Many, many years ago, when I had first moved out with my then boyfriend and now husband, I had the grand scheme of baking Christmas cookies. I recruited a gal I worked with at the time to help me. She was none too happy when she witnessed my scantily-clad-closet for a kitchen. I had no mixing bowls, measuring spoons, or even a gas oven with a working pilot light . I don’t recall what we baked, or if we were able to successfully bake even a batch of anything, but what did get ignited was my love for a certain cookie book.
The cause of my cookie escapade started with buying a recipe book from the grocery store. I was the ripe-old age of 20, and my first cookbook was about cookies. This all makes sense given who I am now–a self-proclaimed cookie connoisseur. Those little disks of deliciousness call to me; especially if it has peanut butter and chocolate or any combination of chocolate and nuts. The mood will just hit, and I will pull out the necessary baking ingredients and whip up a batch or two. What’s not to love about cookies? They are easy to taste-test compared to a cake or pie and also extremely portable. I’ve made a pact with myself: I can only indulge in cookies if I have made them; no store-bought cookies. The exception of course is girl scout cookies–I’m only human. The cookbook is simply called, Cookies by Natalie Hartanov Haughton . I’ve used it to death since buying it in 1984, so I transferred the cookbook to a binder with plastic protectors. It’s my go-to book when I’m looking to make a cookie or a bar. But the one recipe I have made(and the stained, wrinkled page proves it)time and time again is a cookie creation called, Choco-Nut Oat Bars. I have made those bars for countless bake sales, birthdays, and thank you gifts. They whip up fast, and somehow I always have the ingredients on hand. I cannot stress how easily these come together; and the added bonus, they are delicious and flavorful.
I start out by roasting the nuts for 5-10 minutes on medium heat, stirring frequently. No burning the nuts-yuck. After they have cooled, chop them.
Chop the unsweetened chocolate. Tip: If you chop nuts or chocolate on wax paper on your cutting board, you can just pick up the wax paper to transport the chopped item to the bowl.
Add the sweetened condensed milk to unsweetened chocolate and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir briskly. Place back in microwave and repeat process. It should just take a minute and a half or so to melt the chocolate completely.
Add the chopped nuts to chocolate mixture and stir to mix. Set aside.
Throw 2 cups of flour, a half teaspoon of baking soda and a quarter teaspoon of salt into the flour. Set aside.
Blend 1 cup butter with a cup and a quarter of packed brown sugar. Add two teaspoons of vanilla extract and beat.
Add the flower mixture and combine. Add two and a half cups of old-fashioned oats and blend completely.
Take one half of dough mixture and add to a greased 13×9 pan(don’t go up the sides of the pan–you want a sandwich look). Add chocolate mixture(microwave for another 15-25 seconds if too stiff)and carefully spread evenly. Pat remaining dough to chocolate layer. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 375F.
Isn’t that pretty? Let cool completely in pan and then cut into bars.
Choco-Nut Oat Bars
1(14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
2 oz unsweetened chocolate-chopped
1-1/2 chopped nuts(I roast the nuts before chopping)
1 cup butter, room temperature
1-1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2-1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 13 x 9 baking pan. *In top of a double boiler, combine sweetened condensed milk and chocolate. Heat over hot but not boiling water until melted and smooth, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in nuts; and set aside. In a medium bowl, beat together butter, brown sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add flour, salt, and baking soda, blending thoroughly. Stir in oats, mixing until crumbly. Press half of oat mixture evenly in bottom of greased baking pan. Spread evenly with chocolate-nut mixture. Sprinkle with remaining oat mixture, pressing into chocolate. Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan. Cut cooled cookies into bars. Makes 54.
*You can also cook the chocolate and sweetened condensed milk in the microwave. Microwave on high for 30 seconds in a microwave safe bowl and stir. Microwave for another 30 seconds and stir again. You may need another 15 seconds or so, depending how fine you chopped the chocolate. Be careful–chocolate burns easily.