Sunday, May 25, 2008

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Spiced Pecan Cookies

Don't you love it when you can take an already good recipe and just kick it up a notch?

Today I had a dilemma... yesterday my friend JB came over to eat ribs with us and he brought spiced pecans with him -- thickly coated with a sweet sugary/buttery mix liberally spiced with cinnamon and just a hint of cayenne. Yum. When he left though, he left the pecans here. Now, the pecans were very good just for munching, but Chris and I try to keep the mindless snacking to a minimum and spiced pecans are just too tempting to leave laying around our house. Throwing them out was out of the question but that meant I needed to find a way to use them.

Chris suggested brownies, but I was afraid that the chocolate would overpower the spice of the pecans. I thought about blondies as a substitute, but didn't want the pecans to get lost in too many other flavors, or lost in a big pan. I figured cookies would be the way to go, and the Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies in the Carole Walter's Cookie book was pretty much my version of the perfect chocolate chip cookie to begin with. Chewy from the oatmeal, crunchy from walnuts and of course lots of chocolate chips. The first time I baked them they were big and soft with slightly crispy, crunchy edges -- perfect.

I thought they would make a perfect vehicle for spiced pecans and I was right. At first, I just threw in the 2 cups of nuts that the recipe called for. I baked about a dozen of the cookies which turned out good, but I questioned the spiced pecan's contribution to the flavor. Sure you could taste the pecans and the spice, but it was subtle and stayed in the background. So I decided to throw the rest of the pecans (another 3/4 of a cup or so) into the last of the cookie dough in the bowl -- creating uber pecan/chocolate chip cookies out of the last 10 cookies. The first set were good, but the cookies with the additional pecans blew them out of the water. In some places the pecan coating melted a bit from the heat of the oven, creating a spicy, candy-like coating on sections of the cookies. And of course all the pecans created lots and lots of crunch, and with that crunch plenty of spicy flavor.

The recipe is good with just regular old nuts in it -- but if you happen to have some sort of spiced nuts sitting around, I highly recommend using those instead.

3/4 cup lightly packed fresh dark brown sugar
2 1/2 cups old fashioned oatmeal, divided
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (If you don't have any on hand, simply mix 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar with two teaspoons of water.
1 large egg
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts

-Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter or spray cookie sheets.

-Place brown sugar, 1/2 cup of the oatmeal, and granulated sugar in a food processor and process for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes until the oatmeal is powdery.

-In a medium bowl, strain together flour, salt, and baking soda. Stir in remaining oatmeal and set aside.

-Mix together butter with corn syrup until smooth and lightened in color. Add oatmeal-sugar mixture in three additions, mixing well after each. Add the egg and the vanilla and mix well, then incorporate the rest of the dry ingredients in three additions, slowly mixing until just blended. Using a rubber spatula, fold in chocolate chips and walnuts.

-Drop golf-ball sized amounts of dough (about 1 tablespoon each) onto the sheets, about three inches apart. If dough feels crumbly toward bottom of bowl, simply shape balls with your fingers.

-Bake 10 to 12 minutes until the edges just begin to turn a golden brown. Do not overbake.

-Remove cookies and let stand for two minutes before transferring to cooling racks.

-These cookies have a long shelf life and travel well.


burkie said...

i love it when my evil plans come to fruition :)
and if ya wanna make your own (i hope this will work in a comment; if it looks too ugly, just delete it):
Spiced Pecans (from Food & Wine)

1 c. pecan halves
1 Tblsp. + 1 tsp. water
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cream of tartar
pinch (to taste) cayenne pepper

preheat oven to 375. spread pecans on a baking sheet and toast 4-5 minutes; pour into greased pie plate. in small saucepan, mix the remaining ingredients and cook undisturbed over moderate heat until the syrup reaches the soft-ball stage, about 5 minutes. immediately stir the syrup into the pecan and continue to gently fold and stir until the syrup stars to crystallize and the nuts are thoroughly coated. separate any nuts that clumped together (i do that in my mouth, but that's just me).

bjs said...

these were terrific... almost just quite maybe the perfect cookie. very much worth pausing from the diet (such as it is) to indulge in...

burkie said...

these cookies were da bomb! jb & maddog makin' foodie magic :)