Chewy Melty Double Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Double chocolate oatmeal cookies n

Some people enjoy warm chocolatey cookies with cold glasses of milk. We prefer ours with a splash of bourbon. 

This recipe adds to the already deliciously chewy texture of oatmeal cookies by including cocoa powder for another layer of flavor. A zip of cinnamon adds still another layer. We couldn’t wait for these to cool. We were rewarded with a scrumptious cookie with a rich melty center, thanks to the chocolate chips. Perfect on a day when a rare fog crept into Ulaanbaatar “on little cat feet” and froze to bare tree branches.

Double Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • generous pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter, unsalted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • generous 1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together the following dry ingredients:  flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  4. In a medium pot over medium heat, melt butter. When butter is melted, remove pot from heat.
  5. Mix sugar and honey into melted butter.
  6. Mix egg and vanilla into sugar mixture.
  7. Stir dry ingredients into sugar mixture. Mix well.
  8. Fold oats into dough.
  9. Fold chocolate chips into dough.
  10. Place tablespoon-sized scoops of dough onto prepared baking sheets. Press dough down to flatten slightly.
  11. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before removing to wire rack to finish cooling. Enjoy while still warm and melty.

 

The Yin and Yang of Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yin Yang Chocolate chip cookies n

Which side is more delicious? The chocolate with white chocolate chips? Or the traditional chocolate chip side? 

Life is too short for just one kind of cookie. Combine two cookie doughs that take about the same amount of time to bake and you have a recipe for a cookie which will disappear in the blink of an eye! These cookies were as fun to make as they were to eat… play dough for a baker!

Yin Yang Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

Chocolate Chip Dough

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

White Chocolate Chip Chocolate Dough

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 10 tbsp dutch processed cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Make the chocolate chip dough.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together butter, sugars, egg and vanilla.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
  4. Thoroughly mix the flour mixture into the butter mixture.
  5. Fold chocolate chips into dough.
  6. Turn dough out onto piece of plastic wrap. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  7. Make the white chocolate chip chocolate dough.
  8. In a large bowl, mix together butter, sugars, egg and vanilla.
  9. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.
  10. Thoroughly mix the flour mixture into the butter mixture.
  11. Fold white chocolate chips into dough.
  12. Turn dough out onto piece of plastic wrap. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  13. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  14. Take a tablespoon of the light dough and roll into a ball.
  15. Take a tablespoon of the chocolate dough and roll into a ball.
  16. Cut each ball in half and press the opposite doughs together, so you have a ball of half chocolate chip dough and half white chocolate chip dough.
  17. Press the balls slightly and place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat process until the baking sheet is filled. I fit 20 cookies on a sheet.
  18. Bake cookies for about 10 minutes. I like mine soft, so they will appear slightly underdone at 10 minutes. Bake a couple of minutes longer for a crunchier cookie.
  19. Enjoy warm or at room temperature.

Makes about 60 cookies.

Good Morning, Ulaanbaatar! Carrot, Pineapple and More Muffins

carrot pineapple muffins n

Moist, delicious muffins filled with carrots, pineapple, pecans, and currants.

Sometimes, I wake up and want muffins for breakfast. The beauty of this muffin recipe is two-fold. It’s a quick recipe. Fifteen minutes after they were popped into the oven, they were ready to eat! And the recipe is a great base recipe. So many of the ingredients could be swapped for others to result in another version of a moist, tasty muffin. The carrots could be swapped with grated zucchini or summer squash. The pineapple could be replaced by chopped apple or smashed banana. The pecans and currants could be traded with any kind of nuts and dried fruits. The variations can be as wild as you can imagine.  Just check your pantry and make a batch!

Carrot, Pineapple and More Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1 cup chopped pineapple
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup dried currants

Directions

  1. Grease 12-muffin tin. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together first 5 ingredients.
  4. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Stir carrots, pineapple, pecans and currants into flour mixture.
  6. Stir egg mixture into flour mixture until just combined.
  7. Divide batter evenly into prepared muffin tin.
  8. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until tops are golden brown and spring back to the touch.

Rich and Beautiful Braided Swiss Bread – Züpfe

zupfe bread n

Rich and buttery Swiss bread provides a beautiful and delicious centerpiece for brunch. 

