Friday, December 5, 2014

Biscotti in a Jar Gift Mix--A Gourmet Twist on the Bars-In-Jars Gift

I love making kitchen gifts, so I had to include a whole chapter of "bars-in-jars" recipes in my recent baking book, Simply Sensational Cookies. All sorts of bar and cookie mixes are possible and they make really appealing and attractive holiday gifts for teachers, relatives, holiday hostesses, or anybody else you or your family want to remember with a little something special. (Older kids can have fun preparing the jars themselves; younger ones can make them with a little grown-up or older sibling to supervise.) 

Don't forget that you must provide the recipient a recipe card or printed sheet with directions on how to actually turn the jar of mix into cookies. As the pic above shows in the upper left, I like to recycle the fronts of old Christmas cards and paste the instructions onto the backs. For convenience the information is in presented below in label format so you can print it out and use it the same way. Or just print it out onto colorful, sturdy paper, if preferred.

In case you haven't come across the term "bars in jars" before, it refers to cookie gift mix recipes that call for artfully layering all the ingredients into a clear 1-quart or 1 liter jar or canister. As you can see from the pic, the completed homemade gift jars look a bit like the eye-catching sand art creations millions of enthusiastic crafters were making in America in the 1970s. 

The jars enable recipients to conveniently ready a pan of bars (or in the case of cookies-in-a jar recipes a batch of cookies), simply by combining the whole jar of mix with a couple of fresh ingredients, usually butter and eggs. The idea behind the mix featured here is unusual in that it makes up into sliced crunchy cookies called biscotti. Don't worry--the shaping method is super-easy!

Though I can't prove it, I think the bars-in-jars layered recipes were probably inspired by the sand art creations that were the rage in the late 1970s. The term "sand art" was definitely in vogue then: When I entered these two words into the Google n-gram data base, the resulting graph revealed that more than 90 percent of all mentions of the term from the 1500s through today occurred between 1972 and 1979! 

 It's probably not a coincidence that recipes for layered mixes started popping up then, too: When I recently searched on-line for American cookbooks featuring these homemade mix recipes, the first I turned up were HP Books' Make a Mix Cookery published in 1978, followed by its More Make a Mix Cookery, in 1980. The recipes continue to be popular though; quite a few more gift mix books have been published since then.

Cherry-Berry Biscotti-in-Jars 
photo by Diane Cu and Todd Porter
 Typically, bars-in-jars  and cookies-in-jars recipes are in the homey category--brownies, chocolate chip drops, cowboy cookies and similar treats. But, as the name and the pics here suggest, this particular recipe is a different. It yields nut and berry-laden biscotti and appeals to gourmet bakers with more sophisticated tastes. (If you prefer a more typical and familiar bars-in-jars recipe or that features more economical ingredients, go here.)  The pic at left is from Simply Sensational Cookies and was taken by Diane Cu and Todd Porter.

I'm proud to tell you that our book was nominated for an International Association of Culinary Professionals "Best Baking Book" award. And, yippee,  it was just picked as a suggested holiday gift book in a Huffington Post article!

Note that this recipe calls for freeze-dried raspberries—the “Just Raspberries” brand is available at some supermarkets and at gourmet and health food stores. Trader Joe's also carries packages of  freeze-dried raspberries sold under their own label. Several brands are available on-line. They are pricey, but add a distinctive, unusual appeal.

 If you can't find freeze-dried raspberries, freeze-dried strawberries may be substituted--either will give the biscotti an unusual berry flavor and color. If necessary you can even substitute chopped dried sweetened cranberries, which will work fine, but, of course, will lend a rather different taste.

Tip: The recipe calls for completing the baking in two 4- by 8-inch loaf pans. If you think the recipient might not have these, simply supply two foil pans along with the jar of gift mix.

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
Generous 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup coarsely chopped slivered almonds
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup coarsely chopped dried sweetened cherries
2/3 cup coarsely chopped freeze-dried raspberries 

Preliminaries: Set out a clear glass, transparent plastic or other attractive 1-quart or 1-liter jar, along with its lid. Set out a square of heavy-duty aluminum foil to use as a funnel. (If you have a funnel that fits the jar, by all means substitute that!)

