Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wednesday Morning Pecan-Toffee Oatmeal Cookies

So Harvard is maybe moving me three times this year.  Once in June, then again in July, for sure.  And then maybe once in November.  Yipeeeeee.... 

(For the record, I hate moving.  Well, packing/unpacking.  Luckily Harvard is doing all the actual heavy lifting.)

So what is a baker with an overly full pantry to do in advance of all these moves?  Start depleting the pantry!  Clearly Wednesday morning cookies were in order. 

These cookies in particular happened because the recipe is a recent addition to the folder (and therefore in need of testing, see Recipe Folder Project, January 2013).  Also, as luck would have it, I had almost exactly the right amounts of oats, pecans, and Heath Bars (don't ask).  So really, Fate was telling me to give them a whirl. 

Oats, both ground and whole, make up half the base, giving these cookies a hearty crunch.  Lots of butter and a mix of white and brown sugars makes these cookies crisp on the outside but chewy in the center.  A generous amount of Heath Bar pieces amplify the brown sugar's deep toffee flavor.  Toasty pecans round out the flavor profile and make everything delicious, no?  These aren't fancy or beautiful cookies by any means, but are a great picnic treat or a deeply satisfying afternoon pick-me-up.

Of course, I always end up tweaking recipes ever so slightly.  With this one the major difference was the size.  The yield on the original recipe was a mere 16 cookies; I made more than twice that!  I love cookies as much as the next girl (maybe more), but for some reason I don't go for jumbo cookies.  The arbitrary size that I scaled out (40-ish grams/approximately a golf ball) turned into generous 3 inch cookies when baked, which is just about perfect.  I can't imagine making them more than twice the size!  I increased the amount of salt just a tiny bit, and chopped my own Heath Bars instead of buying the pieces (not on principle--just because I had them).  And while the recipe didn't specify to, I toasted the pecans before chopping them, because toasted nuts just have so much more flavor.  To toast nuts, spread them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake them for about 5 minutes in a 350˚F oven until they've darkened slightly and take on a delicious toasty nut aroma (I'm a genius with adjectives, can't you tell?)  But seriously, the scent is key--as soon as you can smell them when you open the oven door, they're ready to come out.  Let them cool before chopping.

Pecan-Toffee Oatmeal Cookies (Adapted from JannaBee's, printed in The Boston Globe, March 5, 2013)
Makes 38 3-inch cookies 

3 cups (270 grams) Old Fashioned rolled oats
2 cups (280 grams) All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon Kosher salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1 packed cup (220 grams) light or dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ cups (about 250 grams) Heath Toffee Bits (or chopped Heath Bars)
1 cups pecans, lightly toasted and chopped

1.  Set aside ½ a cup (45 grams) of the rolled oats; grind the remaining 2 ½ cups in a food processor.  Combine the ground oats, whole oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl, set aside.

2.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with electric beaters, beat the butter on medium speed until it's smooth.  Add both sugars, and beat until the mixture is creamy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating each one thoroughly.  Add the vanilla and beat again to combine, scraping down the sides periodically.

3.  Incorporate the dry ingredients with the mixer set on lowest speed.  Scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl to make sure everything's evenly incorporated.  Add the Heath bar pieces and most of the nuts, and run the mixer until the pieces are just dispersed.

Optional: I prefer to refrigerate the dough at this point so that it's firmer and easier to scoop and roll into cookies.  Not necessary, but it does make the dough less messy.  So, if you have time, refrigerate the dough for about 2 hours, until it firms up a bit, but isn't rock-solid.

4. Roll the dough into golf-ball sized balls pieces.  (If you have a food scale and like to compulsively weigh your cookies out, like I do, this is about 40-42 grams.)  Refrigerate dough mounds for an hour if you didn't refrigerate the dough before scooping.  

5. Preheat your oven to 350˚F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Before baking flatten each dough mound slightly and sprinkle the tops with some of the reserved pecan pieces.  Bake the cookies for 10-11 minutes.  They may look pale and slightly underdone in the middle, but pull them out to keep the middles chewy.  (If you prefer a crisp cookie, increase baking time by about 2 minutes).  Cool on the cookie sheets until they've firmed enough to move to wire racks.  Cool completely before storing them in an airtight container.  


Note: After rolling, you can freeze the dough balls.  Place them up on a parchment lined cookie sheet in a single layer, and freeze until solid.  Transfer them to a zip lock bag.  Write the baking time and baking temperature on the bag, so you don't have to look it up later.  You can bake them directly from the freezer, just add 2 minutes to the baking time.

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