Trying Something New: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

Very pale oatmeal chocolate chip muffins in a 12 count muffin tin.
Does anyone else think I should have added chocolate chips to the top of the dough before baking?

Alright, I know what you’re thinking: Surely this woman has consumed/baked a chocolate chip muffin in her life. You’d be right, in fact, my favorite way to consume a chocolate chip muffin as a child was in the form of a muffin top from a bakery in my hometown and one of the main bakes I made during the winter of 2021 was a chocolate chip bread. So when I say I’m “trying something new” here I really mean I’m trying out a new recipe and which calls for adding oatmeal to the muffins.

This was an interesting experiment because as a general rule, my husband does not like cookies that contain oatmeal. Raisin cookies? Totally fine. Oatmeal raisin cookies? You’ve lost him. Chocolate chip cookies? Not his favorite but he’ll consume them. Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies? Not a chance. We’ve discussed the logic of this a few times before, it’s not that the cookie is trying to be “healthy” it’s just that the oatmeal changes the texture of the cookie. Despite his reservations when adding oatmeal to a cookie, he was all for the idea of adding oatmeal to a muffin. Go figure.

After a little hemming and hawing, I opted for Little Sweet Baker’s recipe. Thought drawn to the simplicity of the ingredients/instructions, I was particularly interested in how soaking the oats for 15 minutes would change the consistency of the muffins. I did make two modifications to the recipe: I used soy milk instead of cow’s milk due to dairy issues and I was generous when adding the vanilla (because vanilla is delicious).

Honestly, I think I could have added another handful or two of chocolate chips. Partially because I believe a good chocolate chip muffin has a fair amount of chocolate in it and partially because the smell of chocolate never permeated my kitchen while the muffins baked.

In the end, I’m not sure I’ll make this one again. It’s not that they tasted bad or had a jarring consistency, it’s just that I’m not convinced that adding oatmeal to the muffins really did anything. Highly recommend the extra vanilla though, it was pleasantly noticeable.

Trying something new: Oat Jam Bars

Over the summer, I made a plethora of blueberry jam after we picked blueberries. While the jam is delicious and not in danger of going off, we’ve eaten enough of it to want to enjoy it outside of the traditional ways that one enjoys fresh jam. After a failed attempt to make Jelly Donuts, and a lack of desire to try again without a stand mixer, I found myself wondering what other baked goods utilized jam as flavoring (besides jam cookies, naturally). Enter the Oatmeal Jam Bars I found on Pinterest, simple to make and potentially delicious.

Let me start by saying, these are incredibly easy to make. You’re basically whipping up a double batch of the crisp that goes on apple crisp and baking half of it for 10 minutes before adding the jam layer and the other half of the oatmeal mixture. So really, it’s a way to make a pie for anyone who doesn’t want to invest in the time required to make pastry.

If I were to make it again, I think using a tarter jam (and ok, less jam) would make the bars taste better as these were just a little too sweet for my liking. Also, not that I would add nuts, but the dish could be improved with a crunch… possibly line the bottom with a sugar cookie instead of the oat mixture?

Bottom line, we ate probably more than we should have in one sitting and I can see myself making this one again (perhaps with a few changes to the original recipe). I can’t make any promises, but I found a homemade pop-tart recipe that I may end up trying out next. Will report back if I do!

Trying Something New: Making Donuts

Eight jars of blueberry jam cooling on a kitchen towl.

To set the stage, I should mention that this whole thing started because we went blueberry picking this year and walked away with 8 lbs of blueberries. Most of this went directly into jars as jam, some of it was baked into bread and some of it stared at me begging to be put to good use. That’s when it hit me, blueberry donuts.

Making donuts without a fryer isn’t too difficult, in fact you “just” need a donut pan and a good cake donut recipe. If I had focused on making the blueberry donuts that I had set out to, they would have come out delicious. Instead, I found myself taking on the monstrous task of attempting to make jelly filled donuts without a mixer (I mean, come one I had so many jars of blueberry jam!).

To the book’s credit, the recipe itself was easy to follow. If I’m being honest with myself, I know exactly where things went wrong. For starters, we don’t have a microwave. This means that microwaving ingredients for 15 seconds (or whatever it was) needs to be done on the stove, which would have been easier if a temperature had been given. Next, there’s no way that I mixed the dough enough. My hands got tired and I didn’t have someone else around to delegate the task to. On top of that, I opted to double the recipe so that there would be enough to share with the local fire station, which means that I was attempting to hand mix more dough than a standard batch. When you combine those things together, there’s no way that the first prove was successful.

