Saturday, January 26, 2013

Occupy Cookie: Just Your Good Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cookie, with a generous dose of Limequats and Fancy White Chocolate (and a little Cardamom too)

Once again, a month-ish after I last apologized for being the failure of a food blogger that I feel I so certainly am, I am sitting here looking at my almost empty computer screen trying to figure out where to start. What I want to share here - the "subject" of this post, I suppose - is a cookie recipe, a delightful cookie recipe, a sweet-and-sour cookie recipe employing the tried-and-true oatmeal cookie-crafting methods of America's Test Kitchen while experimenting with a new ingredient that caught my eye and piqued my interest at the grocery store about two weeks ago. I made these nearly two weeks ago. It's taken me that long to write about them.

Limquat + White Chocolate = Bliss

That's the problem here. I'm out of practice. I have material. I've been cooking up a storm lately - seriously, in the last month I've spent more time in the kitchen than I probably did cumulatively from July through December. But what's trickier lately is the writing part of the blog, which I've always valued so much, which has always provided me so much satisfaction and joy and challenge all at the same time. I've fallen into that horrible trap of looking at other people's blogs and wondering why the heck I'm doing something that other people are doing better than I am. So I'm going to experiment with formatting here to just get some words on this compose page and try to get over myself, get back to work, and get you a good cookie recipe to contemplate. Or at least ogle.

Why do I have this dang blog anyway?

1. I love to write and to entertain.
2. I love to be heard and I'm too wordy for Twitter (or even Facebook).
3. I love food and cooking and eating.
4. I love talking about food and sharing food.
5. I believe food is integral to the building of community.
6. I need community. This blog is one way I can make community for myself.
7. I teach people how to cook and this blog gives me some credibility/dimension.
8. I like to sometimes not change diapers.
9. Sometimes when I'm traveling I like to cook the food I make at home and this blog has been a wonderful resource time and time again, as I can come here and type in the little search box the recipe I want. (Which reminds me - I still need to post more (all?) of my favorites here. I'm behind on that.)
10. I cook and eat a certain way. I use a select, finite set of ingredients over and over again (and then sometimes limequats). Some of the food blogs I read regularly attract me because the writing is funny (Joy the Baker) or the food is interesting and ambitious (Smitten Kitchen) or the photography is orgasmic (Not without Salt). But most of the food blogs that actually get me in the kitchen are the ones with recipes that resemble what I like to cook and eat regularly: Lottie and Doof101 Cookbooks, Dana Treat, My New Roots, In Praise of Leftovers. So, I figure, or hope anyway, that the people who come to my website - usually my friends, sometimes students, and more often than you'd think a random googler directed here via her "no-mayo tartar sauce" search -  are simpatico with the way I cook and eat, find themselves satisfied with one or two recipes they try, and keep coming back because the food I showcase here is accessible as well as inspiring, the kind of food they like to prepare and devour on a regular basis. And their name is Charlotte.

The set backs I've faced lately:

1. Time. Duh. You and me and everyone we know.
2. My nice camera broke and then Picnik sold out. My Hipstamatic solution was meant to be temporary but it's been a while now, too long a while given my dissatisfaction with the combination of my shooting skills + my old iPhone's ability to compensate for my own photographing deficiencies + Hipstamatic's not-so-user-friendliness. What's a bad picture-taker to do?
3. Beckett's allergies. Sometimes inspiring, mostly not.
4. Identity crisis. Duh. You and me and everyone we know.

I guess since there are more potential pros than cons, I shall keep at it. All the writers-on-writing books say deadlines help. Maybe my life is too unstructured. I'm going to try to give myself some deadlines. We'll see if that helps.

Moving on!

Let's talk about why these cookies are special.

And they ARE special. Like, the kind of special that caused their maker to eat most of them on her own within 48 hours. (Oh sugar and wheat and butter and all your deliciously addictive properties! I hate you and I love you so, so much.)

Yeah. Two sticks of butter. Forty-eight hours.

1. Two sticks of butter.
2. Limequats. Like kumquats, but yellow, and limey. Here are some chopped up because I forgot to take a picture beforehand:


3. Eggs and wheat. My toddler son is allergic to both foods, so we rarely use either in our home. But I purposely promised to bring dessert to dinner at my friend's house because I craved an opportunity to use these trusty badboys. There is a reason European and American baking rely so heavily on wheat and eggs. They WORK. And they are so wonderful and easy and rewarding to work with. I'd missed you guys! See you next time! Stay cool! K.I.T.!

Put Some Back Into It, Come On!

4. America's Test Kitchen is the best. Here's the deal though, having followed their instructions pretty precisely and then not following them because I was a little taken aback by the size of these awesome albeit monstrous cookies. (Oh the irony, given that I ate them almost all by myself anyway.) This is an adaptation of ATK's "Big and Chewy" oatmeal cookie recipe. The outside is crispy but the inside is soft. If you make the cookies huge, and bake them for the time specified, you will get this crispy-soft combo. If you make them smaller, which I did with about two-thirds of the batter, they have a firmer interior on day one and then are pretty crispy on days 2 and 3 (there will be no day 4, trust me). Reducing the baking time doesn't solve this dilemma. The baking time and ingredient portions are designed to make a crispy exterior regardless of the size, so you have to bake them nearly as long for them to have a nice outside texture. (If you underbake them they will just be sort of all around chewy, which I think is kind of weird in an oatmeal cookie. But all power to you.)

Makes 18 big, chewy-on-the-inside cookies:

ATK-sized Cookies

Or way more small, crispy cookies:

More than 18 Cookies

Not pictured: the cup of raw dough that my husband and I ate before it made its way onto a cookie sheet.

Oatmeal-Limequat-White Chocolate Cookies
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen
Makes: 18 huge ones or a lot more small ones

1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz) all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)*
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed (7 oz) light brown sugar
3/4 cup (~5 oz) sugar
2 eggs
3 cups thick rolled oats
1/2 cup finely chopped limequats (or kumquats)
One 3.5-oz bar good quality white chocolate, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat. In a bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and cardamom. In another bowl, toss chopped limequats with a tablespoon of flour or some of the oats.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and sugars at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add one egg at a time, beating for a few seconds after each, and mix for 30 more seconds.

Decrease mixing speed to low and add the dry ingredients; mix until combined, about 30 seconds more. Add oats and stir on low speed or use your hand and a measuring spoon. Add limequats and white chocolate and stir in until as combined as possible (the dough will be super thick, so give it some time).

For crispier cookies, measure heaping teaspoonfuls of dough and roll into balls. Space about 1-2" apart on the lined cookie sheets and bake for 16-20 minutes, rotating pan 180 degrees half way through.

For cookies with a crispy exterior and a soft inside, form larger cookies - use ~2 tablespoons of dough per cookie (size of a ping-pong ball) and space apart at least 2 inches. Bake for 22-24 minutes, rotating pan 180 degrees half way through.

* Full disclosure: I used 1 teaspoon of this cardamom extract, which is sold at the grocery store where I teach. It's wonderful!