Brown Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I love oatmeal cookies. Actually, I think I love oatmeal. Period. Oatmeal raisin cookies are like, in my top three. The other two cookies are Oreos (duh), and sprinkle cookies. Probably. Only the ones from the bakery, though. You know, the crumbly, buttery ones with a million sprinkles? Those are the jam. Oatmeal raisin would be at the top because homemade, but either way, I needed to have an oatmeal cookie in my life soon.

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When I was brainstorming aloud to my friends on what I should make next, I mentioned an oatmeal cookie. I have already done my favorite, but with the mention of “oatmeal” alone was enough to cause a mini stir. I couldn’t finish my sentence before I heard “I HATE OATMEAL COOKIES.” Emphasis on hate. Mostly because oatmeal cookies always seemed to equal oatmeal raisin. While my little oatmeal raisin lovin’ heart broke, I reasoned with them. I also got the whole “raisins are deceiving” line, too. Although, that reaction is a lot funnier.

So, I settled on oatmeal chocolate chip. I get to eat my oatmeal cookie and everyone else gets to enjoy them raisin free. While I’m still a tad offended at the fact that there are so many raisin haters out there, I figured this was a good compromise.

BROWN (er, tan?) BUTTER THO

BROWN (er, tan?) BUTTER THO

Now, oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are basically a chocolate chip cookie but with oats. Sounds basic, to be honest. The last thing I want is a basic cookie. I sat there with my browser open and thought “how can I make these unbasic? How can I take them up a level?” And then it hit me.

In my time baking, well before this blog, I have only attempted to make brown butter once. Let’s just say, I took it too far. I had light black butter. Not appealing, and definitely not tasty. With the help of some instructional GIFs, from one of the last places I’d look to on the internet for kitchen advice, I tried to make brown butter again.

Oats, though

I was cautious of it going too brown, so my brown butter might actually be tan butter. Or light brown butter. Or maybe taupe butter. I don’t know! What I do know is that when I was making this, my house smelled heavenly. I could not believe that melting butter, and taking it a little further than just melting, could make my house smell that good. It smelled like warm, toasty, buttery, and nutty all at the same time. I was amazed, and then I got excited because if it smelled that good, I already knew my cookies were going to come out poppin’.

Ideally for cookies, you have softened butter. After browning mine, I let it sit room temp so it can harden a bit. It’s funny that I had to reverse the technique here and go from melted to softened; never thought I’d have to do that! I stirred it before it got too hard to evenly distribute all that golden brown deliciousness. Granted, I could’ve let it get a tad stiffer but I was short on time.

Cookie DOUGH

Anyway, the cookies came out unbelievably good. The brown butter was PERFECT in these cookies. Like, I can’t even at how great this came out. I’m still stunned. It added a hint of nuttiness to the cookies that I just couldn’t believe. I had a (ahem, or two) cookie while it was still warm, and I wanted to melt just like the chocolate chips. Super chocolatey, with that nutty hint from the brown butter, and then with the crispy but chewy addition of the oats. OMG. IT. WAS. CRAZY. I took them with me to work and they were gone in minutes. Even the oatmeal haters became oatmeal lovers after these cookies.

So, if you have an (or several) oatmeal skeptic(s) in your life but need to fill that oatmeal void with something everyone can enjoy, try this cookie. Oatmeal haters will see what they’ve been missing.

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Brown Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies – adapted from Joy the Baker

Makes about 4 dozen

  • 2 sticks of butter, browned and cooled
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg (fresh, if you can)
  • 2 1/2 cups of rolled oats
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (spoiler alert: a whole 12oz bag)

Directions:

  1. Make the brown butter: in a small pot or sauce pan, melt both sticks of butter over medium heat. Once completely melted, begin stirring. You’ll see the butter foam up as the milk solids rise to the top and begin to pop. KEEP STIRRING. While you’re stirring, pay attention to the butter’s color. A good way to see what’s happening, if the foam is all in the way, is on the sides of the pan. For me, it got brown as well, which is how I knew I was close. Once you see the butter is a nice light brown color, GET IT OFF THE HEAT ASAP. Pour your brown gold into a heatproof vessel and let it hang out. It’ll continue to get browner (allegedly) as it cools. Cool until it’s hard but soft enough to cream with butter.
  2. Cookies: Preheat the oven to 350F. Line your baking pans with parchment paper and set aside. In a large bowl, cream the cooled but softened brown butter and both sugars until creamy, for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract, and mix until blended.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the butter and egg mix; making sure to incorporate the dry ingredients well. Stir in the oats, and finally fold in the chocolate chips.
  5. Using a disher or tablespoon, scoop out the dough onto the prepared sheets, leaving a couple inches of space between each cookie. Bake the cookies for 10 to 13 minutes, or until lightly golden brown. Cool on the sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. (try them warm!)

