Hermit Bars

Hermit CookiesStaying true to its name, The back page of each month’s Cook’s Illustrated displays drawings of a specific variety of culinary ingredient such as Gulf Coast fish (March/April 2014) , types of pears (Sept/Oct 2014) or an array of classic tapas (July/Aug 2015). This month’s illustration is “classic American cookies.” I scan the line-up and check off the usual suspects– chocolate chip – yep, peanut butter – made them, oatmeal raisin – of course, snickerdoodles – baked my first batch at 12.   They took liberty with some – is chocolate sandwich truly an American classic (outside of the store bought Oreo variety). Then one lumpy, Cliff-bar looking cookie catches my eye – hermit. Whaaaa??? What the hell is that? I’ve never heard of a hermit cookie. Where could this hermit have been hiding all these years? A bit of cookie wiki and I soon learn they came from the New England area and, although ingredients differ, seem to be a chewy, heavily spiced cookie- bar (usually) or drop – with any combination of raisins, currants, dates and walnuts.

What have I been missing? Well, a lot. We’ll see these again around Christmas time. Oh yum.

Hermit Cookies
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

1 cup Butter, melted
1 cup Granulated sugar
1 Egg (large)
½ t. cinnamon
½ t. nutmeg
½ t. Ginger
½ t. Cloves (scant)
½ t. Salt
1 t. Baking soda
3 cups All Purpose Flour
½ c. Molasses
1 cup Raisins, softened in hot water
1 cup Walnuts, toasted and chopped
3 T. Demerara sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 13×9” pan.

In a large bowl, beat together sugar and butter until smooth. Beat in egg, spices, salt and baking soda. Gently stir in flour then add the molasses and beat until fully incorporated. Stir in the raisins and nuts.

Pat dough evenly into pan and sprinkle with demerara sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes until just set. Do not over-bake. You want the final bars to be chewy. Cool completely before cutting.

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Zucchini Bread with Blueberries

Zucchini Bread

Thwarted again! The plan was to wrap up the scone bake-off this weekend with a final ginger scone recipe that, if I remember correctly, made a flavorful, but cake-like scone.   Five zucchinis in my CSA basket pushed me in another unexpected direction. This is my “go to” zucchini bread recipe – either with or without the blueberries.

Zucchini Bread with Blueberries
Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients

Bread
2.5 c. Grated zucchini
½ t. plus ½ t. Salt
3 c. plus 1 T. All-purpose flour
1 t. Baking soda
1 t. Baking powder
1 T. Cinnamon
¼ t. Nutmeg
¼ t. Clove
3 Eggs
1 c. Vegetable oil
2 ¼ c. Sugar
1 T. Vanilla extract
1 pint Blueberries (optional)
¾ c. Chopped walnuts (optional)
Streusel
4 T. Butter
¼ c. Quaker oats
¼ c. Chopped walnuts
¼ c. Sugar or brown sugar
2 T. Flour
¼ t. cinnamon

Directions:
Place grated zucchini in colander, sprinkle with ½ t. salt and toss. Grease and flour two 8×4 loaf pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make streusel topping by combining strudel ingredients and blending with fingers until pea-sized crumbs form.

Sift 3 c. flour, ½ t. salt, baking, soda, baking powder and spices in a bowl. Using mixer, beat eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla together. Add sifted ingredients to egg mixture and gently combine until flour is fully incorporated. Dust blueberries with 1 T. flour (helps blueberries from sinking to bottom). Wring as much liquid from zucchini as possible using a dry kitchen towel. Add zucchini, blueberries and walnuts to batter and stir until combined. Pour batter into pans and sprinkle with streusel.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans on rack for 20 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely.

Beginning to See the Light Granola

I’ve been going through an interminable five month depression, primarily brought on by a work schedule impossible to maintain. Work has finally slowed and I’m beginning to come up for air – sixteen pounds heavier, toxic and worn out. In an effort to find my health again, I joined a gym and hired a personal trainer last week. After eating a full bag of Pepperidge Farm Maui cookies on Monday and three quarters of a bag of Newton’s blueberry Fruit Thins on Wednesday, I decided my diet needs an overhaul, too, but any willpower I may possess is melted by crispy, crunchy, chewy, buttery sweet carbs. Pastries make me happy like Prozac. In an effort to channel my love of a good cookie into something a bit more healthful, I whipped up a batch of granola this morning, capturing the flavors and textures without all the wheat, sugar and fat.

Granola

Beginning to See the Light Granola

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3 cups assorted nuts and seeds (unsalted and unroasted, if possible)
½ – ¾ t. salt
½ t. cinnamon
½ t. cardamom
¼ t. ginger
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup liquid sweetener (such as honey, maple syrup or agave syrup)
1 t. vanilla
1 cup dried fruit, chopped if needed (unsweetened and unsulfured, if possible)

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine oats, nuts and seeds in a large bowl (I used chopped almonds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds. I also used about ¼ cup toasted flax seeds, but added them at the end since they were pre-toasted). Add salt and spices. Add oil, sweetener and vanilla. Stir until moistened and combined. Turn out on to a Silpat covered sheet pan.

Bake for about 30-35 minutes, stirring at the following times: 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 25 minutes, 30 minutes, and 35 minutes. Chop and measure fruit while granola bakes. If you use coconut, add coconut at the 20 minute mark. Add dried fruit (and any toasted nuts) to the hot granola. I used coconut, dried blueberries, dried cranberries, and apricots and also added the flax at this time. Cool granola and store.

Note: I like to pour almond milk over the still hot granola to make a tummy-warming snack to nibble while the rest of the granola cools.