Celebrating in SF – Giants Victory Parade and Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

Celebrating the Giants’ World Series Win in San Francisco

It was awesome living in the Bay Area this past week, with the Giants winning the World Series and the gorgeous weather. (Sorry, not trying to rub it in people’s faces or be insensitive, especially after Hurricane Sandy. My heart does go out to all the people affected by the natural disaster this past week.) Even though I’m not a huge baseball fan, I was excited to celebrate the Giants’ victory. So, I convinced two of my friends to skip school with me for a few hours to watch the victory parade last Wednesday. I figured it’d be ok to play hooky for a bit since it was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity, even though the Giants won the World Series two years ago. ­čśŤ

In the crowd of people trying to watch the parade

There were so many people celebrating at the parade. We got there about 30 minutes late and we were so far back in the crowd that we couldn’t see much, especially me (I was at least a foot too short). However, despite not being able to see much, I still had a great time. I love being around people who are excited and passionate about something. There’s something so exhilarating and addictive about their energy.┬áBut after a while, since we couldn’t see much, my friends and I resorted to taking pictures of ourselves at the parade.

Might as well take pictures of us since we can’t see the players

Unfortunately, I don’t own any Giants gear, so to be festive for the parade and Halloween, I painted my nails orange and black.

Black and orange

I also decided to bake some cookies for Halloween. I spent a while perusing Halloween desserts on Pinterest and foodgawker, but couldn’t find a recipe that was fairly quick and easy. So I decided to just make something seasonal instead: pumpkin oatmeal cookies with white chocolate chips and dried cranberries.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies with White Chocolate Chips and Dried Cranberries (aka the longest cookie name)

These cookies were pretty easy and straightforward to make. However, just to warn you, this recipe makes a ton of cookies. I baked four cookie sheets worth of cookies and some of them were pretty big cookies. Since I ended up with so many cookies, I took a third of them to a Halloween potluck and another third to my lab. I left the remaining third at home for my roommates, with a cute little note wishing them Happy Halloween. At each location, people gobbled up the cookies extremely fast – so fast that within an hour or two, they were completely gone.

I tried to draw a vampire, but obviously failed ­čśŤ

These cookies aren’t too sweet, even with the white chocolate and cranberries, which is refreshing compared to the sweet Halloween candy I’ve been eating lately. Unfortunately, the pumpkin is rather difficult to taste. I’d say these cookies taste more like spice cookies (with maybe a hint of pumpkin) than pumpkin cookies. Either way, they’re a perfect dessert to bring to an autumn party or just a sweet way to end dinner. These cookies will definitely get you in the mood for fall, if you aren’t already. And be warned, these cookies will be devoured extremely quickly.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies with White Chocolate Chips and Dried Cranberries
Adapted from My Baking Addiction and Annie’s Eats

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
┬ż tsp. ground ginger
┬╝ tsp. ground cloves
┬╝ tsp. grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter; softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup pure pumpkin puree
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
3. Beat butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until light and fluffy.
4. Add the pumpkin, egg and vanilla extract to the butter/sugar mixture and mix well.
5. Add the flour mixture and combine until all ingredients are incorporated.
6. Fold in the white chocolate chips and dried cranberries.
7. Drop 1-2 tablespoons of dough onto the prepared baking sheets.
8. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

In Search of the Perfect Cookie – Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Lately, I’ve been struggling with baking the perfect cookie, which in my opinion is a slightly chewy cookie that’s crispy on the edges. How could something so simple be so difficult to accomplish?

In my first attempt, I ended up with cakey cookies, probably because I tried to substitue butter with oil and applesauce and was too lazy to break out my hand mixer. ┬áAlthough they tasted good, they weren’t the right texture. I then realized that my laziness and attempts at being healthy weren’t going to get me what I really wanted.

Determined to bake the perfect cookie, I searched the internet for answers. My research taught me that the creaming the butter and the sugar was an essential part of cookie baking. Through creaming, pockets of air are created in the butter, which helps the cookies rise. Also, the type of fat (i.e. butter or shortening) is critical. Butter helps the cookies spread more since it has a lower melting temperature than shortening. Another important component is the type of sugar used. Apparently, using brown sugar results in more chewy cookies while white sugar results in more crispy cookies. Brown sugar retains more moisture during baking, which yields softer cookies. Furthermore, the amount of ingredients that hold moisture (eggs, flour, and sugar) affect the crispiness of the cookies. Who knew cookies were the perfect example of how much of a science baking is?

After educating myself in the ways of cookie baking, I decided to try again. Since I was adamant on baking the perfect cookie, I didn’t take any shortcuts. I used a whole stick of butter (which made me cringe a bit) and searched all over the kitchen for my misplaced hand mixer. I wasn’t going to let laziness be my downfall again. I carefully followed the recipe, making sure to cream the butter and sugar to the right consistency. I had diligently followed the recipe’s instructions to a T, until I realized there were no chocolate chips in the house! After fighting with myself on whether or not running to the nearest Safeway was worth it, I decided to make do with white chocolate chips I saw laying in the cabinet. After a bit more searching, I found macadamia nuts and voila, I had macgyver-ed my way out of a sticky situation… literally. So, after deciding to make white chocolate┬ámacadamia cookies instead, I finished making the batter and spooned out a sh*t load of cookies. Now came the hard part. Baking the cookies fully without burning them. For some reason, this is the part that always seems to trip me up whenever I bake. Ovens can be finicky and if you don’t watch them, they can ruin all of your hard work in a minute. The first batch turned out just fine, browned but not too much. Thinking I had gotten the hang of it, I mistakenly left the second batch in a little too long. Although they didn’t get burnt, they did brown a lot, so much that they looked like gingersnaps instead of white chocolate cookies. Despite their color, they tasted delicious. Much crispier than the first batch, which were chewier on the inside but still crunchy on the edges.

And with those cookies, I had finally accomplished baking the perfect cookie. However, I was still not completely satisfied. A few weeks ago, I came across a recipe for chocolate chip cookies using coconut oil. After finally buying a jar of coconut oil from Trader Joe’s, I knew I had to try to bake those cookies.

Again, I followed the recipe diligently (which is usually uncommon for me). Since I didn’t have any coconut extract, I left it out. And still wanting to be healthy, I reduced the sugar to only 1 cup and used white whole wheat flour instead. After learning my lesson from those brown, but not burnt cookies, I watched the oven carefully and took the cookies out once they were slightly brown (figuring they would brown some more once out of the oven due to heat conduction). These cookies weren’t nearly as chewy and didn’t spread as much, perhaps due to the coconut oil. They were still crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. The cookies had a slight coconut taste, but not too strong.

On my quest to bake the perfect cookie, I realized that cookies really aren’t as simple as I thought. Often I ignore cookies, having eaten so many in my life so far and being able to make them as a kid. However, cookies are just as difficult to perfect as any of those fancy French pastries or desserts. Along with my new appreciation for the cookie, I realized that you can’t use shortcuts to get what you really want and that failure is almost always inevitable, but it’s also what makes success as sweet as the perfect chocolate chip cookie.