Oatmeal Raisin Pretzel Cookies

oatmeal raisin pretzel cookies

One of the questions I get most often is, “How do you find time to bake?” I’ll admit, it can be a bit of a juggling act. Since starting this blog, we’ve gone from zero to three children, ages 4 and under. Baking projects that I used to finish in an evening are now slo-o-o-o-wly pieced together over the course of several days. I could write a book about it, but thankfully, I don’t have to — Michelle Lopez’s new cookbook, Weeknight Baking will teach you everything you need to know about baking to fit your schedule.

weeknight baking and cookies

I received Michelle’s book as a literal birth day present — it arrived the same day our third child, Isabelle, did! Weeknight Baking was actually the perfect cookbook to help ease me into the new reality of baking with another tiny human around, because each recipe is either quick to make OR broken down into 15-to-30 minute tasks that you can piece together over a few days. And, as my family will attest, the recipes are delicious! So far, we’ve easily polished off a pan of her cheesecake bars and a batch of these oatmeal cookies.

I have always been partial to a good old fashioned oatmeal cookie, and I’m delighted to add this recipe to our rotation. These babies take about half an hour from start to finish — no chilling required! I made a couple small changes — first, I used sifted spelt flour instead of all purpose; and second, I popped a mini pretzel on each cookie (before baking) because I’m all about that salty-sweet combo. Feel free to go traditional with just raisins, or play around with the mix-ins — Michelle gives several fantastic sounding options. Whatever you do, make these cookies! And congrats, Michelle, on your new book!

Oatmeal Raisin Pretzel Cookies

Makes 20 cookies | Adapted from Weeknight Baking

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe Oatmeal Cookie Mix-In of your choice (I used raisins and mini pretzels)
  • 1 1/4 c (5.65 oz) all-purpose flour (I used sifted spelt)
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 2/3 c (5 oz) tightly packed dark brown sugar (I used light)
  • 1/3 c (2.35 oz) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 c (6 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 c (6.15 oz) old-fashioned rolled oats
Oatmeal cookie mix-ins
  • Classic oatmeal raisin: 1 c (5.5 oz) raisins
  • Oatmeal chocolate chip: 8 oz dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa), from whole feves or a high-quality chocolate bar, chopped into 1/2-to-1-inch pieces
  • Oatmeal, Cranberry, and White Chocolate: 1 c (6 oz) dried cranberries and 3 oz white chocolate, from whole feves or a high-quality chocolate bar, chopped into 1/2-to-1-inch pieces
  • Oatmeal, cherry, and pistachio: 1 c (5 oz) dried cherries and 1/2 c (2.5 oz) shelled pistachios
  • Oatmeal and crystallized ginger: 1/2 c (3.5 oz) crystallized ginger, chopped into 1/4-to-1/2-inch pieces

Method:

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper.
  2. Place the mix-in of your choice in a shallow bowl and toss to combine.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugars and butter. Beat on medium-high until light, fluffy, and doubled in volume, 2-3 minutes, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl as necessary. Reduce the mixer to low, add the egg and vanilla, and beat until combined. Scrape down bottom and sides of the bowl. With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined. Add the oats all at once and beat on low until combined, scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed to fully incorporate oats. Add the mix-in all at once and beat on medium-low until the mix-in is evenly distributed throughout, about 1 minute.
  5. Use a 3-tablespoon cookie dough scoop to portion the cookie dough into 20 balls (about 45 g each, but may vary depending on mix-ins), placing them at least 3 inches apart on the prepared sheet pans. Bake one pan at a time for 15 minutes, or until the edges have set but the centers are still gooey. Cool the cookies on the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, or until the edges and bottoms of the cookies have set and feel firm to the touch. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough (or freeze it to bake later). Serve warm or at room temperature. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container or zip-top bag at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Sourdough Challah

sourdough challah six strand

Finding a solid sourdough challah recipe has been on my bread baking list for awhile. While I have a sourdough enriched sandwich bread recipe that I love, the appeal of challah to me is that it’s dairy free and the dough is easy to shape into beautiful braids — perfect for holiday celebrations! Leftover challah also makes excellent French toast, bread pudding, bostock…basically, I’m never sad to have a few extra slices!

