100% Whole Wheat Oatmeal Cookies (Master Recipe)

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I planned on posting the second installment of my short story exercise. I even had the post all ready to go. After reading it through, which I hadn’t done in a while, I realized how violent the story was. I don’t necessarily think it’s bad, it just doesn’t really reflect what I enjoy writing or reading these days.  I also worry that some of you who read this might read it just because you know me, and I don’t want to subject anyone to something that makes them feel uncomfortable. I’m still planning on posting story #3, but in the mean time I thought we could all get behind cookies.

There are thousands of recipes for drop cookies out there. Most of them are blessed by being delicious and simple to make. At the end of the day though, you only ever really need one or two. This recipe is meant to be a base for a great oatmeal cookie, into which you can add any of the nuts, chunks, chips or fruit you may want. What makes them even better is that they are 100% whole wheat.

The Recipe:

½ Cups Butter
½ Cups Shortening
213g Brown Sugar
67g Sugar
2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract
¾ Teaspoon Salt
14g Cider Vinegar
1 Egg
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
198g White Whole Wheat Flour
85g Quick Cooking Oats
350-500g Nuts, Chunks, Chips, or, Fruit

 

The Process:

This really is a dump-it-in-and-go recipe. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Blend together the butter, shortening, sugars, vanilla, salt, and vinegar until it is nice and creamy.

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“Now wait”, you say. “Vinegar in cookies?”

Yes indeed. It reacts with the baking soda and gives these whole wheat cookies a nice lightness. I also think it tempers the sweetness of the sugar.

Do it!

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Back on track.

Blend in the egg and baking soda then add the flour and the oats. If you only have old fashioned oats you can smash them in a food processor. That’s what I did. Using the old fashioned oats straight will give you a cookie that spreads more.

Now throw in your chosen add-ins. I went with chocolate chips, walnuts, and crisped rice. I’m serious, you can’t go wrong here.

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This is the part where I might do it differently next time. I scooped my cookies right away, and on a warm evening the dough was VERY soft. Putting the dough in the fridge for half and hour would make for chewier cookies that don’t spread quite as much.

So…

Now, or in half an hour, scoop the dough onto a parchment lined cookie sheet. I went with the tablespoon sized scoop. Bigger or smaller works fine. Just adjust the baking time.

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Bake at 350 degrees until brown around the edges and still soft in the middle. Mine took 10 minutes in my oven. The batch made about four dozen.

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Let them cool for a nanosecond and eat, eat, EAT.

Learning with Words

A Twitter conversation I had the other day with Ann Leckie (@ann_leckie)  and Bee Sriduangkaew (@bees_ja) got me thinking. We were discussing the merits of writing short stories and how some writers seem to treat them as a training ground for writing novels. The problem with that, is many of the authors trying to write short fiction to break out in publication, don’t actually read short stories.

I mentioned that I used short stories as a training ground for my novel writing, but without any real hopes of making money from them. They taught me things about story mechanics and dialogue that could be condensed and critiqued without slamming out a whole novel.

I decided that the best thing I could do with these quirky tales, is to share them here. I’m probably not the right person to judge, but I think they all have a few things that might make them tough to sell. I think they’re fun though, and I hope you do too.

So here goes, story 1 of 3. I guess you could call it fantasy humor, or just weird.

 

A Guy in My Yard

I stood in front of my kitchen sink, eating Cheese Whiz with a spoon from the jar, trying to pretend I hadn’t sunk so low.

The supreme being of the universe sat in my backyard. Of course I didn’t know it at the time. To me he looked like a teenager with a missed-a-spot mustache and floppy sneakers.

I looked at the calendar on my fridge. November 28th. I assumed it was another Movember experiment gone bad.

He was lounging on my plastic Adirondack chair, sipping a bottle of Dr. Pepper. Half vodka I assumed.

I stepped onto the back porch. “Who are you and what in tarnation are you doing in my yard?”

“I’ve had it.,” he replied. “It’s 2014 and the Earth has really gone for a nose dive. There’s war and melting ice caps and I’ve got a bit of popcorn stuck in my teeth.” He sounded pouty, petulant, and obviously deranged.

Okay, I thought, maybe more than vodka in the Dr. Pepper. “I’m calling the cops.”

“Just wait one minute, Peppy.” He waggled a finger at me.

“Peppy?”

“I’m the supreme being of the universe. I could blink you out of existence with a sneeze.”

I shook my head. Kids these days. “Definitely calling the cops now.” I reached for my cell phone.

“Don’t believe me, eh?” He pressed his finger to the inside of his mouth and made that popping sound babies really like.

The whole earth shook like someone had reached out and slapped it’s rump. Inside the house my collection of ceramic pig figurines crashed to the floor.

“See,” he said as I tried to pry myself up off the deck. “That was a victory for good taste too. Seriously? Pig figurines?”

Damn, this guy seemed like the real deal. How long had it been since I’d said confession. Damn. I’d never said confession.

“So I think I’ve decided that this planet has to go.” He raised his hand and it looked like he was just about to snap his fingers.

“Wait!” I cried. “What about all the people? You can’t snuff out a whole planet.”

