Oatmeal Crispies

One of my family traditions is to bake fresh oatmeal cookies during the Holidays.

This recipe has been in my family for many years.  I only use organic ingredients in mine.  Yield: about 40 cookies.

Preheat oven to 350F.

  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup brown sugar, not packed
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup sifted all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups oats
  • 1 1/2 cup pecans or walnuts
  • 1 cup raisins

Cream the butter and sugars until the mixture is fluffy.

Add the eggs and vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Add the flour, soda and salt and mix thoroughly.

Add the oats, nuts and raisins and mix until they are incorporated.

Using a cookie scoop, scoop rounded balls of dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Place 8 cookies per sheet.


Bake for 13-15 minutes or until the cookies are golden brown on top.  For chewy and soft cookies, bake a bit less.  For crunchy cookies, bake a bit longer.


Fun additions:

  • Add a pecan half on top of each cookie prior to baking
  • Add some cinnamon or other holiday spices
  • Add a bit of coconut or chopped dates

Southern Style Biscuits

Being from the Deep South, I grew up eating a lot of biscuits.  Over time, I have developed an easy recipe which makes about 6 delicious tender, soft and delicious southern style biscuits.

You’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 cup plus 4 tbsp all purpose flour (I use King Arthur Organic)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 6 tbsp butter, cut into pieces
  • 3/4 cup milk or buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Add the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer.  I use a KitchenAid.  Combine on low speed.  Add the butter pieces and mix on medium-low speed until the mixture looks grainy, like very coarse cornmeal.  Reduce speed to low setting and add milk or buttermilk.  Buttermilk is preferred but milk can be used if you don’t have any on hand.

Combine ingredients until a shaggy dough is formed.


Scrape the dough out onto a floured surface and sprinkle with a small amount of additional flour, about 1 tbsp max.  With floured hands, gently work the dough into a circle about 3/4″ thick.


Using a biscuit cutter, cut biscuits and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake the biscuits until they just start to get golden.  Remove from oven and brush tops with melted butter.


Place biscuits back in oven and bake until golden brown.  Notice I don’t specify a time here.  You have to use your judgment when baking these as some people prefer smaller biscuits (larger diameter or thicker) and some prefer smaller.  The telltale sign when they are ready is they turn a nice golden brown.


John’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies are always a favorite.  Some like them flat, thin and crispy while others like them fat, soft and chewy.  This recipe represents repeated refinement to come up with a consistent recipe for soft, thick cookies that are sure to be loved by all.

Combine the following in a bowl:

  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour (I use organic King Arthur)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer (I use a KitchenAid), add the following:

  • 1 stick butter (high quality), softened a bit
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (not packed)

Cream the butter and sugars until fluffy using medium speed.  Stop and scrape the bowl at least once. When the mixture is fluffy, add:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Incorporate the egg and vanilla until well mixed.  Add in the flour mixture and combine (do not overmix).  Finally, add the following:

  • 1/2 bag Ghirardelli Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips (about 6 oz.)

Stir in the chocolate chips on the lowest speed until they are incorporated.  Do not overmix.

Scoop dough onto cookie sheets using a Cookie Scoop.  The size of the scoop dictates the size of the cookie.  Do not flatten the scoop.  Leave it mounded.

I like a larger cookie.  I typically fit 6-8 cookies per cookie sheet.

Refrigerate the cookie sheets for 15 minutes.  While they are chilling, preheat oven to 350F.

Bake chilled cookies 12-14 minutes or until edges are golden.  They should resemble:


Award Winning Chili: “It’s Not Chili Anymore” White Chili

I made this chili in my company’s 2011 Chili Making Contest and walked away with First Place!  Here’s the recipe.

