Despite being the perpetually stressed-out mother of a toddler, I still sometimes crave the occasional kitchen project.
Thats how I am. Or rather was when I didnt spend most evenings trying to make dinner as quickly as possible with a crying toddler underfoot.
But I recently discovered a cookbook that has lured me back into the kitchen for at least one elaborate culinary undertaking and hopefully, more. The book is Classic Snacks Made From Scratch: 70 Homemade Versions of Your Favorite Brand-Name Treats.
Author Casey Barber told me that the genesis of the book was a challenge from her husband. He wanted a homemade version of Ben & Jerrys Phish Food ice cream made with vanilla ice cream instead of chocolate. She took on that dare and succeeded.
Then I started thinking about all the things I could do at home, Barber said.
She went on to create homemade versions of Doritos, Cheese Whiz, Fig Newtons and Funyuns. Yes, Funyuns.
Now this book isnt for everyone. Most people arent going to want to spend the time required to prepare these recipes. But others, like me, who find puttering in the kitchen relaxing, will be intrigued by many of Barbers recipes.
The one that caught my eye was for Little Debbies Oatmeal Creme Pies. I grew up in a Hostess family. I am definitely a Ho Hos snob who would never let a Swiss Roll pass her lips. But Oatmeal Creme Pies are a masterpiece, and I used to love eating them on camping trips with my godmothers family. (Her family fell into the Little Debbie camp.) I think I adore Oatmeal Creme Pies today because they were only an occasional treat back then.
So I had to try Barbers recipe. It was a commitment of several hours. Both the cookie dough and the frosting have to chill for an hour. I have to admit that the recipe didnt create an exact replica. The cookies turned out more like puffy whoopie pies than the original slender cream-filled cookie.
But the oatmeal cookie, by itself, is excellent. And my 20-month-old loved them. I know that recipe is a keeper.
I know for sure that its easy to be seduced by the same rabbit hole-like challenge that prompted Barber to write the book seeing whether you can re-create these favorite treats from scratch.So Im pondering what I should try to make next. Pizza rolls or pudding pops? Nutter Butters or Goldfish crackers? Pretzel rods or fruit roll-ups? Im not sure yet. But I do know that Im going to enjoy whatever time whenever I can find it to mess around in the kitchen without its involving rushing to get dinner on the table.
To see a printable version of this recipe, click on the link below:
PULSE oats in a mini food processor for about 30 seconds, until coarsely ground with some chunks remaining. Transfer to a large bowl and whisk with flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
WHISK milk, molasses and vanilla together in a small bowl. Set aside.
BEAT butter, brown sugar and 1/2 cup granulated sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat for 2 to 3 minutes on medium speed, until the mixture is fluffy and light beige. Reduce mixer speed to low and add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly before adding the next. Add milk and stir until fully incorporated.
ADD flour-oat mixture incrementally to form a soft, sticky dough. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
HEAT oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat liners.
SPOON chilled cookie batter in heaping tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving at least 1 inch space between cookies. Bake for 10 minutes, then gently mash each puffed cookie with a spatula to flatten. Bake for 2 to 4 more minutes; the cookies will still be soft but not gooey in the middle.
REMOVE cookies from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet for 1 minute before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining cookie dough.
BEAT cream cheese, shortening and vanilla together in a large bowl until homogenous. Add powdered sugar and beat to make a soft frosting. Beat in the corn syrup.
FILL a small, straight-sided saucepan halfway with water and bring to a simmer.
PLACE egg whites and remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a heatproof stainless steel or glass bowl and set over the saucepan of simmering water. Whisk continuously for 1 to 2 minutes, until the sugar dissolves and the liquid is slightly opaque, frothy and warm to the touch.
TRANSFER whisked egg whites to a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed for 3 minutes or longer, until the liquid becomes opaque and glossy. Add cream of tartar and whip until stiff peaks form when the mixer is turned off and the whisk is lifted.
SPOON cream cheese frosting into the marshmallow mixture and together. Chill for at least 1 hour to firm.
SPREAD chilled frosting evenly across the flat (bottom) sides of half the cookies. Top with rest of cookies, flat sides down, to make oatmeal pies. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to a week. Yield: 2 dozen filled cookies
Weigl: 919-829-4848, email@example.com or on Twitter, @andreaweigl