Friday, February 10, 2012

Cranberries and walnuts: variations of a theme

Cookies. Scones. Bread. These are the treats I made recently (not on the same day, of course!), from one tasty bag of dried cranberries and a bag of walnuts. Needless to say, all three turned out delicious! The cookies are a variation of oatmeal-raisin cookies, except I substituted the raisins for cranberries. This is hands-down the best oatmeal-raisin or (in this case) cranberry recipe I have found! So kudos to the smittenkitchen for a wonderfully tasty recipe! The walnuts add a rich, nutty flavor often missing from most oatmeal cookie recipes.  

Here is the original recipe from smittenkitchen, as I said I substituted raisins for cranberries but everything else is the same.  **One thing I do, is that I hydrate the raisins or cranberries for about 8 minutes before putting them in the mix. All you have to do is set them aside in a bowl of water for so they become plump and full. When you drain them, dry them so that your mix doesn't become watery. 

1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, softened
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt (I often use a half teaspoon, but I like more salt in my baked goods)
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

What to do?
Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. Stir this into the butter/sugar mixture. Stir in the oats, raisins and walnuts, if using them.
At this point you can either chill the dough for a bit in the fridge and then scoop it, or scoop the cookies onto a sheet and then chill the whole tray before baking them. You could also bake them right away, if you’re impatient, but I do find that they end up slightly less thick.
The cookies should be two inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake them for 10 to 12 minutes (your baking time will vary, depending on your oven and how cold the cookies were going in), taking them out when golden at the edges but still a little undercooked-looking on top. Let them sit on the hot baking sheet for five minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool.

Next up, scones & bread! I came across this recipe for quick and easy buttermilk bread, in fact, there are 10 easy recipe variations you can play around with. I used the same recipe to make the cranberry-walnut scones and the cranberry-walnut bread. Both turned out awesome!

Scones. One thing to do when making scones, is to roll the dough onto a well-floured surfaced before separating them into each piece.

 And now the bread.
Here is the recipe. For the bread I used 1 cup of unbleached, all-purpose flour and 1 cup of whole wheat flour. I find that it is best to use butter when baking the 'sweet' breads, and olive oil when baking the 'dinner' breads.

Makes one loaf 
2 cups (10 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (4 oz) white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 oz) buttermilk
1 large egg
1/4 cup (2 oz) unsalted butter, olive oil, or vegetable oil

What to do?
Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease or spray with nonstick cooking spray a standard 9x5 loaf pan.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Melt the butter, if using. Whisk it in a separate bowl with the buttermilk and the egg.
Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients. Gently stir and fold the ingredients until all the flour has been incorporated and a shaggy, wet batter is formed. Be careful not to over-mix.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and pat it into the corners. Bake for 45-50 minutes. When finished, the loaf should be domed and golden, and a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. Let the loaf cool in the pan for 15 minutes before removing and slicing.
Wrap baked loaves tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature. Baked loaves can also be wrapped in plastic and aluminum foil and frozen for up to three months. 

Cranberry-Walnut Loaf Variation (pictured above) - 1 c. dried cranberries, 1/2 cup toasted and chopped walnuts, 1 tsp vanilla, zest from one orange. 

For other recipe variations click here. This is a super easy, quick, and tasty list of bread recipes that are guaranteed to brighten everyone's mood at the breakfast, lunch, or dinner table!

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