granola cake; a tuesdays with dorie post

img_7316Back in September, I learned we were relocating again.  After a few bumps in the road, we have landed back in Nashville and are settling into our new home.  During the move, one of the things I missed the most was being able to bake in my own kitchen and now that I have a kitchen again, I am also baking again!

First up; granola cake.  Actually, this recipe comes from Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan and not only is it the first cake I have baked in a while, it is the first time I have been able to join the Tuesdays with Dorie bakers since we started packing up for the move.  Since we are back in Nashville, we are active with the Master Gardener program and this cake was a great choice for the potluck dinner we have each month.  Having cut the cake into thin slices, I placed the cake on the dessert table and didn’t have any trouble convincing folks to try it!

img_7318The recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate, shredded coconut and granola which all combine to make the flavor similar to an oatmeal cookie with coconut and chocolate chips.  The only thing you need to know, use a good quality granola because it is a large part of the flavor and texture of the cake.  With this in mind, I made a small batch of my own granola rather than buy it.

While I am not posting the recipe for the cake, we do not post the recipes from the book out of respect for the author, I am posting the recipe for the granola that I used in the cake.  This recipe is the one that I made for years when I was working at the Loveless Cafe and I suggest you mix up a batch-it’s that good!


This small recipe makes about 2 cups of granola and can easily be doubled or tripled, just store it airtight and use it within a month.  My preference is to use a combination of wildflower honey and sorghum but you can use just one for the total amount.  If you can’t find sorghum, molasses will work but will give it a little more color.

3/4 oz light brown sugar

1-3/4 oz pecan pieces

5 oz whole rolled oats

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon sorghum

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. In a heat proof bowl, stir together the brown sugar, oats, nuts and cinnamon, set aside.  In a small pan, combine the butter, honey and sorghum and over low heat, stir until the butter melts and the mixture is heated but not boiling.  Pour the melted butter mixture over the oats and stir until it is combined.  Dump the mixture onto the prepared pan and spread it out evenly.  Bake for about 10 minutes, stir it well and continue baking for another 10 minutes or so.  The time depends on how thin the layer is in the pan.  Keep a close eye on the granola and stir it frequently until it turns a nice deep amber color.  When the granola is the color you want, remove it from the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes.  Using your hands-it will still be hot and it needs to be pretty warm for this to work, break up the granola so that it will be free flowing when it cools off.  Gently rub the clumps between your fingers to separate the large lumps-they will be pretty hard once cooled so do not be tempted to leave them in tact.  Allow it to cool completely and store it airtight.

img_7326Want to bake along with us?  Pick up a copy of the book, visit the website and get to work!

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.