Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Milk Chocolate, Butterscotch, and Macadamia Nut Whips and Baked Chocolate Mousse

This week marks the beginning of Passover, which if you're interested, you can read more about here. But all you need to know is that it's basically Atkins on crack, for Jews. No flour, no corn, no rice, nothing leavened for 8 days. Fun, right? Although Passover didn't technically start until Monday night, we celebrated over the weekend so that everyone could be together, and I, of course, was tasked with making dessert. We were a big group of 9 with my grandmother, Dan, and my sister and her friends, so I chose to make 2 different desserts for variety's sake. To start, I made the Milk Chocolate, Butterscotch, and Macadamia Nut Whips.

I began by making butterscotch sauce so that it would have enough time to cool before dinner. I combined water with caster sugar in a large pot, and stirred it to dissolve the sugar.

I purposely used an oversized pot to make the sauce so that when I added the cream, it didn't bubble up over the sides as caramel is wont to do. Sort of like a searing hot sugar volcano.

I brought this mixture to a boil, and then let it boil over a medium-high heat, without stirring. I let the sugar boil until it turned a golden caramel color.

Not pictured: me, staring like a vulture into the pot, clutching a wooden spoon and resisting the urge to STIR

While the sugar was boiling, I used a pastry brush dipped in water to wash down the sides of the pot 4 or 5 times to ensure no sugar crystals formed. I wish I could tell you how long it took to get to this stage, but I wasn't really looking at the clock and the recipe gives no indication of how long this should take. I've gone through the process of burning caramel before (during an ill-fated tart tatin attempt), so I know it's not pretty, and stood a vigilant watch over the sugar to make sure it didn't color too darkly. Once it turned that light gold pictured above (and after I hastily took the picture because MY GOD MAN don't let it burn!), I took the pot off the heat and left it for a few seconds to color more, which happens naturally as it cools.

 Look at me sounding all authoritative when I only know this because the other time I made caramel, I learned this the hard way, as did my mother who had to scrape the hard, burned caramel off our brand new tart tatin pan. I told you it didn't go well.

Thankfully, the caramel turned a rich brown color, at which point I added heavy cream which I had also boiled while the sugar was cooking. I did this slowly in a small, steady stream, as the cream causes the caramel to boil up and can bubble and spit, and who wants searing hot sugar splattered onto their hand? Not me!

This was also done off the heat

Once all the cream had been added, I put the pot back on the heat and whisked gently as it came back to a boil, which happened immediately. At this point, I stirred in the last ingredient:


and took the finished product off the heat

OHMAHGAH sooo gorgeous

I was so excited that this turned out so well. It was such a nice color and consistency, and for my first attempt at a butterscotch sauce, I don't think it could have gone any better. I let this cool for a few minutes and then poured it into a container to cool completely on the counter.

Next, I poured the macadamia nuts out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and sprinkled them with some salt.

These went into the oven for about 13 minutes until they were a nice golden brown

Well, most were a golden brown. Some were a bit more...toasty

I left the nuts to cool completely, and then had Dan give them a rough chop.

Please note the manly placement of the large butcher knife
Meanwhile, I made the milk chocolate mousse. Originally, this recipe was written with white chocolate, which I now think would be delicious with the butterscotch and macadamia nuts, but I'm just not a huge white chocolate fan. There is a note that says milk chocolate can be used instead, so that's what I chose to do, but next time I'll definitely try with the white chocolate.

I whipped heavy cream to soft peaks and put it in the fridge.

I broke up the milk chocolate and put it in a bowl, guarding it against all the grabby hands in the kitchen.

I boiled a little water with some corn syrup (not pictured because BORING) and poured it over the chocolate, whisking until the chocolate was melted to a batter-like consistency.

Without letting the chocolate cool, I began adding the whipped cream, folding in about a third at a time until it was completely incorporated.

With all the components made, it was time to assemble. Dan and I formed a little assembly line with 8 dessert glasses and began by putting a spoonful of nuts in the bottom of each glass. Next came a layer of butterscotch sauce, followed by some chocolate mousse.

Then, we repeated the steps again: more nuts, butterscotch, and the rest of the chocolate mousse.

I am apparently not great at portion control, because when I started the last layer of mousse, I was nearly out of mousse with 3 glasses to go. We did our best spreading out the last layer of mousse so it at least covered the last layer of butterscotch. Last, we garnished with a little sprinkling of nuts.

