Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Care Package Cookies

One of the things that makes me happiest is making other people smile.  So my post-blizzard therapy was to make a care package.  My friend Dan is by far the most supportive of my obsessive baking habits.  He has never tasted one of my creations, but he is always the first to like or comment on a new photo in my Dessert Portfolio.  Dan is in the army, currently stationed somewhere in Germany.  He helped me out a lot during my own adventures abroad, so to show my appreciation for his undying support, I decided to send a little love his way.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
This is my favorite, never-fail, go-to oatmeal raisin cookie recipe.  And it's a good thing I like it, too, because I had to make them twice after wandering away from the oven during the first batch...  Oops.
Recipe adapted from my favorite childhood cookbook

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup quick rolled oats
1 cup raisins
2 Tbs granulated sugar (for rolling)
Add to large mixing bowl:  butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla
Beat on medium speed until creamy
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Add to mixing bowl.
Stir until combined
Since I am not at school, I can use all the raisins I want without listening to complaints from my roommate, the raisin-hater
Stir just until combined
The original recipe calls for giant cookies, but I prefer to make mine smaller.  Roll tablespoon-fulls of dough into little balls, then roll half the ball in the extra granulated sugar

Then, with a large, flat-bottomed glass, press down the balls to form 1/2" thick disks
Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 375°F for about 10 minutes.  Then cool on wire rack.  (The original recipe recommends greasing the cookie sheet, but I choose not to because it makes the cookies spread out more and are thus less fluffy.)
While the first batch was baking, I received a phone call and wandered away from the oven.  As you can see, the ones on the left are significantly browner (and much crispier) than the ones on the right.  Oh well, I can crush them and use them for a pie crust later in the week.

Maple Walnut Shortbread Cookies
Recipe adapted from another childhood cookbook.  This is my first attempt at making shortbread, so I'm not sure if they are the right texture, but they taste and look great, so I'm going to say this recipe is a winner.  You can certainly tell it came from a kids' cookbook- it's super simple, and since it involves mixing with your hands, pretty messy.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 Tbs maple syrup
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Put all ingredients in a medium bowl
Mix together with your hands: yes, it's going to be messy
Mix, adding flour as necessary, until you have a reasonably held-together dough ball
Roll teaspoon-fulls of dough into balls
Press slightly with a large, flat-bottomed glass until 1/2" thick
Lightly press half a walnut onto the top
Bake for 20 minutes at 350°F or until golden brown.  Cool on wire rack for 5 minutes, then transfer to paper towels.

Fudgy Classic Brownies
No matter how many crazy and amazing brownie recipes I try, I will always insist that the absolute best brownies are the ones my grandmother makes.  When I asked my mom for the recipe, she told me to get the Betty Crocker book.  WHAT?!  All these years of trying to figure out her secret, perfect-every-time recipe, and it's in the most popular baking book of all time?  The magic and illusions of my childhood came tumbling down. 

After I got over the shock, I decided to get to baking.  Knowing I could never come close to my grandma's magic brownies, even if I copied the recipe exactly, I decided to make some alterations to it, just to avoid the inevitable disappointment.

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate chips, cocoa powder, and shortening
Once melted, remove from heat, stir in sugar, vanilla, and eggs.  Once smooth, stir in dry ingredients.
Pour into a very well-greased, (or if you don't have my ridiculous issues with parchment paper, you can line it with that), 8x8 baking dish and smooth out the top with your spatula.
Bake for 30 minutes at 350°F.  Let cool in pan for 15 minutes, then remove and finish cooling on a wire rack.

After all the baking was over, I had to somehow pack all three treats into a box so they wouldn't arrive as stale crumbs.  (I work at the mail room at Wesleyan, and I've seen many a care package tragedy).  I packed each batch in a separate zipper-seal bag, then stuffed all three bags into a large plastic container.  The trick is to make sure that they don't move around very much.  That container was then surrounded with bubble wrap and each end packed with air pillows.

Now let's just hope they get there soon and in one piece.  Hope you enjoy them, Dan!

Love and cookies,

1 comment:

  1. The oatmeal raisin cookies were by far my favorite out of the three, but this was not an easy decision especially since I have always been such a big fan of brownies and maple syrup. Thankfully all of the cookies made it intact and some of the guys from the platoon had their late night cravings satisfied on Thursday. The care package definitely added some sweetness to our weekend. Thank you very much Hannah!