Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

chewy oatmeal raisin cookieI have a confession to make. Before trying this recipe I had never made oatmeal cookies before. That could be why I innocently pushed forward when things seemed strange. The batter was wet and loose and I couldn’t form a rounded cookie; I thought the oatmeal might soak up the liquid. Nope. They spread like crazy and I ended up with a sheet-pan sized cookie.

Upon analyzing the disaster, I made some major modifications in the recipe. The flour to oats ratio was off, so I added loads of flour and used fewer oats. There was also too much milk and too little baking soda. Generally for high altitude you add a little moisture and reduce leaveners, but in this case I did just the opposite. Then I adjusted the spices – I think all cinnamon and no cloves enhances the raisins. Ah, the sweet taste of success.

Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies loosely adapted from about.com
1/2 cup vegan sugar
1 cup organic brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup vegan margarine, cold
1/3 cup plain soymilk
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 350F. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together sugar, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and margarine until smooth and fluffy. Beat in milk a little at a time until well combined.
In another bowl, add flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and stir until well mixed. Add flour mixture to the bowl of the stand mixture and blend to combine. Add oats and blend to combine. Remove bowl from stand mixer and stir in raisins.
Drop dough balls the size of 2 TBS onto cookie sheets and flatten slightly with your hand. Bake for 14-16 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Cookies will be slightly soft and chewy. Yield: 2 1/2 dozen cookies

There were leftovers because my widespread family requested cookies. On their behalf, I will freeze some and see how they fare later.

Until next time, happy baking!

Peanut Butter Cookies

peanut butter cookies on rackI haven’t made peanut butter cookies in years but I have a good reason. The last time I made a healthy peanut butter cookie I used freshly ground peanuts. Unfortunately, the nut butter they produced was dense and blew the motor on my hand mixer.

My recent attempt to make peanut butter cookies fared much better and was less dramatic. It was labor intensive, however. I had to try the recipe several times because it made a doughy, dry biscuit and not a rich, chewy cookie. The recipe was already vegan so that required no alterations. The changes to the cookie ended up being less about making it high altitude and more to making it chewy while enhancing the peanut flavor.

The final cookie was chewy with a pronounced peanut flavor. To achieve that I removed the brown rice syrup and used light brown sugar instead, while using more peanut butter and less flour. For higher altitude I added more liquids and used less baking soda. It took three tries but I think I finally got it.

Peanut Butter Cookies adapted from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero
3 TBS plain soymilk
1 TBS ground flaxseeds
2 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup agave syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup canola oil
3/4 cup creamy salted peanut butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the soymilk, flaxseeds and vanilla extract. Let sit for a few minutes. Stir in the agave syrup, brown sugar, canola oil and peanut butter.
In another bowl, sift together the flours, baking soda and salt. Mix into the peanut butter mixture. Roll walnut-sized balls of dough with your hands and drop onto the baking sheets. Flatten slightly with your hand, then use a fork to press a crosshatch pattern onto the tops of the cookies. Bake for 12-13 minutes, until the edges are golden. Cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Yield: 2 1/2 dozen cookies

After baking this recipe several times for adaptations, I may actually be tired of peanut butter cookies. At least that means I will save a few for freezing.

Until next time, happy baking!

Shortbread Cookie Sandwiches

Shortbread Cookie Sandwiches

I ran across a recipe for shortbread and thought it sounded good, but a tad boring for this chocoholic (you must have realized by now that I have a passion for chocolate). Let’s see… raspberry jam, chocolate, sprinkles… now we’re getting somewhere.

To adapt them to high altitude I added flour. I decided to use a shot glass as a cookie cutter to make a more suitable size for sandwiches. After I concocted a chocolate dip I was set.

These cookies are more labor intensive than the average cookie I bake, but they appealed to my creativity. After I tasted them they appealed to my stomach, too. Sorry, there were none left for the freezing experiment.

Shortbread Cookie Sandwiches adapted from Vegan Without Borders by Robin Robertson
cookie dough
1 cup vegan sugar
1/2 cup vegan margarine, at room temperature
1/2 cup vegan cream cheese, softened
2 cups + 1 TBS all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
chocolate dipping sauce
1 cup vegan chocolate chips
1 tsp vegan shortening
filling
2 TBS seedless raspberry jam
topping (optional)
vegan sprinkles
Preheat oven to 375F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a food processor, combine sugar, margarine and cream cheese, and process until smooth and well blended. Add flour and baking powder and pulse until well combined. Do not overmix. Put in a bowl and place in the refrigerator for a few minutes.
Transfer the cookie dough to a flat work surface between two sheets of parchment paper. Roll out the dough to 1/2″ thick. Using a shot glass, cut the cookies and put them on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until golden, for about 12 minutes. Cool on the cookie sheets then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Place the chocolate chips and shortening in a small saucepan on low heat. When melted, stir and remove from stove. Take a cooled cookie and place a small amount of jam on the underside. Top with another cookie to form a sandwich. Dip half of the sandwich in the chocolate sauce, decorate with sprinkles, and place on a sheet of waxed paper to set.

You can leave some cookies un-dipped or un-sandwiched or un-sprinkled. Or you can fully dip them and coat them with sprinkles. Let your imagination run free. They will all be delicious.

Until next time, happy baking!

Chocolate Mint Cookies

Chocolate Mint Cookies

The first hurdle to this recipe was finding candy canes after Christmas. Fortunately, the rest came pretty easy.

