Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Spiced Oat and Raisin Cookies

Christmas is so close I can almost touch it, but I always try to restrain myself from diving headfirst into tinsel before December starts. I'm not saying I necessarily succeed, but I try. Part of it is superstition - as though any premature burst of "Deck the halls" will set off a tripwire and whirl us into pre-Aslan Narnia, always winter but never Christmas. Part is gleeful anticipation - like when a present is so beautifully wrapped, you don't quite want to open it. And part is just plain good sense. When December gets here, you won't be able to move in this house for baubles. For the sake of my own sanity and the glitter filter on the hoover, I need to restrict the festivities as far as possible to the period between 1 December and 6 January.

That's where America really has things sorted. Thanksgiving would provide the perfect distraction for this time of year - not to mention another excuse for seasonal decorating (have you seen all the pumpkins on Pinterest?), a few days off work and a belt-busting meal. I may never have been to a proper Thanksgiving dinner - and yes, American friends, that is a massive hint - but I feel like I've absorbed enough Stateside media to bring a bit of Thanksgiving spirit to the blog. In this brief pause before the bells are jingled and Frosty's a snowman, here are a few things I'm thankful for.

[And a quick disclaimer. Reading this list may give you the impression that I'm intensely superficial - and I'm afraid that you would be right. Let's carry on!] 

Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish face wash. I've been using it for years so trust me when I say that this stuff works miracles. If I'm ever out of reach of hot water, my skin reverts to cavegirl state instantly, but a few days of Liz and it's clear, soft and glowing. I keep three back-up tubes under the bed at any one time.

Adam and Joe's 6 Music podcasts. Yes, I know they're a few years old, but have you listened to them? Did you (retro) text the nation, tell a travelling tale or popropriate? Do you catch yourself singing anything from Song Wars in meetings - Margaret Mountford, her hair is like a cloud, or the Sontom of Quolace? I've got to...there are no words. They make my commute approximately 98 times better. I may end up trying to stifle giggles inside my scarf but that's a nice way to feel before 8 in the morning. 

Great British Bake Off. Do I really need to say more? I love it. It's a fragrant bubble bath of a programme, wrapped in warm fluffy slippers. I want to be Mary Berry when I grow up.

Deborah Lippman nail varnish with - wait for it - three different sizes of gold glitter. I LOVE this nail varnish. For almost two months, week after week, I have been redoing my nails in the exact same way - clear, boring and professional, with disco crazy glittery tips. Yes, the varnish cost a ridiculous amount but really, who can put a price on joy? 

Sequins - nuff said. Life is better when it's sparkly. Hot water bottles. Champagne in fancy glasses. Lighting the fire. The feeling when you cross something off a to do list. And - finally getting to the point - chewy, squidgy, oaty, fruity, spicy cookies which totally surpass expectations and immediately earn a spot on the "Make Again" list. Not to mention, of course, the fact that hundreds of people actually come here every day and read my disjointed blatherings. I can't tell you how thankful that makes me feel, but I raise a cookie (to my mouth and eat it) in your honour. 

Spiced Oat and Raisin Cookies
Adapted from Nigella's White Chocolate and Cranberry Cookies in Feast
Makes 20 cookies

- 125g soft unsalted butter
- 75g dark brown sugar
- 100g caster sugar
- 1 egg
- half a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste or extract
- 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- half a teaspoon of ground allspice
- 140g plain flour
- half a teaspoon of baking powder
- half a teaspoon of salt
- 75g porridge oats
- 100g raisins
- optional - 100g white chocolate chips

Start by beating the butter and both sugars together until very soft and creamy, then add the egg and vanilla and beat in. Measure out the spices, flour, baking powder, salt and porridge oats into a bowl, mix well, then add to the buttery sugary eggy mixture and combine (if you're using an electric mixer, you can go up to this point with the machine). Finally, stir in the raisins (and chocolate chips, if using). The mixture is fairly thick, but that's good.

Set the bowl in the fridge for 15-20 minutes (or up to a few hours) and preheat the oven to 180C. Line a few baking trays with parchment.

After the dough has rested, scoop out tablespoonfuls and roll them into a ball in your hands, then place on the baking sheet. You'll need to leave about 5cm of room around them (a couple of inches), as they'll spread. Press down with a fork to flatten slightly, then bake for 15 minutes or until slightly golden. The cookies are very soft straight out of the oven, so leave them on the tray to cool for ten minutes or so before transferring to a wire rack.

These were exceptional on the first day, good on the second, slightly tough on the third.  But I think they'll freeze well, if you freeze them on day one (or freeze the uncooked dough). 


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