Center the flour, baking powder, and salt on a large sheet of heavy foil. Stir together until well blended. Using the foil as a funnel, pour into a 1-quart jar. Shake, then rap the jar on the counter to even the layer. Combine the sugar, almonds, and cinnamon on the foil, stirring to blend well. Add to the jar; shake and rap it to even the layer. Wipe down the jar sides, if necessary. Add the cherries, then the raspberries to the jar. Again shake and rap the jar to even the surface. If the jar will be shipped, firmly stuff the empty space at the top with crumpled wax paper. Attach a tag or card with the recipe instructions to the jar.

Yield: Makes 1 quart of mix, enough for about 25 to 35 biscotti.
Storage: The unopened mix will keep up to 1 month unrefrigerated, or 2 months refrigerated.

For the label/tag for the jar:

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Healthy Meatless Tacos after Too Much Holiday Turkey & Ham

 After a holiday of too many hearty, meaty meals of turkey with stuffing and ham and sweet potatoes, I'm worrying that the hubs and I might now be starting to look like  stuffed turkeys or hams!  So, I'm taking a break and going meatless for supper.

 Not only is this vegetarian taco menu zesty and full of color and crunch, but it features a healthy mix of beans, brown rice, and assorted vitamin- and fiber-packed vegetables. Of course, it's perfect for serving vegetarians (and also those who can't eat gluten), but those who generally demand meat will be satisfied as well. In fact, they may not even notice that anything is missing.

For convenience, I like to prepare the filling completely ahead, and simply reheat it at 50% power in a microwave oven at mealtime. (It can even be frozen, then thawed and reheated.) Once the crisp taco shells and garnishes are set out, diners just ready their own servings as desired.  BTW, tossing fresh chopped tomatoes with dried oregano and a little bottled salsa as directed below gives even ho-hum hothouse tomatoes a lot of zing.

Quick 'n Healthy Vegetarian (and Gluten-Free) Bean & Rice Tacos

For a tame taco filling, choose a mild chili powder and mild bottled salsa; for one with a  kick, use a medium-hot brand of chili powder and bottled salsa. If the filling is still not hot enough for you, feel free to add a couple dashes of hot sauce or pinch of cayenne at the end of the cooking.

Tip: The recipe calls for cooked brown rice. If you like, ready it ahead from either regular long-grain brown rice or "instant" brown rice following the package directions. It will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 36 hours and frozen (airtight) up to 3 weeks.  (I make a large pot and stash the rice in 1 cup plastic packets in the freezer--very handy!)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon mild or medium-hot chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups drained, canned garlic and oregano seasoned diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups cooked (unseasoned) instant or regular long grain brown rice
1 cup rinsed and well-drained canned black beans or kidney beans or pinto beans,
1/4 cup bottled mild or medium-hot tomato salsa

Accompaniments to set out with the taco filling:

 8 to 10 crisp corn taco shells, warmed if desired
3 cups diced fresh tomatoes seasoned with 2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves and 3
   tablespoons bottled mild to medium-hot salsa
2 to 3 cups shredded iceberg lettuce or coarsely chopped romaine leaves
1/2 cup sliced Kalamata black olives, optional
3/4 to 1 cup shredded regular or reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
Chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish, optional

In a 12- to 13-inch deep-sided nonstick skillet over medium heat, combine the oil and onions and cook, stirring, until the onions begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder, oregano, and allspice and cook, stirring, 1 minute longer. Add the salt, tomatoes, and rice to the skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes, until the tomato cooks down and the flavors blend. Transfer mixture to a food processor. Process until well blended and almost smooth, scraping down the bowl sides as necessary. Add the beans and salsa to the processor. Process until the beans are chopped, but not completely pureed. 

Use the filling immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days, then rewarm slightly before serving. Set out the filling along with the accompaniments and let diners make their own tacos. Makes 4 or 5 serving.

For another healthy, flavorful supper recipe, check out my hearty lentil-rice soup here.

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

All-Purpose Powdered Sugar Icing--Good, Easy, Great for Cookies and Cakes

I have lots of icing recipes in my repertoire--most peeps who trained as pastry chefs do. My Kitchenlane archives contain several different buttercream frostings, including an intensely raspberry version and an orange or cranberry version; a fine chocolate glaze for cakes; and several icings for those who wish to skip all dyes and use berries and/or fruit juices or green tea to tint icings.

