The important question of the day, whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s Eve or someone’s birthday, is: Will I have enough room in the oven?
Even when someone else is on turkey patrol, it’s always a juggling act and I always wonder why an entire meal can’t be cooked at 350 degrees. Or, better, why the whole meal can’t be served at room temperature. (I gave up being in charge of the turkey years ago and haven’t felt guilty about it since that first no-bird- in-the-oven-for-hours T-giving.) Holidays make me want to redo my kitchen and install a second oven or join the raw-food movement.
While there’s no room in my kitchen for another oven, and while I’m not ready to go raw for the holidays, I like to mix it up when it comes to cookies. Not all of my favorite cookies need oven heat. This one, which is among my favorite-favs, gets stirred on the stove (or in a microwave) and sets up in the freezer.
The cookie is a cross between old-fashioned haystacks — remember those corn flakes treats? – and an almost magical, super-crunchy, very chunky chocolate bar with nuts and dried fruit and a magic, store-bought straight-out-of-the-jar ingredient to make it smooth and surprising. More about that in a sec.
I don’t like to call any food addictive, but my preferences were repeatedly ignored by friends, some of whom dubbed the cookies “crack cubes”; I prefer to think of them as serially munchable.
There’s so much texture and flavor in each cube that one layer can’t contain it all. This is a double-decker affair. The lower level’s a crust made with melted butter and cookie crumbs. You can use graham cracker crumbs and you’ll love the cookies, but here I’m all about speculoos-type cookies: think Biscoff/Lotus. Turn the crumbs and butter around, press them into a pan and stow the crust in the freezer to firm, while you move on to the top deck.
The top layer is the one with the chunks o’ crunch and the chew, too. The essential add-ins are corn flakes, which keep their crackle through hot, cold and a couple rounds with a spatula; (oxymoronic) moist dried fruit, which, if it’s as plump as it should be, will make the flavor of everything else last longer (it’s the slow chewing that keeps it going); and nuts, another flavor extender, toasted or not. Not unexpectedly, you’ve got wiggle room with the add-ins. I think you should stick with the corn flakes (you could use a crisped-rice cereal, but corn flakes are really better here). But you can play with the fruit and yes, go nuts with the nuts.
The “glue” that holds all these ingredients together is the charm, it’s a blend of butter for richness; chocolate for flavor, texture and all-around lovableness; and cookie spread (I go for Biscoff/Lotus or Trader Joe’s), for, well, sugar and spice and everything nice, including a velvet smoothness that’s perfection here.
All you’ve got to do is melt the butter, chocolate and spread together, stir in the crunchies, spread this lumpy, bumpy, dark and creamy blend over the base (resisting every impulse to just eat it off the spoon) and freeze.
When your oven is crammed with holiday classics and you’ve still got the cookie swap on your calendar, you’ll be happy beyond words to have this recipe. I’ll accept your thanks when the holiday rush is behind us.
Photograph by Deb Lindsey. This story appeared in my Everyday Dorie column in Washington Post Food.)