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Posts Tagged ‘baking’

Poppy Pendle was born in a bakery — literally and much to the embarrassment of her parents, especially her mother. Poppy Pendle was also born a witch — an extremely gifted witch — much to the delight of her parents, especially her mother.

The problem is that the only kind of magic that Poppy likes is the magic of baking. She doesn’t want to be a witch. She doesn’t want to go to the exclusive magical academy for young witches. All she wants to do is bake and share her creations.

Conflict and struggle, adventures and mishaps, anger and sorrow, bravery and resourcefulness ensue. With recipes!! Almost all of which I want to bake.

Highly recommended for imaginative little girls (or not so little girls) who eschew the EasyBake oven for the real thing … or who have an uncertain relationship with the baking of tasty treats.

As mentioned on at least one previous occasion in this blog, baking and I do not get along terribly well, although as evidenced by the oatmeal cookie success, there is hope for the relationship.  Before I made the oatmeal cookies, however, I made lemon bars — Charlie’s Favorite Lemon Bars as made by Poppy Pendle to be exact.

I know that she is an imaginary character, but this little girl’s enthusiasm about baking (and sharing) and confidence in the kitchen are contagious.  The recipes are broken down into easy steps with clear instructions and plenty of encouragement.  She recommends the use of conveniences such as food processors and stand mixers (with the help of an adult), but if such appliances are not available, or you simply prefer to do things by hand, there are details instructions for that method as well.  She even explains measurements and calculations for making half batches of recipes.  As I read them, I found myself thinking, “If a twelve year-old can do it, then surely I can too, as long as I pay attention to the details of what I am doing.”

Now, I won’t say that the lemon bars turned out perfectly — I probably should have mixed the crust a bit longer in the food processor and baked it a bit longer before adding the filling, which was a bit too lemony for my taste — but they were most certainly edible, especially with a generous dusting of confectioners’ sugar over the top.  Hence I was sufficiently encouraged to try April Bloomfield’s recipe for oatmeal cookies.

Since the lemon bar recipe is several pages long, I don’t know that I can reproduce it here without infringing on copyright, and summarizing would lose some of the, ahem, flavor, but the author’s website is here: http://www.natashalowe.com/index.html.

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Baked goods are, shall we say, not my forte.  I usually can’t even successfully bake cookies that come right out of a package.  Lately, however, I have had a craving for oatmeal cookies, and I just wasn’t willing to buy some from the store.  Long ingredients lists become less appealing all the time.

I searched my library via EatYourBooks.com and was rewarded with an extensive list of possibilities.  I didn’t want anything too fancy or complicated, and I was looking for soft and chewy rather than crispy.  The recipe of choice became Soft Oatmeal Cookies from A Girl and Her Pig by April Bloomfield.

The whole cookbook is amazing.  Yes, there is a lot of meat, and there are a lot of dishes I wouldn’t be inclined to cook myself, but the author makes them sound so good that I would be willing to try them in her restaurant if the opportunity presented itself.  This unassuming cookie recipe is tucked into the dessert section near the end.

The official ingredient list:
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup dark sultanas or golden raisins
1/4 cup dried currants
10 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
large pinch of salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups rolled oats

I didn’t have sultanas or currants, but I did have golden raisins.  I also had chopped hazelnuts left over from making a green bean, quinoa, hazelnut salad.  So I used half of a cup of raisins and a quarter cup of hazelnuts.

Two notes: The only “complicated” part about this recipe is that the raisins need to be soaked for several hours and the butter needs to be at room temperature.  I would recommend taking the butter out of the fridge or freezer and setting the raisins up to soak the night before.  Secondly, I highly recommend making a double batch.  Unlike so many cookie recipes, this one only makes about 16 cookies, even if they are substantial.  Since they are chewy/cakey rather than crispy, a little bigger is definitely better.

I put my fabulous stand mixer to work, complete with birthday present paddle attachment with a sort of spatula edge to it so that there is less scraping down the sides of the bowl.  Take the eggs out of the fridge.  Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  I am reasonably sure that I know what light and fluffy looks like now.  The author says about four minutes.  I let mine run a bit longer, just to be sure.  If you can leave your mixer unattended while the creaming is happening, sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix together.  (I used a fork.)  Once the butter and sugar are creamed, add the eggs one at a time, beating about thirty seconds in between.  Add the vanilla and the dry ingredients.  Mix until flour is incorporated.  Add raisins, nuts, and oats.  Mix again.  Put the dough in the refrigerator for at least an hour.  I would recommend two.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  (I suppose that you could just grease the pan, but really, parchment paper is the way to go.  The cookies just slide right off, and cleanup is so much easier.  If you have ever had to sandblast cookies off a pan, try the parchment paper.  You won’t be sorry.)  Divide the dough in half (if making one batch).  Take one half and divide it into 8 balls.  Put the balls on the paper lined pan.  Bake for ten minutes.  Rotate the pan.  Bake for another ten minutes.  Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cook.  Repeat with remaining dough.

The result should be yummy, not too dense, almost breakfast/granola bar textured cookies.  Enjoy with a tall glass of well chilled milk or a cup of coffee.  Yum!

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