Monday, July 20, 2015

Cathedral Cove and Oatmeal (Raisin or Chocolate Chip) Cookies

After seeing Cathedral Cove by boat, I decided I needed to see it on foot. It's a fairly easy, excepting some rather brutal stairs at the beginning of the return trip. Going at a leisurely pace, it's maybe a 45 minute hike. 

I recommend eating breakfast at one of the nearby cafes. then heading on your hike. You want to get there before the tour buses show up. Go too late, and the trail will be clogged with extra slow moving tourists. If you go early in the morning, it's just you and the crazy in shape locals who like to run the trail. If you're me, you're also trying to beat (yet another) storm.

There's nothing better than a deserted beach.

How do oatmeal cookies tie in with a deserted beach early in the morning? They don't really except these might be the most perfect oatmeal cookies I've ever made and they'd be perfect to bring down to the beach as a snack. These are the oatmeal cookies dreams are made of. Unless of course, you don't like edges that are crispy-chewy, with the occasional toffee like bites, courtesy of the turbinado sugar.

I grew up in a house divided, not on politics or sports, but on raisins or chocolate chips. Oat of habit, I split the dough and did 1/2 chocolate chip, 1/2 bourbon soaked raisin. That's right, bourbon soaked raisin. Chocolate will always beat raisin in popularity contests, but maybe that's because raisins need a little help to change the status quo. Raisins benefit tremendously from a warm soak in bourbon (or rum! I had bourbon on hand.) They go from dry and curmudgeonly to plump and merry. But, since they're oatmeal raisin, they're basically a balanced meal, and definitely can be had for breakfast. 

And I am always on team cookies for breakfast. 

Oatmeal Bourbon Raisin (or Chocolate Chip) Cookies
Adapted from David Lebovitz
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar 
1/3 cup turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 3/4 cup old –fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups (240 g) raisins OR 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup bourbon or rum (optional)

Optional step if using bourbon: Heat the bourbon in a small saucepan over medium heat until boiling. Add the raisins, turn off the heat, and allow to sit until cool. Drain any remaining bourbon if necessary.

1.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, if you're lucky enough to have one, beat the butter and sugars until combined. If you don't have a stand mixer or even a hand mixer, grab a large mixing bowl and a fork. Mash together the butter and the sugars until you can run a fork through the mix without finding any butter streaks. This will take about 10 minutes, and will make it so you don't feel bad eating an extra cookie.

2.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat or stir until thoroughly combined. Stir in the vanilla extract.

3. With the mixer slowly running, or carefully by hand, add the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, and oats and mix until mostly combined.

4. Add raisins or chocolate chips to the dough. Make sure they get well distributed. If you're struggling, use your hands.
5. To bake the cookies, preheat your oven to 350ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

6. Scoop your dough for your preferred cookie size. I like rather small cookies to increase the edge to middle ratio, so I went with 1 1/2 - 2ish tablespoon scoops. Place 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet.

8. Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, longer if your dough is chilled, until they just start to turn brown around the edges.

Remove from oven and cool completely.

Storage: Once cool, the cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days. The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week, or frozen for up to two months.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Coromandel Penninsula

I'm trying hard to come up with the words to describe Coromandel Peninsula. To get there, you brave windy, sometimes unpaved, likely one-way roads through jungles that looks like they belong in Jurassic Park. You get stuck behind the semi truck that refuses to pull to the side so you can pass.  It rains on and off, sometimes torrentially while you turn on the turn signal instead of the wipers because everything is on the opposite side.

You plod along, trying to remember that you're still getting to see magnificent scenery, and if the drive in is this good, then the destination will be worth it. (Note: I have no pictures of the drive in because, well, I was driving.)

Luckily, your patience will be rewarded. Ideally, with retreating clouds.

Head towards Hot Water Beach and you'll start seeing signs for boat tours. You should follow those signs. They'll take you to a cul-de-sac and it'll seem all wrong. Make your way down to the beach, and if the weather is nice and they're not out on a tour/lunch/nap break, you'll find an EZ Up and an inflatable boat. Reserve your spot for the tour that takes you to the blowhole, (2 pm for us), then go find yourselves lunch.

There are some cafes within a kilometer of the beach, but if you're after a beer with your lunch (you're on vacation after all), go back the way you came and go to Hot Water Brewing Co.

It's hard to go wrong with the mussels, but the burgers also looked fantastic if they're more your speed. 

Once you've had your fill, head back towards the beach where you'll don the finest of life jackets and board your inflated vessel. 


Even on a windy, stormy day, the water was calm. 


If you timed your tour right, you'll get to go in the blowhole...which is the only way to see it. 

If you're really lucky, when you exit the blowhole (or one of the many other caves) you'll be find a pot of gold.

It's not quite time to make your way back to land yet. There's still a few more things to see. 

 Like Cathedral Cove.

But more on that later.