Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ginger Lemon Oatmeal Bars: your rasp is a flavor blaster!

Let me be clear: I love crisp, spicy oatmeal cookies. My Mother made wonderful oatmeal cookies. Lots and lots of them. I have a taste memory that has never quit.

What I have no patience for, however, is actually making cookies. One at a time; one by one. No way. No how. With the exception of some marathon Ginger Bread Snowflake and Person events and a delightfully crazy stint with some dear friends and their Spritz device, I haven't made cookies for three decades.

But when the urge for the oatmeal taste comes over me, I can make Oatmeal Bars. And, with all due respect for my Mother's memory and the memory of her cookies, my oatmeal bars are turbo-charged with lemon and ginger. They are quick and easy. The turbo-flavor tool is a Microplane zester, which makes quick work of the lemon zest and grates the ginger, too! You should you should have at least one.


1 stick of softened butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar (see note below)
1/4 cup candied ginger
2 T milk (1%, 2%)
1 large egg
zest of one lemon (1-2 T)
juice of one lemon (1-2 T)
2 T grated fresh ginger
1-1/4 cup rolled oats (regular or quick)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp dried ginger
1 cup raisins or dried cherries

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Butter or Pam an 8x8 or 9x9 square pan.
2. Cream the butter, sugars and the candied ginger for 4 minutes. The ginger will thump in your mixer and remain lumpy. Ignore the thumps and lumps.
3. Add the milk, egg, lemon zest and juice and grated ginger to the butter/sugar mixture, which may curdle. Beat for two minutes and ignore the curdling.
4. In a small bowl, mix together the oats, flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and ginger. Use a fork or a small whisk. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in two additions. Beat until just combined -- don't beat this to death.
5. Add the raisins or cherries. You may need to mix these in by hand.
6. Spread into the prepared pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes. There are two tests for doneness: the clean toothpick test (after 50 minutes) and the really brown dark oatmeal cookie test (after 60 minutes). If you like your oatmeal cookies on the deeply brown side, expect the longer baking time.

Dark brown sugar: I grew up in the Washington DC metro area, and because it is in the culinary South, dark brown sugar is really dark brown and has a strong molasses flavor. For the first 10 years that I lived in Minnesota, I thought I was imagining a brown-sugar-flavor deficit. About six years ago, I began importing really dark brown sugar from DC (5 pounds at a time in my luggage). No more: I can get really, truly molassesey dark brown sugar at the Super Target near my house. Thank you, Target Sugar Buyer.

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