Friday, March 14, 2014

A New Twist on Oatmeal Cookies

I love oatmeal cookies. I love oatmeal, period. Chewy oatmeal cookies are my favorite. If they have walnuts, so much the better. Raisins I am not wild about, but I tolerate them. I eat oatmeal often for breakfast. I prefer whole oat groats or steel cut, but if I haven't managed the time right, I use Old Fashioned Oats. I like the chewy quality, so I eschew the instant varieties.

Some time back, my sister-in-law asked if I could make Caramel Apple Oatmeal Cookies. I had ideas, I created a recipe, I made them...but they were not what I hoped for. The flavor was great. The chewiness was great. However, the cookies came out positively lacy looking. They puffed while baking, then deflated, leaving large bubble holes behind. I have not gotten back to trying a better way to make those yet. My husband asked if I could make something for a little barbecue affair at work. Dessert, specifically. I asked if cookies would do, and he was happy with that. Being a little short on some ingredients just prior to my weekend grocery shopping excursion, I went simple. I decided on oatmeal cookies, because i had the things I needed. Chocolate chip were out - no chocolate chips in my cupboard.
Oatmeal Apple Cookies with Calvados

Last fall, I suddenly had apples being given me from all over. I have not been making apple desserts, though I should, with all the apples in the freezer. At one point, what with a side of beef taking up most of the freezer, I decided to try drying apples instead of freezing. I have a most wonderful Excalibur dehydrator with 9 shelves, so it went relatively quickly. I dried the apples to just crisp enough to snap, then bagged them. I stuck those in the spare refrigerator's freezer compartment, not wanting all my efforts to go to waste with mold, just in case. They were taking up about 1/3 of the space they would have if fresh. So here I am with all these apples I am not using. I decided to use some dehydrated apples in my oatmeal cookies. The outcome was really, really fine. The only thing to make these better would have been nuts, but I was on short supply there, too.
My dehydrated apples, easily broken in bits

What I did was use some Calvados to rehydrate the apples. I probably used more than was necessary (though all but a few drops was absorbed) but I was unsure of how much the apples would need to reconstitute. Calvados is a quite expensive Apple Brandy from around the Normandy region of France. I bought a bottle many years ago for a recipe that I cannot even recall anymore, but I still use it once in a great while, when looking for a boost to the apple flavor in something. I have never even tasted the Calvados by itself. But, the apple scent is unmistakeable. I added cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves to the Oatmeal Apple Cookies, though it was not noticeable to my palate. The Calvados kind of took over. That said, I took the cookies to my husband's work place yesterday, noting to all that this was a brand new recipe, and I invited any comments, critiques, or suggestions.

One woman immediately said she tasted cinnamon, which surprised me. Another said she loved them because while she was not terribly keen on oatmeal cookies, this recipe with apples made them wonderful for her palate. No one could tell there was an alcohol of any kind in them, of course, though upon opening the container I used to transport the cookies, the Calvados was the scent that jumped out at me. Of course, I know what that smells like, but it was quite evocative. Everyone professed to love the cookies, and judging by the amount that were eaten, I have to believe they were a hit. If you do not want to splurge on Calvados, apple cider would work fine to reconstitute the apples, or even just water, if necessary. Here is my recipe:

Oatmeal Apple Cookies with Calvados

Makes about 6 dozen 2-inch cookies

2 cups dried apples, broken into small bits
1/3 cup Calvados
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup shortening or lard
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 tablespoons boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 on Convection). Slightly warm the Calvados and add the broken dehydrated apples to reconstitute; set aside while preparing the cookie dough.

In a bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, cream the butter and shortening with the brown sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add in the vanilla. Mix in the dry ingredients until just combined. Add in the oatmeal and mix partially. Combine the baking soda with the boiling water and stir well, then add to the bowl along with the reconstituted apples and finish combining with the oatmeal. 

Drop the dough at least 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets and bake the cookies for about 12 to 14 minutes, until puffed and golden. 

I realize that not just everyone has dehydrated apples in their house. I know I have seen dried apples in the dried fruit section of the grocery, though these are usually in little chunks and soft, like other "dried" fruit. These can still be soaked in Calvados or cider, though they will absorb far less. 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.