These went into the fridge for about 2 hours to firm and set until we were ready to serve.

And because you can never have too much chocolate, I also made Baked Chocolate Mousse, which I served alongside the Whips. 

These required 8 individual 2-inch ring molds, which my mother and grandmother dutifully looked for in three different kitchen supply stores. Our phone conversation while I was at work went something like this:
"No, they have to be 2 inches wide and 1 inch tall...What? They have handles? Well are the handles going to be a problem? Ok, the most important thing is that they're 2 inches wide... No, 2 1/2 inches wide and 1 3/4 inches tall won't work... No, I don't want to go look at them myself. Yes, I still need you to buy all of the ingredients."

Unfortunately, no one carried the specific size molds we needed, but they did find 2-inch biscuit cutters that are essentially just ring molds with little handles on top (and will come in handy next time I make scones). 

I preheated the oven and prepped the molds by giving them a base of aluminum foil and placing all eight on a baking sheet. I also gathered all my ingredients together.

caster sugar, dark chocolate, butter, 1 egg

I put the chocolate in a bowl with the butter, and set it over simmering water, and let the mixture melt, stirring occasionally.

I kept this warm on the stove while I whisked together the egg and sugar until it was pale and thick. Since it was such a small amount, Dan and I took turns doing this by hand.

This looks frothy in the picture, but it was really nice and smooth and thick

Once this mixture was thick, I added the melted chocolate and butter, folding the whole mixture together with a rubber spatula.

Once the mixture was completely combined, I carefully spooned it into the 8 molds. The handles made this a little challenging and the process took kind of a while, but it wasn't too bad.

You can see that the molds are pretty small, and they're only filled about halfway, which is intentional. The chocolate is so rich, dark, and dense in this dessert, that you really only need a small amount, even for chocolate lovers like myself. 

I put the molds in the oven and set the timer for 8 minutes. After 4 minutes, I checked to see if they were forming a ring of large, slightly risen bubbles around the edges, in which case I would have lowered the oven temperature slightly and left the oven door ajar. At the 4 minute mark, the tops still looked smooth, so I left them alone.

Of course, after those last 4 minutes, when I removed the molds from the oven, what did I see?

Oh, hi, ring of large, slightly risen bubbles around the edge! So happy to see you!

Maybe I should have checked again after another minute or two, or it may be that the pan was in the wrong position in the oven (I put it in the middle instead of at the top because apparently I can't follow directions). I was kind of disappointed and sort of tried to poke at the bubbles with a toothpick (very professional, I know), but at that point, I really just had to accept the outcome and leave them alone. The time in the oven isn't really meant to bake the mousses all the way through, so they were still soft and wobbly, and needed to set completely. I left the molds to cool on the pan, and then put them in the fridge overnight so they would be very firm when I tried to unmold them the next day. 

About four hours before I wanted to serve them, I took the molds out of the fridge. Using a small creme brulee torch, we were to gently heat the outside of each mold just enough so that the mousse could be unmolded intact. Dan was super excited to get to play with our brulee torch (because really, all firemen are just pyromaniacs at heart), and was way better than I was at aiming it at the mold and not at his hand, so I let him handle this process.

Without a torch, you can use a warm damp towel, but who doesn't want to play with a mini blowtorch?

The mousses all stayed intact and came out of the molds with no problems, something I completely attribute to Dan's steady hand and tolerance for stressful situations. I tried one, almost burned myself and our china dessert plates, and then started to get all tense and mouth-breathy and had to walk away.

The one odd thing that happened I noticed as I removed the tinfoil from each mold. Around the outside, just where the tinfoil had been was a translucent wax-like substance. I'm not sure if it was from the foil itself or if some of the butter, through the cooking process, perhaps leaked out and was contained by the foil. You can see it on the bottom of the mold in this picture:

It didn't hurt the mousse or the molds at all, and was actually sort of helpful for Dan, since as soon as it started to melt from the heat of the torch, he knew the mousses were ready to unmold. 

We placed each mousse on the serving plates we were going to use later and left them to sit at room temperature until we ate, about three and a half hours later. This allowed them to come back to room temperature, changing the texture so that they still held their shape but were soft and scoopable instead of hard and dense.

