Care Package #7: Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Ahhh oatmeal raisin cookies, the crusty old stalwarts of the lunchbox. They never quite live up to their glamorous cousin, chocolate chip, do they? But they do have the advantage of shipping well and are surprisingly delicious once you get past the boring name. I recently decided to love oatmeal raisin cookies. I think once you’re an adult and are concerned with things such as fibre, income tax, and semi-regular exercise,  an appreciation for more adult cookies forms. The closer the resemblance to a nutritious food = the less cookie-eating guilt. Flax bacon cheeseburgers, anyone?

As usual for cookies, this recipe comes out of my beloved Five Roses Guide to Good Cooking circa when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Dino loves oatmeal cookies!

The first step when baking is to start off by getting good and drunk. Makes all that mixing less tedious.

I make baking fun!

Just kidding (for now). I used leftover spiced rum from our New Year’s Eve party to soak the raisins in so they would be nice and plump and yummy.

Drunk raisins

I soaked these raisins overnight and added them to the cookie dough although they are not listed as part of the original recipe. Soaking raisins may seem like a fussy and unnecessary step but I assure you, it is not. All you have to do is put some raisins in a bowl and pour some rum over them! How hard can that be?!

Plus, please note the different between dried up scraggly raisins out of the package and the plump, drunk raisins that have been soaked. The drunk raisins will help keep the cookies moist and fresh in transit.

Drunk raisins have more fun!

Now line up all your ingredients for a group photo.

Group photo time

This recipe is dead simple. Also it has no eggs. Mix your dry ingredients:

Where's the brown sugar?

Add melted shortening:

shortening

Add melted butter (and the brown sugar you forgot to add initially):

mmmm

Add sour milk, aka 1/2 cup of milk with 1/2 tbsp vinegar:

Sour milk = milk + vinegar or lemon juice

Drain raisins, fold into batter and refridgerate for 30 minutes while you eat a nectarine and dance around your kitchen:

Chill so it's easier to handle

The actual instructions say to roll out the dough and cut into 2-inch rounds. That is way too much work and makes a big mess for you to clean up. I used a tablespoon and made rounded balls of dough. The cookies don’t spread a lot, which is great:

Field trip to the oven

And finally….

Cookies!!!!!!

And again…

More cookies!!!

PACKING INSTRUCTIONS:

Stack cooled cookies on top of each other in a plastic container with a tight-fitting lid. Once you put the lid on and shake the container gently, the cookies should not move. If they do, either add more cookies or use paper napkins or towels to fill the remaining space. You want the cookies to move as little as possible. Replace the lid and tape it shut with packing tape. I would advise against using a metal tin since plastic containers tend to be more air-tight. If you have a plastic container with a crappy, ill-fitting lid, don’t use it. Use that for your lunch. Use a good one for your cookies so they stay fresh in transit.

RECIPE:

GRANDMOTHER’S OATMEAL COOKIES

Adapted from Five Roses Guide to Good Cooking

1 cup raisins soaked overnight or for several hours in 1/2 cup spiced rum, regular rum or red wine

2 cups five roses all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups quick oats (not steel cut oats)

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup butter, melted (or vegan margarine)

1/2 cup shortening, melted

1/2 cup sour milk made from 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 tbsp vinegar  (substitute: almond or rice milk)

Preheat your oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Stir first 5 ingredients together. Add melted butter and shortening to the dry ingredients. Stir in milk, mixing well. Add raisins and stir gently to combine. Chill dough 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Using a tablespoon or similar, scoop rounded balls of dough into your hand, press gently to make it stick together and flatten slightly into a disc shape.  Bake 10-15 minutes or until very lightly browned. I found 12-13 minutes to be perfect, watch your first batch of cookies to see. You may want to take them out early so that they stay relatively moist. Let them cool before you transfer them to a rack or plate.

P.s. I can’t believe I posted the vegan substitutions for the recipe…but stranger things have happened!

P.p.s. Coming up next….brownies and pulled pork!

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Care Package #6: The Cupcake Experiment

So care package number 6 went out on Friday. Did I mention they make you sign a waiver declaring you have no prohibited items? And they actually check the contents. I always feel like they’re going to find hidden contraband inside the cupcakes… as if I am baking prescription drugs or cigarettes inside each cupcake.

Contents for this week:

  • 1 dozen “inside out” cupcakes
  • 2 dozen chocolate chip cookies stuffed with mini Reese’s peanut butter cups
  • 1 bottle mint-lime syrup
  • 1 bottle cherry-peach syrup
  • Terra Nova National Park t-shirt
  • Various dove for men products (impulse buy)
  •  1 Cinnamon-Raisin cake courtesy of my Aunt Catherine (bless!) over which I brushed a rum glaze to keep fresh

What is an inside-out cupcake? It’s a cupcake with the icing inside. I couldn’t accept that cupcakes wouldn’t hold up in Afghanistan so I set out this week to come up with something that could [maybe, hopefully] survive the journey.

