A winning combination: chocolate, oat and nuts
“Mmm, good; May I have the recipe?” I get that question almost every time I serve these chocolate oat squares. I can see why – they’re a combination that seems to please lots of people: rich gooey chocolate, crunchy oats, and nuts. And, if the taste isn’t enough to win you, they’re also quick to make (just a few steps from their start to the oven) and straightforward, requiring no special techniques or equipment. The recipe is a versatile one. You can substitute almonds or pecans for the walnuts, omit the glaze, cut the cookies into triangles or fingers rather than squares and even halve the recipe and make it in an eight inch square baking pan. Once baked, the cookies freeze well. If you plan to freeze them, cut the slab into squares after defrosting it; this helps prevent the cookies from drying out during the freezing-defrosting process. Chocolate Oat SquaresIngredientsCookie14 (fourteen) ounces of sweetened condensed milk (one can)
2 (two) ounces of unsweetened chocolate1 ? (one and one-half) cups of chopped walnuts1 (one) cup of unsalted butter (two sticks), softened1 ? (one and one fourth) cups of dark brown sugar2 (two) teaspoons of vanilla extract1 (one) teaspoon of almond extract2 (two) cups of all-purpose flour? (one half) teaspoon of baking soda, scant2 ? (two and one half) cups of rolled oats (not instant)
Glaze, optional 2 (two) ounces of semisweet chocolate, chopped fine1 (one) teaspoon of mild vegetable oil (I use canola)Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, with the rack in the middle position. Line a 13X9 inch baking pan with Reynold’s Release non-stick aluminum foil or with regular aluminum foil, greased with a vegetable oil-flour spray. Allow the foil to extend beyond the pan a few inches on both sides, so you can use it to lift the finished pastry out of the pan. Make sure the entire pan is either lined or greased.Heat the chopped chocolate and the sweetened condensed milk in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until the chocolate is melted and thoroughly combined with the milk. Remove the mixture from the heat, stir in the chopped walnuts, and set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat the softened butter, brown sugar, vanilla and almond extracts until the mixture is light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda and add them to the butter mixture, using a low speed of your electric mixer or stirring them in by hand. Stir in the oats and combine them well.Press half of this dough over the bottom of the prepared pan, smoothing and leveling it as you go.Spread the chocolate and nut mixture evenly over the dough.
Sprinkle the remaining half of the dough over the top of the chocolate-nut mixture. Gently press and smooth the topping so that it is distributed evenly.Bake until the top of the cake is golden brown; start checking after about 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and cool it completely on a rack.Make the glaze: Melt the chopped chocolate in the microwave. To do this, microwave it at a low temperature (I use #3 or #4) for about 1-2 minutes, remove it and stir, and continue microwaving at one minute intervals until the chocolate is almost all melted and only a few lumps remain. Then, remove it from the microwave and stir until it is thoroughly melted and smooth. Stir in the vegetable oil; the mixture should be smooth and shiny. Cool the mixture until it is slightly thickened. Drizzle it over the cooled uncut cookies in a pretty design. Set the glaze by placing the pan in the refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes or leaving it at cool room temperature for an hour or more.Cut into bars and serve. The slab cuts most easily when it is slightly chilled. Store the cookies at cool room temperature. This recipe is a variation of one in Brownies, Blondies, and Bar Cookies.Vera Dawson lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. If you have comments about the Life Is Sweet column or questions about baking, contact Vera Dawson at firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado
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