Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Coconutty Cookies

Coconutty Cookies

A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law brought over these yummy coconut pecan cookies from HyVee.  I'm not normally one to eat store-bought cookies, but these were totally worth the calories.  They tasted simple enough--regular tollhouse cookie dough with coconut and pecans instead of chocolate chips.
I finally took the time and bought the ingredients and made my own version.  I decided to take them one or two steps further and added almonds and macadamia nuts as well.  Why not?
I kept adding coconut and nuts as I went along, so the measurements below are approximate.  If you don't like one or more of the nuts involved, feel free to substitute.  They're your cookies, after all, and you're the one who will be eating them.

Coconutty Cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup Crisco
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour 
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 3/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts
  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.  Cream butter, shortening and sugars.  Beat in baking soda and salt.  Beat in vanilla extract and eggs.  
3.  Mix in flour just until blended.  Then stir in coconut and nuts.
4.  Scoop by tablespoons onto parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving two inches between cookies.  (If you want a flatter cookie, like the one in the bottom pic, flatten the tops of the dough balls so you have a dough disk that's about a half-inch thick.)
5.  Bake at 350 for 8-9 minutes, or until cookies are puffed and start to brown around the edges.
6.  Allow to cool on pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: I like to keep my cookie dough in the fridge, or make and freeze dough balls.  If you do that with these, be sure to flatten slightly before baking.  When I just popped them in the oven after having been frozen, they didn't spread enough, and I was left with cookie balls, rather than regular cookies.  They tasted okay, but not as good as they did when they were flat.

Makes about 4 dozen 3-inch diameter cookies, I think.

These cookies were flattened slightly before baking.
Coconutty Cookies on Stripes

Monday, September 13, 2010

Pecan Sticky Buns

Pecan Sticky Bun closeup (Not the best pic in the world.  
Think I'll have to make them again for another photo shoot.)

I've made more sticky buns in the last five years than I care to even count.  They do remain, though, one of the few forms of cinnamon rolls I can still eat more than one bite of.  It's probably the pecans--their toasty, crunchy texture along with their buttery nutty flavor.  Mmmmm...  I just don't know HOW I have NOT won the sticky bun competition yet at the Iowa State Fair.  I've chalked it up to the competition being mostly based on luck, assuming  your bun tastes good at all.  I mean, it's hard to make something with bread dough, butter, brown sugar, and pecans that doesn't taste good.  You just have to get the right judge at the right time.  I mean that I need to get the right judge.  I will continue to enter the competition because I'm going there anyway to enter the non-traditional class, where I seem to have more luck.  I look at entering the classic cinnamon roll and sticky bun classes as buying a lottery ticket.  If I enter, at least I have a little bit of a chance of winning.
Here's my latest version of a pecan sticky bun.  I might try fewer nuts next year because the winners I've seen have fewer nuts.  Why do I do this?  I know it's a crap shoot.

Pecan Sticky Buns


  • ½ cup milk (2%)
  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4-4 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface


  • 4 T unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • ½  T Vietnamese cinnamon

  • ½ T ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Sticky Nutty Stuff

  • ¾ cup butter
  • 1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

  • 1/3 cup water
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 2 cups chopped pecans, lightly toasted
1.  Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave until butter melts.  Remove pan from heat and set aside until the mixture is lukewarm (about 100 degrees).

2.  In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle, mix together the warm water, yeast, sugar, egg, and yolks at low speed until well mixed.  Add the salt, warm milk mixture, & 2 cups of the flour, and mix at medium speed until thoroughly blended, about 1 minute.  Switch to the dough hook, add another 2 cups of the flour, and knead at medium speed (adding ¼ cup more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, if necessary) until the dough is smooth, about 10 minutes.  Scrape the dough into a large lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat, then cover bowl with plastic wrap.  Leave in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk (1 ½ to 2 hours).

3. Butter a metal 9 x 13-inch cake pan.  Set aside. 

4. Before forming the rolls, prepare the sticky stuff as follows:  In a medium saucepan, melt ¾ cup butter over medium heat.  Whisk in the brown sugar and cook, stirring, to combine.  Remove from heat and whisk in the maple syrup, cream, water, and salt.  Let cool until it’s at room temperature (about 30 minutes).

5.  When cool, pour about 2 cups of the sticky stuff in the bottom of the prepared pan.  Sprinkle the chopped nuts over the sticky stuff.

6.  Preheat oven to 350°F.

7. After dough has doubled, turn dough onto a floured working surface.  Using a rolling pin, shape the dough into a 16 x 12 inch rectangle, with a long side facing you.  Mix together the brown sugar, the cinnamons and the salt, in a small bowl.  Evenly spread the 4 T softened butter over the surface of the dough.  Pour brown sugar mixture over the dough and spread with a fork or your fingers evenly over the surface of the dough, leaving a ½-inch border at the far edge.  Begin rolling with the short edge closest to you, pinching the dough with your fingertips as you roll, to make the roll tight.  Moisten the top border with water and seal the roll.  Press and gently squeeze the roll to make a uniform 16-inch cylinder.  Trim off ends and cut into 6 equal pieces.  Place on top of sticky nutty stuff.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

8.  When the rolls have fully risen, put in the preheated oven and bake at 350°F until rolls are deep golden brown and an instant read thermometer inserted into the center of a roll reads 185-190°F, about 25-30 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes.  Invert the rolls onto a cookie sheet.  Redistribute sticky nutty stuff if needed.
Makes 6 large rolls

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Refrigerator Biscuit Donuts

Refrigerator Biscuit Donuts

This is probably the most delicious thing one can do with a canned refrigerator biscuit.  Punch a hole in it, fry it, and roll it in cinnamon sugar.  These are best eaten warm, but will still make you smile a couple of hours later, if there are any left.
Be sure to have everything ready before you heat up the oil because these babies fry up pretty fast.  If you find they're browning too quickly, either remove the pan from the heat for a few minutes, or add some more oil to cool it down and then turn the heat down as well.  Veteran fryers should have no problem; beginning fryers, you might want to make sure you have at least two cans of biscuits in case the first can turn a dark, inedible mahogany color.