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Don’t burn the butter. 
  • The whole wheat flour is optional! I threw it in there for added “health” but feel free to use the 2 full cups of all-purpose. 
  • Seriously, don’t burn the butter. 
  • Store in an airtight container at room temp. They should be good for a couple days, if they last that long. Alternatively, you can portion out the dough and freeze it for cookies anytime. 
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Christmas Confetti Cookies

If you’ve come to Lucy the Baker for plain old sugar cookies, you’ve come to the wrong place. There are no plain sugar cookies here. Yeah, I’ve got cutouts (dazzled with royal icing and a hint of lemon), brown sugar ones that taste like cinnamon, and I’ve got pinwheels, but no regular old sugar cookie.

The thing is, sugar cookies are my least favorite.

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They are so BASIC. Ugh, like so plain with nothing really going on. There is so much potential in a sugar cookie to become something more than what I consider a sugar coated blob of butter. I actually had a bad experience once with a snickerdoodle that tasted just like that. Scarred for life, to be honest. It’s also what I’m trying to avoid, and why you won’t find a snickerdoodle or plain sugar cookie recipe here (for now…. never say never).

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Now, you might be thinking; “but Lucy, confetti cookies are still plain sugar cookies.” That’s where I’ll stop you. Confetti cookies are sugar cookies on steroids. I mean, it’s sugar on more sugar! I can’t hate on that. Why are confetti cookies different than plain old sugar cookies? They just are.

I’m aware that sprinkles (or jimmies to some folks) don’t taste like much or “add anything” to a recipe but I think they do. They add festiveness (in this case), decoration, and they’re just plain fun. Like, do you even consider a plain sugar cookie to be fun? I don’t think so. Besides, sugar cookies have to be adorned or decorated with something more, whether it’s icing or chocolate, to even become likable. Sprinkles are the best and easiest route, so I went with that.

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I saw this recipe on the amazing Joy the Baker‘s site when her newest cookbook, Homemade Decadence, came out. Consequently, it was also the same day her new page layout went live. Her site is bright and colorful (like she is), which matched these cookies. I’m a sucker for anything with sprinkles, so I knew these were going to be in my future for sure. Since December is basically National Cookie Month, I planned them to be a part of my #CookieCraziness.

One of the best parts about this recipe is that you can make the dough a day ahead. I’m not one to make things ahead of time, so I was intrigued into trying it. It made my life so much easier because I basically just preheated the oven, portioned the dough, put them on the sheet and baked them. That’s it! The only sucky part was photographing the making of the dough. It was late and the lighting was off. I felt slightly defeated but I rolled with it, and I think the photos came out okay.

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Since I wanted to make the dough ahead, I ran into some poor planning. I completely forgot to take out a stick of butter! You can’t really make anything with cold butter. The solution? Cutting the stick into tiny cubes, and spreading them out on a plate. I’m sure it’d work if you piled the cubes in a bowl but I’m really picky about these things. I spread my tiny cubes out on a plate, and made sure none of the cubes were touching. I came back in like 10 or 15 minutes to room temp, soft butter. This is honestly the best way. The microwave can backfire on you (ahem, melted butter), and putting a stick of butter in my pocket just won’t end well.

Needless to say, these cookies were awesome. I picked the red and green sprinkles for obvious reasons. I also accidentally poured in the whole half cup into the dough, realizing that I only needed to put in half right after I emptied out the measuring cup. I don’t think it harmed the cookie at all! They were crispy, with a little crunch from the sprinkles. Even with all the sprinkles in the cookie, I dipped them in more sprinkles. More the merrier, right?

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I hope you now realized that plain sugar cookies are lame, and that confetti cookies are where it’s at. Who would ever decline a fun, festive, and sprinkly cookie over a plain and unadorned one? No one, that’s who. Keep sprinkles in your pantry and dazzle your cookies every once in a while!

