Perfect Crispy Oatmeal Cookies

This cookie is simple and unassuming, but I swear it calls to me like no other.  So much so, that I have inadvertently eaten a whole batch by myself without surfacing for air.  My family is not known for their baking, or even cooking, for that matter.  They are kind of famous for their eating skills, but that is another story.  Anyway, the only particularly notable recipe that I remember from childhood would be my Aunt Ruth’s Crispy Oatmeal Cookies.  They are highly addictive, perfectly crisp, lacy yet substantial, and delicately flavored with brown sugar, nutty whole oats, salt and vanilla.  Just try to resist them.

Aunt Ruth, who is not actually my blood relative (more of a relative by marriage through another relative), was a sweet, kind, adorable lady that you couldn’t help but love.  Her charming barely-there Southern accent and warm, perfect manners made her a lovely host and gave her cookies something extra that nobody since has been able to replicate….even with her exact same recipe.  My Aunt Adele, who has even made them side by side with Aunt Ruth, says that she can’t get them to taste just right.  So, I set about testing this recipe with little tweaks in the method to see if I could get close to the original.  They came out pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.  Maybe, just a hair different than Aunt Ruth’s cookies, but definitely worthy of making on a leisurely day of baking.

Crispy Oatmeal Cookie

Aunt Ruth’s Crispy Oatmeal Cookies Recipe

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups old fashioned oats

Makes 4 dozen cookies

In a large bowl, cream together softened butter (or margarine for pareve cookies) and sugars.  Aunt Ruth specified to do this whole method by hand, but I used the kitchen aid on low speed.  Add in eggs and vanilla.  Mix until just incorporated.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add dry ingredients to butter mixture.  Mix until just combined.  Again, do this by hand or on very low speed with mixer.
Fold in oatmeal by hand. Refrigerate dough for 3-4 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Roll into small balls (a rounded teaspoon) and flatten until very thin (the thinner the better) onto greased cookie sheet.  You can flatten with a fork or your hand, but try to get a very thin, even layer.

Flatten well! This is the key to a crispy cookie all the way through.
Flatten well for a crisp cookie.

Bake 9-12 minutes or until medium brown and crisp at edges.  Remove from oven and let sit on pan for 1-2 minutes.  Remove to wire rack to cool completely.  Can be stored in airtight container for a few days, if they last that long.  Enjoy!

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Simple Valentine’s Day Treat- Dark Chocolate Brigadeiros

My oldest child, my only daughter is turning 11 in a few days.  At the cusp of her tween years, she already acts like a full-fledged tween.  We are having our first sleepover for more than just one or two kids- 6 girls…  I am bracing myself for impact already. Darby (my card carrying tween and resident chocoholic) has requested one thing in her birthday “retainer”, and that is a giant plate of Brazilian Brigadeiros.  I had made them as part of a giant dessert table at her 9th birthday, and apparently she has been dreaming about them ever since.

Darbys 9th birthday party table
Darby’s 9th birthday dessert table. Ooh-la-la!

Brigadeiros are truly the stuff of dreams.  Rich, chocolates, buttery, and chewy- They kind of remind me of a cross between a gooey caramel and a chocolate tootsie roll, only softer and coated in sprinkles.

Luckily for me (and you), Brigadeiros are super simple and inexpensive to make, and are the PERFECT Valentine’s Day treat for your sweetheart(s).  Forget the box of $50 chocolate truffles.  A homemade gift that looks impressive and tastes like you slaved over it, will be much more appreciated.  Plus, they are Brazilian, which makes you seems worldly and sophisticated.  Nuff said.

Start with 1 can sweetened condensed milk, 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, 4 tablespoons “good quality” dark cocoa powder (in Brazil, they use milk chocolate powder, but this is my version!), and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Ingredients for our Brigadeiros

I used Cacao Barry Extra Brute, but any dark cocoa powder will do.  This delicious and useful stuff is available on Amazon, if you are interested.

Cacao Barry Extra Brute for our Brigadeiros

Then you just whisk this mixture continuously, and I do mean don’t step away, for 12-15 minutes on Medium-low heat until mixture thickens dramatically and starts to pull away from the sides when whisked.  It will get slightly hard to wisk (great arm workout!) toward the end.  Mixture will firm up more once cooled.

Whisk the Brigadeiros

Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract off the heat, and whisk again.  Remove the mixture to separate bowl and stash in the fridge for 30 minutes or so.

The finished mixture for our Brigadeiros

Next, once the mixture is cool enough to touch (might still be slightly warm), scoop tablespoon balls of the chocolatey goodness.  Roll each ball in any type of sprinkle you like…Coconut, nuts, or cocoa powder would also work (but we are nut-free around here).  I usually roll them again in my hands after the sprinkles go on, just to make them perfectly round.

The Brigadeiros should be perfectly round balls

These were the sprinkles I used.  That is it!  Easy as can be.  Serve them in little mini-cupcake liners.  Adorable.  You can store them covered at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

The Brigadeiros are finished

Beautiful Brazillian Brigadeiros

Million Dollar Recipe, Nut Free Version! “Soynutty Pie Crust Clusters”

As I might have mentioned 100 a few times, I was lucky enough to be a contestant in the last two Pillsbury Bake Off Contests.  The winner of the 47th contest was just announced live on The Chew tv show the other day, and boy was I thrilled that my new friend and fellow Virginian, Beth Royals, walked away with the Grand Prize of 1 MILLION dollars!  Her absolutely addictive “Peanutty Pie Crust Clusters” are amazing, and I would encourage you to make a batch for your holiday cookie tray or exchange parties.  The original recipe can be found here. Not wanting to be deprived of these treats in my nut-free home, I set about making a peanut-free version, “Soynutty Pie Crust Clusters” .  It is a tad bit more involved than the original version (mostly because of the toffee chips!), but still took me around 30 minutes to throw together.