Sprinkles are directly correlated to morale levels, a recent study has shown

Inside out cupcakes sounded like a good idea since the Buttercream Frosting would be safe inside the cupcake. For this, if you have a pastry bag you could pipe frosting directly inside the cupcake, use a large star piping tip and pull up as you apply pressure. If you are like me and basically make shit up as you go, you could carve out the the centre of the cupcake with a steak knife and fill the centres with buttercream, replacing the top piece of the cupcake once filled,  all while enjoying a glass of wine.

But then the dilemma of how to keep the cupcakes fresh? I decided to seal the top of the cupcake with a royal icing. A friend of mine told me, after seeing the photo, “I looked closely and then looked again and I still couldn’t figure out what royal icing is!”

Cupcakes baked in paper liners, filled with vanilla buttercream and "sealed" with royal icing

Royal icing is made of egg whites (or meringue powder), lemon juice and icing sugar and is typically used for decorating sugar cookies or putting together a gingerbread house. It is glossy and hardens when dry. In other words, it is the plaster of the baking world.

For the cake, I used the Deluxe Three Egg Cake from my mother’s Five Roses Guide to Good Cooking.  This cookbook is old. Ridiculously old. Gasoline-costs-5-cents-a-litre-old. But it is the best for baking.

There's still a coupon inside for their Guide to Good Sauces, a steal at 25 cents

The deluxe three-egg white cake I chose because it is rich and moist. All the better to hold up in the mail. I also ran out of milk while making this cake and had to use 1/3 cup vanilla yogurt. Amazingly, it only made the cake more moist.

Frost as desired

To package, I let the royal icing on each cupcake dry overnight. Then I wrapped each cupcake in plastic wrap. I used a box formerly home to canning jars and settled each cupcake in one of the spaces, covered the whole thing with bubble wrap and laid it on the top layer of the package.

Cupcakes ready for their trip!

Phew. I hope they make it but as the title suggests, this is an experiment. We’ll have to wait and see what JD says when they arrive.

Next: chocolate chip cookies stuffed with Reese’s mini peanut butter cups. I used mini peanut butter cups but you could really use any kind of mini candy bars or even full size peanut butter cups if you wish.

Get stuffed!
Surprise!

The trick is to use an equal amount of cookie dough, top and bottom. I used a rounded teaspoon each time.

yum!

Find the recipe here – I followed it to a T and the result was a dense cookie with a slightly crispy bottom.

That’s it for #6… will update on the cupcakes when JD gets them as he has graciously agreed to take some photos.

Bye bye!

Cheers!

Care Package #5…

 

 

Unfortunately, I wasn’t sharp enough to start taking photos for care packages 1 through 4 (brownies, granola, biscotti, vegan snickerdoodles respectively…) but was convinced to start recording what I’ve been sending to JD in Afghanistan.

Pacakges take 4 weeks in the mail from Canada to Afghanistan. Mailing them is free, so long as you avoid prohibited items and list your contents clearly. My schedule has been to send something homemade every week….so read on, dear internet and find out what went last week…

Care package #4 was a little on the excessive side, due to the fact that I’m currently at my parents’ house and have had free reign of their kitchen and all the baking ingredients I could possibly get my hands on.

Contents:

  • 2 rum-drenched vanilla poundcakes.
  • spicy and sweet mixed nuts
  • garlic stuffed olives*

    Two vanilla bean poundcakes from Dorie Greenspan
  • puff pastry “papillions” with parmesan and chili
  • peanut butter cookies
  • salted caramel popcorn
  • ginger syrup

The pouncakes come from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking….From My Home to Yours. I have made them before with vanilla beans and, this time, pure vanilla extract. Next time I would absolutely go back to using the vanilla beans. Extra effort, but it really puts them over the top.

 

 

 

 

 

Poundcake Recipe here!

Poundcakes ready to go...after a few layers of bubble wrap :)

 

The mixed nuts are kind of a no-brainer. That is, with a fairly simple formula, you can use pretty well any combination of nuts and any combination of spices.

Sweet & Spicy Mixed Nuts

Sweet & Spicy Mixed nuts

1 large egg white

1 tbsp water

4 cups assorted natural (as in not roasted or salted)  nuts; I used pistachios, almonds, walnuts, pecans and cashews…or as I like to say all killer and no filler!

