For the past four years, I've had the privilege to run Reach the Beach, a 200-mile relay race in New Hampshire, with 11 of my good running buddies. On Friday at 1:30 p.m., Becky will commence this year's event near the Flume Gorge in the White Mountains, and at some point on Saturday afternoon, Ken will scurry across the finish line in Hampton Beach. A good time will be had by all; new jokes will join the pantheon of one-liners; and as usual, everyone will go home with a goody bag of baked treats.
Since my ice-cream-making pal and teammate Ryan also likes to bake, we got together on a torrid September afternoon to prepare some treats for the Fellowship of the Bubblewrap's fifth Reach the Beach adventure. When Ryan and I are baking, each of us tends to prepare his own things. It's mostly just fun having company in the kitchen while baking is occurring.
On Saturday, I got things going with a batch of Chewy Orange Granola Bars from Chewy Cookies by Eileen E. Talanian. Last year, we made granola bars, and they were a huge hit. I have to admit that I tweaked this recipe from the get-go. First, I doubled the recipe and made it in a 9x13 pan instead of the 9x9 that was called for. Then I substituted dried cranberries for raisins. Also, I subbed a mix of whole toasted cashews and almonds for sliced almonds. Finally, since I had no orange to zest, I subbed a teaspoon of orange oil for orange flavor. Although they looked good in the pan, there were clearly problems when I attempted to slice them (photo above). I'm not sure what happened, but there was far more liquid than the granola could absorb. (Perhaps it was the unrelentingly muggy weather; perhaps it was the super-moist Bear Naked granola.) What to do? How about mix in about 2 cups of oats and rebake them? That seems to have done the trick (photo below).
Next up, Ryan made a batch of Chocolate Peanut Butter Surprise Bars from Tish Boyle's Good Cookie, which has become an often-used volume on Cookie Day (the Saturday in December when we spend upward of 10 hours making holiday treats). These bars have traveled to previous RTBs and, not surprisingly, have been a big hit. Seriously: Is it possible to go wrong with chocolate and peanut butter?
I then segued into Chewy, Chunky Blondies from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours. I'm always leery of leavening in blondies and brownies, and this recipe was a good reason why. The blondies baked with a big puffed-up top crust that rose far above the batter, leaving the bottom and top thin and fragile, with a big air gap in between. These blondies were a bit of a disappointment.
Ryan, meanwhile, prepared Banana-Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Cookies from The Good Cookie. Only he was leaving out a key ingredient: "Martha can't eat chocolate, so I'm making them without the chips." Of course, his point was well taken, but still. No chocolate in the cookies with "chip" in the name? As you can see (photo), I made a chipped cookie for my own personal enjoyment.
Next up: Chipster-Topped Brownies from the Dorie Greenspan book. These two-layer bars (brownie bottom, blondie top) turned out better than the blondies, although the chocolate-chip layer was thinner than I'd hoped. I've made other versions of these cookies (Abby Johnson Dodge, Kathleen King), and they were more balanced between the blondie and brownie layers. The Dorie Greenspan edition is far more brownie than blondie. That's not at all a bad thing, just a different thing.
Finally, Ryan made a double batch of snickerdoodles, using a recipe from The Good Cookie. We've made these cookies before (filed under the recipe Cinnamon Sugar Crinkles), and as ever, I jumped in to help out on these. It's a marvelous version of a classic cookie.
Now everything is in the freezer, awaiting packing Thursday morning and devouring over the weekend. (That's the Chipster-Topped Brownies in the photo.)