After trying a few different recipes/methods, I’ve finally landed on one I like. The dough handles beautifully; and so long as you use fresh starter, there is barely, if any, a hint of sourdough tang. The formula is based on Maggie Glezer’s sourdough challah recipe, with a few adaptations to the flour mix and fermentation times. I’ve also been experimenting with add-ins and substitutions, so stay tuned for more challah-based recipes soon!

pumpkin challah
A few notes:
  • As with all bread recipes, proper fermentation is key to success. Although I’ve provided general timings which work in my kitchen, keep in mind they may vary greatly depending on the temperature of your kitchen and the strength of your starter. I’ve tried to provide visual cues to help you along — as they say, watch the dough and not the clock!
  • The original recipe called for all bread dough, but I prefer a mix of bread, all purpose, and whole grain for a balance of softness, chew, and flavor.
  • There are many ways to shape challah; I particularly like the 6-strand braid, 4-strand braid, and round challah. For best results, weigh out the dough into even portions for the most even-looking braid.
  • To make pumpkin challah, replace the 60g warm water in the final dough ingredients with 75g pumpkin puree. I like to use maple syrup as the sweetener in this variation. Pumpkin provides more color than flavor in this variation (see photo below), though for extra “pumpkin spice” you can spread the filling from this sourdough cinnamon raisin bread on the rolled out dough before shaping the dough into logs (replace the cinnamon with pumpkin spice). Make sure to firmly seal the seam and ends or liquefied sugar will leak out of the braid!
  • Like other enriched sourdough recipes, this recipe takes time — though most of it is hands-off. I like to break the work into the following 3-day schedule:
    • Day 1, right before bedtime: prepare stiff levain.
    • Day 2, morning: mix dough and ferment until doubled. Refrigerate dough once doubled.
    • Day 2, right before bedtime: shape challah and let proof at room temperature overnight.
    • Day 3, first thing in the morning: bake challah.
    • Note: If you want to mix and bake all in one day, you could shape and proof the dough right after the dough has doubled. Proof time will likely be a little shorter since the dough doesn’t have to warm back up to room temperature. I personally prefer the above schedule because I find cold dough easier to shape and I like having the bread freshly baked in the morning.
sourdough pumpkin challah cut

Sourdough Challah

Makes one large loaf (or two smaller loaves, or many buns) | Adapted from Maggie Glezer via The Fresh Loaf

Ingredients:

For the stiff levain:
  • 40g very active, fully fermented 100% hydration sourdough starter, refreshed 8 to 12 hours earlier
  • 52g warm water
  • 108g bread flour

Mix all ingredients together and allow to ferment at room temperature for 8-12 hours, or until ripe (it should triple in volume).

For final dough:
  • 60g warm water
  • 3 large eggs, plus 1 for glazing
  • 10g fine sea salt
  • 55g olive oil (or other neutral oil)
  • 65g honey or maple syrup
  • 250g bread flour
  • 100g AP flour
  • 50g whole grain flour
  • All of the levain
  • Sesame / poppy seeds or pearl sugar, for garnish (optional)

Method:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, whisk together all ingredients from water through honey/maple syrup until combined.
  2. Add the flour and levain (torn into several pieces to make it easier to incorporate). Use a silicone spatula or your hands to mix until ingredients are roughly combined.
  3. Mix the dough on a low-medium speed (3 or 4 on a KitchenAid mixer) until smooth, about 5 minutes. You can also do this by hand, which should take 8-10 minutes. The dough should be on the firm side but still easy to knead.
  4. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled container. Ferment at room temperature until doubled. This took me about 4 hours, but will depend on the temperature of your kitchen and strength of your starter.
  5. Fold the dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 12.
  6. When you are ready to shape, remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide equally into the number of pieces desired on a lightly floured surface. (I like to do 6 pieces for a 6-strand braid or 4 for a round challah.) Loosely round, then cover and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Also, whisk the remaining egg with a pinch of salt for the egg wash.
  7. Working one at a time, roll each piece into a thin sheet (about 1/8″ thick) — the shape isn’t important, but aim for an even thickness. Roll up tightly like a jelly roll, pinching the seams and ends to seal. Repeat with other pieces.
  8. Roll each piece into ropes of even lengths (I aim for 24-26″), tapering the ends. Braid as desired (see notes above).
  9. Transfer shaped loaf to the prepared baking sheet. Brush the entire surface with a coat of egg wash, then cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap. Cover and refrigerate the remaining egg wash; you will need it later.
  10. Allow the loaf to proof at room temperature until at least doubled and very puffy (but still defined). This takes me 8-10 hours at cool room temperature. About half an hour to 45 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350F with a rack in the middle. Right after preheating the oven, uncover the loaf and brush with another coat of egg wash.
  11. When the oven is ready, brush the loaf with a final coat of egg wash. Sprinkle with sesame/poppy seeds or pearl sugar, if desired.
  12. Bake for 35-45 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking, or until the top is well browned and the loaf registers 200F. (Tent with foil if the loaf is browning too quickly). Cool on a wire rack before slicing.