“You mean the same people who canceled Firefly?”

I stared at him while my brain jogged to catch up. I thought he was going to need to be convinced of the inherent goodness of mankind. I was going to need a different approach. “They made Serenity.”

“Not the same.”

“What about music? The world is filled with beautiful music. Bach…Chopin… that other guy with the hair?”

“Yeah,” he shrugged. “Obviously you care as much about classical music as I do.”

I was desperate. “Beyonce?”

His face reddened. “Okay, yeah, sure. But Bieber?”

Destruction seemed imminent. “Wait! What about all the innocent little critters? Bambi and Thumper?”

“I got stung by a wasp the other day. I still have a welt.” He pushed up the sleeve of his hoody and showed me a little red bump on his forearm.

It was looking bad. I grabbed my cell phone and got onto the AWW sub-reddit.

“Don’t do it. Don’t you dare,” he shouted.

I punched in “Shar-Pei puppies” and swung the screen around so he could see it.

“Nooooo.” He tried, not very hard, to cover his eyes. Finally, he shifted in his seat and took another swig of his soda. It was a sign that he wasn’t convinced but was willing to give me another shot.

“Literature?”I asked. “Twain, Longfellow, Kerouac?”

“Pompous, pompous, baked.”

I was seeing a real pattern form. “Twilight?”

He tried to remain expressionless but I could see him struggling.

“Team Edward or team Jacob?” I asked.

His facade cracked. “That flea infested hound doesn’t hold a candle to my alabaster skinned beefcake.”

I was starting to get under his skin. “Marvel movies?”

“Well sure but…”

“Halo?”

“I could totally pwn you. Ummm, no wait.”

“Cool Ranch Doritos?”

“Okay, but…”

“Dr. Who?”

“They got rid of David Tennant.” He gripped his Dr. Pepper so hard it started to froth up.

“Sean Connery as Bond?”

“Stop it.” He began to rise from the chair. “One more word and I’ll vaporize you with my pinky finger.” His words were harsh but he’d slipped into a bad Scottish brogue.

I weighed my options. It seemed likely that he would incinerate the planet no matter what I did. I closed my eyes, gritted my teeth, and waited for the end to come.

“Friends?” I said from between tight lips.

“Oh fine!” There was a loud thunderclap and a faint whiff of sulfur.

He was gone when I opened my eyes and an empty bottle of Dr. Pepper lay in the grass.

I never did find out if I’d convinced him of the enduring power of friendship or if he just couldn’t live without Rachel and Chandler.

 

 

Old Fashioned Sour Cream Doughnuts

Because my wife is awesome and you should all be jealous, I present you with this photo:

Doughnuts

 

The recipe came from this blog and they were amazing. The really great (and scary) part of these babies, is that they’re just leavened with baking powder. There aren’t any long rise times to keep you from the fried dough awesomeness.  The doughnut front and center is one that we altered by throwing some cinnamon into the glaze, perfect for a chilly fall day.

Cold Water and Hot Fires

I was nominated to take the Ice Bucket Challenge the other day by my brother. I was glad to be chosen because it solidified some thoughts that had been bouncing around in my head since this whole thing got started. Pull up a chair because this might be a bit of a longish post.

 

First of all, for all the people who call the ALS challenge a form of slacktivism, it’s just not true. This movement has raised about 70 million dollars. The data doesn’t match your argument. Why is it then that I found myself slightly troubled?

 

I’m ashamed to say it took a Facebook post by  someone famous to put it all together for me. It will probably be easier if you all just check out the post by Mike Rowe on the subject: https://www.facebook.com/TheRealMikeRowe/photos/a.151342491542569.29994.116999698310182/848469731829838/?type=1&theater

 

Reading his take made it click somewhere in the scary recesses of my head. We don’t need to jump on a social media bandwagon once every five years and donate all of our charitable givings to one place. We need to be more generous as a nation, as a people.

 

Those who know me well, know that I’m not afraid of a bit of cold water. Heck, maybe one day when I’m feeling frisky I’ll do the whole ice bucket thing just for giggles. Right now I’m going to put away the camera and try to find somewhere where the plight is immediate and the whole country isn’t already looking.

 

I was conflicted at first. Where should I donate? I thought of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation http://jdrf.org/ which supports a cause that is near and dear to me. Then I remembered a something I saw recently and my mind was made up.

 

Here is my PSA: People! Detroit is burning. All over this troubled city, the fires are raging. The firemen there do the best they can to put them out, but they are undermanned and completely overextended. Their equipment is in tatters and there isn’t the money in their budget to replace it. I am going to pledge my dollars to helping these brave men and women save lives. You can too right here: http://www.detroitpublicsafetyfoundation.org/donate/


So this whole rant hasn’t been in opposition to ALS or the amazing achievement of the Ice Bucket Challenge. It’s in favor of charity as a general principle. So go ahead, if you decide to donate to a good cause you can go ahead and take a video of ice being dumped on your head, or of you making love to a grizzly bear with a check clenched in your hands (the scratches are murder), but let’s spread the joy around. Find a cause that is important to you and make a donation, volunteer your time at a nonprofit, or just give a granola bar to someone you see on the subway who seems like they don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

On Strategies and Goals

I’ve always thought that the best way to make something happen is to write it down. There’s something about that piece of paper or words tapped out on the screen that call back to you when your resolve softens.

