Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Miriam's Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

Last week when I went strawberry picking with my friend Miriam, she made these cookies to add to our picnic lunch at the berry farm. They were so tasty, I of course asked for the recipe.

My husband loves oatmeal cookies, and since I hadn't baked for a while I decided to give these a try. They looked super simple and called for ingredients that I had ready to go in my kitchen. I made a few modifications (I can't help it!) and popped them in the oven. We had plenty to take to our home group that evening, and lots left over to snack on for the next few days. Although I'm pretty sure I ate about four with my afternoon tea, reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

The coconut gives these cookies a beautiful fragrance and well-rounded taste. The oatmeal, Jordan swears, keeps the cookies soft. There is just enough flour and egg to hold the two predominant ingredients together.

Miriam's Coconut Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup butter, softened (I prefer room temperature, so I leave the butter on the counter overnight or all morning)
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder, and baking soda and stir until just combined. Add the oatmeal and coconut and stir until just incorporated.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet, leaving about an inch between each cookie, as they will spread a bit. Bake for 12 minutes, until the edges are just golden brown.

Eat warm with lots of cold milk.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Friday, July 3, 2009

a sherwood forest of baking possibilities

My in-laws have been visiting this week, and that means lots of good eating. J.'s parents are famous in my book for their fabulous Sunday crepe lunches, where J.'s dad does the crepe-flipping like a pro, and his mum sets out her white sauce, fruit sauce, fruit salad, and of course, the cottage cheese.

Of course, you have to eat something mid-week. So I had prepared some sourdough-type, Amish-friendship-cake-y bread/pastry/quiche/biscuit starter from a recipe given to my from a friend. The dough is cleverly called Sherwood, as the recipes came from a Robin Hood flour cookbook. Little did I know that this bowl of bubbling dough in my fridge would feed us all week and become a staple to this family visit. I have made cheese biscuits... twice. And scones... twice. And a breakfast quiche. All from one batch of Sherwood. And I still had a cup left over to start a new batch.

We took mum and dad kayaking in Deep Cove on Canada Day, and we had a grand time. The weather was perfect for kayaking - clear and sunny, warm enough to kayak in a tee shirt, just enough breeze to keep you cool and to add a little excitement to the kayaking (a wave washed over the stern of our double kayak and down J.'s back!). But, since we had gotten up early and had worked hard for two hours, we came home and promptly took long, Canada Day afternoon naps. Then, I baked these scones for tea.

I wasn't working with a scone recipe... I was adapting a recipe for cheese biscuits. But I thought to myself... biscuits and scones really aren't that far apart on the pastry continuum, how hard can it be? So I took a cup of the 'Sherwood' starter, some oranges given to me from a friend-going-on-holidays-and-cleaning-out-her-fridge, and some dried currants that desperately wanted to be baked into scones, and went from there.

These scones, in my opinion, were my biggest success, because I've always been afraid of making scones. Too much cold-butter-cut-into-the-flour, folding-and-rolling, perfect-temperature fuss for me. But, because the moisture in these scones comes primarily from the liquid starter, it requires a lot less butter-fuss than a traditional scone recipe.
Once you get the starter dough set up in your fridge, the rest of it is easy. The trick is not to forget to stir your 'Sherwood' every day, and to feed it every 5 days. But, it seems to be a forgiving kind of dough. I fed it a day late and forgot to stir it for two days, but each recipe turned out just fine. I'll post the cheese biscuits and breakfast quiche recipes in a future post.

Orange Currant Scones

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
zest of one small orange
1 cup dried currants
juice of one small orange
1 cup 'Sherwood' sourdough starter
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup raw cane or turbinado sugar (as long as it's large grain)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small bowl, combine the cup of currants with the orange juice. Microwave for one minute, and stir. This will plump up the currants if they are dry like mine were (and not the good kind of dry... but the hard, totally-withered-beyond-edibility kind of dry). Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange zest. (I used a zester - a little hand-gadget that looks like teeny brass knuckles - to peel beautiful long strips of the zest off the orange, but you can use a box grater or microplane and get good results. But the zester will be prettier.) Add the orange-soaked currants, but reserve the juice. (A slotted spoon helps here.) Stir until all the zest slivers and currants are coated in flour.

Add your Sherwood and the melted butter. Stir until the dough just comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured counter and knead about 5 times. Pat or roll out the dough into a long rectangle, and cut into scone shapes. (Usually triangles, but you can really do whatever you like. Mickey Mouse heads... snowmen...) Place on an ungreased baking sheet.

Brush the tops of the scones with the reserved orange juice. Sprinkle with a large-grain sugar, preferably turbinado or raw cane sugar.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until the tops are crusty and golden brown. Serve warm, with butter and maybe the slightest drizzle of honey.

Here is the recipe for the Sherwood starter. It's really simple - and you can keep it going indefinitely in your own fridge. You can also share it with friends a cup at a time, with the instructions to go along with it. It's also a good idea to give them the extra recipes for what to do with Sherwood once they have it going. Once you get the hang of all the different things you can do with it, let your imagination run wild!

adapted from Robin Hood Baking Festival recipes

On Day One: assemble the starter.
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 and 1/2 cups warm water
1 package (2-3 tsp) active dry yeast
2 cups all-purpose flour

Proof the yeast by dissolving the sugar in a 1/2 cup of the warm water. Sprinkle the yeast in and let it stand 10 minutes. You'll see it bubbling a bit. This is a good sign - it means you have a live yeast culture!
Add the rest of the water and the flour. Beat it until smooth. Cover tightly and leave overnight at room temperature.

On Day Two: feed your starter.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
Stir until smooth. Cover loosely and refrigerate.

On Day Three: stir.

On Day Four: stir.

On Day Five: feed your starter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
Stir until smooth and return to the refrigerator.

On Day Six: stir.

On Day Seven: stir.

On Day Eight: stir.

On Day Nine: stir.

On Day Ten: time to have fun!
Take a cup of Sherwood and give it to a friend, with accompanying instructions on how to care for it from Day Two until Day Ten. If you want to have a continuous supply in your own fridge, reserve a cup for yourself and feed it as you did from Day Two until Day Ten. This means you will have two separate bowls going - one that is ready to be baked into amazing things, and another that is getting ready to be baked in about 10 days.