It’s hard to maintain much of a focus these days and it’s hard to conjure what life will be like once this giant pause is over. But what is not hard right now is baking.
During this extended pandemic, baking seems like one of the few “normal” things to do, doesn’t it? We all need something sweet to pull us through this insanity. Over the last six or seven weeks, I have been a baking fool–using sugar, which is totally new for me, though in limited amounts.
Thankfully, we are all slowing down and cooking more. And it’s inspiring to see major news media outlets like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal reference things I have always been doing. For instance, I was making banana bread long before the Wall Street Journal announced its “it” status. Lasagna was in my oven prior to when Samin Nosrat’s article encouraged everyone to make it during the pandemic.
And, thanks to my grandmother’s teachings, I have been saving veggie scraps, shrimp shells and parmesan rinds decades ahead of Tamar Adler’s 2012 cookbook, An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace.
Bake the World a Better Place
Though we are all managing the best we can, baking is a time-honored tradition that is grounding and makes both the bakers and the eaters happy. Cakes, pies, cookies, brownies, blondies–whatever it is you crave, make it and eat it. If there was ever a perfect time for sweets, now is the moment. And we can do so without guilt or compromising our standards.
If, however, you prefer the savory side of baking, you may be out of luck. It seems everyone in the world is stocking up on flour and yeast and making lots of bread. Sourdough starters are the rage as people are turning out incredibly gorgeous loaves during the quarantine and showing them off on Instagram. I did that back in 2007, when I retired and took the year off. I had a sourdough starter that dated back to the 1970s. Every week, I made several loaves of bread and kept a bread journal and practiced yoga. Lots and lots of yoga. It was a splendid year that changed my life and seemingly prepared me for the isolation of 2020.
A Mother’s Day to Remember
Fast forward to today and I am baking my anxiety, fears, boredom and frustration away. No, I am not going crazy with flour, butter and sugar, but the sweet treat that has my heart right now lies somewhere between totally healthy and absolutely incredible and that’s just what we need during these times.
Not too decadent but not boring. Minimal sugar and maximum flavor. Lots of texture and ample nutrients.
Though this cookie does call for specific ingredients, it’s giving enough so you can use whatever nuts, seeds and dried fruits you have in the pantry. No chocolate chips in the cupboard? Try white chocolate chips for a nice change. And by toasting the oats prior to baking, the cookies are hearty and wholesome enough to become a healthy snack you can feel good about, a hiking treat or a quick breakfast.
Yes, these trail mix cookies are the bomb and a perfect homemade gift for every amazing mother you know and love. Crispy, crunchy, chewy, chocolatey, fruity and nutty. I added unsweetened, shredded coconut for extra heft and, if you have some in the larder, I highly recommend you do the same.
If you gift these cookies, be sure to include the recipe, and I promise this will be the one Mother’s Day gift your mother (aunt, grandmother, neighbor, friend) talks about for years to come. Call them quarantine cookies, kitchen sink cookies, oatmeal plus cookies or trail mix cookies. Whatever you call them, they won’t last long and that’s the best gift ever.
Happy Mother’s Day and buen provecho!
Trail Mix Cookies
This cookie calls for everything and lacks nothing. Crispy, chewy, crunchy, chocolatey, fruity and nutty. It requires two bowls and a few minutes of time to throw it all together. The batter will be thick and it's best when you let it meld in the fridge for a few hours or overnight before baking. Store any uneaten cookies in a plastic bag or cookie jar for up to 3 days. Otherwise, toss them in the freezer for those moments when nothing but a crispy, chewy, good and good for you cookie will do.
Ingredients to Toast
- 1 cup assorted raw nuts I have used various combos of walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts and pistachios
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted I used vegan Miyokos butter
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons organic cane sugar or granulated sugar
- 1 large pastured egg
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla or vanilla bean paste
- 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Seeds, Dried Fruit and Chocolate
- 1/2 cup mixed seeds I used hemp, pumpkin and black sesame seeds
- 3/4 cup dried fruit, chopped if needed I used cranberries but cherries or apricots would be equally good
- 1/4 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut optional, but highly recommended
- 3/4 cup bittersweet, dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips I used Enjoy Life brand, which are dairy-free
- 1/2 cup all-purpose, gluten-free or oat flour I used gluten-free flour
- Flaky sea salt for garnish, optional
Place racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
Place nuts and oats on a rimmed baking sheet and put in the oven, tossing once, until golden brown, about 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and allow to cool completely.
In a small jar, add the butter and melt it in the microwave. Add the brown sugar and granulated sugar and stir until the sugar melts.
In a medium bowl, mix egg, vanilla, salt and baking soda. Then, when the butter-sugar mixture has cooled slightly, add this to the egg mixture and stir well to incorporate.
When nuts are cool, add seeds, dried fruit and chocolate to the nut mixture and toss to combine.
Give the egg and sugar mixture another good stir and add the flour. Stir until combined to make a caramel-like mixture.
Add the nut mixture to the batter and stir completely so all of the ingredients are evenly coated with the batter. It will look like there are way too many mix-ins, but the dough will meld and melt together as it sits in the fridge.
Cover and chill at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
When ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On two baking sheets, place parchment paper or a Silpat. Using an ice cream scoop, portion the dough into about 12-14 cookies. Press the cookies with your hands so they become 2 1/2"-diameter disks and about 3/4" thick. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt, if using.
Bake the cookies and rotate the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway during the cooking process. Bake about 11-13 minutes, until golden brown and no longer wet-looking. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet.
Preserve any leftover cookies in a bag at room temperature for up to 3 days or store in the freezer.