Nutella No Bake Oatmeal Cookies

Heather says:

I was recently thinking about ways to incorporate Nutella into every day? (Kidding, but what day isn’t improved with a spoonful or pretzel-ful of this stuff?) Why not use Nutella in my favorite cookie of all time? If the Santa Claus in your household is a fan of Nutella and a fan of No Bake Oatmeal Cookies, I can pretty much guarantee extra presents for the good little boy or girl who leaves Nutella No Bake Oatmeal cookies out with a glass of milk.

If you have someone on a gluten free diet on your cookie list, good news. This recipe can work for them. If you use Gluten Free Rolled Oats, these cookies are safe! Just be careful to avoid cross contamination with other items in your kitchen. Just as an fyi, regular rolled oats are not acceptable for many people on a gluten free diet. There are often trace amounts of wheat from the processing.

Nutella No Bake Oatmeal Cookie Recipe

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 TBSP Nutella
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 cups uncooked oatmeal (rolled oats)
Directions.
In a large mixing bowl stir together the oatmeal, Nutella, and chocolate chips.
In a medium sauce pan heat the butter, sugar, milk, and vanilla over medium low heat. Stir often and be sure to use the spoon or spatula to scrape the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching. Bring the mixture to a full boil, to do this you will need to slowly increase the heat. Be patient, don’t just crank it up to high.
You may notice a distinct change in the feel of the mixture just before it begins to boil, this is normal. Allow the mixture to boil for one minute, then pour over the oats and stir.
The heat from the butter and sugar will melt the Nutella and chocolate chips. Be sure to continue stirring until the oats are thoroughly coated.
Spoon by rounded tablespoon onto a sheet of wax paper and allow to cool. I find a cookie scoop works perfectly for these cookies. Scoop, then squash slightly.
The chocolate will become much firmer as the cookies cool. You can speed the process by placing in the refrigerator, but it is not necessary. If the weather is exceptional humid they’ll be softer.
This yields 3 dozen cookies.
Enjoy.

Homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches

retrochick.JPGMichele says:

I’m sure most of you would agree with me if I said that nothing is tastier than an ice cream sandwich on a hot summer’s day.  It’s cold, it’s creamy, and it conjures up memories of childhood summers spent chasing down the ice cream man.  Despite its deliciousness, however, I’m often wishing for a cake by the end of summer… Maybe with a scoop of ice cream?

Ice cream is good on its own, of course, but something about combining it with baked goods turns “plain old” vanilla into anything but—especially when the baked goods are cookies.  Chocolate chip tends to be the go-to, and while I most certainly don’t begrudge anyone a chipwich, I like to pretend that I’m an adult while I am stuffing myself with treats that are associated with children.  But how can one spice up a humble, classic treat without turning it into a pretentious, stuffy plated dessert?  One word, my friends: ginger.

gingericecreamsandwich

Ginger-Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwiches

Note: These cookies can be served any of three ways: plain, filled with cream cheese frosting (from my oatmeal cream pie recipe), or filled with ice cream.  All are equally delicious. I recommend using margarine in place of the butter if you want an extra soft, chewy cookie.

  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated or finely minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/3 cup candied ginger, minced
  • 1/2 cup white sugar (for rolling cookies)
  • 1 carton (or 1 batch homemade) vanilla ice cream (for filling)

Step One: Add 2 sticks softened butter and 1 cup packed brown sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (alternatively, you can use a large bowl and a sturdy wooden spoon).  Beat on medium speed until the butter mixture is light and fluffy and the sugar has started to dissolve, about 2 minutes.

Step Two: Add 1/3 cup molasses, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons of very finely minced ginger, and 1 egg to the butter mixture.  Beat on medium-low speed until everything is combined.  Don’t worry if the dough looks curdled or grainy at this point.

Step Three: Add ¼ teaspoon coarse salt, 2 ½ cups all purpose flour, and 2 teaspoons baking soda to the mixing bowl.  Mix on low speed until the flour just begins to incorporate into the dough.  Turn off the mixer and add 1/3 cup minced candied ginger to the half-mixed dough.

Turn the mixer back on to medium speed and mix until the dough is well combined.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and quickly mix again, if needed.

Step Four: Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate while the oven preheats.

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or a nonstick baking mat.  Pour ½ cup of white sugar onto a plate or into a cereal bowl.

Step Five: Once the oven is hot, remove the dough from the refrigerator.  Use a tablespoon to get a scoop of dough out of the bowl.  Form the scoop into a ball, then roll the ball in the white sugar until coated.  Flatten the ball into a disc and place the disc on the prepared baking sheet.