Just before serving, I whipped together creme fraiche, heavy cream, vanilla, and confectioner's sugar until it formed firm peaks.

Using two teaspoons warmed in some hot water, I scooped some of the cream in one spoon, and then shaped it into an oval by scraping it from one spoon to the other, forming a canelle. Before trying this, I was pretty pessimistic I would be able to form the correct shape, but it actually was pretty easy, and most of the ovals turned out really well. Dan did some of them too so that I could drizzle each dish with some of the butterscotch sauce, and then Alex topped them off with a dusting of confectioner's sugar.

pretty beautiful, if I do say so myself

These were just as delicious as they looked. The mousse was soft and light, but still packed with the dark chocolate flavor. The cream was not too sweet, so it cut the chocolate nicely, and the butterscotch sauce was a nice accompaniment as well. They were the perfect size so that the chocolate wasn't overwhelming, but you felt satisfied after eating just one. I added a little more butterscotch to mine for a little extra sweetness.

The Milk Chocolate Whips were also delicious with the sweet milk chocolate, butterscotch, and crunchy macadamia nuts. They were an interesting contrast to the bitter dark chocolate mousse and also a completely different texture. The portions were quite a bit larger but the milk chocolate mousse was light and airy so it didn't feel too heavy and the nuts added a much needed crunch.

I polled the table after everyone had tried both desserts to gauge which was the favorite, and I think the majority of people preferred the Baked Chocolate Mousse, but some definitely favored the Milk Chocolate Whips. Personally, I liked the Baked Chocolate Mousse a little better, I think because of the intense chocolate flavor, but both really were delicious.

And now, for lack of a better segue...

As part of the enrollment process for culinary school(!!!!), I had to get tested for Hepatitis A and TB. Since I'm in Richmond and refuse to form relationships with any real doctors, I chose to have the tests done at a clinic down the street, sort of like an urgent care center that's open 365 days a year. I called the day before to be sure they would perform the tests, and went after work the next day. I explained why I was there to the person checking me in and handed her my insurance card. She started to confirm my mothers name, address, and employer, which is when I realized she was using my old insurance information and completely ignoring the insurance card right in front of her (I had been there once before for something so minor, a physicians assistant checked me out for literally 5 minutes and sent me home with nothing more than a $90 bill. This was after I waited for more than an hour. I know, why on Earth did I go back there? Because I am lazy and it's a mile away from my house). I quickly informed her that I was no longer on my mom's insurance, but had my own. "Oh," she replied and then started looking at the insurance card which clearly stated my correct insurance. So, before when I handed you that card, that was just what, for kicks? I could have handed you my expired Rec center card and you wouldn't have noticed.

I waited for all of 2 minutes and was called back to the patient area. We went through the usual routine of weighing, measuring, and blood pressure-taking, and the medical assistant asked again why I was there. I explained I was being tested for Hepatitis A and TB and showed her my medical form. She seemed a bit confused about the whole testing v. being vaccinated thing, but looked at the form, shrugged, and left. Next, a physician's assistant came in (I suspect the same one I saw last time) and said chirpily, "So, you're here for a vaccine?"

...No. I'm just here to be tested. He did a double take to ensure I was being tested for Hepatitis A, not B or C, and left. A few minutes later a nurse popped her head in.
"Hey, what's your name?"
Calling down the hallway, "Yeah, it's her. She's in here."
Um, where else would I be?

I was mildly amused at this point, but not really concerned, although perhaps I should have been given that there were very few people in the clinic. Maybe it is easier to keep track of people when all the rooms are full...

Finally the lab tech came in to draw my blood for the Hepatitis test. He confirmed he was in the right place and started to set up shop, telling me he had a hard time finding me. I gave him a confused look. "Did you move rooms?" he asked. I'd been sitting in the same room in the same chair for 10 minutes. Apparently they had me listed in a different exam room than the one I was in, and after not finding me in that room, he had actually chased after a woman in the parking lot (apparently as opposed to checking other exam rooms first), and proceeded to yell after her to wait as he hadn't drawn her blood yet. Please take a moment and picture that...Frantic man in a white lab coat carrying a tacklebox of needles: "Wait! I still need your blood!"

