HELEN FLETCHER’S OATMEAL COOKIES

A few months ago I started following the blog hosted by Helen Fletcher, a fantastic baker who has this to say about her site:

  With 25 years experience owning and operating a wholesale specialty bakery servicing hotels, restaurants and caterers, I am going to share a wealth of information I’ve gained over those years with you.

That would definitely be enough to capture my attention, but once I started browsing her site one more thing became clear: Helen not only has tremendous experience in baking, but she is also a natural teacher. You know how some people have a special talent to explain things clearly, to emphasize what really matters? That is exactly what she does.  She is also the author of three cookbooks: The New Pastry Cookbook, European Tarts, and  Baking as a Business (available in PDF format).

Just to give you a glimpse of the recipes (actually they are more like tutorials) available on her site, here are some of the ones that tempt me:  27 Layer Tuille Torte, Chocolate Strawberry Mousse Torte, A Trio of Angel Food Cakes, Orange Almond Madeleines, and even the show-stopping Hungarian Dobos Torte calls my name, as her instructions are so detailed. Now, don’t hold your breath, I am not attempting that one… yet.  Taking baby steps, I started with harmless cookies.

cooling

OATMEAL COOKIES
(recipe reprinted with permission from Helen S. Fletcher – Pastries like a Pro)

3 cups old-fashioned Quaker Oats (do not use the quick cooking type!) 
1 cup + 2 tablespoons flour (160 grams or 5 2/3 ounces)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar (225 grams or 8 ounces)
1 cup sugar (200 grams or 7 ounces)
1/2 cup unsalted butter (114 grams, 4 ounces or 1 stick)
1/2 cup shortening (114 grams or 4 ounces)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound total chocolate chips, raisins, dried fruit or nuts in any combination (454 grams)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together the oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt.  Set aside.

Cream the sugars, butter and shortening until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined.  Add the vanilla.  If the mixture curdles, don’t worry about it.

Add the flour mixture half at a time, beating on low until completely combined.  Lastly, add the nuts, chips or whatever you are adding in.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Drop the cookies using a #40 disher or 2 tablespoons spacing them apart.  Double pan and bake for 9 minutes, turn and bake 8 to 9 more.  They should still be puffy when you pull them out.  They will drop and finish baking on the baking sheet as they cool.  Cool for about 8 to 10 minutes and remove to a cooling rack with a spatula.  Cool completely.

Yield:  Approximately 50 – 3 inch cookies.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

waiting

Comments:  What made me want to make this recipe right away was this statement by Helen: “I wish I had a nickel for every time someone told me how much they loved this oatmeal cookie.  It is not your usual oatmeal cookie… This is a chocolate chip version that is not shy on spices.”   Oatmeal, chocolate, and spices.  Cannot go wrong with those. As the recipe says, you can add any combination of nuts, dried fruits, and the type of chocolate you like, as long as you keep the high proportion of add-ons. That is important to give the cookies their unique texture.  I used white and dark chocolate chips, walnuts, and dried cranberries. Finally, how could I skip a recipe that includes this line in the instructions?

If the mixture curdles, don’t worry about it…
😉

If only cake baking could work smoothly like that!  I would be making genoises as if they were going out of style…  I exchanged a few emails with Helen, to get her opinion on halving the recipe: 50 cookies seemed like too  many.  She was very nice, and gently tried to convince me to make the full batch.  I am a bit embarrassed to admit that she was right, and I should have followed her advice.  My batch made 20 cookies, as I tend to follow Phil’s preferences, and make cookies a little larger than average. The cookies vanished too fast, a full batch would have been better.  Oh, well. When a pro speaks, you should listen.  That’s what I keep trying to convey to our graduate students, but sometimes my shockingly wise words fall into deaf ears. Which explains 57% of my gray hair.

If a pro speaks, pay attention. If the mixture curdles, don’t worry about it.
(free advice given to you by your bewitching hostess)

ONE YEAR AGO: Thai-Style Pesto with Brown Rice Pasta

TWO YEARS AGO: Shrimp with Spicy Orange Sauce

THREE YEARS AGO:  A Simple Appetizer (Baked Ricotta)

FOUR YEARS AGO: Sour Cream Sandwich Bread

FIVE YEARS AGO: Pasta with Zucchini Strands and Shrimp

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SOURDOUGH RYE BREAD WITH FLAXSEEDS AND OATS

This is that type of bread that begs for mindful eating. No sitting down in front of the TV grabbing one piece here, another there, or sharing it with friends in the middle of a loud party.  No, this is a bread that deserves attention. It is dense without being overly heavy, and its flavor is quite complex due to the use of assertive flours and flax seeds. The recipe was created by Rosa, from Rosa’s Yummy Yums, a food blog that not too long ago celebrated its 9th anniversary!  Nine years.  No small feat, folks, considering that each of Rosa’s post is a masterpiece: carefully composed text (with recipes in two languages, English and French), matched with her incredibly beautiful photography. Hers is the type of blog that just like this bread, deserves full attention.

Rosa Yum Yum BreadMade July 26th; Blogged October 13th

WHOLE-WHEAT AND RYE SOURDOUGH WITH FLAX SEEDS AND OATS
(from Rosa Mayland’s blog)

(for one round loaf; check her site for full version that makes 2 loaves)

1 heaping tablespoon of flax seeds 1/2 Tbs Flax seeds
150g whole-wheat flour
100g white flour
35g rye flour
35g buckwheat flour
100g active sourdough starter

188-200 g/ml lukewarm water
A pinch of dry yeast
1 heaping tablespoon of olive oil

20g Rolled oats
7g fine sea salt

Put the flax seeds in a small bowl and add 63g/ml of boiling water (this will make them slimy). Stir and leave to cool.

In the bowl of your stand mixer put the flours, sourdough, water, yeast, olive oil, flax seeds (+soaking water).  Mix until all the ingredients are just combined. Let the dough rest (autolyse) for 2 hours.

Add the salt as well as the oats and continue mixing for about 5-8 minutes (add a little flour if the dough is too wet), until the dough reaches medium gluten development.  Transfer the dough to a slightly oiled container and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough ferment/rise, at room temperature, for about 2h30 (or until doubled in size), folding at 50 and 100 minutes.

Shape it as desired (sandwich loaves, boule, bâtard, banneton, etc…). Sprinkle your loaves with flour and cover them with plastic wrap let proof for about 90 minutes or until doubled in size.

Bake at 230° C (450° F) using your favorite method to generate steam during the initial 20 minutes of baking. Total baking time will be approximately 40 minutes.  Leave the bread in the oven for 5 minutes with the door ajar once you turn the oven off.  Cool it completely on a rack before slicing it.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

crumb
Now, if that crumb doesn’t make you sigh, there is something wrong with you… This was a very nice baking project, perfect for a weekend in which we had nothing planned, no social commitments, no need to go to the lab, just taking each hour as the hour shaped up.   If you stop by Rosa’s original post, you’ll see that she coupled this recipe with a text about the importance of slowing down, a praise for idleness. Food for thought, as usual for her posts. It is nice to be able to take a step back and do nothing. Or, if doing nothing seems like too much of a shock for  you 😉  grab your flours and make this bread. Then, slowly slice it, and close your eyes when you taste it.   Yes, it is that wonderful!

Rosa, thank you for a great recipe, and above all, for the effort you put into your blog, a pleasure to visit every single time!  See you around the blogosphere 😉

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting event…

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