Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you’ve ever been to a Potbelly Sandwich shop, then I would sincerely hope you have tried one of their (enormous, delightful) oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. For starters, they are the size of my head. Second, the people at Potbelly work some kind of voodoo magic whereby these cookies are always fresh-from-the-oven warm, so the chocolate chips are juuuuust a little melty and gooey. Third, they are soft and chewy on the inside, but the outside crust has just a touch of browned crispiness that makes for the perfect textural contrast – kind of like a creme brulee, where that ultra-thin sugar crust just perfectly offsets the creamy custard interior. Basically, they’re the perfect cookie.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

(Next time I’m complaining that my pants are too tight? Please remind me of this moment, where I spent several hundred words waxing poetic about the virtues of a 500-calorie cookie that is likely hefty enough to be used for some bicep curls.)

ANYWAYS. I like to challenge myself to recreate dishes I’ve eaten at restaurants, or baked goods/desserts that I’ve had, and these cookies seemed like a perfect project (on yet another Saturday where copious amounts of snow were deterring me from leaving the house). I sort of expected that it would take me a couple tries to get them exactly right – the texture of the oatmeal, the amount of oatmeal, the amount of chocolate chips, the crispy exterior combined with the gooey interior. But, the baking gods smiled down upon me, and I nailed it on the first try. I celebrated my success by eating my body weight in cookies for dinner.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes about 2 dozen

2 sticks salted butter, slightly softened
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups quick cooking oats*
6 oz large milk chocolate chips**

*This step is crucial to achieving the proper texture for these cookies: measure out your two cups of oats, and then briefly grind them up in a food processor (or a blender, if necessary). I did about ten, one-second pulses – which broke the oats up enough to give them a finer texture, but kept them chunky enough to remain identifiable.

**Again, if you truly want to replicate the Potbelly cookies, you’re going to need to be specific about the chocolate chips you use. They should be milk chocolate, and they should be BIG chips (not chunks). I found that the Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips were perfect – great size, taste, and texture. If you could care less about these being like the Potbelly ones? Go nuts and use dark chocolate, mini chocolate chips, chocolate chunks, whatever!

1.) Start by creaming together the butter and sugars until well-combined, about 90 seconds. Add in the vanilla and eggs, and beat until fully incorporated.

2.) Combine your baking soda, kosher salt, and flour, then add it to the dough in two additions, beating until just incorporated each time. Add the lightly ground oats and chocolate chips, and again, mix until those ingredients are just evenly distributed and incorporated.

3.) Line a baking sheet or platter with parchment paper or foil. Roll the dough into large balls (larger than a golf ball, about 2″ in diameter); then, gently flatten the ball between your palms (it should still be slightly more than an inch thick). Arrange the dough rounds on the baking sheet, adding another sheet of parchment/foil to create a second layer if necessary.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

4.) When all the dough is ready, tightly wrap the baking sheet or platter with plastic wrap, and place it in the freezer for an hour. (If you wanted to make the dough a little farther ahead, I’d place the tray in the fridge first, and then just put it into the freezer for the last 30 minutes.)

5.) When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 375°. Once the oven has come to temp, remove the dough from the freezer, and place it directly on to a parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet, and then put the sheet straight into the oven. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the edges are just golden brown, the center no longer looks wet (the center of the cookies should still look very moist and even a little raw, but not wet).

6.) Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then move them to cooling racks for another 5 minutes or so.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I think it goes without saying that you’re going to want to plan on eating one of these cookies immediately, right? There is little in life better than a warm, fresh-from-the-oven cookie, and these cookies are pretty much as good as it gets. Even better? Once they’ve fully cooled, 8-10 seconds in the microwave takes them right back to that freshly-baked warmth and texture. Store them in an airtight container for up to 3 or 4 days – not that they’ll last that long.

I can’t wait for this arctic winter to end so I can sandwich some vanilla ice cream between two of these bad boys, and call it dinner,
Tina

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Hazelnut Shortbread Sandwich Cookies with Milk Chocolate Fudge Filling

As you might recall, last year I took part in something called the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap – and it was really fun, so I decided to do it again this year! (As a reminder, last year I made these Chewy Ginger Sparklers – still one of my very favorite cooke recipes!) Basically, you sign yourself up, and you send a dozen cookies to three food bloggers that are assigned to you… and then you sit back and wait for YOUR cookies to start rolling in! Of course, I went ahead and threw out all the cards and contact information before it occurred to me that I should really link to the ladies who sent me cookies, because sometimes I am not very smart… but all the cookies I received were DELICIOUS, and a welcome treat during the busy and hectic holiday season. Ladies, if you are reading this, feel free to comment and I’d be happy to link to your blog!