1/4 cup of your favorite cajun seasoning

1/2 tsp chili powder

2-3 tblsp of sugar, depending on how sweet you like them

1/4 – 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional – if you like them spicy)

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees Farenheit. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper (no you cannot use waxed paper!).

In a large bowl, whisk together egg white and water until frothy. Add the nuts and toss to coat. In a small bowl, combine the cajun seasoning, chili powder, sugar an cayenne, if using. Add to the nuts and stir to coat evenly. Spread the nuts on the prepared pan and bake until dry, about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir to separate. Let cool on the baking sheet. Serve warm or at room temperature. I packaged these in a metal shortbread tin and taped it shut to make sure they would hold up in transit.

Salted caramel popcorn has to be one of my new favorite foods. Normally I am more of a purist and, if I was at home, would have used air popped popcorn and gone from there. Since I’m not in my own kitchen, I made due and used microwaved butter-flavoured popcorn. It was de-li-cious. I had enough to fill a huge 2-litre plastic bucket with lots left over for snacking :) I used 2 large bags of popped popcorn.

Did I mention that I found this particular recipe on youtube? So youtube does have a purpose after all! Betty\’s Caramel Popcorn

Finally, ginger syrup. This was good. I mean, really good. If you like ginger, ginger ale…dark ‘n’ stormys… you’ll love it. Plus who doesn’t love a recipe with minimum input input and maximum output? It made a decent amount of syrup and is amazing with club soda or sparkling water. Why did I send ginger syrup to Afghanistan you may ask? JD tells me that he drinks about a case of bottled water per day in the 40C degree heat and it “gets boring fast”. I had sent him some drink single mixes but since I am so very anti-artifical sweeteners (I’ll save the aspartame/splenda rant for another time) I thought making syrups would be a quick, concentrated way for him to liven up water.

Without further ado:

The pleasing bite of fresh ginger...now in drink form!

Ginger Syrup

Recipe adapted from Imbibe Magazine

2 1/2 cups fresh ginger, washed and chopped (no need to peel!)

2 cups sugar

6 1/2 cups water

Bring all ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for one hour, uncovered, until a rich syrup has formed that will lightly coat the back of a spoon. You can strain through a cheesecloth or fine sieve if you have it but since my ginger chunks were big enough, I used a strainer and it worked just fine.

Allow to cool to room temperature and store, covered, in the refrigerator. To prepare: add 1 to 2 tbsps to a  glass filled with ice and top with sparkling water or club soda. For a Dark ‘n’ Stormy, add 2 oz dark rum to the above. Cheers!

 

I have been getting a lot of questions as to how baked goods hold up when being shipped overseas, especially after 4 weeks. Since I am really just flying by the seat of my pants, I’ll try and give a few pointers:

  1. PACKAGING! If you package something correctly, i.e. in an air tight container, either wrapped again in bubble wrap, plastic wrap or taped shut with packing tape, no air will circulate though the box. This will help preserve what you’re sending since exposure to air causes things to spoil quickly. I also pack my boxes tightly, either putting in enough stuff or using packing material (newspapers, bubble wrap, etc) to make sure things DON’T MOVE! Seriously I bang my boxes around a few times to see if there is movement inside, things should be SNUG and you should need to hold down the lid of the box while someone tapes it shut.
  2. PLANNING! I meticulously plan what I will send in a package. If I am sending a package with cakes, which may spoil, I will send a few other things which definitely will not spoil, e.g. jar of olives, mixed nuts.
  3. KEEPING THINGS MOIST! For me this means taking brownies out of the oven early, watching cookies closely for barely done-ness, and glazing cakes so the glaze will keep the cake moist and yummy, (see below). A rum glaze should create an anaerobic environment, much like a fruitcake, wherein the alcohol content will act as a preservative for the cake.
  4. DO NOT SEND CHOCOLATE! Seriously. Don’t. Melted Hershey’s Kisses are unpleasant. Avoid unless it’s a chocolate brownie/cake/chips baked into a cookie. Chocolate WILL melt unless it has been baked in your oven and therfore is reconstituted and is ok to send (but still not ideal).
  5. BROWNIES: I promise another post about brownies in the future but for now…. take them out early. EARLY! Five minutes at least. The middle should be barely cooked and only fit for you to make a hot brownie sundae with when you’re done. Wrap your brownies in a paper towel (yes it will stick, just do it!). Wrap that in a double layer of tin foil. Place inside a large freezer bag and squeeze the air out. This is the only way I know to package brownies so that they arrive “Moist and perfect” – JD

So that’s all for now. I dropped off #6 this morning so stay tuned for “The Cupcake Experiment”. xo.