My bread-baking goal upon moving to Mongolia was to bake all of my favorite breads without the aid of my trusty Zojirushi bread machine that I relied on heavily in Alaska. The tiny house we will eventually live in will not have room for such an extravagant machine, so it was time to wean myself off of this terrific invention. In Alaska, I enjoyed throwing all my ingredients into a machine, going for a walk and coming back to beautiful finished doughs ready to shape and bake. These days, I’m finding that I really enjoy the process of manually bringing all the individual ingredients together to form delicious and beautiful breads. There is something satisfying about kneading dough and knowing, by touch, if it needs more of something.

The final bread on the list from my Alaska days to make from scratch was züpfe. I was introduced to this braided Swiss bread when I was young. I loved it. It could have been because of its soft, almost creamy texture or the lovely Swiss braids. I would eat as much of it as I was allowed. As an adult, I still love the flavor and the texture. The braids are fun to create and give an impressive finish. Bring this bread to your next dinner party instead of the traditional bottle-of-wine and see what happens.

Züpfe

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 1/3 cups warm milk (105F/41C)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the egg yolk, butter, 2 cups of bread flour and salt. Stir well to combine.
  3. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  4. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.
  5. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces and roll each piece into about a 14-inch long log. Braid the pieces together and place on a parchment-covered baking sheet. Pinch the ends of the braids well so they don’t come undone.
  6. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  7. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  8. In a small bowl, beat together egg white and water. Brush risen loaf with egg wash and bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown.

Mini Matcha Cheesecakes with Shortbread Crust

Matcha cheesecake n

Delightfully green and chock-full of flavor, these mini desserts are sure to please a mini crowd. 

The smooth texture and familiar flavor of cheesecake draws us time and again to this delicious and decadent dessert. The beauty of homemade cheesecake is that it is a perfect canvas for so many creative ideas. The traditional vanilla flavor is sumptuous. But it is so easy to add, top, or infuse. I’ve been wanting to play some more with the matcha green tea powder I have in my pantry. I wanted to make a small sized cheesecake but I don’t have a small cheesecake pan. So I made small cheesecakes in a standard-sized muffin tin in order to turn out a small batch. These would be a lovely dessert to share at our next dinner party invite.

Ingredients

Crust

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted

Filling

  • 1 package of cream cheese, 250 grams, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp matcha tea powder

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Line 8 standard-sized muffin tin cups with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together crust ingredients.
  3. Evenly divide crust mixture into lined muffin tin cups. Press down to form bottom of cheesecakes.
  4. Bake crusts for 5 minutes. Let cool.
  5. In a large bowl, whisk together filling ingredients. There should be no lumps and all ingredients should be mixed well.
  6. Divide filling evenly into paper lined cups.
  7. Bake cheesecakes until set, about 16 – 18 minutes. Centers should not jiggle.
  8. Refrigerate cheesecakes for 3 hours before serving.

Cranberry Banana Bran Muffins

muffins cranberry banana bran nSuper moist muffins bursting with cranberry and banana flavor and , shhhh, healthful bran. 

I inherited a bag of bran from a friend who moved from Ulaanbaatar earlier this summer. Had she not explained that the cyrillic words translated to wheat bran, I would have never guessed. There is a section in most grocery stores here in Ulaanbaatar that houses a variety of mysterious products that, I think, come from Russia. Sometimes I can decode the cyrillic and figure out what the items are. In most cases, I leave them alone. Now that I understand the cyrillic word for wheat bran, I can see that this ingredient is readily available in the stores we shop.

A week or so ago, I made my first bran muffins with my new pantry. They came out pretty well. They definitely had a bran flavor, which is to sat that they tasted like they were good for us. Partnered with an egg and a freshly brewed cup of coffee, we enjoyed daily breakfasts with that batch. Our test question when rating our recipes is, “If you got this ____ in a restaurant, would you be happy?” The bran muffins I made were good, but not impressive by any measure.

By contrast, today’s bran muffins are absolutely impressive and we would be delighted were they served to us in a restaurant or café. While there’s still enough bran in them to warrant the title “bran muffin,” the ripe bananas provide moistness and flavor the former muffins lacked and the cranberries add much-needed texture. The soured milk also adds moisture and a buttermilk flavor. When I put all the ingredients together, I was concerned that the batter would be too liquidy. It turns out the bran absorbs some of the liquid, so the ratio of liquid to dry ingredients was perfect. Not only did the muffins pass our test question, we’ve already eaten four muffins in one morning. That’s the true test.