It’s Not Chili Anymore White Chili – John W. Graham, 2011

  • 1 poblano chili pepper
  • 2 anaheim chili peppers
  • 2 heads garlic
  • 3 shallots (small size), finely chopped
  • ½ yellow onion, chopped
  • ½ medium sized tomato, chopped
  • ½ tsp. Goya Adobo All-Purpose Seasoning
  • 48 oz. reduced sodium chicken broth
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp. roasted cumin
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tbsp. chili powder
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, skin removed, shredded
  • 3 chicken bratwurst sausages, chopped (Whole Foods)
  • 1 can cannellini beans, undrained
  • Salt & pepper
  • 3 tbsp. all purpose flour, dissolved in 1/3 cup water
  • 4 tbsp cilantro, chopped.

Roast the peppers.  Place the chili peppers in a pan and broil at 500F, turning frequently until skin is slightly charred.  Remove from broiler, cool.  Peel cooled peppers, then coarsely chop.  Set aside.

Prepare the garlic.  Slice ½” off the pointed end of the unpeeled garlic.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Wrap in aluminum foil and bake at 350F for 45 minutes.  Let cool, then squeeze the pulp out of the cloves.  Set aside.

Prepare the sofrito.  Sautee the chopped shallots, onion and tomato in olive oil until the mixture is soft and translucent.  Season with the Goya Adobo.  Set aside.

Prepare the chili.  In a large (stock) pot, brown the chopped sausage for 10 minutes, seasoned with black pepper and the roasted cumin.  Add the chicken stock, and bring to a boil.  Add the sofrito, roasted chopped peppers and the roasted garlic.  Stir.  Add chicken and beans.  Stir in chili powder, ground cumin, paprika, black pepper and cayenne pepper.  Season with additional salt, if desired.

Reduce heat and simmer for one hour.  Gently stir in flour mixture (to thicken) and add cilantro 5 minutes before serving.

Vanilla Flan

Today I’m going to provide my own recipe for Vanilla Flan.

You will need:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 12 ounce can evaporated milk
  • 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Preheat your oven to 350F.  Spray a 9 inch stoneware casserole with non-stick cooking spray.

Overview.  This recipe is all about timing.  While the caramel is making, you boil the water and make the flan mixture.  Once the caramel is done, you immediately add it to the dish and immediately set the dish inside a 9×13 cake pan that is filled halfway with boiling water.  Then you add the flan mixture and bake.  I’ll outline the steps individually…

Make the Caramel.  Add the sugar to a small saucepan and add 1/4 cup water.  Cook over medium heat, stirring until sugar becomes translucent.  Increase heat to medium high and do not stir.  Occasionally, brush the sides of the saucepan with a pastry brush dipped in water.  This prevents sugar crystals from forming.  When the sugar begins to caramelize, continue waiting until the caramel is a deep brown-red color.  This will take anywhere from 15-30 minutes.  Be patient and don’t be afraid of dark caramel but don’t get it too dark because it will be bitter / acrid.

Make the Flan.  While the caramel is making, put about 5 cups water to boil.  While the water is coming to a boil, mix together  the evaporated milk, condensed milk, milk, eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla extract until well blended.   Add the heavy cream and mix until it is incorporated.  This will be a soupy mix with visible bits of egg yolk.  Using a knife, split open the vanilla bean and scrape out the vanilla seeds.  Add them to the flan mixture, mixing well.

When the water is boiling, pour it into the 9×13 pan.

By now, your caramel should be getting done.  As soon as the caramel reaches the desired color, remove it from the heat and immediately pour it into your greased dish, coating the bottom and about 1″ of the sides.  Set this dish into a 9×13 pan that is halfway filled with boiling water.  The goal here is to not have the boiling water overflow out of the 9×13 pan.  Use caution.

Do a final stir on the flan mixture, then pour it on top of the caramel.  Be sure to use a scraper to get all of the vanilla seeds.  Carefully put the 9×13 pan into the oven.  Cook for about 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle of the flan comes out clean.  It will still be jiggly.

Let the flan cool, then put it in the refrigerator and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.  When you are ready to serve the flan, invert the flan onto a large plate.  Don’t attempt to salvage the caramel that has turned to candy in the bottom…all you want is the liquid caramel.  The resulting flan should look like this after it is cut:

A Warning about Weevils

Though this will not be an appetizing post, it is necessary for any home baker to be aware of certain things.  Wheat Weevils (Sitophilus granarius) are an unfortunate reality that must be dealt with.

