixture, and beat well after each addition. If you’re using a mixer, turn it to lower speed for this step.

7. Add the oats, then beat until just mixed.

8. Add in the cherries and butterscotch morsels, then mixing just until all the batter is incorporated.

9. Drop the cookies onto prepared sheets, using a teaspoon, so they are evenly spaced. Melissa suggests 9 cookies per sheet.

10. Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, until they are golden brown in color.

11. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

These keep for a few days, sealed in an airtight container at room temperature.

 

A simple photo to showcase my new jars. New jars!!!!

My roommates walked into the kitchen as I was preparing the dough for these cookies, and one asked me what I was making. When I responded with “pumpkin oatmeal cookies from Isa!”, she paused to think, and replied, “You just made these cookies a few weeks ago! What are you doing?!”. My first thought was something along the lines of “Oh no! There are so many things I have yet to try and I’m repeating recipes again?!”, and my roommates are probably sick to death of hearing about all the wonderful recipes I collect and read. It bothered me, until I thought about why I chose to make these particular cookies tonight. Firstly, I wanted to make something vegan, and turned to Vegan with a Vengeance, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and stopped at these cookies. Stopped cold; I didn’t turn another page. There must be something about these cookies that makes me stop at them, and make them, without giving a thought to how many times I’ve made them before, or what would please people around me. That something is lurve, I believe. It’s the kind of love that makes you selfish, because you can only concentrate on your desires related to the object of affection. I might just be confusing love and lust. In any case, this love has definitely caught me by surprise, because I never really pegged myself for having a “favorite cookie”. You learn something new about yourself every day. Truth.

Last time I made them, I had to omit the walnuts and raisins due to a tighter budget, and therefore was only able to add the craisins I happened to have lying around the pantry. This time, I went a little crazy, adding both the walnuts and the raisins. I’m a walnut fiend, so the finely chopped nuts in these cookies adds a fantastic depth and makes them seem… more structurally sound? Scientifically, it probably doesn’t make much sense, but that’s exactly how it seems to me. For those who don’t prefer nuts in their cookies, since the nuts are finely chopped their presence isn’t overwhelming at all. I also added a half teaspoon of birch beer extract to see what that would do to the taste. It

wasn’t until a day after making them did I notice the birch beer extract in the cookie. My co-workers didn’t recognize the cookie, even after having it such a short time ago, so maybe that’s because of the extract? Part of me thinks that, and the other part can’t help thinking they didn’t recognize them because they are so yummy. That must be it.

Because I can’t avoid repeating it, I have to profess my love for Isa. You need to bake and cook from her recipes. Truth.

 

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

(Adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance)

Ingredients:

2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/3 cup traditional oats

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1 2/3 cups granulated sugar

2/3 cups canola oil

2 tablespoons molasses

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used ½ teaspoon vanilla and ½ teaspoon birch beer extract)

(I tablespoon ground flaxseeds, optional)

1 cup chopped walnuts

½ cup raisins

Method:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and prepare your cookie sheets either by greasing them or using parchment paper.

2. Mix together the flour, oats, baking soda, salt, and spices.

3. In another bowl, mix the sugar, oil, molasses, pumpkin, and vanilla (also add the flaxseeds at this point, if you decide to use them) until well combined.

4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in three batches, and fold to combine.

5. Fold in the raisins and the walnuts.

6. Drop the cookies onto the prepared cookie sheets, with about an inch between the cookies. Make sure you mold the cookies to look how you want them to turn out, before putting them in the oven. You can do so with a spoon, or get a lil’ messy and use your fingers.

7. Bake for 15-16 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets in the oven if you are baking two sheets at a time.

8. When you remove the cookies from the oven, cool them for two minutes on the sheet before moving them to a cooling rack.

The cookies taste great right out of the oven, but if you let them set, and cool off a bit, the cookie acquires a kind of hearty, more chewy texture. Right out of the oven the cookies are more cake-y, but still delectable.

Cake for Breakfast!

November 16, 2010

After two months of owning Baked Explorations; Classic American Desserts Reinvented, and after reading it just about every night, I feel prepared to attack one of the recipes. For some reason I feel the need to devour things visually and mentally before physically devouring anything, and I think this mindset dates back to reading that one of the most important things you can do when you bake is read the recipe in its entirety before starting the process. Translated into Colleen-speak, though, this important rule of thumb transforms from something simple, taking no more than five minutes, into reading entire books, or archives, multiple times. Not only do I have this recipe memorized, I also have the entire book ready for recall at any moment. Just in case. You never know.

Anyway, one of the many reasons I’m in love with this book is that it has a breakfast section! I’m a girl who not only has to have breakfast every morning, but usually has to go for a second breakfast. Much like the hobbits of Tolkien fame, in fact. It’s no wonder that the idea of cake for breakfast makes me giddy. I had to make my first baketivity with Baked Explorations a breakfast venture, and it just so happens that I’ve been eating oatmeal with chocolate every morning for the last week. The stars aligned, and pointed to this recipe.

Because I’m still working out the logistics of my blogging style, I’m offering a disclaimer, and probably not the first one you’ll read. Instead of just typing the recipe up, which I’m not even sure is allowed in terms of respecting copyrights and all that, I’m going to type it up the way I made it. The ingredients won’t differ so much as the order of the steps, and other technical things. And, really, I’m still a beginner at this baking thing, so my typing up the recipe according to my personal baking style helps me, especially in this circumstance, where the recipes from the book seem a little daunting.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake

Breakfast of champions

(Adapted from Baked Explorations, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito)

Ingredients:

1 ½ to 2 cups chocolate chips (I used chopped chocolate, a mixture of 60% and 72% dark)

½ teaspoon of your preferred liquor

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, and an extra 2 tablespoons

1 cup rolled, or “old-fashioned” oats if you are oat illiterate like me

1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into tablespoons

2 eggs

¾ cup white granulated sugar

1 ¼ cups dark brown sugar (or light brown sugar with an extra tablespoon of molasses)

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon

Method:

1. Prepare a 9 by 13 inch pan, glass or light colored metal if you have it, however you normally prepare a pan, be it butter and flour or baking spray.

2. Boil water, and then measure out 1 ¼ cups.

3. In a bowl large enough to accommodate the water and oats, put the tablespoon pats of butter in with the oats, then pour the water over the mixture. Wait for 30 seconds, and then stir until the butter is completely melted.

4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. You need set the oatmeal mixture aside, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, so it’s wise to let it sit while the oven is preheating.

5. Toss the chocolate chips, or chocolate chunks, with the liquor, until the chocolate seems evenly coated, then do the same with the 2 tablespoons of flour. Set this mixture aside as well.

6. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, sugars, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Fold in the oatmeal mixture, then gently fold in the 1 ½ cups of flour.

7. Lastly, fold in the chocolate just until the chocolate seems incorporated throughout the batter.

8. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and make sure it is spread evenly.

9. Bake the bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the cake tests done. (My cake seemed to bake insanely fast, so by the time 40 minutes rolled around, it was about to burn. Make sure you keep an eye on it.)

10. Let the cake cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes.

Store in an airtight container for up to three days.

*There is a cream cheese frosting to go along with this cake, but I chose to make the cake without it. Not because it doesn’t sound amazingly delicious and perfect for the cake, but because cream cheese did not make it into my weekly grocery budget.

And… DONE.