Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Definitely In The Top Three

Recently I saw an online discussion about the question, "If you had to get rid of all but 10 cookbooks, which would you keep?"

Seriously? How would I even begin to answer that question? It would be easier to pick which child to keep. Some days that would be really easy choice, depending on who's annoying me the most that day.

My cookbook collection has spilled out of the kitchen, overflown the bookshelf into the dining room, taken over a bookshelf in the living room, and has satellite locations in the guest room (which, technically, is the Lego room). The cookbooks are a chronicle of my kitchen adventures, starting with the Joy of Cooking, the first cookbook I got as a newlywed. The tomes span the years of beginning cookery, my forays into Chinese cuisine, my excursion into low-fat land, and my decadent rebound phase when I embraced the butter. Since beginning blogging, the collection has grown quickly. When I saw three or more bloggers enthusing about the same cookbook, it went onto my Amazon wishlist, and I was just a click away from owning it. It made gift-giving occasions really easy for my husband.

Although he enjoys gifting me with cookbooks, husband has suggested many times that perhaps I could do a little judicious whittling. Nothing drastic, just get rid of a couple of cookbooks that I haven't opened in years. What? That's crazy talk! I might need that one recipe I have bookmarked or that one cool chart on substitutions or cooking times as related to altitude.

Although it would be a Herculean struggle to whittle it down to only 10, I might be able to do it. But I agreed with one of the discussion commenters who said, "You can have my copy of Baking when you pry it out of my cold, dead fingers."

Baking, From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan is a classic. It's beautifully laid out, covers a huge range of baking categories, has fabulous recipes, and is sprinkled with charming anecdotes from Dorie. I have given it as a gift several times, and I know it would definitely make my 10 To Keep list.

Why the unpaid advertisement for Baking? Because I heart Dorie and I was reminded again of how great her recipes are when my husband asked for some cookies to take to work. I hadn't tried this recipe before (astoundingly!), but Dorie didn't fail. They're amazing cookies. Half cookie, half candy bar, all delicious! One of the co-workers exclaimed (with mouth full), "Oh my gosh, these are so good! They're like food bars, only tasty." And another, who has recently lost a lot of weight, asked for a very small sliver to taste. After savoring that morsel he asked politely that the pan be moved out of his reach, so his hand wouldn't wander over and snag a few bars on its own.

So if you ever see a copy of Baking at a yard sale or the thrift store, buy it. But you won't find one there. Because anyone who owns Baking loves it and is going to hang onto it!

Chocolate Oatmeal Decadence Bars
- adapted from Baking: From My Home To Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Oatmeal layer:
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (you can sub out 1-1/4 cups with white whole wheat flour)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups (firmly packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped*

Chocolate layer:
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup moist raisins**
3/4 cup coarsely chopped peanuts, preferably salted

*I didn't have salted nuts, so I used plain, raw peanuts and added 1/4 tsp. salt to the batter. If you use a chunky sea salt, if will give hits of salt, rather than an all-over salty flavor.

**If your raisins are not moist, place them in a small bowl, cover them with very hot water, and let them soak for 15-20 minutes. Drain briefly on a paper towel to remove excess water.

1- Preheat oven to 350 deg. F with a rack in the center of the oven. Butter and 9 x 13-inch baking pan and put it on a baking sheet.

2- Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

3- In the large bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until it is soft and creamy. Add the brown sugar and beat for 2 minutes, then add the eggs one at a time, beating for a minute after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.

4- Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing just until they disappear. With a rubber spatula, stir in the oats and chopped peanuts.

5- Remove 2 cups of the batter to a bowl and set aside. Put the remaining dough into the buttered pan. Gently and evenly press the dough over the bottom of the pan. Set aside while you prepare the next layer.

6- In a heatproof bowl combine the condensed milk, chocolate chips, butter and salt. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until the milk is warm and the chocolate and butter are melted. Remove the bowl from the pan of water and stir in the vanilla, raisins and peanuts.

7- Pour the warm chocolate over the oatmeal crust, then crumble the remaining oatmeal mixture over the top. There will be gaps between the oatmeal clumps, and that's OK.

8- Bake for 25 to 30 min, or until the topping is golden brown and the chocolate layer is dull and starting to come away from the sides of the pan. Place the pan on a cooking rack and cool for about 2 hours.

9- Refrigerate the pan for at least one hour before cutting. You can either cut them in the pan or remove the whole block of goodness to a cutting board to cut.

Cut into 32 rectangles, about 2-1/4 by 1-1/2-inches.


Jennifurla said...

Sounds like a book I need! I just hate spending money on cookbooks, they are pricey these days.

Natalie said...

This is definitely one of my all-time favorite bar cookie recipes! I love Dorie's book!

Baking Ribbons said...

Saw your comment on Adam's Baker's nuts and noticed you live where I grew up. I grew up in East Town Estates in the 1960s and 1970s. Went to Sammamish Sr. and Odle Jr. high. Oh, and BTW, these bars look rich and delicious! With oatmeal and peanuts they have healthy attributes too!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

10 cookbooks ... my problem has been which cookbooks am I going to want in Michigan and what happens when the one I want is in the other house ... high level problems yes.
Love those bars. The co-worker worried about his hand wandering, I worry now about your idea of baking these wandering over to my kitchen ...

Adam said...

I love Baking, it's the only cook book I've ever asked for as a gift and really the only one I have used. Unfortunately I don't really bake out of it. It's too easy to search my computer for bookmarked recipes (that's what I tell myself, it has nothing to do with being lazy :)). Your pictures are a good reminder to open it up again.
Oh and Gloria (Baking Ribbons) meet Lynn, Lynn meet Gloria. Look at me, bringing people together one insane-long winded-rambling-blog post at a time :)

Baking Ribbons said...

Adam, thanks for the intro!!! Great to meet both of you! I purchased 10 bags of CC for my brownies and CCC to enter into the fair. They were on clearance at Target! Yippee!

Shannon Riley said...

Oh my gosh, those looks good. :D I want them right now.

görel said...

I SO want to nmake this, but exactly how much is "2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature" ?

And don't you add any salt to compensate for the unsalted butter? Sorry for the comment bombing!

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Jennifurla - I agree. That's why I love getting a book that covers a lot of material and is widely approved.

Natalie - How did I miss it for so long?

Baking Ribbon - Fancy that! Howdy and welcome!

My Kitchen in Half Cups - Inevitably you'll find yourself missing a book in Michigan. That's what food blogs are for!

Adam - Thanks for the introduction! You crack me up.

Shannon - Bake them up, dear, and enjoy!

Görel - 2 sticks = 1 cup = 8 oz. Does that help? There's salt in the salted nuts, but you can add more, if you think it needs it.

Barbara said...

Choose cookbooks to get rid of??? Isn't going to happen in my house!
Dorie's book is fabulous; it takes pride of place in my kitchen (or it could be because it's the most recently used!).
Great recipe; but then, I just have to read condensed milk and I'm all over it.

Anh said...

This looks like a winner! I reslly should try to make this bar.

grace said...

there are really only 3 or 4 that i use with any regularity, and dorie's definitely in the mix. tasty bars, these. even with the presence of those pesky raisins. :)