Spiced Oatmeal Raisinet Cookies

oatmeal raisinet cookies

Let’s say you’re craving cookies. So you ask the boy what he wants. And he says oatmeal raisin. So you decide to make oatmeal raisin chocolate chip, because (as you know) everything’s better with chocolate. Now let’s say you ask that boy to run to the grocery store for you and pick up raisins and chocolate chips, among other ingredients. What do you think will happen?

oatmeal raisin cookies top

Instead of coming back with raisins and chocolate chips, he comes back with raisinets “because they’re cheaper and amazing.” At first I was appalled – that’s not what I requested! But then I realized his genius: not only were chocolate-covered raisins cheaper than buying both raisins and chocolate chips, but also you get a perfect pairing of chocolate and raisin in every mouthful. No more will you bite into an oatmeal cookie only to get loads of raisins and no chocolate, or vice versa. No, sir! These cookies have the perfect distribution of the recipe’s key ingredients. Believe me: it shows as soon as you dig in. Add the extra spices and instant coffee to highlight it all, and you end up with crunchy-on-the-outside-and-soft-in-the-middle cookies that are absolutely bursting with the best of the best flavors.

oatmeal raisinet cookies cut

I’m quite proud of these.  This is my second time making them (I almost never repeat recipes, mind you!) and they’ve gotten rave reviews both times. They’re inspired by Martha Stewart’s cookies, but changed up enough to call this an original recipe. Does that give me street cred in the baking world?? Although, I suppose the boy should get some credit for the raisinet idea…

oatmeal raisinet cookies stacked

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SPICED OATMEAL RAISINET COOKIES

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. instant coffee, finely ground

2 tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. cloves

¼ tsp. nutmeg

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

¾ cup packed light-brown sugar

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 ½ cups rolled oats

1 ½ cups pecans or walnuts, finely chopped

1 ½ cups raisinets (chocolate-covered raisins)

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1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, instant coffee, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the butter and
sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla; beat until combined, scraping down the sides of bowl as needed.

3. Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients; beat until just combined. Stir in the oats, pecans, and raisinets.

4. Drop golf-ball-sized scoops of batter about 2-inches apart on greased baking sheets. Bake until cookies have spread and are golden brown and soft to the touch, approximately 12 minutes. Cool for a few minutes on the hot sheets and then transfer
to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Not much more to say here, folks. These cookies are nutty, crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside, chocolate-and-raisin-y goodness, with hints of coffee, cinnamon, and spices. Absolument glorieux!

oatmeal chocolate raisin cookies

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Happy Face Cookies (Nutella-Stuffed Peanut Butter Oatmeal)

Happy Face Nutella Cookies

Many things make me smile. Using my boots to make a giant heart in a field of freshly-fallen snow. Getting to know the bus driver through weekly morning commute conversations. Hallway high-fives. Discovering simple fixes to potentially time-consuming problems with the field instruments. Recognizing your friend’s handwriting on a letter in the mail. Carpool karaoke. Skype dates with best friends and phone calls home.

And these cookies, which smile right back at you. And have crunchy peanut butter oatmeal edges and soft centers. And are filled with a creamy, delicious layer of Nutella. Yes indeed, these cookies are something to smile about!

I adapted this recipe ever-so-slightly from Not Your Momma’s Cookie. I added extra butter to avoid buying shortening (we’re only in this house for a little while and wouldn’t use it all). Also, because the batter seemed too wet/weak and knowing that the butter-for-shortening substitution would make the cookies spread more, I added an extra 1/4 cup oats to boost structural support. The balance between the oatmeal, peanut butter, Nutella, and a few chocolate chips is perfect. Make these; they’re a little bit of work but nothing too crazy, and the payoff is well worth it. Trust me, one bite is all you need to fall in love with these sweet faces!