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Christmas Confetti Cookies – barely adapted from Joy the Baker

Makes 32-36 cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup red and green sprinkles

Directions:

  1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Don’t be afraid to cream the sugar and butter longer than you think! Ideally anywhere from 3-7 or 10 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and mix until well incorporated.
  3. Fold in 1/4 cup (or all of them) of sprinkles into the batter. At this point, you can wrap and chill the dough or portion and chill the dough on the baking sheets. Either way, chill it for two hours or overnight.
  4. Preheat your oven to 350F. Take out the chilled dough and portion, if you haven’t already into tablespoon sized dough balls. Drop the dough balls into the remaining 1/4 of sprinkles, and placed on the prepared sheets. Alternatively, if you decided to portion and then chill, roll them in the sprinkles before hitting the fridge.
  5. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes, or until they start to get slightly golden around the edges but are still pale. Cool on the sheet for at least 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • My cookies spread out and flattened as they baked. This may have happened for a number of reasons. Either the dough got too warm, or the liners and sheets I used were to blame. For the record, I used standard aluminum half sheets lined with silicone liners. Darker pans and parchment produce a different, darker result. Both are fine but it’s just worth nothing. 
  • I do not have vanilla beans (sigh) so I stuck with extract. Should’ve liqoured them up, to be honest. 
  • We like jimmies here, so I used that. Feel free to use whatever sprinkles you have on hand. 
  • Go check out Joy’s blog if you haven’t already, and then weep at the magic inside her cookbook. 

Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread

When the weather finally starts to chill out, all I want to do is eat something warm and cinnamon-y. My folks have been nagging me to make cinnamon rolls again. Been there, done that. Instead, I looked for something similar that’ll please my folks, and give me something new to make.

I’ve been seeing pull apart bread for what feels like ages all over the internet. They’ve always intrigued me but I never really thought about making one. It reminds me a little of monkey bread, another one I’ve seen everywhere. The fact that these recipes are both interactive seemed like a good idea. Little did I know I was in for a bit of a challenge.

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First of all, the recipe itself is a little strange to me. It’s a bread recipe, which I am familiar with, except this one has a different method. The dough is very wet at first and it’ll feel like it’s never going to come together. I was initially concerned midway through the recipe when I saw how sticky it was, and that I barely needed to knead it. The dough actually reminded me of two things: an egg bread, and the aforementioned cinnamon rolls. The only difference was that the cinnamon roll dough wasn’t this sticky (it handled like a dream. I swear I’m not talking about a car).  As I moved further along in the process, it did come together.

Relieved from knowing the dough turned into dough, I moved forward onto the next steps. Let’s talk about this topping for a minute. Cinnamon sugar is super simple to make, and does this thing where whatever it’s on is basically automatically delicious. I don’t know how that works but it does. This recipe calls for a lot. A LOT. Joy (the mastermind behind this recipe) says to use it all. Look, I was as skeptical as you when I read that. I thought about it for quite some time (read: two minutes) and ended up holding back. Listen to Joy, people. Use it all. When stacking the slices of dough encased in sugar, a lot of it fell off. It kind of defeats the purpose of using all of it but make sure you slap on all that butter, too. Sprinkle the leftover sugar on top if you must but use it all up.

Proofed, looking like an accordion

After I got through the messy cinnamon sugar stage, it was time to pop the slices in the pan. I have a regular loaf pan (a 9×5), which is what the recipe called for. Considering my measuring skills suck, my rectangle of dough wasn’t the exact size in the recipe, which means my strips weren’t sliced into six. I had five strips that turned into eight stacks, which ended up backfiring on me a little bit. I gently maneuvered my stacked and sliced sugared strips into the pan and let it rise. It looked like a beautiful, sugary accordion. So lovely. I popped it in the oven and proceeded to clean up my kitchen.

About 10 minutes in, I hear sizzling. Confused about the noise (because since when does bread sizzle?), I turned on the oven light and checked on the bread through the oven door. Pieces of the bread had come out of the loaf pan and onto my oven racks and floor! I dropped whatever I was doing, grabbed the longest pair of tongs in my house, and popped the oven open. I was able to rescue the piece that fell on the rack but the one on the oven floor ended up giving me grief. Since it was covered in sugar, it burned all over my oven floor. It smelled like burnt sugar for a while, too. I guess that was my fault but I wasn’t expecting that to happen! I cleaned up my oven after I finished baking, though. A real pain but it happens.

Pull Apart Loaf3

Even after all of that, the bread continued to give me grief. It did not want to get out of the pan. Like at all. I buttered it twice, and it still stuck. Again, all that sugar was to blame. It caramelized and hardened a little while it was cooling. After several knife runs and turns upside down, I got the bread out with a few minor injuries (read: the bread fell apart in some places).