Edited to add: Eleana from Chou Down contacted me – she sent me these delicious Salty Chocolate Peanut Butter cookies (they’re gluten free, too)! She also included some Gingerbread Twix with her package, which I did not know existed until I received them… and they are amazing. You should definitely go find some, ASAP. Thanks again, Eleana!

Hazelnut Shortbread Sandwich Cookies with Milk Chocolate Fudge Filling

Anyways… this year, I was determined to make a cookie that has been plaguing me for quite a while now. You see, Trader Joe’s sells these amazingly delicious hazelnut chocolate sandwich cookies, and I was determined to recreate them at home – and after half a dozen failures over the course of a year (the cookies were too dry, the filling was too overwhelming, the filling was too runny, etc), I finally succeeded! The cookies themselves are buttery and rich, the hazelnuts are toasty and nutty, and the filling is chocolatey without being too sweet. Just what I was aiming for!

Hazelnut Shortbread Sandwich Cookies with Milk Chocolate Fudge Filling

Hazelnut Shortbread Sandwich Cookies with Milk Chocolate Fudge Filling
Makes about 18, depending on cookie size

For the cookies:
3 sticks of salted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp kosher salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
8 ounces hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

For the filling:
7 ounces sweetened condensed milk
6 ounces milk chocolate, chopped*
a pinch of kosher salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

*I’d advise that you use a chopped up chocolate bar for the filling, rather than chocolate chips. I find that chocolate chips don’t melt too smoothly (because they’re specially coated to prevent them from clumping up in the bag), so I keep a few chocolate bars on hand for things like this.

1.) Preheat your oven to 350°; toast the hazelnuts on a baking sheet for about 10 minutes, until the skins are dark brown, and the nuts themselves are golden.

Hazelnut Shortbread Sandwich Cookies with Milk Chocolate Fudge Filling

2.) Once the nuts have had a chance to cool a bit, wrap them in a clean kitchen towel, and gently rub the skins off. Discard the skins, and set the nuts aside.

Hazelnut Shortbread Sandwich Cookies with Milk Chocolate Fudge Filling

3.) In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer), cream together the butter and sugars. Add the vanilla and kosher salt, and combine well.

4.) Add the flour in three additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl in between each addition, and mixing until the flour is just incorporated each time. Finely chop the hazelnuts (either with a knife, or using a nut grinder), and add those to the dough.

Hazelnut Shortbread Sandwich Cookies with Milk Chocolate Fudge Filling

5.) The dough will be pretty crumbly at this point, and that’s okay. Lay out a sheet of plastic wrap about 15″ long; grab handfuls of the dough, and work them with your hands until the dough comes together (the heat from your hands will warm the butter in the dough and help it stick together).

Hazelnut Shortbread Sandwich Cookies with Milk Chocolate Fudge Filling

6.) Form the handfuls into logs about 2″ in diameter, and lay them end to end on the plastic wrap. Smush the logs of dough together, end to end, until you’ve got a larger roll of dough that’s about 10-12″ long. Roll the dough up in the saran wrap, and twist the ends in opposite directions to tighten the roll and smooth it out.

Hazelnut Shortbread Sandwich Cookies with Milk Chocolate Fudge Filling

7.) Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes, or as long as overnight. When you’re ready to bake the dough, preheat your oven to 350°, and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat liner. Slice the cold dough into 1/2″ slices, and bake them for about 12 minutes, until the edges are just golden brown. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for about 10 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack to allow them to finish cooling completely.

Hazelnut Shortbread Sandwich Cookies with Milk Chocolate Fudge Filling

Hazelnut Shortbread Sandwich Cookies with Milk Chocolate Fudge Filling

8.) Once the cookies are cooled, make the filling. Add the chopped chocolate, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, and salt to a small bowl. Microwave it for about 30 seconds, then stir; everything should be warm enough to fully melt the chocolate and create a smooth consistency, but you can microwave longer (15 seconds at a time) if needed. Once the mixture is smooth, let it cool for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

9.) Pour the filling into a piping bag or large ziploc, and cut off the corner so the opening will be about 1/4″ wide. Pipe a layer of fudge filling onto the bottom of half the cookies, and top with the remaining cookies. Allow the filling to set for at least a few hours, but preferably overnight.

