Monday, July 23, 2012

Simplest Scratch Oatmeal Cookies

This oatmeal cooky recipe uses the minimal amount of ingredients, for those who want a nekkid cooky that has lots of oatmeal, and no raisins, nuts, chocolate chips, white sugar, extracts, or whatever additional ingredients. The ingredients are simple—oatmeal, flour, baking soda, oil, eggs, and brown sugar. As a bonus, I include information for resoftening a brown sugar brick into its spoonable form. (How many of you bakers have found your brown sugar dried out like I did?)

Most oatmeal cookies call for butter (saturated fat!). A few call for oil. In both types of recipes, they seem to call for way more oil than I want to use. After having poked around several online and oatmeal box recipes, I've come up with a recipe that reflects fewer steps and fewer calories. Forget having to let butter soften and creaming it with sugars, in the cream-butter-and-sugar instructions.

  • One appealing recipe called for few ingredients (5). Seemed strange for no flour, however, and only brown sugar. The other appeal was the cooky's minimalism, with no raisins, chocolate chips, or nuts. The expected yield of 30 cookies seemed low for the effort I'd expend. The calorie count sounded okay, however at 89 calories apiece.
  • One recipe was interesting but not appealing for me because of the number of ingredients (13--LOTS of ingredients) and complicated process throughout. The expected yield of 36 cookies was more palatable than the previous recipe I cited. But at a reported 192 calories each, I'd have wanted to halve the cookie sizes and end up with 72 96-calorie cookies.
  • One oil-for-butter recipe claimed to be low fat. I dunno--18 cookies at 129 calories each. Their ideas of dropping by tablespoons must differ from mine. OTOH, the recipe calls for chocolate chips AND raisins.
  • The recipe that came with my oatmeal box was appealing because it called for the most oatmeal and claimed the yield to be about four dozen. It was weird that the oatmeal company did not list the calories. I had to look elsewhere for the recipe AND caloric info. BTW, the calories include added raisins.

Oddly, I have two oatmeal box lids with the same-name recipe. The only difference is that both call for 1/2 pound of butter, but one lists 2 sticks and the other one lists 1 stick and 6 tablespoons. Cooking measurements typically show 1/2 pound to equal 1 cup to equal 8 tablespoons when talking about water or fat.

My upper pixstrip shows five image areas:

  1. Implements
  2. Ingredients, dry and wet
  3. Mixed ingredients in one bowl
  4. Dough spoonfuls on pan
  5. Baked cookies

Implements

  • cooky pan(s)
  • pastry blender
  • mixer
  • large mixing bowl
  • medium small mixing bowl
  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • additional implements in case of needing to resoften brown sugar
  • rubber spatulas
  • cooling rack for done cookies

Ingredients (adapted from Dale Goodman's Food.com webpage)

  • 2/3 C oil
  • 1 1/3 C brown sugar, firmly packed (See note in Instruction 4 if you first need to resoften the brown sugar.)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 C Quicker Quaker Oats or 3 C Old-Fashioned Quaker oats, uncooked

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Pour the flour and soda into a large mixing bowl, using the pastry blender to blend well.
  3. Add the oatmeal, blending well.
  4. In the smaller bowl, mix the oil, eggs, and brown sugar.
    Note: If you need to resoften the brown sugar, refer to 10 Ways To Soften Hard Brown Sugar. (I used Quick Tip #1, the 7th suggestion—illustrated in the Brown sugar resoftening pixstrip at the top of this article.)
    Need it soft now? Put it in a container and set in the microwave with a small bowl full of water beside it. Microwave for about 1 minute–check. If it’s still hard, try for another 30 seconds. You can keep doing this until it’s soft, but watch that you don’t melt it.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients (oil, eggs, brown sugar) into the larger bowl.
  6. Use the pastry blender to stir the ingredients together.
  7. Use a tablespoon to scoop the dough.
  8. Drop the spoon's dough onto the cooky sheet.
  9. Bake for about 10-12 minutes until the edges are lightly browned.
  10. Transfer the done cookies onto cooling rack.