Despite the fact that it gave me some trouble, the bread came out absolutely delicious! It didn’t even last the day in my house; it was that good. The top was super crunchy because of all that sugar. The bread itself was light and fluffy, which I guess has to do with the odd dough method. Kudos to that, to be honest. It actually reminded me a lot of a Dominican sweet I can only get when I’m over there called ‘pan dulce;’ which literally translates to sweet bread, and that’s exactly what they are. And like I correctly assumed, it was fun to peel off each layer before devouring it. My folks peeled them off in chunks, and all you heard were approving noises come out of them while they had their mouths full.

Pull Apart Loaf2

I’m not one to repeat recipes but even though this bread gave me a little trouble, I’d make it again. At least I now know how to handle it!

Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread – barely adapted from Joy the Baker

Makes one 9×5″ loaf

Dough:

  • 3  cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Sugar topping:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted until browned

Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl (I used just the bowl of my stand mixer) whisk together 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt.  Set aside. Whisk together the eggs in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt together milk and butter until butter has just melted.  Remove from the heat and add water and vanilla extract.  Let mixture stand for a minute or two, or until the mixture registers 115 to 125 degrees F. If you don’t have a thermometer, it should be a little warmer than body temperature.
  3. Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula.  Add the eggs and stir the mixture until the eggs are incorporated into the batter.  The eggs will feel soupy and it’ll seem like the dough and the eggs are never going to come together.  Keep stirring.  Add the remaining 3/4 cup of flour and stir with the spatula for about 2 minutes.  The mixture will be very sticky.
  4. Place the dough in a large, and well greased bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel.  Place in a warm space and allow to rest until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  5. While the dough rises, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg for the filling.  Set aside.  Melt 2 ounces of butter until browned, and set aside.  Grease and flour a 9x5x3-inch  loaf pan.  Set that aside too.
  6. Deflate the risen dough and knead about 2 tablespoons of flour into the dough.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes.  On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out.  The dough should be 12-inches tall and about 20-inches long. Use a pastry brush to spread melted butter across all of the dough.  Sprinkle with all of the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Emphasis on ‘all
  7. Slice the dough vertically, into six equal-sized strips.  Stack the strips on top of one another and slice the stack into six equal slices once again.  You’ll have six stacks of six squares.  Layer the dough squares in the loaf pan like a flip-book.  Place a kitchen towel over the loaf pan and allow in a warm place for 30 to 45 minutes or until almost doubled in size.
  8. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Place loaf in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is very golden brown.  The top may be lightly browned, but the center may still be raw.  A nice, dark, golden brown will ensure that the center is cooked as well.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes.   Run a butter knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the bread and invert onto  a clean board.  Place a cake stand or cake plate on top of the  upside down loaf, and carefully invert so it’s right side up.  Serve warm with coffee or tea.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Rereading the recipe made me realize a very important tidbit I missed the first time. FLOUR THE PAN. Jeez, that would’ve save me a lot of time (and a minor headache). 
  • Don’t worry if the dough doesn’t roll out to exactly the size stated in the recipe. I didn’t and it came out fine. Sorta. 
  • Make sure your loaf is completely cooked through. The bread should be super brown, like almost on the verge of burning. Not only does that leave you with a super crunchy crust, but it gives the bread time to cook through without sacrificing taste. 

Brown Sugar Cookies

I happen to be somewhat of a people pleaser. I made chocolate chip cookies again recently, since they were such a hit with my folks. My dad actually asked me after the first batch was all gone when I’d make them again, so I did; except they were now a problem. My mom came to me, holding a cookie, asking me why I didn’t make them without chocolate chips. I almost cried out in shock and dismay at that suggestion. If I’m making chocolate chip cookies, they’re gonna have chocolate chips (or chunks, in that case). They’re not called chocolate chip cookies by chance, you know. I explained this to her, to which she responded with an eye roll and then left the room, with cookie in tow. I started thinking about it, and decided to appease her the next time I hit the kitchen.

