last minute cookies; coconut spritz

img_0426If you are like 99% of the people I know, you are in a hurry and trying to get everything done; baking, cooking, cleaning, shopping, wrapping and more.  Even though I am still trying to get my house unpacked from the move, I am also trying to do some holiday baking because it just isn’t Christmas without a small truckload of cookies in the house!  The good news is, that I have found one of the quickest and easiest recipes to prepare.

Coconut Spritz cookies are easy to mix and just as easy to shape.  While the dough can be shaped with a cookie press, it can also be scooped out and pressed with a cookie stamp, a flat bottomed glass or even the palm of your hand.  However, if you have a cookie press, use it, it will save you some time and produce cookies that are consistent in size.  One note, this dough is a bit high in fat and on the soft side.  Like most Spritz recipes, you should press the dough directly onto a sheet pan that is not non-stick or lined with any kind of paper.  While this may go against all you know about cookie baking, if you try to use paper or a treated pan, the dough cannot stick as you press it out and you will spend your time fighting with the press.  Do not worry, after baking, you will be able to get them off the pans by simply letting them set for a minute and then lifting them with a thin spatula.

The coconut flavor mainly comes from the oil so be sure to use a virgin oil that has not been refined and stripped of the flavor.  This recipe also calls for finely shredded coconut and if you plan to use the press, it must be extremely fine.  Whether it is sweetened or not is hardly important but in this case, size absolutely matters! If you cannot find it at the grocery store, try a Latino market, that is where I found mine.

img_7278Coconut Spritz Cookies

makes about 72 pressed cookies

1 cup coconut oil, at room temperature-not melted

5.4 oz sugar (153 g, 3/4 cup)

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large egg yolks

10.75 oz unbleached all purpose flour (305 g, 2 1/4 cups)

1/8 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 oz extra fine shredded coconut (14 g, 1/4 cup)

3-4 tablespoons heavy cream

Coarse sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350.  In a mixing bowl, cream the coconut oil with the sugar, vanilla and salt until well blended but do not mix it too long-the oil may begin to melt.  Add the egg yolks and mix to combine, scrape the bowl well.  Stir in the flour and baking powder and then the coconut.  Mix until it comes together.  Add the heavy cream, 1 tablespoon at a time until you have a dough that is soft and easy to shape.  You may not need all of it, and the more you add, the more the cookies spread in the oven.

Using the press, deposit the cookies onto the baking pans, leaving at least 1 inch between them.  Sprinkle the top of each cookie with a little coarse sugar.  Bake until golden around the edges, about 12 minutes.  Rotate the pans halfway through baking.  Let the hot cookies set for a minute then remove them from the pan with a thin, metal spatula and cool completely on a rack.  Store in an airtight container for about a week-if they last that long…

If not using a press, use a small portion scoop such as a #50 scoop.  Dip the top of each ball of dough into the coarse sugar and place onto a pan.  Flatten them slightly with a cookie stamp, the flat bottom of a glass or your hand.  Baking times will depend on the size of the scoop used, watch them closely and adjust the time as needed.


oatmeal raisin cookies

IMG_6749The fact that I have a sweet tooth is no secret, it should probably be called an unhealthy obsession.  Generally, I keep it in control by not buying sweets and not baking them unless I am bringing them to someone else.  It’s a good plan, most of the time.  But every now and then, I cave.  Lately, when that has happened, Darry and I have gone out for ice cream. With the extreme heat we have had lately, how could you blame us?  In the evening, as the sun goes down, we like to go to the Village and visit the local ice cream shop and then walk around.

But this week, I felt like having cookies.  Oatmeal cookies, with raisins.  The kind that stay a little on the soft side and would probably make great ice cream sandwiches, but I will not be trying that anytime soon…feel free to do it though, and report back to me if you do.

IMG_6750Over the years, I have made oatmeal cookies with any number of added goodies.  Dried currants are my favorite choice but dried peaches and figs are really good too.  This batch has raisins, dark raisins but when I use raisins, I usually prefer the golden ones.  My husband likes them with dried cranberries.  While I love nuts, I hardly ever add them and more often than not, I see them with chocolate chips but even though I am a huge chocolate fan, I cannot stand oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips in them.

My pantry is a little over stocked and I made the choice of dark raisins; all part of the effort to clean out the pantry.  Helpful hint, if your fruit is dried out and leathery, don’t toss it out!  Put it in a pot, cover with water, place over medium heat and let the raisins get hot, just about boiling.  Remove them from the heat and let the fruit cool completely.  Dump the raisins into a mesh strainer and press gently to remove the excess water.  Then add them to the dough.  Once baked, the raisins will be nice and soft and will also add a little moisture to the dough but too much moisture can lengthen the baking time.