Repeat the rolling/flattening process, placing each disc at least 2 inches away from the last, until the baking sheet is full.  Sprinkle the unbaked cookies with more white sugar before placing in the oven to bake.  Bake at 350 F for 13-15 minutes, or until just set.  The cookies will be soft.  Immediately transfer them to a cooling rack and repeat the last step until you’re out of dough.

Step Six: Once the cookies have cooled, place a scoop of ice cream on each bottom cookie.  Top with another cookie, squeezing gently to make sure the cookie has stuck to the filling.  Freeze at least 15 minutes or up to 12 hours before serving.

Michele Newell is a housewife turned blogger turned Home Ec 101 contributor.  You can read her near daily ramblings at Dreams Unreal.

What to Do With a Too Sour Lemon Cake

Dear Home-Ec 101,

I have made good lemon cake. Problem is it’s too sour. Any sauce
I can use that complements lemon cake? I am from South
Africa. Thank you.

Signed,
Tart in Tembisa

Heather says:

Thank you for writing in, I love hearing from Home-Eccers all over the world.

I have a good friend who loves to tell me, “All food is simply a carrier for sauce.” When you think about it, he makes a good point and yes, since you ask, he did go to culinary school in France. That’s neither here nor there and only gives you a hint to your too sour lemon cake problem.

Too balance out the tartness of the lemon you’ll want to complement the flavor profile with a sauce that has both a bit of fat to mute the sour and the richness of vanilla to broaden the flavor.

Creme anglais is the answer to your problem and it is simple to make, if you take care not to scramble your eggs in the process. Heat a heavy saucepan over low heat, to this add 1 cup of heavy cream and 2 tsp quality vanilla extract. Heat just until bubbles form at the edges and remove from the heat.

In a small bowl whisk together 4 egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar.

Slowly, by 1/8th to 1/4 cup at a time, whisk the cream and vanilla into the egg and sugar mixture. This process is called tempering and prevents the eggs from scrambling. Once the eggs are fully incorporated into the cream return to the burner and stir constantly until the mixture begins to thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Alternately -and much more simply- melt some high quality vanilla bean ice cream and spoon over the lemon cake.

Nom-tastic.

Good luck!

Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

Crunchy Nut Toffee Recipe and Candy Thermometer Calibration

Bobbie says:

Buttery, crunchy, goodness topped with chocolate and nuts. What’s not to love? Not much, in my mind, even without the chocolate. Toffee is an excellent example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Greater, delicious-er, abundantly gift-worthy and not too difficult to master.

The hardest part about candy making is having a good recipe. I’ve completely given up on those that rely on timing, because they never come out right for me. There are too many variables – do you have the same size pan as the recipe writer? Does it conduct heat the same way? Do you have the heat at exactly the same level? Just too many ways too mess it up a tiny bit, but in candy making, that tiny bit can make all the difference between fondant and hard candy. Ask me how I know.

So, now I always look for candy recipes that rely on temperature, because that is quantifiable and replicate-able, independent of the variables of each kitchen. Very science-y.

That is, as long as you have a good, reliable thermometer.

After trial and error and tears and sadness, I settled upon the one kind that, in my experience, seems to be the most reliable. Here’s a picture of mine:

This is my thermometer. There are many others like it, but this one is mine.

This is my thermometer. There are many others like it, but this one is mine.

Note that the glass is entirely sealed. One of those that made me cry was glass, except for the top, which was a plastic cap. This one used to have a wooden knob on the clip, as a handle, but my thermometer has served me for many years now, and at some point, that broke off. It was handy, but not required to the functionality.

Since success in candymaking is a mattter of degrees, it’s essential to know that your thermometer is going to give you an accurate reading. No matter what kind of thermometer you settle upon, you should calibrate it, to verify that it does give you an accurate reading. It’s not hard to do, requiring just a pot of boiling water and a few minutes.

Water boils at 212°F at sea level. At higher elevations, the boiling point is lower, due to the changes in air pressure, but at all elevations, changes in atmospheric conditions (weather) can cause a change of a few degrees in the temperature at which anything will come to a boil. To avoid wasting money spent on ingredients in a failed recipe, take a few minutes to calibrate your thermometer before starting your day’s candy making.

How to Calibrate a Candy Thermometer

Don't let it touch the bottom of the pot

Bring a pot of water to a boil, and insert the thermometer. Most candy thermometers have a clip of some sort. Clip it to the side of the pot so that it does not rest on the bottom, because that will not give you an accurate reading of the water temperature. Leave it in for a few minutes, then read the temperature. If the water is boiling at a temperature different than 212°F degrees, adjust the temperature in your recipe accordingly.