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Making chocolate chip cookies sans chocolate chips sounds easy enough, right? I mean, why not just make the recipe and leave out the chocolate chips? No, as that is not how I roll. What she wanted, essentially, was a soft sugar cookie. I’m not exactly fond of soft sugar cookies, as they taste like sugar coated butter to me (which may or may not be a bad thing, depending on the day and who you ask). I also thought about making snickerdoodles, because of their hint of spice, but opted out of those for the same reason. The main difference between chocolate chip cookies and sugar cookies, besides the presence of chocolate chips, is that chocolate chip cookies require brown sugar. I wanted brown sugar cookies, and this was what I set out to make.

I love to use brown sugar in any recipe where it won’t be too noticeable. There’s just a certain warmth and chewiness you can’t get from regular white sugar. Brown sugar’s identifying characteristic is its brown color, which comes from the addition of molasses during processing. It’s also the reason why it’s soft. I had been burning thorough my brown sugar recently, so I took matters into my own hands. Brown sugar is actually really easy to make at home. All you need is white sugar, and molasses. Add 1 tablespoon of molasses to each cup of white sugar; more if you like a darker brown sugar, and mix. It’s really that simple! I started mixing it with my hand mixer, but hardware like that isn’t really required. I ended up blending in the rest of the molasses with a fork, which works a lot better and requires less clean up. Homemade brown sugar is a bit darker by comparison to the store bought stuff, so do not be alarmed.

Now, let’s talk storage. Brown sugar is moist by nature and it needs to stay that way. There are tons of stuff on the market to help keep your brown sugar soft, but I have an even easier one that doesn’t require a special purchase; a slice of bread! Just place your brown sugar in an airtight container with a slice of bread, and it’ll stay soft and moist for a couple weeks. Brown sugar is like the vampire of the baking world, as it feeds off the moisture in the slice of bread; sucking it all out in order to stay soft and sparkly. After a while, the slice of bread gets super stiff and kind of feels like a slice of toast. Replace the slice of bread periodically so the sugar won’t harden. If it does, cover the sugar with a damp paper towel and microwave in 30 second intervals until soft.

Check it, a stiff slice of untoasted bread. The brown sugar vampires did their thing on this poor slice of white bread

Check it, a stiff slice of untoasted bread. The brown sugar vampires did their thing on this poor slice of white bread

Back to the cookies. These cookies, from the fabulous Joy at Joy the Baker, are like a cross between a chocolate chip cookie (without chips) and a snickerdoodle. It has the brown sugar taste and chew from the chocolate chip cookie, and the spice and softness of a snickerdoodle. It also reminded me a lot of gingerbread cookies, which is awesome considering I don’t want to wait another seven months for a ginger flavored cookie. Anyway, these are amazing. The brown sugar kept the cookies soft and chewy, and the addition of cinnamon added that bit of spice that made them feel extra warm and fuzzy. Then, there’s that little kick in the back of your throat from the hint of ginger that sort of creeps up on you. I ended up switching out half of the flour for some whole wheat flour, which added a little nuttiness (and health?) to the cookie. All in all, it’s a lovely and tasty rendition of a sugar cookie, with just the right amount of spice to shake things up a bit. As for my mom? I didn’t hear a word from her this time, and the cookies were gone within days. I’d say I did pretty well this time 😉

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Brown Sugar Cookies – adapted from Joy the Baker

Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F, and place your oven racks un the center and upper third of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and ginger.  Set aside.
  3. Place butter and brown sugar in a medium sized bowl and using a hand (or stand) mixer, beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the egg and vanilla extract, and beat on medium speed for one minute more.
  4. Add the dry ingredients, all at once, to the butter and sugar mixture.  Beat on low speed until the dough begins to come together  and the flour disappears.  Stop the mixer and finish incorporating the ingredients with a spatula.  Once all the flour is thoroughly mixed in, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5.  Using a cookie scoop or a tablespoon, dollop balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheets.  Bake cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned around the edges.  Cool on the pan for 5 minutes, before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.  Cookies will last, in an airtight container at room temperature, for up to 5 days (if they last that long).

 Lucy’s Tips:

  • Not in the mood to make brown sugar by hand? Use your food processor! Just add the sugar and molasses, and blend!

DIY Pumpkin Puree and Pumpkin Pie Spice

Now that Halloween is over, we can all concentrate on the next holiday in the lineup: Thanksgiving. The following day after Halloween, I saw an onslaught of Christmas stuff everywhere. Ads are already popping up on TV, big toy books from Target and Toys R Us have landed at my door, and the seasonal aisle in my local drugstore is decked out in red, white, and green. Honestly, I’m not ready for this Christmas explosion! People are getting too ahead of themselves in preparing for the biggest shopping season of the year, but let’s concentrate on turkey day.