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HAPPY FACE COOKIES (NUTELLA-STUFFED PEANUT BUTTER OATMEAL)

¾ cup all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

½ cup unsalted butter, softened (or: 1/4 cup butter + 1/4 cup shortening)

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup white sugar

⅔ cup peanut butter (any kind; I used chunky)

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla extract

¾ cup quick cooking oats

½-1 cup Nutella

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1. Cover a cookie sheet/pan/large flat plate with parchment or wax paper. Using a teaspoon, scoop 25 balls of Nutella onto the paper. Freeze for at least 20 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare a cookie sheet by covering with parchment paper.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

4. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream together the butter, sugars, and peanut butter. Add the egg and vanilla; stir until combined. Add the dry mixture in thirds, stirring just until incorporated each time. Gently stir in the oats.

5. Take about a quarter-sized scoop of dough and flatten it into a mini pancake in your palm. Place a frozen Nutella drop into the center and fold the edges of the batter up around the Nutella until no Nutella is exposed. Gently shape into smooth, slightly flattened balls. Place on cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.

6. Press in chocolate chips in the shape of a happy face. Since these cookies will spread quite a bit, put the smile’s chips right next to each other and the eye’s chips far away from the smile.

7. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until edges are lightly browned. Remove from the pan to cool. The chocolate chips will stay soft for a while, so wait a few hours for them to harden before you try to store these or you’ll mess up all the faces!

Nutella drops need to be in the freezer for at least 20 minutes before you try to use them. You'll have to keep re-freezing them, because they soften quickly.

The Nutella drops need to be in the freezer for at least 20 minutes before you try to use them or they’ll get all over your fingers. Right after you take them out of the oven, pop them off the paper. Then when you’re assembling the cookies, it’ll be easy to pick up a drop instead of trying to pop one off every time. You’ll have to keep re-freezing them, too, because they soften and start making a mess quickly.

The chips for the smile need to be as close together as possible because the cookies spread in the oven. Try to keep the eyes distinctly separate, too, or when the cookies spread you won't get a clear happy face.

The chips for the smile need to be as close together as possible because the cookies spread in the oven. Try to keep the eyes distinctly separate, too, or when the cookies spread you won’t get a clear happy face. (Side note: aren’t they just the cutest?! I practically want to hug them!!)

SMILE!

Look at how happy they are! I bet it’s the secret Nutella layer inside. That would make anyone grin!

Dark Chocolate Banana Oatmeal Muffin Tops (with Walnuts and Butterscotch)

chocolate banana muffin tops

I have used up the last of my ripe bananas, thank goodness. I have so many other ideas hanging out in my brain, clamoring for attention and getting jealous that I’ve been spending so much time with bananas lately. Nonetheless, I’m excited about this recipe because it gave me the perfect opportunity to use the World Market dark chocolate spread my mom gave me for Christmas. While the spread is good on toast and whatnot, I couldn’t wait to find a way to bake with it. And the opportunity finally presented itself with this recipe idea! Of course, you could use any chocolate spread – including Nutella, like the recipe over at Chef in Training that inspired this post – but I like the dark chocolate because it’s not too sweet, so it doesn’t overpower the other flavors in the muffin tops.

Alright. About that. I need to come clean: I adapted the above recipe so much that it’s basically my own recipe at this point, which means I have to take full blame for these should-have-been-cookies. They have a very soft, dense-cake texture. The walnuts give a bit of a crunch, the oats add some chewiness, and the butterscotch and chocolate swirls bring in some much-appreciated sweetness. But ultimately, these don’t really taste like cookies. They’re just too soft/squishy/cake-y. Clearly, I haven’t quite mastered the art of recipe development yet! However, someone in my building took a bite and brilliantly suggested, “Call them muffin tops!” Genius, I tell you. If you eat these as cookies, you’ll wonder at the slightly strange texture. If you eat these as muffin tops, your brain won’t be confused and you’ll like every bit. So, enjoy these muffin tops! This recipe makes about 4 dozen muffin tops; I had to make a big recipe, because I needed to use up 3 ripe bananas.

