Thursday, August 28, 2008

Jenni's Nutty Dollies

While I feel badly for those in the South who have dealt with tropical storm Fay’s deluge of rain, I am grateful that her remnants visited our area for a few hours last evening. Although it was predicted that we would receive a quantity of rain (the first in 2 weeks) yesterday afternoon, it wasn’t until after dark that I heard the lovely sound of raindrops on the roof. As of this morning, we received a full inch, and I am off garden-watering duty for a few days.

Our farm has spring water pumped into the house and also a cistern which is normally used for the garden. The cistern pump, however, died last month (and although my dear husband has many good qualities, timely repairs is not one of them) so I have had to use water collected in rain barrels. The rain barrels were dry as dust in the past week or so and I was watering the garden and flower beds with spring water. Since we were in a dry spell, the spring wasn’t flowing as freely as it had been during the wonderfully wetter-than-normal summer. So I resorted to reusing the rinse water from the washing machine, the bucket of water which collects in the dehumidifier, and even the bowl from the salad spinner after I had washed lettuce. Creative watering practices. I would love to someday figure out how to capture the rinse water from the washing machine in an easier way than stopping the machine, placing a watering can under the outlet hose in the laundry tub, turning on the washer, filling the can, turning off the washer… it has to be difficult on the mechanics of the washing machine, but so far it’s my best way to recycle large quantities of water.

Anyway, today a cool day (although humid) and I am going to bake. I haven’t baked bread since May.

My equation:
no air conditioning + large uninsulated commercial oven = no baking in the summer months for Vicci

I did bake a few sweets during the evening hours over the past couple of months, but I have been buying bread at Panera. Surprisingly, the cost of a loaf of whole-grain or honey wheat there is similar to what I find in the store and we both like it better than the in-store bakery at the local grocery chain. But I really can’t wait to have my own bread!

Now, my friend Jenni lives in a nicely air-conditioned house and bakes during the summer. I had given her a pan of coconut rum brownies earlier this summer, and she recently returned the pan. Filled. Now, isn’t that the best thing, to be returned a pan with something delicious inside??? And delicious it was.

My pan held 9 square inches of one of the most wonderful, moist bar cookies that I have ever had. And all of my favorite things were included—nuts, coconut, chocolate. It truly is with all of the willpower that I can possibly muster that Jack and I held ourselves to one bar per day for the past few days, then I froze them for treats later.

By the way, they still taste good frozen. Hey, I have hardly any willpower to begin with, and I just couldn’t resist!!! They are incredible, and very rich so one cookie should be enough to satisfy most people (not us, mind you, but most people!).

Jenni gleaned the original recipe for Nutty Dollies from Cookies by the Dozen and made enough modifications (to suit her taste and what she had on hand) that I have duly renamed them:

* Exported from MasterCook *

Jenni's Nutty Dollies

Recipe by: Jenni
Servings: 24

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
8 tablespoons butter -- melted (in baking pan)
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes -- *
2/3 cup pecans -- chopped
1 can fat-free sweetened condensed milk -- **
1 tablespoon Nutella – stir into sweetened condensed milk before using
4 ounces Chocolatey Cats Cookies -- Trader Joe's brand (or another brand of chocolate cookie); crushed (1/2 cup crumbs)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
6 tablespoons cashews -- ***; lightly salted, chopped

Melt the butter in an 8x8 pan in the preheating oven. Tilt the pan so that the butter covers the bottom.

Layer the remaining ingredients in the order listed, making sure they are evenly distributed from edge to edge. With your fingers or a spatula, press down on each layer to eliminate air.

Bake about 20-25 minutes.

Cool completely on a wire rack.

Cut into bars when cold.

(Vicci's) Description:
"heaven in a bar cookie"

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Per serving: 161 Calories (kcal); 12g Total Fat (5g Saturated, 5g Monosaturated); (61% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 10mg Cholesterol; 78mg Sodium
Food Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 2 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates


* I used unsweetened coconut flakes to counter all of the "sweet" in the other ingredients. Also note that my unsweetened coconut is in the form of tiny flakes that are much smaller than the standard flaked coconut. So using regular coconut will change the texture.

** I used lowfat sweetened condensed milk. Given the stick o' butter, I'm sure this made a world of difference! ha! AND...I mixed a tablespoon of Nutella into the sweetened condensed milk before pouring it over the layers, in an attempt to add chocolate-hazelnut flavor. I thought I was being brilliant, but I couldn't taste the flavor in the finished product. I will add more next time, and maybe some hazelnut extract.

*** I used chopped hazelnuts instead. But the concept of having a salted nut along with all of the 'sweet' flavors does intrigue me!

I have retained all of her changes/ comments. She had intended on making more of a hazelnut-flavored cookie but didn’t feel as though that flavor came through.

I will definitely be making these, but have already planned a few changes to make the bars a bit lower in fat. As Jenni remarked when we cut them “these could have used a lot less butter” and she is right. First, I will halve the amount to 4 ounces and add 2 tablespoons of canola oil in order to keep moistness but eliminate the saturated fat. If this works, I’ll subsequently eliminate the oil.

I don’t know how much it will save in the long run, but I only have the lowfat graham crackers on hand, so I will use these instead. And the nuts. The nuts, the nuts, the nuts…. the quandary about the nuts. We love them, and they are chock-full of healthy monosaturated fats, so instead of decreasing their quantity I will decrease the chocolate chips to ¾ cup. That should still give a nice, chocolatey flavor to the bars and keep that intense nutty flavor.

So, according to my calculations, eliminating half of the butter, using a little canola oil, and decreasing the chocolate chips a bit will drop the total fat to 10g, saturated fat to 3g, and keep the monosaturated fat at a decent 4g per bar.

It looks as though these are quite easy to put together, the only real prep time coming from crushing the graham crackers and chopping all of those nuts.

When we return from our beach vacation in mid-September the weather will be cooler and I will again be able to keep the oven on for baking, and I will make these. What a great way to begin Fall Baking Season!

And, as I look over my writing, I see that I could have been a bit more creative in naming these cookies.

Nutty Jenni’s, anyone??? :p