Friday, April 13, 2012
Use-It-All-Up Cookie Bars . . .
Yesterday morning I opened the fridge and found myself face to face with a hefty container of homemade oatmeal raisin cookie dough, pretty much thawed. I'd mixed the dough about a month ago, frozen it the same day, and had taken it out of the freezer a few days ago. I removed the lid and looked at the dough with limited enthusiasm. It peered back at me blankly, as if to say, "Well? You're the one who took us out of the freezer. Now you have to bake us. Honey, we're defrosted, so get moving." Okay, I thought, point taken.
But, you know how some days the very notion of scooping a zillion individual cookies just seems like too much effort, even if your dough is all ready and rarin' to go? That was my mood. You really have to be in the right frame of mind for mass cookie production to be joyful, and I guess I just wasn't feelin' it. So I began browsing the cupboards, wondering how I could transform this dough into something that would only require about 15 minutes of my time start-to-finish. Nothing fancy or exotic. I just needed to get the job done in a tasty way. Prowling around, I pulled out a quarter-sheet pan, lined it with parchment, and set the oven to 350. Then I grabbed a dinner fork and started breaking off rough chunks of the frigid dough, scattering them over the parchment.
Still not knowing exactly what would evolve, I discovered a little bag of sweetened coconut, about 3/4 of a cup of the stuff leftover from who-knows-what Christmas cookie project, and sprinkled that over the top of the dough. Same thing with a small pouch of leftover chopped pecans, maybe 1/3 of a cup, max. Then, behind a box of baking soda, I found a sandwich bag holding a random mixture of dark- and semisweet chocolate chips, and sprinkled that--perhaps 1/2 a cup of chips or less--over it all.
And finally, I grabbed a cellophane wrapper filled with several remarkably soft and completely adorable homemade marshmallows, prepared by one of my fellow culinary-students from my bakery merchandising class this spring (they're her specialty, and boy are they divine; she makes them in strawberry and chocolate too!). I cut several of the marshmallows into small chunks with kitchen scissors and scattered them over everything else. They sealed the deal. Problem solved. Anything else thrown on there would have been overkill.
Into the oven the whole thing went. I baked it until the dough layer seemed kind of firm in the middle, and the top was golden all over. I used up all those little bags of leftover stuff, did it super fast, and ended up with really good cookie bars. Can't ask for more than that!
Use-It-All-Up Cookie Bars
(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)
Preheat oven to 350. Line bottom and sides of a 9" x 12" x 1" (that's a quarter sheet pan) pan with parchment paper.
1 and 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 Tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. almond extract
1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, unbleached
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 pinch ground nutmeg (optional)
3 cups uncooked oats (old fashioned or quick)
3/4 cup raisins
About 3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut, loosely packed
About 1/3 cup pecans, chopped small
About 1/2 cup mixed chocolate chips (mine were dark and semisweet)
About 1/2 cup chopped marshmallows (If you want to use homemade marshmallows, go for it; try this reliable recipe!)
Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg (if using) in a medium bowl with a whisk. Set aside.
In the large bowl of your mixer, cream together the butter, shortening, and the two sugars on medium speed. Add in the eggs, milk, and the two extracts; beat on medium speed until very well combined.
On the lowest speed, add in the flour mixture. Beat just until combined. Add in the oats and the raisins, again beating only until combined.
Roughly plop chunks of the dough more or less evenly atop your parchment lined baking pan. Sprinkle atop the dough first the coconut, then the pecans, then the chocolate chips, and then the marshmallows.
Bake for at least 25 minutes, until golden all over and no longer jiggly in the middle. Let the bars cool on a rack before cutting them with a sharp knife.