Experiments in Toaster-Oven Baking: Freezer Oatmeal Chocolate Chip and Marionberry Jammies
Though the stovetop still works (yes, the one in the photo below) and even has sensi-temp settings for pancakes, weiners, hamburgers, chops, and more--I know, amazing, right??--I knew it wouldn't be here long, and it was no place to bake (the wall ovens were removed first thing).
I decided I needed something I could cook a variety of things in and that wouldn't take up much room. Enter the Cuisinart toaster oven/air fryer (by no means an advertisement, just the model that offered a lot of options when one has no kitchen to speak of).
As my first foray into cooking with a toaster oven (never even owned one in college), I decided to try something I know and love: cookies. I have baked dozens upon dozens of all kinds of cookies, so I felt somewhat confident in creating something that would resemble a sweet treat.
After visiting the McMinnville Farmer's Market (which has made Thursdays one of my favorite days), I found the inspiration for what type of cookie I wanted to bake. A local jam maker, Alchemist, makes a Morning Marionberry Jam, made with local berries steeped in coffee beans and mixed with cacao nibs. Marionberries scream Oregon to me so I knew I wanted to incorporate them into a cookie somehow, and the jam added in one of my favorite elements: coffee.
I then turned to one of my all-time favorite cookie recipes, which comes from my dear friend, Sarah Pascarella. Her oatmeal cookies are infamous, with a mixture of toffee, chocolate chips, and cranberries, and are incredibly comforting when I feel lonesome for my life back in New England. These are "the cookies," and is one of my most cherished recipes that I make time and again.
I hated to change one thing but I did have to alter the recipe slightly for these particular cookies since I was using jam and need the cookies to hold together. I thought the toffee might clash a bit with the jam, but still included mini chocolate chips and dried blueberries and cherries. They may not be Sarah's exact cookies, but they are certainly inspired by hers and I hope I did them justice.
The first thing I learned about toaster ovens: they cook things fast and heat up really quickly. This makes it super easy to cook something with very little forethought, since you can just pop it in and immediately start cooking.
To test properly, I made two batches of dough. One for the freezer and one for the fridge. Both placed in respective places overnight. I was secretly rooting for the freezer batch because I love having freezer cookies on hand, and the toaster oven is the perfect way to cook a few at a time (as it can only bake six cookies at once).
I started with the fridge dough, and set the temp for 350°F. I expected the cookies to bake quickly, but they got really dark ... within four minutes. Ok, so this thing is like baking cookies in the mouth of an angry dragon. Oh, and I also had the rack set in the wrong position. Do not follow the photo below. Baking belongs on the bottom rack (chalk it up to things you should always do: read instructions first!).
Attempt number two with the fridge dough: I turned down the temperature to 325°F and put the cookies on the proper rack. Seven minutes later, I had cookies that were dark with jam seeped through to the bottom. Not good. Final batch, I turned the temperature down to 300°F and watched the cookies like a hawk. After nine minutes, they turned golden and, though some of the jam seeped through, they were baked well.
Onto the frozen batch, I used this newfound knowledge of temperatures and started at 300°F. The cookies baked in 11 minutes, but didn't get the right crispness I was after. So, I decided to try a new approach. I started the cookies at 325°F for four minutes and then lowered the temperature to 300°F for the remaining 5 minutes it took to turn golden. Success! The jam didn't seep to the bottom and the cookies had a nice crisp outside and a buttery inside. I prefer the freezer dough, because the cookies hold together better in the hot oven, but the fridge dough can work just as well in a pinch.
These may not be the prettiest cookies I have ever baked, but they tasted better than I could have hoped, as they mixed wonderful memories of our old life with elements of our new home.
Freezer Oatmeal Chocolate Chip and Morning Marionberry Jammies
These cookies are pretty flexible with add-on ingredients, so have fun playing with the flavors until they make your heart happy. If baking in a traditional oven, set the temperature to 350°F and bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes.
Makes 32 cookies
Hands-on Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 8 hours, 43 minutes
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup cane sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup dried blueberries and cherries
1/2 cup Morning Marionberry Jam (or your favorite flavor)
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda.
2. In a large bowl, blend together butter, cane sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Carefully blend in flour and baking soda. Fold in oatmeal, chocolate chips, and dried fruit.
3. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, drop dough by tablespoon (scoops can be close to one another as they are going into the freezer. Using your thumb, make a small indentation in the center of each cookie scoop; be careful not to go too deep as you don't want the jame to seep through. Place a teaspoonful of jam in the middle of each cookie. Cover cookies and freeze at least 4 hours or overnight. Once frozen, store cookies by keeping in a zip-top bag in the freezer. Bake a few whenever the mood strikes. Cookies will last up to 3 months in the freezer.
4. Bake cookies by placing 6 on a silpat-lined baking sheet (one that is either made for the toaster oven or fits inside. Place in toaster oven. Set the temperature to 325°F on "bake" mode. Turn the oven on and bake for 4 minutes. Turn the temperature down to 300°F and bake until golden brown, about 5 minutes more. Remove from oven and let sit on the baking sheet 5 minutes before moving to a cookie rack to cool.