Monday, April 26, 2010

Match Monday: Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

Welcome to the first post in a weekly feature called Match Mondays.  As some of you may know, I've recently entered the world of online dating, and if there's one thing I've learned in these few short weeks, it's that the way to a guy's heart is through his sweet tooth.

It's pretty awesome, actually: One day I list baking as one of my hobbies and the next thing I know guys are asking, "do you know how to make (insert baked item here)?" And poof! Just like that I have a conversation starter AND a baking challenge!

So hear me, O noble gentlemen of I cannot guarantee that I'll return your emails, wink back at you, or go on a date with you, but I do promise that I'll take your baking suggestions to heart.  For as long as you keep 'em comin', I will try your suggestions and post the results each Monday.

Today's baked good was requested by "Cute Florida Guy"*. Besides oatmeal raisin cookies, he also enjoys crepes at 3am and playing guitar and piano.  He hopes to get a dog someday.

You might be saying "Oatmeal raisin cookies! Those are so ordinary!" (If you are saying that, please say it quietly - I am trying to get this guy to go out with me and would rather not offend him, okay?)

I assure you, these oatmeal raisin cookies are anything but ordinary.  Not only do they not flatten out like most oatmeal cookies, but they also have an extra special sweetness to them, due to one magic ingredient (no, not THAT magic ingredient - I haven't gotten any requests for THAT kind of baked good...yet).  This cookie gets it's magic from toasted pecans.

I baked these as directed, except I made mine slightly smaller than what the original recipe calls for.  Mine took 15 minutes to slightly brown, but they came out crunchier than I would have liked; next time I'll take them out sooner, move the oven rack up a slot or two, or chill the dough, in order to maintain chewiness while still getting the crunchy golden exterior.  This recipe is definitely a keeper though.

CFG: Please email me back so I can find out if you're a keeper too. :-)

*Nicknames are my own. I will never reveal user names or any identifying information beyond what is already public on

Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from Ina Garten's “Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics” via Ezra Pound Cake.
Makes 35-40 cookies

In my own words: I consider myself a classy cookie but my friends say I'm more than a little nutty.
Favorite things: cold milk, hot apple cider
For fun: convincing health-conscious bakers that it's okay to eat me for breakfast cause of the whole oatmeal thing

1 1/2 cups pecans
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 cup granulated sugar
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 1/2 cups raisins

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Place the pecans on a sheet pan and bake for 5 minutes, until crisp. Set aside to cool. Chop very coarsely.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla.

4. Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together into a medium bowl. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture. Add the oats, raisins, and pecans and mix just until combined.

5. Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper. Flatten slightly with a damp hand. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer the cookies to a baking rack and cool completely.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Happy Zucchini Bread Day!

Did you know April 25 is National Zucchini Bread Day?

There is really only one proper way to celebrate this most blessed of holidays, so Beck and I tried our hands at zucchini bread.  And when I say "Beck and I," what I really mean is Beck.  The I half was serving 500+ heaping spoonfuls of spanish rice to hungry folks at CHIPS in Brooklyn - an excellent organization you should check out if you have a chance.  Beck has been feeling a bit under the weather so she stayed home.  Spanish rice + boogers isn't appetizing, no matter how hungry you are.

Zucchini Bread Day aside, I've been wanting to try this quick bread for approximately two years and 11 months, ever since I first breathed in the aroma of my boss's daily slice of home baked zucchini bread toasting in her (illegal-per-building-codes) office toaster.

Two years and 11 months later, my boss no longer eats zucchini bread on a daily basis.  Then again, maybe she does...I hardly ever make it into the office early enough to catch her in her illegal toasting anymore, so I suppose I'm out of touch with her breakfast habits. But whether or not she still enjoys it, the national holiday was the extra motivation I needed to move this recipe from my "to try" recipe pile to the "been there done that" pile.

Beck did a great job with this bread (and the photos!), even though the bread didn't rise as much as we would have liked.  This is a family recipe for pumpkin bread, with zucchini substituted for the pumpkin.

Mama B's Pumpkin Zucchini Bread
adapted from Betty Crocker circa mid 1960's, we think
Makes two loaves, or 24ish muffins, or lots o' mini muffins (probably 48+)

2/3 c shortening
2 2/3 c granulated sugar
4 eggs
3 c shredded zucchini (about 3 medium)
2/3 c water
3 1/2 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
2/3 c coarsely chopped nuts (we used walnuts)
2/3 c raisins (we subbed currants this time)

1.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease bottoms only of two loaf pans or spray muffin pans (or line with paper liners).

2.  In large bowl, mix shortening and sugar.  Add eggs, water, and zucchini.

3.  Blend in flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, and cloves.  Stir in raisins and nuts.

4.  Pour into pans.  Bake until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.  Cool slightly on rack (about 15-20 minutes).

5.  Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans to cooling racks.  Cool completely.

6.  To store, wrap in two layers of plastic wrap and refrigerate no longer than 10 days.  Also freezes well.  Defrost loaves in the refrigerator for 24 hours before serving.

Happy Zucchini Bread Day!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The first post...

Welcome to Sunday Treats!

My sister and I love to bake. Recently, it's become a bit of an obsession:

"Beck," I say.  "We should really put those cookie sheets away. They're taking up way too much table space."

"Nah.  Then we'd just have to get them back out tomorrow."

Oh, right.

It's true.  I read way more foodie blogs than publishing blogs (shhh, don't tell my boss), and our cookie sheets and cooling racks have pretty much taken up residence on our kitchen table.   I've started collecting coupons for parchment because I swear we go through it faster than toilet paper.

One of the reasons I think I like baking is because it's an exact science.  One cup of flour spooned and leveled IS different than one cup of flour scooped out of the bin.  I love to pick a recipe and then do it over again changing just one variable.  Our mom the science teacher and dad the engineer should be proud.

Anyways, as part of the scientist in me, I find it important to document my baking experiments, thus this blog. I'm not yet sure how often we'll post, or exactly what we'll post, and the whole photography thing is serious unfamiliar territory, so we're going to figure this out as we go along.  We welcome your comments!  Now if you'll excuse me, the oven timer isn't going to stop beeping on its own...