Ginger cookies spread with thin white icing.
Sugar cookies show marbling decorating technique.
But of all my recipes, this is the icing I turn to most often. It's simple to make and spreads or pipes on readily. And it's all-purpose--I use it both to decorate cakes and cookies in varied colors (including a plain, thin layer of white as shown at right, if that's all that's needed!). As you can see from the pics here, many  totally different looks are possible. This icing can also be flavored with vanilla,  or almond or lemon extract, as desired.

If you are piping colors on top of a base layer it's usually best to let first one dry and firm for at least a half hour and longer, if possible. But, for the pretty  patterned effect shown on tree and stocking cookies at right, you add the accent piping while the base coat is still wet. (A quick YouTube video here shows you exactly how to achieve this "wet-on-wet" look. Called "marbling" this technique easier than you might guess--my grandkids have great fun with it.)

Unlike many icings, this one works with either "regular" petrochemical food dyes or purchased botanical food colors (learn more about using these natural products here). The recipe omits all acids such as lemon juice, as these can cause certain botanical shades to change colors in unexpected ways.

BTW, for really helpful tips on rolling/cutting out cookie dough, my quick YouTube video shows the BEST and easiest way. It yields better looking, more tender cookies and requires far less clean up than the traditional rolling on a floured surface technique. 

All-Purpose Powdered Sugar Icing

This recipe makes a fairly large batch of powdered sugar icing that can be divided into up to 5 to 6 smaller colored portions to decorate a generous batch of cookies. Alternatively, following the directions below, divide it into two complementary-colored portions to decorate a cake as shown at the very bottom.

Gingerbread cookies piped with powdered sugar icing accents.
 Note that the recipe calls for an optional ingredient, dried egg white powder or meringue powder. While it’s not essential, if you plan to use intense, contrasting icing colors right with lighter ones (like those on the snowmen at the top and the fanciful cake at the bottom), the powder will help keep the shades from bleeding together as the decorated goodies stand.

Also, if you are using botanical dyes, it will help set these more fragile colors and keep them from fading during storage. Egg white powder is sometimes stocked in the baking section of supermarkets; meringue powder is often found with Wilton baking/cake decorating supplies in discount department and craft stores.

Don’t omit the corn syrup from the recipe, as it increases spreadability and enables the icing to flow more smoothly and evenly. If you prefer to avoid high-fructose corn syrup, use the Karo brand, which is free of high-fructose corn syrup.

Tip: If you are relying on botanical colors, be sure not to replace the water called for with lemon or orange juice or any other other acidic ingredients. Even small amounts will react with the pigments in the natural dyes and cause their colors to change or fade in unpredictable ways.

1 1-pound box or 3 cups powdered sugar, if lumpy sift after measuring
1 tablespoon commercial dried egg white power or meringue power, optional
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract or lemon extract
4 to 6 tablespoons water, as needed
Drops of synthetic or botanical food colors, as desired

In a large bowl thoroughly mix together the powdered sugar and egg white powder (if using).  Add  the corn syrup, vanilla (or other extract), and 4 tablespoons water. Stir them in, gradually adding more water as necessary for the desired consistency. For piping, the consistency should be stiff enough that the icing holds its shape but can be piped through pastry tips. For spreading, the icing should have a fluid but not runny consistency. Divide the icing among up to 5 or 6 smaller bowls for cookie icings and stir in food colors as desired. Keep covered with plastic wrap when not being used so they don't dry out.

Use immediately or store them in the refrigerator for up to a week. Stir well and bring to room temperature before using.

Two colors of powdered sugar icing dress up a festive cake.
To decorate the cake as shown: Tint a generous 2/3 of the icing a base color and the remainder an accenting drizzling color. Brush off and discard any crumbs clinging to the cake. Spread the base coat evenly over the cake using a table knife or wide-bladed spatula. If desired, while the icing is still wet, sprinkle edible sprinkles or sparkling or sanding sugar onto the cake sides, as shown in the picture. Let stand until the icing is firm to the touch, at least 30 minutes. (For directions on creating the candy "glass" shards for crowning the cake top, go here before adding the second icing.)

