Sometimes I feel a lot like leftover ingredients. You buy a bunch of stuff for a specific recipe you really want – but then you may be left with ingredients. You make something out of what’s left because you don’t want to waste it. It’s in your face, in your fridge or cupboard – but you don’t want the ingredients and don’t really want whatever it is you will make out of those leftovers. Whatever it is will suffice, but it’s not the plan, not the dreamt of piece.
Today someone I don’t even know mentioned something to me about how he likes me, and then said, “Can you imagine being your real self and still be loved and appreciated?” It’s a good and fair question. It sounds a bit self-pitying, but I can’t actually imagine that. I am always and immediately skeptical, and I suppose this stops the sense or belief that it is possible to be appreciated simply for being who I am in any given moment – in the now. For a bunch of different reasons, I imagine people “like” me for some other reason – not me. This is how I am like a leftover. Someone might turn to me (i.e. “like” me) in the absence of someone or something else that was the first choice. I have a complex about being the “side dish” or “consolation prize”. Who really knows me anyway? Anymore, probably not many – because why should I let them? It is a self-defeating catch-22.
This was not my point, though. The point is that leftover ingredients have led me to bake one of my traditional, original recipe pumpkin pies. I have a big container of cream, loads and loads of brown sugar, tons of eggs… so pumpkin pie seemed like a delicious plan.
The funny thing is that I used too much jam this time so some of the middle bars got sticky and gooey – not the nice crispish crust these bar cookies should have. But it didn’t matter. These were still among the first cookies gone during the recent big bake to end 2013.
Definitely one of the easiest things anyone can make on their own.
Already depleted plate of raspberry-oat-bar cookies
3/4 cup raspberry jam (I am not sure I measured this. I simply bought a jar of raspberry jam, strained the seeds out and used everything that was left)
3/4 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/4 cups oats
Preheat oven to 325F.
Cream butter and brown sugar. Add flour; mix. Add oats, and stir to combine. Spread 2/3 of this mixture in a 9×12 rectangular pan, and press it firmly down with fingers.
Spread the jam on top but do not let the jam touch the sides of the pan. Sprinkle the rest of flour-oat mix over the top.
Bake 35-40 minutes. Cut into small bars. Or big bars, if you prefer.
It’s pretty much a given that when I bake, I will bake basic shortbread, which my friend Esteban always says is “full of win”. (One of our other former colleagues – from Poland perhaps – was confused when Esteban said this, “Full of win?” as if “win” were an essential ingredient rather than a descriptor.) A few current colleagues also go for the shortbread first – it’s plain and not too sweet, making it a perfect complement for the first cup of the coffee in the morning. Not too heavy or sweet for eating first thing (unlike quite a lot of the other baked goods). My big Christmas bake was no exception – three rounds of plain shortbread were part of the big Christmas spread.
Shortbread – for the win
However, I decided to try for the second time ever a recipe for honey almond shortbread. My first try turned out far too brittle so kind of broke into pieces when I tried to cut it. Unlike the regular shortbread, which stays a very light color when baked, the honey-almond version browns quickly and, because of the ingredients inside, does much more easily become dry, brittle and hard to cut into decent pieces – although it was much easier to cut this time than in my past effort. (I knew from experience to keep a close eye on it as it baked!)
Honey almond shortbread
1 cup butter
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup chopped almonds (or other desired nut)
Dark chocolate to melt and drizzle on top (or dip the cookie in)
Preheat oven to 350F/175C. Grease round cake pans.
Beat butter, honey and vanilla together. Add the flour. Mix. Stir nuts in by hand.
Press dough into prepared pans. Score with a knife.
Bake about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool 10 minutes on a rack before removing. Cool completely and then cut according to the pre-scored lines. Melt the chocolate and either dip the ends of the shortbread in the chocolate. Or place the wedges on a parchment sheet and drizzle chocolate on the pieces (you can then sprinkle them with more nuts or sprinkles or other such stuff). Put in the fridge for at least 15 minutes to let the chocolate set.
(This time I did not drizzle chocolate on top. My second try did work out somewhat better than the first.)