Anyone want a cookie?

School and life are at the peak of craziness and sometimes I just need to decompress and make something simple and sweet. COOKIES! Baking is my sanctuary, my release from life’s tight grip, my escape from formalities, and my ‘I know everything is going to be alright’ quick fix.

Last night I decided to bake up a special treat to take to my classes. Yes, I am the student that takes freshly baked cookies, cakes, muffins, and empañadas to class with me. No, it doesn’t help me get a better grade.

I had a bag of frozen cranberries, some left over chunks of chocolate, and crystalized ginger candy around the kitchen, so hey why not make some Cranberry Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies with a touch of ginger!

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Chopped dark chocolate

I like to use chopped chocolate over chips. The chocolate gets chopped into all shapes and sizes making it ooze through the cookie with chocolate yumminess.

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I try to get even pieces, but the flaky dust is the best!

Cutting cranberries can be tricky. I start with a small amount and keep adding a handful until I can give a good chop all around. You can also use dried cranberries, but when using chocolate the dried cranberries can make the cookies too sweet. Fresh cranberries give the cookie a nice tart taste that pairs well with the dark chocolate.

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Coarsely chopped frozen (or fresh) cranberries.

The recipe didn’t call for candied ginger, but I love it, so in it went! It adds an unexpected burst of spice and sweetness.

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Candied Ginger. You only need a little bit, since it can be an overpowering flavor for most people.

I like to keep my cookie dough in the refrigerator until I’m ready to use it. Put the bowl back in the fridge in between batches. Like pastry dough, you want your cookie dough to be as cold as possible to ensure an even baking in the oven.

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Mix it up!

I didn’t have any old-fashioned oats, so I used instant steel cut oats instead. I was worried it wouldn’t work out, but it gave the cookies a nice crunchy texture.

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Straight out of the oven!

Always let your cookies cool on a rack for at least 5 minutes before eating or packaging them.

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COOKIES!

This recipe is adapted from an Epicurious recipe. This batch should make about 30 cookies.

Chocolate Cranberry Ginger Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped candied ginger

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Have two large baking trays ready. Whisk flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in medium bowl to blend; set aside. Using an electric mixer (or by hand), beat butter and both sugars in large bowl until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Scrap around sides of bowl to incorporate all the goodies.  Fold in flour mixture and oats and stir until blended. Stir in all chocolate chips, cranberries, and candied ginger.
  2. Drop batter by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until edges are light brown, about 16 minutes. Cool on sheets 5 minutes. While cookies are baking place bowl of batter in refrigerator until ready to use. Transfer to rack; cool completely.
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Anyone want a cookie?

Pumpkin-tastic!

When I die, I hope my friends and family make pumpkin empañadas to put on my alter for the Day of the Dead. I’m teaching my son how to make them and since he’s a fall baby, I made them for his birthday treat to take to his kindergarten class. I normally make pumpkin empañadas for the Day of the Dead. This squash like fruit has its roots here in North America and particularly in Mexico, where the holiday originates. So, making pumpkin empañadas during this time encapsulates a little bit of history, tradition, and love.

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This is a sugar pumpkin, which is the best to use for baking and cooking.

I prefer to use a sugar pumpkin for any of my pumpkin related baked goods. First of all it’s smaller, so less scooping and messiness. Second, it has a bit of a sweeter taste than the jack-o-lantern variety. Thirdly, it’s called a sugar pumpkin, um cute!

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Straight out of the oven and fully cooked pumpkin

Remember to preheat your oven from anywhere to 375-400 deg f* depending on the size of your pumpkin. Usually there is a little sticker on your squash with baking directions. I cut my pumpkin in half and with a sturdy spoon, scoop out all of the seeds and strings. If you like pumpkin seeds, then fill a bowl with water and throw your pumpkin seeds in there for a couple of minutes to wash off. Place your pumpkin halves face down and fill the pan with one inch of water. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Check tenderness after 35 minutes by poking the skin with a fork.

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Pumpkin Mash!

Once the pumpkin has cooled in its shell, squeeze or spoon out the flesh into a bowl. Get a masher or a large fork and mash away any remaining lumps. If you have a food processor and would like a smooth mash, then pulse away!

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Sugar and Spice!

Pumpkin empañadas require little seasoning. Simply add some brown sugar (or piloncillo if you have it around), ground cinnamon, and a pinch of salt.

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Pumpkin and spices

Scoop out 2 cups of mash (a sugar pumpkin will usually make about 2 cups of mash) and add sugar and spices.

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stir it up

Give the filing a good stir to incorporate all the ingredients. It’ll start to smell AMAZING!

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Get the juices out.

I like to strain the pumpkin (usually prior to adding the sugar and spices) to get out all of the extra liquid. You don’t want to have a lot of excess liquid in your filling. It’ll make it harder and messier to fill empañadas later.

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Get your dough ready!

Now that your filling is ready, get your dough out of the fridge to start rolling out little rounds. This recipe has been doubled. Having small chunks of butter visible is a good thing! You don’t want to over blend your butter into the flour mixture.

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Making dough is so rewarding. Oh the little things in life!
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Don’t add to much filling or they will BURST in the oven!

Doubling your dough recipe should make about 24 medium to large sized rounds. If you’re like me and like to use every last bit of dough, then you can stretch it out to make about 40 small ones. Make sure not to add too much filling. You only want to add about a tablespoon to small rounds and about 2 tablespoons for the medium to large rounds. Holding the round in your hand and adding the filling will help you gauge the right amount.

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Little pockets of AWESOMENESS!

Make sure to have a small bowl of water near by to rub around one edge of the dough to ensure a tight seal. You can use a pastry cutter, a fork, or crimp the dough to make a decorative edge.

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My oldies but goodies!

Keep a baking tray near so you can place all your finished empañadas directly onto it. Once they are all stuffed and sealed, brush the tops with an egg wash, and place the whole tray directly into the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes prior to baking. A cold pastry bakes the best! Have the oven pre-heated to 350 f deg and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Take out of the oven and wait a few minutes before eating or else you’ll burn your mouth! I usually place them onto a cooling rack and then munch away after 10 minutes!

Pumpkin Empañada Filling

makes about 2 cups of filling

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh, or canned, pumpkin mash
  • 1/4-1/2 cup brown sugar
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon ( you can always add nutmeg, clove, or ginger to the mixture too! )

Measure and place all ingredients into a bowl. Mix well. Place in the fridge until ready to use. Filling can last for up to a week in the fridge.

Pumpkin-tastic!