First, I strive for total cleanliness in my kitchen and pantry.  This includes weekly cleaning of my refrigerator.  I typically store my flours at room temperature in air-tight containers.  You store them in the freezer too, but I find this adds unwanted moisture and flavors to the flour.  There is a good reason to store your flour in airtight containers (in the bag).

I picked up some King Arthur AP flour this weekend at my local supermarket.  When I got home, I opened one of the bags and found it teeming with wheat weevils.  My wife calls them “Gorgojos” which translates to “Weevils”.  If you see these things in your kitchen, you have to immediately discard the flour.  In my case, I put it in a zip top bag and took it back to the store for a refund, and to chastise the manager for having conditions in his storeroom that would allow such an infestation.

If you just store your flour on the pantry shelf, you are asking for a weevil infestation.  I don’t know where they come from; I just know that you will get them.  Many discount stores sell containers suitable for storing single 5 lb. bags of flour or even multiple bags.  You need to invest in these if you plan to do any baking at home!  At a minimum, keep your flour sealed in a plastic bag.

Remember this final warning…just because you buy new, fresh flour at the store doesn’t mean it is not infested with weevils.  Always check it.  You may not see any signs, but you will sometimes see an adult weevil when you open a new bag.  If you find them in a new bag, return it to the store and speak to the manager.  And most importantly, never again buy flour from this store!  Chances are…the rest of their flour and wheat products (including wheat based kitty litter) is infested.


Pain de Mie

One of the gifts I received for my birthday was a 13 x 4 x 4 Pain de Mie pan.  While it is certainly a specialty baking item, it is a “nice to have” addition to the home bread baker’s repertoire.   Pain de Mie (roughly pronounced “Pan duh mee”) is a French sandwich-type bread traditionally made in a Pain de Mie pan or a Pullman pan.

The recipe I used for my Pan de Mie is from Sarbeth’s Bakery cookbook.  The only translation necessary from her cookbook was from compressed yeast or active dry to the instant dry yeast I was using.  The typical conversion ratio is 1 oz. compressed = 0.5 oz. active dry = 0.4 oz. instant dry.  So for her recipe I ended up using 0.2 oz. of IDY.

The instructions are very straightforward.  This bread is mixed like any other white bread.

Following an initial mix, flour is gradually incorporated until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. You then mix on medium-low (speed 2 or 3) for 6 minutes.  The resulting dough is put in a container and set to rise for 1.25 hours.

Following the rise, the dough is dumped onto a floured surface and gently shaped into a long loaf.

The prepared dough is then added to the greased pullman pan.

With the lid in place, but not fully closed, the dough is left to rise for approximately 1 hour.  I let mine rise for 1 hour and 10 minutes and it still had some room to grow; however, I slightly underproofed it.

After rising, the lid is locked into place and the risen loaf is added to a 350F oven and set to bake for 35 minutes.  After cooking through (mine baked for 40m), the bread cools in the pan for 5m, then it is inverted onto a cooling rack.

The crumb is light, fluffy and flavorful.  This bread is indeed the same size as a supermarket bread loaf but the taste and texture is much more desirable.  I was blown away by the taste of a slice of this bread that had been toasted and buttered.

Lessons Learned:

This is a recipe that requires intuition over precision.  You will need to add enough flour to get the proper consistency but not enough that the bread will end up dry.  I’ve come to believe that less flour (initially) is more desirable than too much flour.  Remember that after its initial rise, the dough will become more manageable, so even if it seems slack at first it will firm up as it rises.

If you want a completely squared off (rectangular) loaf, just let the dough rise higher in the pullman pan.  As it expands during the initial moments of baking, the bread will have nowhere to go, so it will square-off in the pan and develop a more dense crumb.

This bread was a big hit in my household.  Although a loaf of supermarket bread may sit around for a week, this bread was consumed within 12 hours of baking it.