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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Oats, Chocolate, & Tahini...Oh My! :: Cookies

15 "Tomatoes" in, I thought it was time for a "Cookie". While not my best baking to date, presentation or popularity-wise, these were well-received at my last dragonboat competition. I would like to think that these cookies ought to take some credit for our gold medal (w00t w00t!). The following is a recipe for simple, basic, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. They're not overly sweet or buttery, and perhaps a little boring for some. However, it is an easy base that you can use, tweak, and personalize in a million ways as I have for each batch.

Yield: 50 small cookies

You will need...
2 cups rolled oatmeal
1 cup flour (I prefer whole wheat)
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup tahini
4 tbsp butter
1 1/3 sugar (I use mostly brown sugar, depending on my mood and the crowd)
1 egg
1 egg white
Splash (~1-1.5 tbsp) vanilla
~1.5-2 cups of goodies (I like chocolate chips, walnuts, sesame seeds, and/or blueberries)
Optional: Cookie-toppers. I like Hershey Kisses,  M&Ms, roasted almonds, and Brazil nuts.

Many people treat baking like a science. Accustomed to carefully measuring every ingredient to a tee, I find that we are less likely to experiment with baking than any other type of cooking. Horror stories of salty cakes, deflated cupcakes, and inedible cookies are enough to scare many bakers off. However, if you have a good base recipe, you can play around with certain ingredients to get it just to your liking. What's the worst that could happen? Plus, you have the perfect excuse to make batches and batches of cookies!

1. Mix oats, flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. 
For this batch, I used only whole wheat flour. You can play it safe and just use white flour, but I personally prefer the taste of whole wheat anything (pasta, bread, crackers, etc.).
Other dry ingredients that you can add in this stage (if you so wish) include nutmeg, ground anise, and cocoa powder. But let's keep it simple for now.
Dry ingredients on top of what you'll get after Step 3
2. Mix tahini, butter, sugar, eggs, & vanilla
The ratio of brown to white sugar will affect the cookie's consistency and sweetness. For chewier cookies, use more brown sugar than white (or all brown sugar!). If you have a sweet tooth, you will want more white sugar in these cookies. For this batch, I used a little over 1 cup of brown sugar and a bit less than 1/3 cup white sugar.
The butter should be softened or carefully melted (If you microwave it, keep a close eye on it - you don't want it to cook in there!).
Beat these together to get a nice thick mixture that you can enjoy spread on a piece of toast while finishing the rest of the recipe. Yum. I love tahini.
Give it a taste. Tweak the vanilla & tahini until you get it to your liking. I really like vanilla so I usually add a respectable splash. When I want sesame seeds, I like to add them in this step since the little seeds spread around quite nicely. A handful will do.

4. Stir in the dry ingredients from Step 1
Give it a good mix until it's blended but don't be too thorough. Afterall, you still need to add the chocolate chips and nuts! Overmixing can lead to tough cookies as excessive stirring creates gluten. Bleh.

4. Add your favourite cookie bits
These cookies were quite simple - I added 1 cup of chocolate chips and 1 cup of walnuts. Other favourites include blueberries, mushed up (but still chunky) banana, and peanuts.

Simply fold them in with a spoon, a few good turns will do the trick!

5. Pop the batter into your fridge
After several test batches, I learned that putting the dough in the fridge before forming makes your life much easier. The longer you wait, the firmer your dough will get and the better your cookies will bake as they will keep their shape in the oven, instead of expanding and baking unevenly. I usually leave it overnight, but in this case I only put them in the fridge for about 45 minutes.

6. Form your cookies

I use a spoon to try to keep all cookie sizes relatively similar, and lightly dust my hands with flour. The nice thing about cold dough is that your hands don't get as messy! You can also use an ice cream scoop or melon baller.

This batch's cookies were on the small side - little two-bite cookies seemed like the best idea for a group of potentially health-conscious athletes. Small enough to enjoy in between races without feeling guilty about going for second, thirds, or fourths ;)

7. Bake @ 350F for ~12 minutes for small cookies. ~14 minutes for large
These cookies baked quite fast as they were relatively small. The trick to getting soft, chewy cookies is to take them out just before they look done. It's hard to resist the temptation to leave them in the oven until they look perfect but they keep baking for a bit once you take them out.

While I personally like crispier cookies and when the bottoms are very brown, I wanted to just make standard oatmeal cookies. I pulled these out at 12 minutes and the round little treats had a nice even colour and texture. Every oven is a bit different, so keep a close eye on your cookies especially as you approach the 10 minute mark!

I also tested to see if there was a difference between flattening each ball of dough prior to baking...

As expected, they baked a bit quicker (I pulled the flattened cookies out at 10 minutes), but otherwise the difference is negligible. I would only flatten my cookies again if I was in a rush and shaving a couple minutes would make a difference. If you want flat, crispy cookies, roll the dough up in a log, wrap with saran wrap and popped it in the freezer. When solid, use a sharp knife to cut slivers of dough. This is also a good way to keep leftover dough if you made too much, or want to save it for another cookie day :)

These cookies looked a little boring! I usually like to stick a treat on the top of each cookie. Past additions include Hershey's Mini Kisses, colourful candy such as M&Ms, larger nuts (i.e. Brazil nuts, almonds, hazelnuts) or a sprinkle of white, granulated sugar on top. However, baking at 5AM doesn't exactly stir my creative juices. Nevertheless, I knew that the chocolate chips were happily hidden in each little cookie =)

I brought a huge container of these to the Hamilton Dragonboat Festival. These two-bite cookies are great fuel before each race...and a good source of whole-wheat carbs to re-energize those muscles after each race.
Lesson learned: You need cookies to win.

Choc-oat-ahini Cookies 
A simple foundation for oatmeal cookies. Great for experimenting!

Future experiments for this recipe...
- Top with big gummi bears
- Orange/lemon zest, and/or candied peel
- Coconut shreds or dates
- Replace tahini with either natural peanut butter, or hazelnut butter
- Nutella!
- Any other ideas? Share :)

Coming Soon... 
Nutty Caramel Toffee Fudge
Squishy Peanut Butter Fudge 


Chris ( said...

salivating profusely...

Makes me wanna bake at 5am

Me ... said...

I might just get around to trying these soonsih ...

Erin said...

Good luck :) If you want them to look nicer than mine, top them with mini-kisses or something. I hope you get that waffle iron too...mmm!

GL said...

Here's a recipe for you courtesy of Momofuku Milk bar. From a first-hand tasting they are over-the-top delicious.

(you have to scroll down a bit)

Enjoy. and save me some :P

- Gautam

Erin said...

mmm..pretzels! What a great idea!!

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