 

For example: the water boiled at 208°F degrees. 212°F – 208°F = 4°F, so if your recipe requires cooking to 300, you should adjust it down by four degrees to 296°F, for that day. (If the weather changes significantly that day, it may be wise to check it again.)

 

Oh, one more tip on candymaking. If it’s a recipe that requires cooking to a certain temperature, like this one does, follow the instructions AND the list of ingredients precisely. If you think you can wing it, I’ve saved you the trouble of testing that theory, because I’m a wing-it kind of cook. Trust me, don’t do it. Just…don’t. So, when the recipe says to use butter, then use butter. And by butter, I mean NOT margarine. NOT “lite” butter. Sugar means granulated white sugar. Not Splenda, not sucanat, or any other kind of sugar or sweetening substance. Substitutions will cause failure because the recipe was not formulated to work with it. Okay, let’s do science.

: Crunchy Nut Toffee Recipe

  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped nuts of your choice, toasted if desired
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup very finely chopped nuts (for topping)

  • Have an ungreased baking sheet or 13x9x2 pan ready.
  • Melt butter over low heat in a 2 quart heavy saucepan. Add sugar, corn syrup and water, stirring to combine, then cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a metal spoon, until mixture comes to a boil.
  • Clip thermometer to side of pan, ensuring it does not touch the bottom, to avoid a false reading.
  • Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture reaches 300°F. Stirring is important to keep the temperature increasing evenly.
  • The candy mixture will go through several color changes with the rise in temperature, from a pale yellow, to golden, and finally to the rich brown of caramels.
  • Once the temperature gets to 275°F, pay very close attention, since it can rise VERY quickly from there to 300°F and higher. Remove from heat and immediately stir in nuts.
  • Pour onto waiting pan, scraping with a silicone spatula, and spreading it evenly in pan. You needn’t spread it out to the edges – keep it the thickness you prefer. Cool completely. Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave or in the top of a double boiler, and spread on the cooled candy. Sprinkle evenly with finely chopped nuts. Chill in refrigerator to set the chocolate. Turn out of pan onto waxed paper. If desired, spread addtional melted chocolate and nuts on the other side. Once cool and chocolate is set, break into bite-sized pieces.

Number of servings (yield): 12

 

 Bobbie Laughman is an elder caregiver, writer and Avoider of Shopping (Whenever Possible) who lives in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. If you have a question you’d like Bobbie to answer, send it to her: Bobbie@home-ec101.com

 

Chocolate Biscotti Recipe

Heather says:

What’s your favorite cookie? Mine is the very simple chocolate biscotti. I prefer this recipe without the chocolate chips and with the walnuts, but since I was making it for the family, they got it their way.

Biscotti is actually an ancient technique for making food fit for travel. Consequently biscotti is suitable for mailing. Just remember that not everyone is a biscotti fan.  I dig the crunch, the chocolate, and the way they aren’t overly sweet. The word biscotti comes from two Latin words, “bis”  for twice and “coctum” for baked. Humans being the way they are, eventually slurred the words together. I’m sure y’all¹ understand.

¹Intentional.

Chocolate Biscotti Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder²
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 TBSP butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (It is possible to reduce the sugar depending on your preference)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup walnuts -optional
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • about 1 TBSP confectioners or powdered sugar

²Hershey’s Special Dark Unsweetened Cocoa Powder is a thing of beauty. Just sayin’

    Directions for easy chocolate biscotti

    Set out the butter and eggs. (The butter to soften, the eggs to come to room temperature).

    Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF. Butter and flour a baking sheet.

    In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl cream the butter and granulated sugar until fluffy. While this is going on, crack the eggs, beat them lightly and stir in the vanilla. Add the vanilla egg mixture a little at a time to the butter and sugar and beat until well combined.

    Slowly stir in the flour mixture and stir until just combined. The dough will be stiff, this is normal. Add the chocolate chips and walnuts if you want them. Flour your hands and divide the dough in half. On the floured baking sheet, shape the dough into two, slightly squashed logs. They should be about 12 inches long and two inches wide. Dust with confectioners sugar and bake for 35 minutes. The logs should be slightly firm to the touch.

    I didn't get a good picture of the cooked biscotti logs, but when the come out of the oven, cut on the diagonal, like this.

    Cool on the baking sheet for five minutes. On a cutting board cut the biscotti carefully with a serrated knife. The logs should be cut diagonally into 3/4 inch slices. Place the slices cut side down on the baking sheet and return to the oven for approximately 10 minutes.

    Cool on a wire rack and enjoy.