Cranberry Banana Bran Muffins

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup ripe banana, mashed
  • 1 cup milk soured with 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup light oil, such as canola
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup wheat bran
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Directions

  1. Grease 12-muffin tin. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
  3. In a small bowl, mix together wet ingredients. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together bran, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.
  5. Pour wet ingredients into dry and whisk until smooth.
  6. Fold in cranberries.
  7. Pour batter into muffin tin. Each muffin cup will be full.
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Muffins will be lightly browned and a wooden pick inserted into the middle of muffin will come out clean when done.
  9. Let cool in pan on wire rack for about 5 minutes before removing.

Miniature Slider Buns: Perfect for Breakfast, Appetizers and Light Meals

Breakfast slider with bun recipe n

Irresistible, soft, fluffy darling buns perfect for sliders. Imagine all the tiny meals you could make. Sliders stuffed with eggs, roasted vegetables, burgers… Think you can eat just one? Good thing they are small!

Jack had that look in his eye as he placed his order for a dozen slider rolls. It’s the look he gets when he has something up his culinary sleeve. I will keep the anticipation going and only reveal that it was a delicious use of these little fluffy buns. Stay tuned for his upcoming recipe.

I use this recipe often for hamburger and sandwich rolls. I really like how the texture. They are soft but have enough structure to hold up to whatever we put on them without caving in. I have shaped the dough to accommodate sausage sandwiches as well. This time, I divided the dough into twelve equal pieces, which gave me perfect slider buns about 2¾ inches in diameter.

Fluffy Slider Buns

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm water, about 110 degrees F (43 degrees C)
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, stir together water, sugar and yeast. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in olive oil.
  3. Stir in one cup of flour and salt.
  4. Add in remainder of flour 1/2 cup at a time. The last half cup will need to be kneaded in by hand.
  5. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and continue to knead until dough is smooth and elastic.
  6. Place dough in an oil-coated bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise until doubled in size, about an hour.
  7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  8. Knead dough for 2-3 minutes.
  9. Cut dough into 12 equal pieces.
  10. Roll dough into balls.
  11. Flatten balls slightly and place on parchment-lined baking sheet.
  12. Cover dough balls with damp towel and let rise for another 30 minutes.
  13. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  14. Bake rolls for about 12 minutes. Rolls should be lightly browned on top and on bottom.
  15. Let cool completely on wire rack before cutting.

Delicious Homemade Bagels – Without The Machine

bagels homemade n

Chewy homemade bagels smeared with cream cheese and an icy glass of cherry almond tea – a delicious lunch to enjoy while working from home. Next project? Making our own cheese spread for these tasty bagels.

We’ve discovered one place to purchase really good chewy bagels in Ulaanbaatar. We still prefer to make our own, even with the time it takes, instead of trekking out to the deli. Back in Alaska, I used a Zojirushi bread machine to create the dough for my bagels (see bagels three ways). We sold the machine when we left Alaska, and in our efforts to simplify our kitchen I did not replace it when we moved to Ulaanbaatar. That means taking my trusty bread machine bagel recipe and rewriting it to eliminate the machine. My adapted recipe’s results are just as tasty and chewy. You can still adorn the bagels with whatever your heart desires. Without the appliance, these bagels can be made in a galley or a tiny kitchen in a camper. Enjoy!

Homemade Chewy Bagels

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (105 degrees F/40 degrees C)
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 qts water
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • toppings such as poppy seeds, toasted onions, sesame seeds, etc. (optional)

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, stir together yeast, 1 1/2 tbsp sugar and water. Let sit for about 5 minutes to make sure the yeast is good. (It will foam.)
  2. Stir in salt and the flour, 1/2 cup at a time. The last 1/2 cup, you will need to knead in by hand.
  3. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic.
  4. Coat the inside of a large bowl and place the dough inside.
  5. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise until doubled, about an hour.
  6. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  7. Cut dough into 8 equal pieces.
  8. Roll pieces into balls.
  9. Flatten balls slightly.
  10. Poke your finger through center of ball and twirl dough around your finger to enlarge the hole.
  11. Place bagels on parchment-lined baking sheet to rest.
  12. Bring 3 qts water to boil in large pot. Stir in 3 tbsp sugar.
  13. Place 4 bagels in boiling water. Boil for 1 minute. Flip bagels and let boil for another minute.
  14. Place boiled bagels on clean, dry towel.
  15. Place remaining 4 bagels in boiling water. Repeat boiling process with these bagels.
  16. Take bagels from towel and place them on parchment-lined baking sheet.
  17. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  18. Brush bagels with beaten egg.
  19. Sprinkle desired toppings on bagels (poppy seeds, sesame seeds, charnushka, minced dried onion and minced dried garlic are some of our favorites).
  20. Bake in preheated oven for 20 – 25 minutes, until browned.

