Well, this weekend was filled with lots of baking and rain. I know, rain in Texas is rare, but when it comes it means business. But hey, what better to do when it’s raining outside than make your house warm and cozy with the smell of newly baked treats? And that’s just what I did. Not only do I have the first of our 12 holiday cookie recipes, but a scone recipe, and more pumpkin bread. Strap yourself in and let’s get to the recipes.
Let’s start with our first holiday cookie recipe: Spiced Oatmeal Shortbread Wedges. Though these didn’t turn out quite like I was expecting, they are still worth sharing. Personally, I love shortbread cookies. I love that they’re not terribly sweet, they have a great crumbly texture, and they’re full of delicious, buttery goodness. These cookies were supposed to combine that buttery goodness with the hearty flavor of oats and some yummy fall spices. To me, they fell just a little short, but I think I have a line on how they can be fixed. Though they were easy to whip up, their texture was more dry cookie and less crumbly shortbread. I have two ideas for what happened. The first is that it was raining outside which messed with the texture. The other is that I might not have cooked them long enough. Don’t get me wrong, I cooked them for more than the prescribed 30 minutes, but I think that I should have cooked them even longer because of the extra moisture from the rain. Part of why I think that’s the reasoning is because the edge of the cookie is perfect: buttery, crumbly, and crisp. So, if you happen to be cooking on an extra wet day or you live in a very humid location, cook them even longer or make them smaller cookies so that they get that crumbly texture all the way through. My second problem was that the flavor of the spices was hardly noticeable I was really hoping for some beautiful fall spices to balance the buttery goodness, but you could hardly tell it was there. My conclusion: double the spices next time for extra oomph. In the whole recipe, there was less than 1 tsp. of all the spices combined. Next time I’ll try doubling all of their amounts and see if that gives me the desired flavor. Here’s the recipe:
Spiced Oatmeal Shortbread Wedges (from Better Homes and Gardens)
1/2 c. rolled oats
1 c. all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (next time, I’ll try 1 tsp.)
1/4 tsp. ginger (next time, I’ll try 1/2 tsp.)
1/8 tsp. ground cloves (next time, I’ll try 1/4 tsp.)
1/2 c. cubed butter
12 tsp. milk (That’s equal to 1/4 c., but I only used about half that amount.)
1 tbsp. sugar (Again, I didn’t use quite that much.)
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread the oats in a 15x10x1 in. pan. Bake 6-8 min. or til light brown. Let cool completely. (By the way, this smells delicious.) In a food processor, combine 1/3 c. of the toasted oats with the flour, brown sugar, and spices. Cover and process til the oats are ground. Add the butter and pulse just til the mix comes together. Form the dough into a ball.
2. On an ungreased cookie sheet, pat the dough into an 8 in. circle. Brush it with the milk and sprinkle it with the sugar and remaining oats; press lightly into the dough. Cut into 10 wedges. (I might have forgotten to do this before baking, and I also might have only made 8 wedges. Whatever!) Bake 25-30 min. or til the center is set. (See the description for a note on this.) While the cookies are still warm, recut into the wedges. Cool on the sheet 5 min, then cool completely on a wire rack.
On the same rainy day, I had to make some scones to bring to a potluck lunch the next day. I haven’t made savory scones before, but was excited to give it a go. These came out very tasty, but a little drier than normal. I think that here the problem was the cheese. The recipe calls for diced cheddar, and I loved the idea of little pockets of cheese in the scone. The problem came with the little cubes that weren’t enveloped in the dough. The cheese melted and oozed out of the scones. It was still tasty, but I think next time, I’ll just shred the cheese. I’ll get just as much cheese flavor and a little extra moisture. Yum!
Jalapeno-Cheddar Scones (found at Smitten Kitchen)
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
8 tbsp. diced butter
1/2 c. heavy cream (I’m cheap, so I used half and half.)
1/4 lb. diced cheddar (or shredded)
2 minced jalapenos
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small skillet, melt 1/2 tbsp. butter and saute the jalapenos in it til they’re soft, about 2 min. Let cool and place in a small bowl with the cheddar; coat with 1 tbsp. flour. (This helps them not sink to the bottom of your scones.) In a separate bowl, combine the remaining flour with the baking powder and salt. Cut in the remaining butter til the butter is in pea-sized bits.
2. Lightly whip 2 eggs with the cream and add this to the flour/butter mix. Using a wooden spoon, fold the mix til it begins to come together. Add the cheddar and jalapeno mix to the dough and mix til everything is incorporated.
3. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently for less than 1 min. Pat the dough out to a 3/4 or 1 in. thickness and cut into 8 triangles. Beat the remaining egg with 1 tsp. of water. Brush the scones with this egg wash and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake 25 min. or til golden brown.
The last yummy treat was baked just yesterday, but (willpower!) I didn’t taste it til this morning. I had some leftover pumpkin from last week’s to-die-for! pumpkin loaf, so I decided to try another one. To me, this was the best thing I baked all week. Though it doesn’t have a lot of strong pumpkin flavor (the pumpkin’s purpose seems to be as a substitute for butter or oil), the loaf is delicious and fudgy with just a hint of spice. It’s also a snap to make since you just mix everything together and stick it in the oven. I had a piece this morning with a smear of butter and found it a wonderful breakfast. And I might just have another piece for dessert!
Chocolate Pumpkin Loaf (taken from Carrots ‘n’ Cake)
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. cocoa
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. vanilla
7 1/2 oz. pumpkin puree
1 c. chocolate chips
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a loaf pan. (I used a 9×5.) Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Pour into the loaf pan (more like dump, it’s a really thick batter) and bake 40-45 min., or til the top is firm and a toothpick inserted into the center removes cleanly.
If for some reason you’re not up to baking, there’s another way for you to get a delicious treat. For the month of October, you can bring a new or gently used book to a particpating Great American Cookie Company store and get a free cookie. (More specifics here.) It’s an easy way to get a free, delicious cookie, and I plan to go soon. That’s all for today, but check back again next week for another holiday cookie.