December 23, 2008

Xmas Cookies

I haven't quite gotten into the holiday spirit this year. Instead, I've been feeling stressed and overwhelmed by holiday preparations and life in general. Maybe it's seasonal affective disorder. Who knows.

Anyway, every year I dream of mammoth cookie baking sessions, like the ones I remember with my mom when little, involving several kinds of cookies, sprinkles and decorations, cookie cutters, and Christmas music in the background. I dream of tins filled with a variety of cookies to give to all my near and dear ones. But as with most years, I instead wimp out and cheap out by just making a couple kinds of treats for just a few people.

Last year, I made truffles, but rolling out 60 some truffles was too time intensive and daunting for my jam packed schedule this year. What I chose to do instead was to make a batch of biscotti for my dad again, swapping in almond extract and out the chocolate chips for a pure unadulterated almond biscotti.

In addition, I made two batches of oatmeal cranberry cookies for Jesse's family. Interestingly enough, I thought I used the same recipe, below, for both batches, but that came out oh-so-different. It's because the local Ronnybrook butter I typically use comes in tubs, not sticks, making it hard to measure out in tablespoons. I try to scoop out a tablespoon of butter at a time, but the butter typically isn't soft and pliable enough straight out of the tub and I guess I usually end up with a low approximation. My first batch of oatmeal cranberry cookies (sadly no picture), probably had just 1/4 or 1/3 cup of butter instead of 1/2, and came out tall and caky, like a dense mini muffin, but the sugary taste was amazing.

For the second batch, I used an actual stick (1/2 cup) of vegan Earth Balance to accommodate Jesse's dad who is lactose intolerant, and what a difference it made. These cookies came out thin and crisp with an overwhelming taste of butter (er...vegan butter). I've never had cookies spread so much on the baking sheet, probably because I always skimp on butter. Clearly, I have much to learn in the science of cookie baking. Because I thought the buttery taste was overwhelming this time, I've lowered the butter in the recipe from 8 tbsp (1/2 cup or 1/ stick) to 7 tbsp.

My favorite part of these cookies, whether thick or thin, is the cranberries, which taste like bright jewel tones. Yes, I know jewel tones are colors, but yet I can't stop thinking of that word every time I bite into some oatmeal cranberry goodness. I also recommend trying to find raw sugar if you can, which adds an extra sugary spark to each mouthful. The spices make the cookies more seasonal. And with the goodness of some whole wheat flour, oats, and dried fruit, you can pretend these are good for you!

Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies
adapted from my friend Luke's recipe

7 tbsp butter (or Earth Balance)
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup all purpose or white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/s tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1 1/2 cup oats
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Whisk in one egg and then vanilla. Dump flour, baking soda, and spices over top, and mix dry ingredients into wet. Stir in oats and cranberries. Scoop out teaspoon sized mounds and place on greased baking sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes. Makes approximately 36 cookies.


Gina said...

Hey Julia :) This is actually Gina (formerly) Siccardi from HS. I saw a comment about your blog on facebook and figured I would come check it out. Looks like you've got the cooking bug! I have some to learn about the science of baking also, its just not my thing.

Julia said...

Gina, thanks for stopping by - I hope you're well! Happy holidays!

Anonymous said...

I've got to weigh in about the butter...since I've definitely run into that problem before (as Ronnybrook is darn near the ONLY butter I use)! The best thing to do is weigh out little chunks. 1 T is (I believe? double check me...) 1/2 an ounce. I've a friend who is an intense baker and I think she even parses out a tub of butter into many 1 T hunks ahead of time, so they're ready when she needs them. Something to try!

Eat It Brooklyn said...

Yum! Those look great. I've taken to substituting some applesauce (homemade!) for some butter to cut down on fat, and it really works. You can't do more than half, but it makes everything moist, and then you can cut down on sugar cuz the applesauce is so sweet. Thanks for the recipe - I too love anything with cranberries in them.

Julia said...

Emily - thanks for the tip. I'm intimidated by the idea of getting a baking scale, but maybe someday I'll get around to buying one.

Eat It - great idea to use applesauce - I've used it in muffins before but never cookies.

meag said...

Did you see this Times article on butter? I'm having a hard time baking with the butter down cookies keep spreading out. The best solution I've found so far is parchment paper.

Julia said...

Meag, i just read that article - very interesting. i always knew you were supposed to butter for pies and pastries cold but didn't know that about cookies too.