If necessary, thin the drizzling icing until just slightly fluid by stirring a few drops of water.  Add spoonfuls of icing to the cake top, immediately swirling them to the edges at even intervals all the way around so they drip and form decorative stripes down the sides. For a fancier look, add pearls or sprinkles to the icing stripes as well. For adding the crown of candy shards and other decorations, go here. Let the cake stand until the icings sets, at least 20 minutes, before serving. It will keep, covered, for several days.

See my all-natural green tea icing here. Or check out my fruit and berry tinted icings.
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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Off-World Celebration Cake--My Most Bizarre Baking Project Ever

One of the things I love about freelancing is that I never know what interesting (sometimes even  bizarre) assignment will pop up next. This past week I’ve been feverishly working on perhaps the strangest project ever—creating the food and a cover pic for a science fiction writer’s upcoming Off World Cookbook! Yes, off-world, as in favorite intergalactic dishes served by an array of human and other out in the universe beings in her Off-World series of futuristic romantic suspense novels.

The author, my friend and colleague Ruth Glick, is multi-talented and prolific, having written dozens upon dozens of fantasy, sci-fi, and Earth-bound romance novellas, novels, and short stories under the pen name Rebecca York. Though her central characters range from humans and humanoids to werewolves, fire-breathing dragons (with nifty scales), shape-shifters and many other creatures, her stories are almost always “peopled” with individuals who meet their soul mate and fall head over heels (or perhaps head over paws or claws?) in love.  Here's a hotlink to one of the books in her Off World series.
In her spare time, using her real name, Ruth also writes cookbooks, sometimes solo, sometimes teaming up with me. Our most recent collaboration, The 2 Day a Week Diet Cookbook features tasty low-cal dishes for strictly human, Earth-based dieters and has been highly rated by Amazon customers. (It features 75 of our recipes and 50 of my photos: you can check it out here.)

My task for The Off World Cookbook was to produce food that looked simultaneously appetizing and other-worldly and a setting suggesting a fairly advanced alien culture existing on a fictional planet called Thindar. The scene depicts a special-occasion cake and feast table during a celebration by the former ruling class, the Farlians, before they were overthrown in a coup by their own servants, the Dorre. O-o-o-kay!

The Off World Cookbook Celebration Cake
To give the image an ethereal, deep-space feel, I chose aqua for both the foreground and background, and used translucent, glittery mini-marbles, crystal dishes, and metal props that would shimmer and bounce a lot of light. The props also have streamlined lines and shapes, presumably the sort a future civilization might use. As you can see by comparing my original shot at right to the finished cover at the top, the cover designer, Su of EarthlyCharms, cleverly cranked up the cosmic, interstellar vibe further by adding in twinkly stars and starbursts around the book title.

BTW, The Off World Cookbook will be published in December. Ruth's story that features the Farlians and Dorre races is called Hero's Welcome; it's available on Amazon here.

The Off World Farlian Celebration Cake

Since the Farlian cake had to look weirdly wondrous yet be easy enough that the typical Off World Cookbook buyer could duplicate it, I avoided calling for any tricky pastry piping techniques and jazzed it up mostly with purchased edible glitter and decors, crystal sugar, and a strategically drizzled-on colorful accenting icing. The cake is kept simple  by producing a Bundt cake from a purchased cake mix and baking in a cylindrical pudding mold, angel food tin, or other plain-sized tube cake pan of the size noted on the box. (Some brands even sell mixes that yield red or blue cakes!) For a fairly similar look that’s even quicker, just buy a 9-inch angel food cake and space the toppings out around the center hole. 

For the best selection of sparkling sugars, edible glitter, and  shiny balls and decors, look in the cake decorating section of discount department and craft stores. And for the most extraordinary effect, apply them in abundance. As for the fantastical final touch, the spiky glass-like crown of candy shards on the cake top--it's surprisingly simple to make, too. Really! 

Tip: When serving the cake, advise diners to remove the candy shards and larger decors from their slice and to eat them separately as they would hard candy; the pieces are too chunky and brittle to be eaten as part of the frosting.

Adding the Powdered Sugar Icing
Use my recipe here or any simple powdered sugar icing recipe you like that makes a large batch.  (Or make a double batch.) Then follow the directions here.

Adjust the icing by adding in more water or more powdered sugar so it has a smooth, spreadable, but not runny consistency. Remove a scant third of the icing to a smaller bowl to use for drizzling; the larger quantity will be the base coat. Using drops of food color, tint the two bowls whatever complementing colors you like. Tightly cover the drizzling icing so it doesn’t dry out as you ice the cake.