Calories

The recipe yielded 56 cookies, calculated to about 63 calories each. YMMV, depending on optional added ingredients and dough spoonful size.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Macaroons (egg whites replacement)

Last month, I offered up cake mix macaroon cookies, and I mentioned gluey coconut clumps in context of macaroons. I still think macaroons are gluey and clumpy, but my results taste better than macaroons I remember from way back. This recipe includes information for substituting egg whites with Wilton meringue powder. It also includes my best guess for coconut calories, espite the coconut package squishiness for numbers of servings and calories.

In researching macaroon recipes, I noticed many used egg whites. I myself prefer to avoid recipes that call for only egg whites or only egg yolks—arggghhhh, leftover egg yolks or leftover egg whites! I recalled I have a container of Wilton meringue powder, which I used for making meringue cookies once. (They came out light and airy, but were not a big hit in the household.)

Macaroons should be a good way to try using up some of the powder, I thought. The container showed substitution information of 2 teaspoons of powder and 2 tablespoons of water for one egg white. Interestingly, I could not find macaroon recipes that showed substitution. I encountered macaroon recipes that specified beating egg whites lightly to beating them to stiff peaks. I decided to beat the egg white substitute to a froth.

I looked up macaroon recipes mostly for fewest ingredients, which is my main standard for simplicity. The Scribbler macaroon recipe is intriguing for both simplicity and complication. The blog owner was gracious and prompt in responding to some questions I posted.

The simplicity was in the basic ingredients. The complications lay in the decorative areas, nicely detailed for those who like to add flair to their macaroons. The Scribbler recipe shows several appealing pictures and lists steps to achieve the visual effects.
My pixstrip shows five image areas:
  1. Implements
  2. Ingredients, dry and wet
  3. Mixed ingredients in one bowl
  4. Dough spoonfuls on a parchment-lined pan
  5. Baked macaroons
Implements
  • cooky pan(s)
  • pastry blender
  • mixer
  • medium-large mixing bowl
  • small mixing bowl
  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • rubber spatulas
  • parchment paper
  • cooling rack for done cookies
Ingredients
  • 3 C flaked coconut (~10.5 oz, 3/4 of 14-oz. package)
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 1/3 C flour
  • 2 T and 2 t Wilton meringue powder and 1/2 C water
    (You can use 4 egg whites.)
  • 1 t vanilla extract, optional (I forgot to add it!)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Line the baking pan with parchment paper.
  3. Pour the coconut into a medium-large mixing bowl, breaking up the lumps.
  4. Add the flour and sugar into the coconut, using the pastry blender to blend well.
  5. In the smaller bowl, mix the water and meringue powder together. (I mixed on low speed for one minute, then medium speed for one minute.)
    Note: For using only egg whites, lightly beat them.
  6. Add the extract, if you want extract, (Or fuggedaboutit it like I did.)
  7. Pour the beaten egg whites or egg-white substitute ingredients into the larger bowl.
  8. Use the pastry blender to stir the ingredients together.
  9. Use a tablespoon to scoop the dough.
  10. Drop the spoon's dough onto the parchment-lined cooky sheet.
  11. Bake for about 15-17 minutes until the edges are lightly browned.
  12. Transfer the done cookies onto cooling rack.
Calories and coconut servings
The recipe yielded 34 macaroons, calculated to about 66 calories each, 40 that come from coconut—almost 2/3 of each macaroon's calories. YMMV. The coconut was the most problematic ingredient for calculating calories. The package of coconut contains 14 ounces (396 grams).

The nutritional table shows 70 calories for every 2 tablespoons (15 grams) and claims 27 servings for the package. If dividing 396 grams by 15 grams, however, the total servings is 26.4. The front of the package prominently claims to contain 5 1/3 cups. If calculating VOLUME servings at 8 servings per cup (16 tablespoons per cup), the number of servings should be 8 x 5.33, or (gasp!) slightly fewer than *43* servings.
November 14, 2013: I made a double batch to take to a workplace potluck. Instead of using a pastry blender, I wore latex gloves to blend the dry ingredients, then later used a couple of large cooking spoons to stir the egg-white replacement fluid into the dry ingredients. My yield was 84 cookies, about 52 calories each.
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