I love the hype around Thanksgiving, even if it is a small amount. The hype I do hear, is all about the food and the preparations behind them. Planning a meal worthy of this holiday takes a lot of time; there’s invites, place settings, decorations, and of course, the menu. Most people start prepping and planning as early as possible, even as soon as the beginning of the month. One of the biggest items on the list what can be prepared in advanced and how far in advance can it be prepared. Instead of relying on a last minute purchase of canned pumpkin, why not make it yourself this year?

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Homemade pumpkin puree is a seriously easy process that can be done well in advanced, and can get you more bang for your buck. I used Ree’s (aka The Pioneer Woman) instructions as a guide. First, buy yourself a sugar pumpkin. I got my medium sized pumpkin at my local farmer’s market for $2. Make sure it is a sugar pumpkin and not a pumpkin used for carving or decoration!

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Now that the pumpkin has been acquired, it’s time to get to work. Preheat your oven at 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside. Grab your cutting board and a large knife. If your pumpkin has a little dirt, you can wash it off but don’t worry too much about it because we’re going to peel it later anyway.

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Grab your knife and carefully slice the pumpkin into two halves. What I should’ve done here was cut the stem off, but I didn’t. You should cut the stem off first; it’ll make cutting it in two a lot easier. Now that your pumpkin is halved, use a large spoon to remove all the pumpkin guts and seeds. Save this stuff! We’re going to harvest the seeds to roast later.

At this point, your pumpkin should be rid of it’s innards. You can also cut the pumpkin into quarters for easier roasting (you may need another baking sheet, if you do). Put the pumpkin halves face down on the prepped sheet and bake in your preheated oven for 45 minutes to an hour. It’s done when a fork can easily slide into the pumpkin.

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While the pumpkin’s baking, sift through the guts for all the seeds! This is slightly tedious but pepitas are awesome, so get your hands dirty! After getting all the seeds, give them a rinse. Gently dry them with a paper towel before drizzling in a bit of olive oil, some salt and pepper. Spread your seeds out on a parchment lined baking sheet and pop them in the oven. I’d say give them about 10-12 minutes, but please watch them so they don’t burn! Once cooled, you should have a lovely, and delicious snack!

After checking your pumpkin for doneness (with the fork, remember?), remove from the oven and let cool.

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While that’s cooling, let’s talk pumpkin pie spice. A lot of people serve pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, deliciously so, and one of the main ingredients besides the pumpkin is it’s signature spice. This is the stuff that drives people nuts during the fall, mostly in those pumpkin spice latte things from coffee chains. What most don’t realize is that this signature spice mix is simply a combination of things you probably already have in your pantry! Instead of shelling out close to $8 for a tiny bottle, a quick Google search, led me to this recipe from Joy the Baker.

Pumpkin pie spice is basically a mix of cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, and ginger (and cardamom, if you got it). This is as easy as measuring out the spices, and mixing it in an empty spice jar. All you need is 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1/2 a teaspoon of each: ground cloves, ground allspice, and freshly grated nutmeg. Joy also adds a big pinch of cardamom (or mace), add it in if you have it. Pop all these in the empty spice jar and give it a healthy shake. Make sure all the spices are incorporated, and you’ve got pumpkin pie spice! So easy, and so affordable!

Now that we have pumpkin pie spice and pepitas, let’s get back to the pumpkin.  Grab your knife and cut your halves into quarters (if you haven’t already). Gently slide the knife under the pumpkin’s soft and tender skin. Cut your peeled pumpkin into chunks, and discard the skins.

And now, we puree. Place your chunks in the food processor and puree until the chunks resemble baby food. Periodically, scrape the sides down with a spatula. This may take several batches, depending on the size of your food processor. I have a mini prep, so mine took forever. When all of the chunks have been pureed, you’re done! Bask in the pumpkin-y glory you have now created! At this point, you can store it in jars, containers, tupperware, plastic bags, whatever you have that has a lid and can be frozen or refrigerated. This golden stuff should last a few weeks in the fridge, months if you freeze it. But we all know that if there’s pumpkin in the house, pumpkin things will be made! Just make sure to save some for your Thanksgiving pie!

Pumpkin Puree tutorial – slightly adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Pumpkin Pie Spice – adapted from Joy the Baker

Makes about 2 tablespoons

  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Directions:

  1. Blend all of the spices together, making sure to work through any lumps. Store in an old spice jar.