Now, here's my question. If I had gone into the clinic to be tested for Hepatitis, and left without getting any blood drawn, how would I think they would be performing the test? By analyzing the air I was breathing? Just by looking at me? "Hmm, she doesn't look Hepatitis-y to me." Believe me, I would not leave the clinic without getting blood drawn. Thankfully, the lab tech was perfectly competent at actually taking my blood, and now all I have to do is hope they don't misplace my blood sample. I mean, if they can keep track of a whole person...oh, wait...

My TB test was a slightly different story. I knew it was a skin test, and sort of assumed it would be like a little something they would swab on my skin and I would come back in 2 days to see what it looked like. My medical form from the school particularly led me to believe this as it depicted a giant needle circled, with a line through it boasting, "No Shots!" Oh how naive I was.

Granted, shots are something that aren't really a big deal to me. I give blood, I have tattoos; needles don't scare me (Now, the dentist. That's a different story *shudder*). What is slightly unnerving is when I'm expecting an alcohol swab and see a big syringe instead. It's just surprising. Also the words, skin and bubble: not two things I want to hear in the same sentence. When I told Dan that the TB test hurt, he seemed surprised since he gets them every year (a perk of working with sick people all the time) and they never hurt. Maybe they did it wrong. Maybe they accidentally gave me TB because they did it wrong and now it's starting to itch and I'm coughing and SHUT UP. He was also willing to bet me $5 that he could rip my bandaids off in one fell swoop. He then downgraded and just offered to give me $5 if he failed and accept the mere satisfaction if he succeeded. I declined the offer.

I also fell on Dan's (wooden) steps while carrying Dexter the other day, landing on my knee, thigh, and hands, because yes, I did drop Dexter in order to brace my fall. Now I know a dog is different than a baby, but this does not bode well for my future offspring, although Dexter definitely faired better than I did. We fell forward so he just sort of dropped down onto the next step, and I made sure not to squish him. And while I laid there momentarily making a truly unholy sound, he continued to hop up the rest of the way and then look at me quizzically from the top floor. So not only are both my arms bruised from various needle pricks, but both my legs are sporting angry bluish patches as well.

Aren't you glad I spared you of these physical maladies until after I had written about all the delicious chocolate?

How dare you insinuate that I'm not your baby

I'm sorry I didn't mean t-

No, you're dead to me.

Next Indulgence: Frosted Banana Cake and Lemon Cake with Lemon Curd

Monday, March 22, 2010

Oatmeal, [pecan] and Raisin Cookies, Wedding Fingers, and Goober Cookies- UPDATED

You know when you're waiting for something to toast, and you're standing there staring at the toaster, expecting it to, I don't know, burst into flames or something? So you've been standing there staring at it for a good minute, when it POPS up, and you're scared HALF TO DEATH? Like you had no idea it was coming? Yeah, that just happened.

Anyway, what does a toaster have to do with cookies, you may ask? Well, I'll tell you. Nothing. I'm just eating an English Muffin and like to share my very deep philosophical thoughts with you. Crunch, crunch, crunch.

It took me a little while to decide in what order I wanted to talk about each of these recipes. I thought about writing about them in the order in which I made them, but decided in order to keep you in the most suspense, to write about them starting with the "worst" one and ending with the "best." (I use quotation marks because even the "worst" cookies were pretty damn good, but oh, there I go diminishing suspense, so let's just get to it, shall we?)

First up, the Wedding Fingers.

 butter, caster sugar, vanilla, flour, ground almonds, walnuts, confectioner's sugar (not pictured)

Let me preface this by saying, I was in a foul mood when I made these, which only got worse as the recipe went on. Sounds like fun, right? I can just tell you guys are excited to read about my crappy attitude. To prep, I ground some almonds in my food processor in an attempt to make "ground almonds" that would be fine enough to sift.

As the almonds continued to spin in the processor and started to form a sort of paste, it dawned on me that perhaps I could just buy already ground almonds. Because there was no way these nuts were going to get fine enough to sift through a fine sieve.

 But oh well, too late now. I will just make do with what I have [meanwhile, I just consulted the "translations" (British to English) in the front of the cookbook, and ground almonds=almond flour. Great. Good to know NOW]. I did the best I could and even put the ground almonds into the sifter, as if somehow I could just squeeze them through the holes.

 Yeah, I don't think so. 

