Monday, April 30, 2012

April 30: National Raisin Day and National Oatmeal Cookie Day

National Raisin Day

Raisins are just dried grapes and you can find them in any grocery store where you can find them in boxes as small as one ounce (which are perfect for packing in a school lunch or carrying one in your purse for hunger pangs) or in huge containers f or when you're baking.  I think most people are familiar with dark raisins.  Maybe you've also seen golden raisins?  But did you know about Sultans, Dovines, Fiestas, and Black Monukkas?  I had never heard of those until I read "Raisin Grape Varieties," hosted by UCDavis.  Intriguing stuff.

I like raisin bread, especially raisin challah, but I have yet to successfully make raisin bread.  For some reason, my raisin breads always seem subpar to those I can buy in the store  .No, it's not because the store bread has high-fructose corn syrup and mine doesn't (I avoid HFCS, especially in breads) but because mine never seems to reach proper fluffiness.  (Maybe I'm too impatient with my yeast, the poor overworked little beasties.) The local bakery that supplies Whole Foods makes a really good raisin bread and even the bread that Whole Foods finishes onsite is extremely tasty, if a bit rustic.  Dudley's Bakery in Santa Ysabel is always the place to stop when driving to Julian from San Diego.  Dudley's makes an amazing Raisin Cinnamon.  (You can find Dudley's breads in some San Diego stores.) Raisin challah remains my favorite raisin bread in the US, because it is so similar to Japanese raisin bread.  Japanese raisin bread is sweet and fluffy, and raisin challah comes pretty close to it.  They are shaped very differently - raisin challah is usually braided or coiled while Japanese raisin bread is usually in small buns or in bread sticks.

I also like to eat raisins- no baking them into cookies, or using them in salads, or stir-fries - raisins are great just by themselves.  So, to celebrate today, I ate some golden and dark raisins, trying to discern the subtle flavor differences.  Ok, not really.  I just went, "Raisins!  Om nom nom."

And for a bit of nostalgia, The California Raisins.  Oh, yeah.... "I heard it through the grapevine..."

National Oatmeal Cookie Day

When making oatmeal cookies, the default for most people seems to be "Add raisins!"  However, you can also add cranberries, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, carrots, dried apples...  The list goes on.

To celebrate National Oatmeal Cookie Day, I opted to make this plain oatmeal cookie recipe.  Be aware- it's a lot of cookies.  The original recipe states that it makes 2 dozen cookies, but I halved the recipe and still made three dozen cookies.  The first dozen were plain, just like the recipe intends.  Then I found out that my roommate (who loves oatmeal cookies) liked golden raisins (I already knew about her dislike of black raisins) so, because today is also National Raisin Day, I added about a half-cup of golden raisins to the remaining dough.  It was a little hard working in the raisins, because the dough was so stiff.  Still, I managed and the cookies came out well.  I baked each batch for 10 minutes and then followed instructions to let the cookies sit on the sheet for five minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

First batch, no raisins, stacked on the left.  Second batch with
added golden raisins on right, in single layer as they cool.
It's a good recipe - the cookies came out very tasty.  Not super moist, but not crunchy either.  Just right.  This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Now, you can buy oatmeal cookies, but they're so easy to make and they fill your house with an amazing scent, why wouldn't you bake your own?

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