I applied some high altitude science to the recipe and added a bit of flour. To make it vegan I replaced the eggs with soy yogurt – this added moisture so I reduced the water instead of increasing it. Then I boosted the healthiness by using whole wheat flour for some of the white flour, agave nectar for the corn syrup, and less of the sugary topping. Then, because I love mint, I used peppermint extract in place of some vanilla.

My first attempt made so many changes that I was unsure, but the texture, crumb, look and taste were achieved on the first try. Much to my surprise and excitement they were fantastic. In fact, I have dubbed them the best cookie I have ever made (so far).

Chocolate Mint Cookies adapted from Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies in Joanne Fluke‘s “Candy Cane Murder”
cookie dough
2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
1 1/4 sticks vegan margarine, chilled
1 cup vegan sugar
1/4 cup plain soy yogurt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 TBS + 2 tsp light agave syrup
1 tsp water
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp peppermint extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup + 1 1/2 tsp whole wheat flour
topping
2 TBS vegan sugar
6 mini candy canes, finely crushed
Preheat oven to 350F. Melt butter and chocolate together in a pan over low heat on the stovetop. Mix and set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, whisk to combine sugar and yogurt. Add baking soda and salt. Mix well. Add agave syrup, water and extracts. Mix well. Add cooled chocolate mixture and mix with a spoon. Add all-purpose flour and mix. Add whole wheat flour and mix well. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for a few minutes while you make the topping.
Place candy canes in a small bowl. Add sugar and mix with a fork. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Take dough and roll it into walnut-sized balls with your hands. The dough may be sticky so roll only enough for the cookies you can bake immediately then place bowl in the refrigerator. Roll dough balls in topping and place on a cookie sheet, 12 balls to a sheet. Flatten slightly with your hand. Bake for 9-11 minutes. Cool on the cookie sheet then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Yield: 3 1/2 dozen cookies (this is after I halved the original recipe).

It was tough but I saved a few to freeze. I’ll check back on them soon to see how they fared.

Until next time, happy baking!

A Month of Cookies

cookies I hereby declare that March is National Vegan Cookie Month. I just made that up, but it sounds good, doesn’t it?

My plan is to spend March making cookies. That’s a whole bunch of cookies, so I may freeze some. I’ve never had to worry about freezing cookies before as they don’t last that long in my house. But, that will be a new twist on my experiment. I will adapt recipes for high altitude and vegan (if needed) and then freeze them and see how they come out. If I have any left over. Uh, not likely.

The recipes start with the deadly Chocolate Mint Cookies with crushed candy canes from a mystery (with recipes) called Candy Cane Murder. Then we move on to shortbread cookies that I will dress up by dipping and sandwiching with jam. Next are Peanut Butter Agave Cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. (Viva la invasion). Our final delicious tryout is a classic – Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.

I drool as I think of the fun and aromatic baking to come. Do you have a cookie recipe that you would like to see me adapt to be vegan and high altitude? Let me know and it may become part of the celebration of National Vegan Cookie Month.

Easy Chocolate Cake-Pan Cake

Chocolate Cake-Pan CakeAre you are looking for a simple, vegan cake recipe that is delicious? You, and I, are in luck because I have one. This is adapted from a vintage recipe and the method can’t be easier – you mix and bake in the cake pan. It’s tasty, it’s moist and it’ll will be gone so fast you may want to make two of them.

The cake was initially egg and dairy free so I just had to make it high altitude. I reduced the sugar, baking soda and vinegar while adding more flour and liquid. The liquid called for was cold water, but my chocolate-loving husband wanted more chocolate flavor so I used chocolate almondmilk. I also added mini chocolate chips to keep him happy.

Chocolate Cake-Pan Cake adapted from King Arthur Flour
1 1/2 cups + 2 TBS all-purpose flour
1 cup – 1 TBS vegan sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, or chopped chocolate
1/2 tsp salt
scant 3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup + 1 TBS cold chocolate almondmilk
Preheat oven to 350°F. Measure all dry ingredients into an 8″ x 8” x 2” cake pan. Blend the ingredients together thoroughly with a whisk and scoop out three holes. Pour the vanilla into the first hole, the vinegar into the second, and the vegetable oil into the third. Take the chocolate milk and pour it directly over everything in the pan. Stir all ingredients together with your whisk until they are well blended. Don’t forget to stir the sides, bottom and into the corners being careful not to scrape the pan. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the sides of the cake start to pull away from the pan. Serve right from the pan.

This cake brings back fond memories of Snackin’ Cakes from the 70s. Do you remember those?

Dazzled by Science

science moleculeHigh altitude baking is fairly simple while still being somewhat difficult. The science is best described by Pat Kendall in High Altitude Baking: “The reason for most baking problems at high altitude is lower atmospheric pressure due to a thinner blanket of air above…This decreased pressure affects food preparation in three related ways.

  1. Leavening gases expand more quickly
  2. Moisture evaporates faster from foods
  3. Water and other liquids boil at lower temperatures

In addition, because the climate of higher altitude areas is usually drier than that of lower altitude areas, flour may be drier and doughs may therefore require more liquid to reach the proper consistency.”

The most troublesome baked goods are cakes as the decreased pressure may cause excess rising which can lead to coarse texture or a fallen cake. To solve this you can do any or all of the following: decrease baking soda, baking powder, or sugar; or increase liquids, flour, or oven temperature. I also cross my fingers on occasion.

This may all be a bit daunting, but I have found that the more I adapt recipes the simpler it seems. Don’t get me wrong – I am still impressed and ecstatic when baked items turn out right!