I ended up just dumping them in the bowl with the sifted flour and hoping no one would notice. I also put the walnuts in the food processor and pulsed until they were finely chopped,

and added these to the flour as well. 

I lightly creamed the butter, sugar, and vanilla together, pretending I knew what it meant to "lightly cream" something. 

Once the mixture looked somewhat creamy and incorporated, 

I slowly added the dry ingredients, until the dough was just combined.

I turned the dough out onto some plastic wrap (my idea, not included in the recipe) and formed it into a log.

My thought process regarding the plastic wrap was that it would help hold the dough together and wouldn't create such a mess, and I think I was pretty successful overall. Of course, I'm feeling pretty happy with myself at this brilliant idea when Dan came to inform me that my log was definitely not 1 inch in diameter (stupid measurements). I half-heartedly tried to squeeze it out further, making a thinner log, but the dough was threatening to seep out the ends of the plastic wrap and it just wasn't working, so I basically just gave up and decided I would deal with the log I had. Next, I was to cut discs 1/2 inch thick. Again with the measuring. I then had to roll each disc into a little mini sausage, 5 inches long. Seriously? Seriously.

The pieces of nuts, even though they were very small, made the dough incredibly hard to roll out as it kept sort of falling apart, meaning I was getting more and more annoyed as I worked. Always a good thing when there are so many sharp pointy objects around. I was in way too bad of a mood to give a shit about all of these damn measurements so I sort of half-assed it and tried to estimate and measure using my finger (as if I knew how long that was), but eventually I just gave up and at least tried to make them all the same size, which were, of course, a little too big. The dough became very soft, since I was handling it so much, which made it even harder to handle and prompted me to consider just chucking the whole thing. But finally, each cookie was rolled out and I put them on lined baking sheets, and into the oven.

Only after they were already baking did I re-read the notes at the bottom of the recipe: "If the dough seems soft or sticky, roll it in a little flour to form the log, then chill before shaping the fingers." Super. My afternoon just kept getting better and better.

The first two trays of cookies spread a little too much, probably due to the dough being so soft, and the bottoms of the fingers browned heavily. I think this may have had to do with the older, dark pans I was using, since the final tray was made of aluminum and came out much more evenly colored.

Yeah, these were the good ones

Once they were out of the oven, I was to roll them in confectioner's sugar while still warm. Of course, by this time, I was so over the whole process, that I just wanted to be done with it, and rolled them a little too soon. This caused the sugar to melt slightly and clump, making the cookies look even less attractive.


Again, I had to seriously restrain myself from just throwing the entire tray into the trash, pan and all. I was so frustrated, feeling like a failure, and had just wasted all this time and all these ingredients, and for what? Cookies that looked, and would probably taste, like crap. On top of all of this, I was planning on giving these to Dan's mom as a birthday gift, but they just looked so terrible and I was feeling so disheartened that I couldn't even fathom doing that.

And then, I tasted one.


It was sweet and rich and buttery, a bit crumbly, not too dense or light, and the nuts were small enough that I didn't mind them. With my renewed faith in these cookies, I took the last tray out of the oven and they looked much better than the first two, with a more even, golden brown. Instead of rolling them in the sugar, I patiently waited until they were warm but not hot and then sifted the sugar on top of the cookies to get a more even and prettier coverage. Thankfully, this last batch turned out beautifully, and I packed them up in pretty ribbon-tied bags for Dan's mom, hopefully to enjoy with some tea. She said they were delicious. :)

muuuuch better

See, even the "worst" weren't really that bad. Although, I'm not sure if I just continued to have negative associations with these cookies or what, but I just didn't really want to eat them. I would be craving something sweet and think about them sitting on the counter, but I just couldn't bring myself to eat one. Every time I would try, and take a bite, I would be reminded of just how good these were and yet...they just weren't my favorite. Maybe it's because there was no chocolate. Or peanut butter.

Which brings me to my next confection: Goober Cookies. I have no idea why she named them this, but whatevs, we'll go with it.

butter, caster sugar, light brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, peanut butter, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, rolled oats

I was in a much better mood when I started these cookies, which was already an improvement from the Wedding Fingers. Plus, I was really looking forward to eating these, what with all the peanut butter and sugar and such. I preheated the oven and started by creaming the butter with both sugars until pale and fluffy.