Brush off and discard any crumbs clinging to the cake. (An angel food cake will have a lot of loose crumbs to remove, and the finished cake will not look as smooth as the one pictured, but it will still be very attractive.) Spread the base coat evenly over the cake using a table knife or wide-bladed spatula. If desired, while the icing is still wet, sprinkle sparkling or sanding sugar onto the cake sides, as shown in the Farlian cake photos. Wipe off any drips and sprinkles from the cake plate and let stand until the icing is set and firm to the touch, at least 30 minutes.

If necessary, thin the drizzling icing until just slightly fluid by stirring a few drops of water. Add spoonfuls of icing to the cake top, immediately swirling them to the edges at even intervals all the way around so they drip and form decorative stripes down the sides. If desired, immediately sprinkle the stripes with edible glitter and decors, as shown in the photo at left. Spread a bit more drizzling icing over the cake top to form a layer thick enough to hold the candy shards and sparkling decors and balls. While the icing is still tacky, embed the shards into the icing so they will stand up, and fill in all around them with as many decors and sprinkles as you like. Let the cake stand until the icings sets, at least 30 minutes, before serving. It will keep, covered, for several days.

Preparing the Farlian Celebration Cake “Glass” Shards

How to create glass-look shards from candy.
Clear hard candies of any color you wish are easy to turn into thin, glass-like sheets that when broken into pieces look like beautiful shards of glass. To duplicate the Farlian cake, use mostly colorless candies with a few purple, red and blue candies mixed in. Or create a totally different effect with brightly-colored translucent candies in whatever shades you like. For convenience, the shards can be made well ahead, then packed airtight in a flat box and refrigerated until needed.

The amount of candy called for here will produce enough shards to decorate the top of a 9- or 10-inch cake.

14 to 16 ounces translucent hard candies in whatever colors are desired
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Line a 10- by 15-inch with aluminum foil. Don’t skip the foil, as the candy will stick to the pan without it.  Place the unwrapped whole candies slightly apart on the sheet (no need to crush or break them).

Put the baking sheet in the oven and heat until the candies melt and run together, usually 4 to 8 minutes, but sometimes longer. Check frequently, as the melting time varies considerably from brand to brand, and you don’t want the candy to burn.
"Glass" shards made from melted translucent candies

 As soon as candy pieces have melted together into a sheet, remove the pan from the oven. If you want shards with swirled colors like those on the Farlian cake, immediately dip a metal spoon into boiling water, dry it off, then swirl it through the candy to create ripples of color as shown at left above. DO NOT TOUCH the molten candy as you work as it will stick to the skin and could cause serious burns. If the candy starts to harden before you're finished swirling the colors, return it to the oven until molten again and then continue swirling with another hot spoon.

Let the sheet of candy cool on a rack until completely hardened. Then peel it off the foil and break it with your hands into whatever size shards you wish, as shown at right above. Any left-over pieces can be packed airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to a year. Or melt them down again and produce another sheet and more shards.
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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Easy, Delish One-Bowl Oatmeal Cookies--Homey, Hearty, & Harking Back to the Past

When I was a child, my cousin who lived on the farm next to ours and I usually rode our horses after school. But when the weather was too rainy or chilly to go out, we often made cookies instead. Oatmeal cookies much like these were frequently our choice, partly because the very basic ingredients were staples in our families’ country kitchens. We also liked that the recipe ingredients were all mixed together in one bowl, and the butter didn't have to be softened and "creamed" first. This made it especially easy for us to ready the cookies quickly and without any adult supervision.

At the time we had no idea of the story behind what I've since come to think of as the "one-bowl wonder" cookie mixing method. In fact, I didn't learn of its history until last year, when I discovered a long-ago 1947 New York Times article written by Jane Nickerson, the newspaper's first food editor. Titled "News of Food: One-Bowl Method of Mixing Cookies Cuts Time for Task to Two Minutes," her feature credited the technique to the Quaker Oats test kitchen in Chicago. Nickerson noted that when she visited the kitchen, the director, Mrs. Reidum Kober, and her staff were "eager to report a new system of mixing cookies" that they had developed.