Refrigerator Biscuit Donuts

  • 1 can homestyle or buttermilk biscuits (the cheaper the better)
  • 1 1/2 inches canola oil in a high-rimmed frying pan or medium sized pot
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • frying pan
  • tongs, preferably two
  • paper towels
  • plate
  • large brown paper bag OR pie pan for cinnamon sugar

Put 2-3 paper towels on plate.
Put cinnamon and sugar in large paper bag or mix in a pie plate.
Heat oil to a good frying temp...375 degrees?  I never check the temp with a thermometer.  Just get it pretty hot over medium heat.
While oil heats, open biscuits.  Take each one and with your fingers, stretch a large hole in the center.  When oil is hot, fry about 3 at a time, turning after the bottom is a deep golden brown.  Fry on second side until the whole thing is a deep golden brown.
Remove each donut with tongs and toss in cinnamon sugar.  Use another pair of tongs or a fork to move them to the paper-towel lined plate.
Continue frying until they're all fried.  Remember to turn the heat off when you're done.
Makes 10 small donuts.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Honeycrisp Apples!

Honeycrisp Apple

Oh my goodness.  I don't even know where to really start with how special these apples are.    They're actually a relatively new breed of apple; they come to us from the University of Minnesota.  According to Wikipedia this breed (originally named MN 1711 in 1974 and released in 1991 as the Honeycrisp) was slated to be discarded!  I just can't imagine this because the Honeycrisp apple to me, and to my son Max, is THE perfect apple: always crisp, with a perfect balance of sweetness, tartness, and pure apple flavor.  The flavor actually reminds me of the apple flavor of the apple Jolly Rancher candy.  How can you go wrong with THAT?
The Honeycrisp season has lasted longer each year since I first discovered it shortly after moving to Iowa.  It used to only be available from September through November; now I can buy them almost through January, when I have to return to the Pink Lady apples or Jazz apples to satisfy Max's picky palate.  
I have to warn you, though, if you've never bought one before, be prepared for what seems to be a ridiculous price: usually around $2.99/pound.  Also, since the seem to be more widely grown these days, you have to be careful about the quality.  I suggest taking note of the brand name on the apple sticker and only buying one if you've never tried that brand before.  If you find that brand to be delicious, you know if they're worth spending the extra money on.  For those in the Des Moines area, the brand with the little brown bear logo is always good, and I find those at HyVee usually.  The price can go down to $0.99/pound on sale, which is when I stock up on them, and they last a long time in the crisper drawer of my fridge.
If your store does not carry Honeycrisp apples, I suggest having a chat with the store manager, or taking your shopping list elsewhere, because these little gems are soooo worth it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Oatmeal Cake

Barb Drustrup's Oatmeal Cake

Barb Drustrup is a wonderful woman whom I had the pleasure of working with for four years at Clive Elementary school. Unfortunately, she retired at the end of the 2009-2010 school year. I miss her cheery hellos and her observations about people and things. Barb headed up the United Way fundraising drive and each year she made us a yummy meal to thank us for our contributions. Last year she outdid herself with her fabulous vegetable soup, spice cookies w/ pumpkin dip, and this scrumptious oatmeal cake. It's the coconut pecan frosting broiled on top that makes it so, so yummy...
I cut the sugar slightly in this recipe...since I was making it for breakfast. : ) Originally the recipe called for 1 cup each of white and brown sugar, and I reduced that to 3/4 cup of each, which ended up being plenty. If you want to feel like you're being even healthier, you can replace some of the AP flour with whole wheat flour. I've tried 1/2 cup and 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour, and I think 1/2 cup is probably as far as I'd like to go. At any rate, with all that butter and sugar it'll taste good no matter what.

Update: This Oatmeal cake has become a favorite with my family and my husband's extended family. The name of the cake does not do it justice. If you're even the slightest bit interested in trying this recipe, just go for it. You won't be disappointed.

Oatmeal Cake


  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup margarine or butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter (I think melting the butter would work best)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Boil water and then add oatmeal. Remove from heat and let oatmeal sit for 20 minutes.
  • Cream margarine or butter, brown sugar and white sugar; add eggs and oatmeal mixture.
  • Sift dry ingredients and mix into wet ingredients.
  • Spread into a buttered 9 x 13 inch baking pan.
  • Bake at 350 for 35 minutes.
  • Mix frosting ingredients, put on cake, and then put under the broiler until lightly browned. BE SURE TO WATCH IT!
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool just about completely before attempting to cut and eat.

Makes one 9 x 13 inch single layer cake--about 12 servings

A piece of Oatmeal Cake. Yum-O.

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