IMG_6752One of the nice things about oatmeal cookies, it is easy to hide whole grains in them.  Besides using whole grain rolled oats, you can also use whole wheat flour and trust me, no one will know!  The oats can also be swapped out for other whole/rolled grains.  Trader Joe’s sells a mixture of rolled whole grain made from a mixture of oats, wheat, barley and rye and that would work in this cookie too!

IMG_6754A few notes to ponder:

Because I do try to make better eating choices, I made the batch of dough, scooped it out using a restaurant style portion scoop and chilled the balls of dough.  When it was time to bake them, I only pulled 8 scoops of the dough and froze the rest in a ziplock bag.  Now I do not have to worry about eating too many at once!  My scoops were 1 ounce a piece and the best size scoop for that is a #40 scoop.  What does that mean?  Food service portion scoops are somewhat standardized.  A #40 scoop will most likely have a purple handle and the number stands for the amount of scoops needed to equal a quart.  Look for this scoop in your local restaurant supply shop or online, you will not regret purchasing one because it will help you get a consistent size and make quick work of the scooping.

Recently, I wrote a guest post for fellow Virginia Blogger, Liz of I Heart Vegetables, on the importance of proper measuring in baking.  While using a scale is something I have done all of my professional life, it isn’t always the way I do things at home.  Until now, this recipe and the majority of recipes to follow will be written using weights.  If you like what you see, you will need to use a scale to make it.  Before you panic, you can easily find one at the store-even the grocery store, and the majority of them cost less than $20.

Quite a few of the ingredients in this recipe are interchangeable on a 1:1 basis.  While I could have used butter, I chose coconut oil because I wanted to add the flavor without adding the texture to the cookies.  When I bake, if a recipe calls for molasses, I almost always reach for sorghum instead.  It is milder in flavor and a little lighter in color but most importantly, it tastes so much better!  Sorghum is a traditional Southern syrup made by cooking down the juices extracted from sorghum canes.  It is sweet and turns a deep amber as it cooks which gives it a molasses-like flavor and for that reason, it can be referred to as sorghum molasses.  It can be tricky to find in other areas of the country so you may have to purchase it online.  Remember when I mentioned using whole wheat flour?  Well, sometimes I use only whole wheat, other times, I blend it half and half with all purpose and if I am not paying attention, I am likely to just use the all purpose.  Don’t sweat it, use what you like, and if you want to add a little fiber to your diet, use whole wheat, you will still love the cookies!

IMG_6765Oatmeal Cookies with Raisins

makes about 24 (1 ounce) cookies

4 ounces of raisins or your favorite dried fruit

6 ounces unbleached all purpose flour

5 ounces rolled oats

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 ounces organic coconut oil

6 ounces granulated sugar

2 tablespoons molasses or sorghum

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

If the raisins are a bit dry, place them in a pot and fill with water to just cover them.  Heat the raisins over medium heat until steam begins to rise from the water and small bubbles start to form around the edges.  Turn off the heat and set the fruit aside to plump until cooled.  Dump the raisins into a mesh strainer and gently press out the extra moisture.  Adding a lot of extra water will cause them to spread like crazy and will ruin the texture of the cookie.

Place the flour, oats, baking soda and cinnamon into a small bowl and whisk to combine, set aside for now.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the coconut oil with the sugar, molasses, vanilla and salt.  Begin to cream the mixture, scrape the bowl and allow it to cream for 2-3 minutes.  Add the egg, mix it in, scrape the bowl and mix again.  Add the flour mixture followed by the raisins.  Using a spatula or wooden spoon, mix by hand until it is thoroughly blended.

Using the portion scoop, carefully scoop the dough and place on a pan lined with parchment.  Chill completely.  Before baking, preheat the oven to 350.  Place the desired amount of dough at least two inches apart on parchment lined pans (or silpats) and allow them to sit and soften a bit.  Press down on the cookies to form a thick disk (will encourage spreading) or leave them in the shape of the scoop (for thicker cookies).  Bake for 6 minutes, turn the pan and rotate top to bottom, and bake for another 6 minutes for soft cookies, 8 for crispy ones.  Allow the cookies to cool on the pans for a few minutes then carefully lift them off and place onto a cooling rack to finish setting.  Store airtight at room temperature, will stay soft for about 3-4 days after which they will get crispy but will still taste good!

If you chose not to bake all of the dough, place the rest of the chilled scoops into a ziplock bag and freeze for a later day.  Allow to thaw before baking, will keep in the freezer for about a month.