Hazelnut Shortbread Sandwich Cookies with Milk Chocolate Fudge Filling

These might seem complicated, because there are a lot of steps – but they’re actually pretty simple to make! Best of all, you can make the cookie dough ahead of time and store it in the fridge (for up to 5 days, I’d say), and then when you’re ready for cookies, you just slice them and bake them! It’s worth noting that these hazelnut shortbread cookies are also delicious on their own – so having a roll or two of cookie dough in the fridge might not be a bad idea, in the event you have an emergent need for freshly baked cookies. You could also substitute another nut, if you’d prefer – toasted pecans would be delicious!

Thanks again to the three lovely food bloggers who send me their delicious cookies – and to those who received mine, I hope you enjoyed them!

I would like to have a Christmas dinner that consists of nothing but cookies,
Tina

Nutella Rugelach

Have you ever heard of rugelach? They are a traditional Jewish pastry – often made with a cream cheese or sour cream dough, and consisting of a bit of pastry rolled around a filling. You will find them with a million different kinds of fillings – fruit, nuts, fruit AND nuts, chocolate, chocolate AND fruit, and so on and so on. The ones I remember having as a kid were usually raspberry, peach, and pecan or walnut (occasionally a combination of fruit and nuts), but you can really use any kind of filling you like! I plan to experiment with some more varieties – but nutella seemed like a delicious way to start. You can’t really argue with the ease and deliciousness of nutella, can you? No, you cannot.

Nutella Rugelach

Anyways, the making of rugelach is quite simple: make pastry dough, cut it into wedges, fill, roll, and bake. Tada! Rugelach! Though I prefer to make my own pastry dough, you can absolutely make these with a pre-made pie crust, especially if you’re in a time crunch. I won’t judge.

Nutella Rugelach
makes about 32 pastries

For the pastry:
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 T granulated sugar
2 sticks of salted butter, cold, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1/2 cup greek yogurt (2% or full fat)
1 T lemon juice
1/2 cup ice water

For the rugelach:
1/2 cup nutella (or jam, or whatever you like)
1 egg + 1 T cold water, beaten well
Sanding or turbinado sugar

Nutella Rugelach

1.) In a food processor, add the flour, salt, sugar, and butter cubes. Pulse until the butter is just cut into the flour, and there are pea-size pieces of butter (about 4-5 pulses).

2.) In a small bowl, whisk together the greek yogurt, lemon juice, and water. Add 1/3 of this mixture to the food processor, then pulse twice; repeat two more times, until all the greek yogurt mixture has been added, and the dough has just come together (you want to keep the pulsing to a minimum, so as not to overwork the dough).

3.) Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and gently break it into two equally sized lumps; lightly pat each one so that it sticks together, and wrap them both in plastic wrap. Place them both in the fridge to chill for one hour.

4.) When the dough has chilled for an hour, lightly flour your countertop, and roll each ball of dough out to about a 1/8″ thickness. As you roll, be sure to lift and rotate the dough often, so that you don’t end up with your entire piece of dough completely stuck to the counter!

Greek Yogurt Pastry Dough for Nutella Rugelach

5.) Once the dough is rolled out, cut it into a rough circle shape (basically, just trim off the jagged edges). Remove the scrap edges, and then cut each circle into 16 wedges.

Greek Yogurt Pastry Dough for Nutella Rugelach

6.) Using a small spatula, spread nutella onto each wedge; you want to cover it as well as you can from top to bottom, leaving a thin but substantial layer of filling (you don’t want it to be gloppy, but you want to have enough filling that you can taste it in the final product). Then, roll each triangle up, starting with the widest end and rolling toward the point, and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet (with the tip of the triangle tucked underneath the roll, so they don’t start to unravel).

Nutella Rugelach

Nutella Rugelach

7.) Chill the rolls in the fridge for about an hour. I actually intended to just chill mine for about 15 minutes, but then I went to turn my oven on and realized it wasn’t working (this is commonplace; this oven is trying to kill me, I think), so they ended up chilling for about an hour while I tinkered around with the oven to get it to turn on. This may or may not have involved me climbing on TOP of the stove, to get to the plug in back… I’ll never tell. Anyways, they were VERY firm by the time I got them out of the fridge – and I think this ended up resulting in them holding their shape quite well, so I’ll stick with an hour-long chill next time, too.

8.) Preheat the oven to 400°. When the rugelach have chilled for about an hour, and the oven is hot, take them out of the oven; quickly brush them with the egg wash, and then sprinkle with the sugar, and pop them into the oven. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until they’re golden brown.