Pale and flat donuts or failed jelly donuts.

And yet, I diligently completed the next steps of rolling and cutting the dough before allowing it to prove for a second time. In reality, I knew when I put them in the oven that I would not have airy donuts in the end… but I still put them in the oven.

The final product? Weird tasting biscuits scone things. Weird as in you could taste the yeast, but they were almost ok if dunked in some blueberry jam (I at least lacked the pride required to fill the failed donuts with jelly). We threw them out, unsure if even the animals in the woods behind our home would want them. These would not do well on Great British Bake Off, I’d probably get an under proved and over done comment.

Will I make jelly donuts again? Yes, but I will probably borrow someone’s mixer first!

Trying something new: Meringue Cookies

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Second Batch, made with chocolate chips 

Well, it happened. Again. My partner and I watched enough Great British Baking show that I had to try a new cookie recipe (just like when I made my own fig bars). This time, I was inspired by all the meringue being used on the show and Mary Berry tapping the top of the structures to see how solid they were.

To be completely honest, I’ve had the recipe that I used since high school when a friend of mine was taking baking and I sampled one of her cookies. Though they look fancy, they don’t actually require a ton of crazy ingredients and, once you’ve figured out what’s supposed to happen, are easy to make.

 

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First batch made with semi melted chocolate, these spread more because the eggs weren’t initially whipped enough

Ingredients:

  • 2 egg whites
  • 3/4 cups of sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar (I used about 1/2 a teaspoon of white vinegar as a substitiute
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 bag chocolate chips

What you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 300F.
  2. In a bowl, combine egg whites, cream of tartar (or vinegar in my case) and vanilla. Whip aggressively or use a mixture on medium. You should see your mixture form a lot of bubbles and begin to form “soft peaks” (that’s what the recipe says and I can’t really think of a different way to describe it).
  3. Add sugar in slowly while you whip it into the batter.
  4. Whip. It. Good. No seriously, if you don’t have a mixer you’re going to be mixing it for a while. The batter is going to become stiff but light and you should be able to pull the whisk out and have the batter stand stiff. If your mixture is too runny, add a tiny bit more cream of tartar (vinegar) to help stiffen it up. According to the Great British Baking Show, it’s very difficult to over whip the batter.
  5. Fold in chocolate chips. All of them, the first time I made these cookies I thought there wasn’t enough dough only to find out that when they were done there wasn’t enough chocolate.
  6. Line a cookie tray with parchment paper and drop cookies onto it. I’ve gotten about 12 both times, but you could probably get more if you make yours smaller.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Note: You have to let them cool completely before removing them from the baking tray, otherwise they’ll collapse in on themselves.

All in all, I’m happy to have learned a new skill and am definitely planning on gifting tins of cookies around the holidays this year.

Just in case I didn’t do enough baking this month, I also made banana muffins for the first time tripling a recipe promising to be the easiest banana muffins. They were fun to make, but I don’t think I’ll be putting as much sugar in them next time – the bananas made the batter sweet enough.

on Baking Dairy-Free Berry Bread

Sliced cranberry bread on a plate.It’s been a little while since I’ve been diagnosed with a dairy allergy, but not long enough that I’ve figured out alternatives to a lot of my favorite bakes or meals. That being said, I’ve finally found a way to update my mom’s berry bread recipe that doesn’t taste dry.

It took a few attempts to get it right and may continue to evolve over time. For example, one of my next attempts may be to try coconut cream. (I worry that it will alter the flavor so have been too chicken to give it a try)

 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 tbs Stevia (or 1 cup of sugar)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 butter alternative (I like Earth Balance)
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of berries (I recommend blueberries or cranberries — frozen or fresh!)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt nutmeg, and cinnamon in a large bowl.
  3. Melt butter alternative.
  4. In a small bowl, beat two eggs.
  5. Add butter alternative and orange juice to beaten eggs.
  6. Add wet ingredients to dry ones, mix well.
  7. Fold in berries.
  8. Spoon into greased loaf pan.
  9. Bake for 1 hour.

Personally, I enjoy this bread after it’s been grilled on the stovetop with a little more of the butter spread or with an over-easy egg on top of it. Just be careful, my partner and I can eat a loaf in a weekend!