Nickerson added that "... any woman who has made one-bowl cakes knows why Mrs. Kober ... wanted to adapt this type of recipe to cookies. The system eliminates the separate creaming of shortening, which is so time-consuming, and cuts the conventional mixing time for cookies from ten (or more) minutes to two. All the ingredients are emptied into a bowl, beaten for a couple of minutes--and, presto, the batter is ready for baking. ...."  The story included the following recipe:
Quaker Oats 1947 One-Bowl Oatmeal Cookies
Into one bowl, sift 1 cup sifted enriched flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add 3/4 cup soft fat, 1 cup brown sugar, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla and about 1/6 cup of milk. (Fat must be soft--that is, at room temperature). Beat till smooth or about two minutes. On an electric mixer use medium speed. Then fold in with a spoon another 1/6 cup of milk and 3 cups rolled oats (uncooked). Variations: If desired, add a 7-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate pieces or 1 cup chopped dates or 1 cup coconut. Drop from a teaspoon onto a greased baking sheet. Bake in a moderate oven (375 degrees F.) for twelve to fifteen minutes. Yield: four dozen."

I haven't tried the Quaker Oats test kitchen recipe, though I'm guessing it works perfectly satisfactorily--and will please those who like their oatmeal cookies soft and made with a goodly amount of rolled oats! (A number of  my friends have worked in corporate test kitchens over the years, and usually part of their mandate is to call for generous quantities of the company's product in recipes.) I expect that since the formula includes two eggs and also some milk, the cookies puff a bit from the steam and are on the slightly cakey side. Notice that the dough is dropped from a teaspoon to yields 40 smallish cookies; the era of super-sizing had not yet dawned!

 Old-Fashioned Farmhouse Oatmeal Cookies

Old-Fashioned Farmhouse Oatmeal Cookies
These cookies--which are not based on the 1947 Quaker Oats recipe and are, in fact, even  easier--are mild and comforting, crunchy-crisp, and generous in size. They are also attractive in a bumpy-nubby sort of way. Serve them with apple cider for a change of pace from milk.

The recipe my cousin and I used somehow got lost over the years, and I missed the cookies so much I eventually had to recreate them. Notice that my easy-peasy version calls for melting the butter in a saucepan and then stirring in everything else; this skips both having to fiddle with softening the butter and having to beat the ingredients at all. In addition, the oats and a small amount of water are stirred into the butter and allowed to stand briefly so the oats can hydrate. This keeps them from gradually sucking up all the moisture in the dough later and producing dry cookies.

These are as good (well, almost!) as the ones I remember. Oh yes, and they make the kitchen smell wonderful! The recipe is from my recent Simply Sensational Cookies cookbook, which is available here. I was pleased to learn that a New Jersey library system staff recently critiqued the book and tested a number of recipes, and then named it their  pick of the week; their review is here .

Simply Sensational Cookies
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
Scant 1 1/2 cups packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose white flour, plus more if needed

Baking Preliminaries: Position a rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease one very large or two regular-size baking sheets or coat with nonstick spray.

In a large heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter, stirring, until mostly melted. Remove from the heat. (Alternatively, in a large microwave-safe bowl, microwave the butter on 50 percent power, stopping and stirring every 25 seconds just until mostly melted.)

Thoroughly stir the oats and 1 tablespoon water into the butter. Let stand for 5 minutes so the oats can hydrate. Vigorously stir in the sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt until thoroughly incorporated. Vigorously stir in the egg, then the flour until very well blended. If the dough is very soft, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons more flour. If it is still soft, let stand to firm up for 5 minutes.

With well-greased hands, pull off portions and roll into 1-inch balls. Space 2 1/2 inches apart to allow for spreading. With the fingertips, pat down the balls until about 2-inches and evenly thick in diameter. Bake (middle rack) 7 to 10 minutes, or until tinged with brown all over and barely firm in the center tops. Let stand on the pans to firm up 3 minutes, then transfer to wire racks using a spatula. Cool completely before packing for storage; keep airtight up to 10 days. Or freeze airtight for up to 1 month. Makes 25 to 30 3-inch cookies.

 For another "one-bowl wonder" recipe, check out the recipe pictured below, my Ultimate Chocolate Chippers here; they're from my Simply Sensational Cookies book also.

For other memories of my growing up on a farm, check out my peach crumb cake recipe here
and my apple crisp recipe here.

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