After a busy early summer and a bit of a break from writing, I’m back on track and working on a second novel. While I’m at it, I’m also looking at other areas I could improve.

The first goal is simple and I’m starting right now. I would like to give this blog more love. It can be hard when I spend a lot of time writing fictional words to devote time here, but really a bit less time on Absolute Write and Twitter is all it will take.

Which brings us straight to time. I want to carve out more time for the creative and productive parts of my life. With  the Little Bear around, there’s not much chance of actually spending more time, but rather using the time I have more effectively. With that in mind, I plan on enforcing an internet self ban. I want to  only use the internet on Sundays apart from the odd email check and replying to comments here on the blog.

My hope is to post on the blog here at least once a week.

The last two are the hardest goals to achieve. I would like to write 5000 words of fiction a week, and draft and polish a short story once a month. Not only would this keep my novel chugging along, but if I could get my fiction into some of the SFF (science fiction/fantasy) markets, it would be great for getting my name out there.

By many writer’s standards these aren’t the most lofty goals. 1000 words a day during the week, bonus if something gets done on the weekend.  I feel like keeping them achievable will help them seem less daunting and hopefully hold me through the long haul.

How about you? I know I don’t have very many readers, but I would love to hear your goals, whether they have to do with writing or not.

No? Then I’ll hopefully see you in a week from now.

Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal Bread

I know that I usually post pictures of the things that I bake. This time the only pictures would be crumbs. My father-in-law and I made this bread over the weekend and it disappeared like we were a pack of gluten-hungry wolverines. It is based on Jeffrey Hammelman’s bread of the same name, though we made a few tweaks.

I promised my father-in-law that I would print up our process and email it to him. I decided to post it here and kill two birds with one stone (why do those birds always get the shaft?).

Makes 3 loaves

340g Raisins
150g Rolled Oats
567g Warm Water
680g AP Flour
230g Whole Wheat Flour
12g Cinnamon
20g Salt
10g Instant Yeast
68g Honey
68g Vegetable Oil
100g Milk

 

First, soak the raisins in warm water for 30 min. This water will be drained off so the amount doesn’t matter. Next, in a large bowl soak the oats in the 567g warm water and let sit for 30 min.

While the raisins and oats are soaking, mix the flours, salt, cinnamon, and yeast in a medium bowl.

Once the oats are done soaking, add the dry ingredients to them in the large bowl. Add the honey, oil, and milk.

Mix together until you have a shaggy dough. Turn it out onto the counter and knead for five minutes.

Drain the raisins and gradually work them into the dough. This can be a bit tricky as the dough might not want to stay together. Keep at it.

Allow to rise for an hour. I like to rise all my breads in my oven. I put a milk jug filled with hot water in there and it tends to stay between 78-83 degrees for hours. This probably isn’t necessary with instant yeast, but for sourdough it is vital.

After an hour, pull out your dough and give it a few firm folds on the counter to press out some of the gas. Put it back in the bowl and let it rise for another hour.

The dough should be doubled by now, especially if you controlled the temperature. If not, leave it for a while longer.

Divide the dough into three loaves. Shape and place them into greased loaf pans. Brush the tops of the loaves with water and sprinkle on some loaves. This step is pretty but optional. Cover the loaves with plastic wrap and rise for another 90 min.

15 min before baking, remove the plastic wrap and preheat your oven  to 450 degrees.

Load the oven with the loaves side by side. Bake for five minutes and then turn the oven down to 375. Bake for 20 min, turn the loaves 180 degrees and bake another 15-20 min.

Cool and enjoy. This bread is great with peanut butter, or toasted with butter and cinnamon sugar.

Tartine Pizza

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Pizza is a staple food in our household – nothing special, just a weeknight meal. As you know, I’ve been working on bread lately, the quality of which has improved in leaps and bounds.

Just the other day, I tried to make pizza with my Tartine style dough. It was a revelation. Puffy, crisp, chewy crust, filled with large irregular holes and a new subtle depth of flavor. I’m thoroughly converted.

It’s not like we were slouches before. With all the time my wife and I spent in Italy, we picked up some decent skills, and an admittedly snobbish view towards great pizza. We have a pizza stone, two peels, and a bunch of other geekery in the kitchen. At the end of the day though, it really comes down to the dough.

I’m not going to go into the whole process just now. I’m still planning on detailing my whole bread process someday soon, but I don’t have the time tonight. I will say though, I think that a big part of the success was abandoning the rolling pin. Stretching the sticky dough by hand conserved the pockets of gas that were trapped during the long bulk rise. I’m still a long way away from tossing dough over my head, but by gently passing it over the back of my hands, I got a nice round pizza with a well defined crust.

As for toppings, we swerved away from our usual classic Italian combos like Margherita, and went for nostalgic ham, green pepper, and fresh pineapple.

Buon Appetito!

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