Nutella Rugelach

Allow them to cool, and enjoy! These tiny, flaky little bites of pastry are absolutely delicious. They’re not overwhelmingly sweet, which is nice – there is just a hint of sweetness in both the filling and the pastry.They would be great for a holiday party, or as part of the Thanksgiving or Christmas (or Thanksgivukkah, this year!) dessert spread; they’re the perfect size to pick up and pop into your mouth, without needing a plate or utensils!

Nutella Rugelach

They keep quite well in an airtight container for a couple days. If you want to make them a couple days ahead, and are concerned with them being nice and crisp when you serve them, you can pop them into a cold oven, and turn the heat to 350°; when the oven has come to temp, the rugelach should be slightly warm, and crisp on the outside.

You could make these savory, too, if you wanted – just omit the sugar from the pastry dough and the topping, and fill with something like goat cheese and sundried tomatoes, or olive tapenade, or parmesan and a small piece of dried sausage.

I intend to make these a lot throughout the holidays – they’re quick, easy, adorable, and adaptable in a million different ways!

It’s time to start baking holiday treats!
Tina

Mini Nutella Pavlovas with Whipped Cream and Berries

Have you ever had a meringue cookie? They are a strange, delicious wonder of the dessert world. Light and airy, crispy but chewy, full of flavor and utterly delightful. An extra large version of a meringue cookie is a pavlova – essentially just a baked meringue cake, usually topped with lightly sweetened whipped cream and fruit of some variety. A pavlova maintains a chewy, marshmallowy interior – which is a wonderful contrast to the ultra crispy exterior. Whether you decide to go small (cookies), or large (pavlova), this light and airy dessert is absolutely perfect for a hot summer night!

Mini Nutella Pavlovas with Whipped Cream and Berries

Mini Nutella Pavlovas with Whipped Cream and Berries
makes 10, 5-inch mini pavlovas

4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup sugar, divided
1/3 cup nutella
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
berries of your choice, washed and cut into bite-size pieces

1.) Preheat your oven to 300°. Start by placing your nutella into a microwave-safe bowl, and microwaving it in 20 second intervals (stirring after each interval) to smooth it out and loosen it up. This should take 2 or 3 intervals at most – set the nutella aside to cool.

2.) Place your (room temp! This is important!) egg whites into a large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, turn the mixer on to medium low, and beat the egg whites until they become nice and frothy, about a minute. Add the salt and cream of tartar, and continue beating.

3.) Turn the speed up to medium, and keep beating the egg white mixture until soft peaks form. Once you’ve reached that point, begin adding the sugar a couple tablespoons at a time (until you’ve added 2/3 cup), continuing to beat on medium speed.

4.) Once all the sugar is incorporated, turn the mixer up to medium-high, and continue beating until the egg whites are super glossy and thick, and hold stiff peaks when you remove the whisk.

Mini Nutella Pavlovas with Whipped Cream and Berries

5.) Make sure your nutella has cooled to the point of being barely warm. Drizzle it over the top of the meringue in the mixing bowl, and use a rubber spatula to fold it into the egg whites – only fold it a couple times, so you don’t deflate the meringue, and your meringues maintain a swirled look (I over-mixed a bit, so mine are just… pale brown. Not as beautiful as I was hoping).

Mini Nutella Pavlovas with Whipped Cream and Berries

6.) Load your meringue into a large pastry bag fitted with an extra large closed star tip (you can absolutely skip this step and either use a large ziploc with a corner snipped off, or just spoon mounds of the meringue on to your baking sheet). Pipe 4-5″ rounds onto a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet.

Mini Nutella Pavlovas with Whipped Cream and Berries

7.) Bake for 10 minutes at 300°. After ten minutes, rotate your baking sheets in the oven, and turn the temp down to 200°. Continue to bake for another 45 minutes, and then turn the oven off. Leave the meringues in the oven and allow them to cool in there for about an hour.

8.) Remove the meringues from the oven, and allow them to continue cooling, if needed. If you serve them the day they’re made, they’ll be super crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle. If you serve them the next day (stored in an airtight container overnight), they will lose a lot of the crispiness in their outer shell, but they’ll still be chewy and delicious.

9.) Top with whipped cream (3/4 cup heavy cream, whipped with 1/3 cup sugar, until firm peaks form), and fresh berries. Enjoy!

Mini Nutella Pavlovas with Whipped Cream and Berries

These mini pavlovas are a little quirky, and really tasty! The combination of crispy and chewy and light-as-air is a nice break from a lot of heavier, richer desserts that you usually see, and absolutely perfect as a light, refreshing summer dessert. (And it certainly doesn’t hurt that they’re EASY to make!)

I swear, Nutella was sent straight from heaven,
Tina