I promise this was fluffy before I smushed it all into the center of the bowl

I beat the egg lightly and added it a little at a time to the butter mixture, creaming it until smooth. Then, I added the vanilla and peanut butter, mixing to incorporate.

Ah, creamy

I sifted the dry ingredients together twice and added the oats. Adding a little at a time, I added the flour to the butter mixture, using a wooden spoon to combine.

Quite a workout for my arms

I started scooping the dough and rolling it into balls, spacing them out on the cookie sheet, about 2-3 inches apart. I had a feeling these would turn out pretty thinly since eventually you sandwich them together with icing in the middle (I KNOW, right?) At first I was worried I was making them too large, but I ended up with 28 cookies and the recipe makes 30, so I couldn't have been that far off. I did the best I could and made 3 separate trays of cookies, thinking that they would probably be fine.
Clearly, I was wrong. Please note where the parchment paper folded over and took a bite out of that cookie in the corner. Perfect. Just what I wanted.

The proposed cook time was only 15 minutes, but the first two batches took more like 25-30. I've come to expect the cooking times in this book to fall a little short, but I was still surprised by how long these took. The last batch only took about 20 minutes, probably because I wasn't having to rotate the pans and continually opening the oven door, letting all the heat out (uh, ya think?). 

While the cookies cooled, I made the filling.

butter, peanut butter, confectioner's sugar, salt

I creamed together the butter and sugar using the whisk attachment for my mixer.


I added the peanut butter and salt and mixed just to combine.

The recipe actually calls for salted butter for this (in lieu of the salt), but I only buy unsalted butter and didn't really want to buy a whole different kind just for one dish. So instead, I just added a pinch or two of salt. Aren't you sooo impressed with my culinary skillz?

Once the cookies were completely cool, I flipped half over and schmeared a little icing on each one, making sure I had enough for all of them.

Don't even ask what shape this one in the bottom right corner is. Pac Man perhaps?

Once half the cookies had some icing on it, I spread it out just using a butter knife and sandwiched them together with another, non-iced cookie.

Glamour Shot! Gowgeous Dahling.

At this point I was all set to eat BOTH those cookies, you know...for research. The cookies were nice and crispy, with just a hint of peanut butter. I barely noticed the oats, and suspect they're really just there to give some structure to the dough. The icing was very, very sweet, and not really as peanuty as I wanted it to be. It's possible I needed to add a little more salt, or Clark may use a more natural, less sweet peanut butter than I did (Choosy chefs choose JIF!). There's a little note at the end of the recipe that you can also add mini chocolate chips to the cookies for a slight variation, which I'm sure would be really good. About halfway through the first cookie I discovered that dipping it in milk was particularly satisfying. It was also then that I knew there was no way I was going to get to that second cookie; they were just too rich, but still very very good. I saved it for lunch the next day though, of course.

You should also probably know that I'm eating one at this very moment. Jealous?

And now for the big moment. Drumroll please (except there were only 3 cookies and we've already gone through 2 so you obviously know which ones were the best. Whoops.) Still,  dududuudududududududduuddudu (that's my drumroll) Oatmeal Raisin!

I know, you're all "...Really? Oatmeal Raisin? They're like the redheaded stepchild of the cookie world. They're always the last ones left on a variety tray." And believe me, I totally agreed with you. I'm particularly not a fan of the raisins because usually there's just not enough cookie for such a plump fruit. Oatmeal chocolate chip though? Now that's an oatmeal cookie. But I'm telling you, one bite of these Oatmeal Raisin cookies and you will be a believer. Although then you'll really never be able to eat any other Oatmeal Raisin cookie again because no other will compare. Ok, enough with the hype.

dark brown sugar, caster sugar, rolled oats, dried cherries, raisins, pecans (not pictured because I didn't use them because ew), vanilla, butter, eggs, flour, baking soda, cinnamon

**Edited to add: when I was buying ingredients for these cookies, the person checking me out busted a small hole in the caster sugar, but failed to notice as he put it on the conveyor belt to the bagging area so sugar started spilling out everywhere. I fortunately did notice, and yet all I could think to say was "Oh. Oh my God. Wow. Hi." Hi. Sometimes even my eloquence astounds me.

I preheated the oven and combined the two sugars with the oats.

Next, I added the raisins, cherries, and vanilla.