 

My Version of an $8 Chocolate Chip Cookie

eight dollar chocolate chip cookie n

High quality milk chocolate, white chocolate, toasted almonds, browned butter and vanilla paste pack in the flavor. Served warm out of the oven, this cookie adds up to… Irresistible!

This week, I read an article about a restaurant which offers a chocolate chip cookie and a glass of flavor-infused milk for $8! The value of this pricey cookie lies in the care with which it is baked and served as well as with the quality of the ingredients. Customers love that this warm-from-the-oven-cookie has a soft, melty chocolate center and crispy edges.

Using the concepts from the article – ingredients should be top notch and the cookie needs to be served individually-baked and warm – I created my own version of a cookie that would deserve an $8 price tag. I love the flavor and texture of nuts in my chocolate chip cookies, so I browned the butter and toasted some chopped almonds to ensure plenty of nutty flavor. I added a dash of almond extract for additional flavor. Traditional chocolate chip cookies use vanilla extract. I substituted the extract with vanilla paste for a richer vanilla flavor. I baked the cookies at a little lower temperature than traditional recipes to allow the cookie to retain its gooeyness a little longer… not that these cookies will last long! I highly recommend you bake only the number of cookies you will immediately serve. The dough will keep in the refrigerator so you can make ’em as you need ’em fresh out of the oven.

Both Jack and I agreed that the flavor was amazing. Jack thought the cookies could have been a little bit bigger for the price tag. Feel free to scoop them larger if you agree with Jack!

Ingredients

  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, browned
  • 2 tsp vanilla paste
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • 1/3 cup toasted almonds, chopped
  • 1/3 cup good quality milk chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup good quality white chocolate, chopped

Directions

  1. Mix the sugars and the egg well.
  2. Add in the browned butter.
  3. Mix in vanilla paste and almond extract.
  4. Stir flour, baking soda and salt into the mixture.
  5. Fold in the almonds and chocolate pieces.
  6. Chill the dough for at least 1 hour.
  7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  8. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C).
  9. Scoop tablespoon-sized balls using a small ice cream scoop onto the baking sheet. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes.
  10. Let the cookies set on the baking sheet for about 3 minutes before removing them to a wire cooling rack.
  11. Continue to cool for another two minutes on the wire rack.
  12. Serve cookies while still warm.

Makes 10 cookies.

Cinnamon Toast Biscotti – A Light, Satisfying Small Batch

Cinnamon Sugar Biscotti n

Warning: the enticing aromas from baking this crunchy, cinnamon biscotti may cause neighbors to knock on your door. 

During our summer break, Jack and I don’t have as many little volunteers to help us eat our sweet creations. Being mindful of our waistlines, it is time to switch gears to confections that are either made in smaller batches, are lower in fat, or are just plain healthier. Curious what I’d discover, I searched for “lowfat cookie recipes” on the Internet. The top result, according to Google, was biscotti. Delicious and versatile, I could see how they would make the cut. I decided today’s creation would feature cinnamon, which always tricks my taste buds into thinking the cookie is sweeter than its sugar content would indicate. This small batch will be just right for the coming week.

So with all this, I give you a small batch of cinnamon biscotti that that is easy to whip up in about an hour’s time. This “two bake” recipe is especially galley and camper friendly, as it limits propane use.

Cinnamon Toast Biscotti

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

 

Cinnamon topping (just mix ingredients together)

  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (160 degrees Celsius).
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and sugar in a medium bowl.
  4. Stir melted butter, egg, and vanilla into flour mixture
  5. Form dough into a flat log shape on parchment-lined baking sheet. Log should be about 10 inches long and 1 ½ inches wide.
  6. Generously sprinkle top of log with about half of the cinnamon topping.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes in preheated oven. Log will be firm to the touch.
  8. Remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes.
  9. Cut log into 10 pieces using a serrated knife.
  10. Place pieces on their side, exposing a cut side.
  11. Sprinkle with remaining cinnamon topping.
  12. Bake for 10 – 15 more minutes, until biscotti is nicely toasted.
  13. Cool completely on wire rack before serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container.