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DARK CHOCOLATE BANANA OATMEAL MUFFIN TOPS (WITH WALNUTS AND BUTTERSCOTCH)

2 ½ cups flour

¾ cup granulated sugar

½ cup brown sugar

1 tsp. baking soda

1 ¼ tsp. salt

1 cup shortening

2 eggs

½ tsp. vanilla extract

3 ripe bananas, mashed

1 ¾ cup quick-cooking oats

¾ cup chopped walnuts

1 cup butterscotch chips

½ cup dark chocolate spread (World Market has a great one!)

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1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Prepare a cookie sheet by lining with parchment paper (what I did) or greasing with baking spray.

2. In a bowl, whisk/stir together the flour, sugars, baking powder, and baking soda, and salt. “Cut in” the shortening (see photos below; I used two knifes and keep cutting the shortening, coating it with the mixture, cutting again, coating, etc. until you have a bunch of pea-sized clumps and there’s no “dry” powder left).

3. Using an electric hand mixer, add the eggs, vanilla, and bananas and beat until well mixed.

4. Stir in the oats, walnuts, and butterscotch chips.

5. Pour the chocolate over the dough and gently swirl it into the dough (mix carefully by folding the dough and chocolate together, or use a knife to make grooves for the chocolate – the key is to not mix it together all the way, so you still have some ribbons of color that make it look pretty).

6. Use a tablespoon to drop heaping scoops of batter on prepared cookie sheets. Leave at least 1.5-inches between drops.

7. Bake for ~12 minutes, until the muffin tops are set and spring back from your touch. Immediately remove from tray when done cooking and transfer to cooling racks.

8. Pour yourself a glass of milk and sample one fresh from the oven. You deserve it!

Just starting to "cut" in the shortening, using two knifes and making "x" cuts into the shortening.

Just starting to “cut” in the shortening, using two knifes to make “x” cuts into the shortening.

Further along in the process. Be sure you're coating the cut pieces with the powder mix as you cut - this will keep the shortening from sticking to itself in the center.

Further along in the process. Be sure you’re coating the cut pieces with the powder mix as you cut – this will keep the shortening from sticking to itself in the center.

At about this point, when it's pretty well mixed and the largest clumps are about the size of peas, I stop using the knives and switch to mixing it in by hand. You want to crumble the dough together, not smoosh it like bread dough. Think of it like you're picking up sand and feeling the grains between your fingers and thumbs. Do that motion with the mixture to get the shortening to mix in nicely with the powder.

At about this point, when it’s pretty well mixed and the largest clumps are about the size of peas, I stop using the knives and switch to mixing it in by hand. You want to crumble the dough together, not smoosh it like bread dough. Think of it like you’re picking up sand and feeling the grains between your fingers and thumbs. Do that motion with the mixture to get the shortening to mix in nicely with the powder.

What the final shortening + dry ingredients should look like when you're done cutting and mixing it by hand. There should be no obviously large sections of dry powder; you want it to look almost like damp sand.

What the final shortening + dry ingredients should look like when you’re done cutting and mixing it by hand. There should be no obviously large sections of dry powder; you want it to look almost like damp, coarse sand.

Gently swirl in the chocolate. Do not mix past this point! In fact, I almost think I mixed it in too much. These cookies are pretty because they are multi-toned, so don't get too zealous with the mixing here!

Gently swirl in the chocolate. Do not mix past this point! In fact, I almost think I mixed it in too much. These muffin tops are pretty because they are multi-toned, so don’t get too zealous with the mixing here!

Using heaping tablespoon scoops to plop cookie down onto the tray, leaving space for the cookies to spread a bit. Almost there...

Using heaping tablespoon scoops to plop the batter down onto the tray, leaving space for the muffin tops to spread a bit.

chocolate banana on plate

Cookies… er, muffin tops for everyone!!