Although there weren't instructions to do so, I chopped the cherries because I thought they were a bit large. I was also worried they would all clump together and fail to incorporate fully into the dough, but as soon as they were coated with the sugar mixture, they dispersed nicely. Also, the measurement for the vanilla is a capful. So I have to measure out the oats by the gram, but I can just toss a capful of vanilla in? Ok...

I melted the butter and added this plus an egg to the mixture.


I sifted the dry ingredients together twice and then added them to the rest of the ingredients. At this point, I switched to mixing by hand. And by hand, I mean by hand

  Who says feminists can't enjoy baking cookies while wearing pearls in the kitchen? I draw the line at aprons though

I divided the dough roughly in half and formed 10 balls from each piece, placing them on parchment-lined baking sheets.
Do these look a little big to you too?

Because they definitely looked big to me and I started to get a little nervous. The recipe notes that these cookies don't spread as much as others, so you can flatten them with a damp spoon if you want. But I was so sure they would all widen and form one huge mass of oatmeal that I just left them as is and hoped for the best. I put them in the oven and timed them for 14 minutes, turning the trays halfway through. Once the 14 minutes were up, I checked and the cookies were still a very light brown, so left them in for another 3 minutes and then removed the tray that had spent the most time on the top rack. The second tray took one more minute, and then they were done as well. Amazingly, the cookies spread just enough so that they looked nice and plump, but hadn't spread enough to even touch each other.

Let me just reiterate what you already know, these were the best oatmeal raisin cookies I've ever eaten. They were crunchy on the outside, but soft and chewy inside. I thought I would have a problem with the raisins and especially with the cherries, but the cherries blended right in, adding a bit of a tang. And there was so much cookie that the raisins really weren't overpowering, which I think can be a problem in other oatmeal raisin cookies.

I brought these into work and they were a huge hit. People were surprised that they liked them so much, even though frankly, they were even better the night before when they were fresh out of the oven. Someone even asked me for the recipe, which I of course had to convert from weight measurements into traditional (3 oz is how many tablespoons, and then .75, and 1/2 teaspoon, carry the 1....), but I was happy to do it (although secretly I hoped mine would still be the best and she would wonder, "HOW did she DO it??")

UPDATED: I baked the Oatmeal Raisin Cookies again (of course because ohmahga soo good) and this time replaced the pecans with about 100g of semi-sweet chocolate chips. The combination of raisins, cherries, and chocolate was delicious and each was balanced by the other with flavor that was too overpowering. I think subbing white chocolate or definitely dark chocolate would be equally delicious.

Also, this past weekend, I got a flat tire. Well, not exactly flat so much as punctured with a screw, allowing air to escape. Of course, this is not the first time it's happened. Last time (only a few months ago), my stepdad figured out that my car was missing the integral wrench to remove the very specialized bolt that kept thieves from stealing my spare. It also kept us from getting the spare off my car. A few hours and a patch job later, the bolt had been removed by professionals and the spare was still on the back of my car. Luckily, no one had succeeded in stealing it since then, so when I noticed my tire quickly releasing air this time, I called Dan (duh) and whined to him to come help me (Ok, I was right outside his house and it was a beautiful day. Not exactly that inconvenient or torturous).

Ever since we met, he's been telling me he's going to teach me how to change a tire. Why? I ask. Isn't that what AAA is for? (Incidentally, this is exactly what both my mother and sister said) But now here it was! His chance to be all manly, and kneel down on the ground, and practically crawl under my car (Seriously, does he think I would ever ever do that? Even though I now know how to change a tire in theory, I am never going to lie down in the street, I don't care how flat that tire is.) I should also mention that my friend Chelsea was visiting that weekend, and she was all about some tire-changin'. She rolled up her sleeves and started unbolting and jacking and lifting. It was all very impressive. So Chelsea is getting the spare, Dan's jacking the car up, and I...am taking pictures.

And texting them to people.

I won't go into details about how my jack sucks and nearly gave out, almost crushing Dan's precious head beneath my behemoth vehicle. Because that would be worrisome. Or that Chelsea was actually the one who removed said sucky jack while Dan was getting his from his truck, since she didn't want him to risk getting it himself. Again, I just stood there and watched.

Next Indulgence: Baked Chocolate Mousse and/or White chocolate, Butterscotch and Macadamia Nut Whips
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