First, cut the pie dough into 16 strips in both directions.  I did this on top of parchment, with my pizza cutter.

The cut pie crust for my Nut Free Pie Crust Clusters

Then you spread the little pieces apart a bit, so that they don’t stick together.  This part would totally appeal to those of you that are obsessed with crossword puzzles.  It was kind of fun!  Kids can help make this recipe easily, by the way…

Nut Free Pie Crust Clusters dough on the baking sheet

Then you bake them at 450 degrees for 6-8 minutes or until light golden brown.

Nut Free Pie Crust Clusters dough baked

While those were baking, I set about making my own toffee.  It is super simple, takes about ten minutes, and is necessary if you want to avoid nut products.  You also could buy nut free hard candies, such as Werthers Originals and crush them up, if you wanted to skip this step.

Just place butter and sugar in a pot over medium-high heat and whisk occasionally until it reaches 305 degrees (hard crack stage).  If you don’t have a candy thermometer, it will turn a lovely toffee color at this point.  Pour out onto a lined pan onto parchment or Silpat mat.  Let cool and bust into pieces with a mallet.  Told you this was fun!

Nut Free Pie Crust Clusters toffee 1Nut Free Pie Crust Clusters toffee 2Nut Free Pie Crust Clusters toffee 3

Nut Free Pie Crust Clusters toffee 4

Not only do you get to bash toffee, but you get to smash pretzels in this version as well!  Great holiday stress relief.

Nut Free Pie Crust Clusters Smashed Pretzels

Now, put your white chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl.  An aside about white chocolate chips- It is hard to find a coconut oil-free brand that is not made in a plant with nuts, but Trader Joes makes them, and they are perfect for this recipe.  They do contain milk, however.

Anyhow, stick one bag of the white chocolate chips with 1 tablespoon crisco (butter variety or plain works as well), 1 tablespoon of soy-nut or sunbutter, and microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring well until completely melted.

Nut Free Pie Crust Clusters soy nut butter and white chocolate chips
The chips and Soynutty butter I used.

Nut Free Pie Crust Clusters soy nut butter and white chocolate chips in the bowl

Now all my bits and pieces are ready to go!  Just fold the pie crust bits, the smashed up toffee, and the broken pretzels into the melted chocolate goodness.

Nut Free Pie Crust Clusters ingredients

Nut Free Pie Crust Clusters ingredients mixed

Dollop onto parchment in little clusters.

Nut Free Pie Crust Clusters on a baking sheet

Pop into the fridge for 15 minutes and you have the best sweet and salty munchie ever invented….1 million dollars good!  Enjoy.

Nut Free Pie Crust Clusters yum
The focus group loved these!

(Peanut-Free) Soynutty Pie Crust Clusters

(Peanut-Free) Soynutty Pie Crust Clusters

Ingredients

    For the Clusters:
  • 1 pillsbury pie crust, room temp and unrolled
  • 1/3 cup toffee bits (recipe follows) or crushed hard caramel candies like Werthers
  • 1 cup pretzels (Rold Gold is nut-free), broken into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1 bag (2 cups) white chocolate baking chips (Trader Joes)
  • 1 tablespoon crisco (butter flavored or plain)
  • 1 tablespoon Soynut butter, golden peabutter, or sunbutter
    For the toffee:
  • 2/3 cup salted butter
  • 1 cup sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Cut pie crust into tiny squares or16 rows in each direction.
  3. Place on parchment lined baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until light golden brown.
  5. Let cool.
  6. Meanwhile, make the toffee by combining the butter and sugar in a saucepan over medium to medium-high heat.
  7. Whisking occasionally, heat to 305 degrees or until toffee colored (about 10 minutes).
  8. Pour out onto a lined baking sheet covered with parchment or a silpat .
  9. Spread out with an offset spatula and let cool completely.
  10. Break up into tiny pieces with a mallet or rolling pin.
  11. Place the pretzels into a zip topped bag.
  12. Crush into small pieces with a rolling pin.
  13. In a large, microwave safe bowl, heat white chips, crisco and Soynut butter on high in 30 second intervals, until melted.
  14. Gently fold in pretzels, toffee bits, and pie crust pieces.
  15. Make sure that everything is coated.
  16. Dollop by heaping tablespoon onto parchment paper and place in refrigerator for 15 minutes.
  17. Store covered, if they last more than 10 minutes!
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Some other allergy thoughts- If you have a peanut allergy, but are not allergic to tree nuts, you could add pecans or hazelnuts, lightly chopped.

If you are gluten-free, you could use Pillsbury’s gluten-free pie and pastry dough in place of the crust, and make sure to use gluten free pretzels.

If you are Milk free- you could use milk free chocolate chips in place of the white chips. A brand like Enjoy Life would work well. You could make the toffee with non-dairy margarine instead of butter.

If you are allergic to soy, use sunbutter or golden peabutter.

Cookie butter might also rock in this! Just a thought…