Informal dessert to the rescue
Vail, CO, Colorado
Editor’s note: Living in the Colorado high country is pure joy. Baking in it isn’t. High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This column presents recipes and tips to make baking in the mountains successful.
These cookies are a classic ” old-fashioned, homey and full of the flavors of fall. Applesauce, raisins and walnuts are held together with an oatmeal crust and covered with a butterscotch glaze … just the thought of them makes me feel warm and satisfied.
The oatmeal-applesauce squares come together quickly. The cookie base, filling and topping are all baked in one step. The glaze takes less than five minutes to make. And, the result is a moist, tender and rich-tasting little pastry that appeals to both kids and adults. The aroma in your kitchen after baking them is an additional bonus … it’s heavenly.
In spite of their unassuming nature, they are good enough to serve as an informal dessert. To do so, make the squares larger than you would for cookies, warm them slightly and serve them with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream. Drizzle a little Calvados (apple brandy) over the ice cream for the adults in the group.
If you want a more intense apple flavor, mix the raisins with dried apple slices (these are usually found in the same section of the grocery store as are the raisins). Cut the dried apple into pieces that are about the same size as the raisins. I find this is done most easily with a pair of scissors.
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The squares can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days in an airtight container. Bring them to room temperature or warm them before serving.
Make in an 8-by-8 inch baking pan
Adjusted for altitudes between 8,000 and 10,000 feet
1⁄3 cup of unsalted butter
1⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar
11⁄4 teaspoons of vanilla
3⁄4 cup of flour
1⁄4 teaspoon of baking soda, scant (slightly less than)
3⁄4 teaspoon of cinnamon
3⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of rolled oats (not instant)
1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sweetened applesauce
1⁄2 cup of raisins or a mixture of raisins and dried apple pieces
1⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of chopped walnuts
Butterscotch Glaze (makes about half a cup)
11⁄2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
2 tablespoons of whipped cream
3 tablespoons of light brown sugar, packed
1⁄2 cup of confectioners’ sugar (approximately)
Preheat the oven to 350-degrees with a rack in the center position. Line an 8-by-8 baking pan with Reynold’s Release foil or aluminum foil. Extend two opposing sides of the foil several inches beyond the pan to act as handles when you remove the baked squares. If you lined the pan with aluminum foil, grease it.
Make the cookie base and topping: To make with a mixer: Place the butter, brown sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl and cream until light and fluffy, preferably with an electric mixer. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the flour, baking soda and cinnamon, mix until blended and then stir in the oats. The mixture will be crumbly. To make in a food processor: Combine the brown sugar, flour, baking soda, cinnamon and rolled oats in the processor bowl. Pulse several times to combine. Add the butter, cut into small pieces, and the vanilla and pulse until the mixture is evenly moistened and crumbly. It should hold together when you pinch it but should not form a ball of dough.
Press half of the mixture in the pan, leveling it as you go. Reserve the other half for the topping.
Combine the applesauce, raisins, dried apples (if you are using them) and chopped walnuts in a medium bowl. Spread the filling evenly over the cookie base. Sprinkle the rest of the oatmeal-flour mixture over the filling ” it should cover it completely ” and press it in gently.
Bake for about 30 minutes until the top is set, dry and golden. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.
Make the butterscotch glaze: Combine the butter, whipped cream and brown sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring until the butter is completely melted, the sugar is no longer grainy (test by rubbing a little between your fingers), and the mixture is combined and smooth. Remove from the heat and cool slightly. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until the glaze is smooth and a good consistency for spreading. (This may take a little less or a little more than the estimated half cup of sugar.) Spread it evenly or drizzle it over the cooled cake. Let the glaze set and cut the cake into squares.
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. Contact Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at email@example.com.