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Lunchbox cookies needn't be ho-hum

February 10, 2014

Oatrmeal toffe discs are the perfect cookies for every day, including the school lunchbox.

MINNEAPOLIS — During the taste test we conducted last October for our 11th annual holiday cookie contest, a theme seemed to reverberate among the 22 judges, and it went something like this: "I like it, but it’s not a Christmas cookie."

Other variations included "I’d bake these for the kids during the school year, although not in December," "These have ‘everyday cookie’ written all over them" and, most memorably, "Wouldn’t this be a great lunchbox cookie?"

That’s what can happen when 34 recipes are evaluated in a single seating. Some trends are bound to emerge from the pile.

One wrinkle that we’re revisiting — and enjoying — all these months later is the pleasure of a lower-profile cookie. Sure, it might not necessarily possess the flashy individuality required to make a favorable impression on a crowded holiday tray, yet it still manages to cover all the cookie bases — and then some — without resorting to Toll House familiarity.

The three recipes we have here go above and beyond that description. Along with their own specific levels of deliciousness, each cookie proves that there’s always more to discover in the world of chocolate chips, peanut butter, oatmeal, coconut and pecans. Oh, and because all three recipes are prepared using the drop formula, they’re relatively easy to make.

Go ahead, add a new cookie to your lunchbox repertoire. And thanks to bakers Theresa Neely of Maplewood, Linda Faust of Minneapolis and Mary Ellen Wingen of Owatonna, Minn., for giving all of us more reasons to bake — and snack — this winter. 

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PARADISE CRUNCH

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Note: From Theresa Neely of Maplewood, Minn. For years, Neely would bake Seven Layer Bars as a Christmas treat for her daughter, mailing them cross-country. "About five years ago, while attending a church picnic, I came across this cookie and fell in love with it," she wrote. "This cookie traveled very well and has now become her favorite cookie of the season."

1 ¼ c. flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. salt

½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ c. granulated sugar

½ c. brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 egg

2 c. Honey Bunches of Oats with Almonds cereal

1 c. semisweet chocolate chips

3 ½ oz. shredded coconut

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and reserve.

In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter for 1 minute. Add granulated sugar and brown sugar, and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add vanilla extract and egg, and mix until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in cereal, chocolate chips and coconut.

Using a teaspoon, drop dough 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake until lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

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PEANUT BUTTER CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES WITH GLAZED PEANUTS

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Note: From Mary Ellen Wingen of Owatonna, Minn. "I found the recipe in a Bon Appétit special holiday magazine in the (gulp!) early ‘90s," she wrote. "That’s the era when all things decadent were in vogue. The recipe has become a favorite in our family, in particular a fave of my husband, who typically doesn’t have a sweet tooth."

For glazed peanuts:

Vegetable oil for pan

½ c. sugar

¼ c. water

1 tbsp. light corn syrup

1 tbsp. butter

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 c. salted peanuts

For dough:

1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 c. firmly packed dark brown sugar

½ c. granulated sugar

1 ½ c. peanut butter

1 egg

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Pinch salt

1 ½ c. flour

2 c. semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

To prepare glazed peanuts: Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and brush lightly with vegetable oil.

In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine sugar, ¼ cup water and corn syrup, and cook, swirling pan occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high, bring mixture to a boil and cook until mixture turns amber, about 7 minutes after mixture comes to boil. Remove from heat and stir in butter, vanilla extract and peanuts. Working quickly, pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet and cool completely. Chop glazed peanuts into small pieces.

To prepare dough: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter for 1 minute. Add brown sugar and granulated sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add peanut butter and mix until thoroughly combined. Add egg, vanilla extract and salt and mix until thoroughly combined. Stir in flour, chocolate chips and peanuts (dough will be stiff). For each cookie, mound 3 tablespoons dough onto prepared baking sheet, then flatten, spacing cookies 1 inch apart. Bake until golden brown, about 17 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes before transferring cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

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OATMEAL TOFFEE DISCS

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Note: From Linda Faust of Minneapolis. "I have tried several of your recipes, but always seem to revert to my beloved traditional favorites," she wrote. "The Oatmeal Toffee Discs (pictured above) is an original with me."

2 ½ c. oatmeal, divided

1 ¼ c. whole wheat flour

1 ½ c. brown sugar

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 c. plus 2 tbsp. (2 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 tbsp. light corn syrup

1 egg

12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips

1 c. chopped pecans

8 oz. toffee bits

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine ½ cup oatmeal, flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt, process for 15 seconds and reserve.

In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter for 1 minute. Add vanilla extract, corn syrup and egg, and mix until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, a third at a time, mixing until just incorporated. Stir in remaining 2 cups oatmeal, chocolate chips, pecans and toffee bits.

Drop by rounded tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets, spacing cookies 3 inches apart (cookies will spread). Bake until cookies flatten and become brown and crisp, about 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from oven and cool cookies completely on baking sheets. 

 

 


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