Monday, November 28, 2011

Cleo Coyle’s Oatmeal Cookie Brittle (No Flour or Butter) + Win $25 in Penzeys Spices

We're celebrating cooking with Penzeys spices! One lucky commenter on this post has won a $25.00 shopping spree of Penzeys spices (in stores, by phone, or online). The runner-up has won a large bottle of apple pie spice, which is featured in this recipe. Winners will be announced here in my new blog post on Tuesday, December 13th!

Cleo Coyle, who thinks
spice is the spice of life,
 is author of the
Coffeehouse Mysteries.
The holidays in my big, Italian family were always gastronomically glorious. Several of my relatives were in the food or restaurant business and my aunts, great aunts, and cousins were all excellent cooks, most of whom took pride in giving trays of homemade Italian cookies as holiday gifts.

I learned much growing up at the knees of these folks, and (no surprise) I was a chunky monkey through much of my girlhood. Over the years, the bathroom scale has gone up and down, but I’ve never let it kill my joy of cooking and eating. The older I become, the more I channel my foodie passion into experimenting with recipes, challenging myself to make them lighter and healthier—without giving up the pleasure of flavor. 

Of course, I still enjoy baking up decadent treats. To see the many (mainly chocolate) recipes featured in my latest Coffeehouse Mystery, Murder by Mocha, like these ganache-dipped chocolate chip cookie dough bites, click here. :)

For today, however, I’m sharing a somewhat healthier cookie option for your holiday trays: Overnight Oatmeal Cookie Brittle. There 
is no flour in my recipe yet the cookie is delightfully crispy and chewy. There is no butter yet the caramelization in the baking makes the cookie taste buttery. It’s also packed with the heart-healthy whole grain of oatmeal, the wonderful Omega-3 nutrition of walnuts and the antioxidants of raisins.

(I know, I know!) So the cookies have a great personality. How do they taste? My husband, Marc, who often cooks with me, declared this one of the best oatmeal treats he’s ever eaten. Certainly, if you prefer your oatmeal cookies thick and soft, you won't agree—and might be happier using the “drop cookie” instructions I provide instead. But if you’re game for a thin, crisp yet chewy cookie that’s full of flavor, the brittle may work for you.

This recipe is also pretty versatile. You can keep it healthy and simple or you can tart it up for holiday or dessert trays, adding toffee bits, Craisins, butterscotch and/or white chocolate chips.

You’ll notice I’m using Penzeys apple pie spice in this recipe. Like my fellow bloggers, I find Penzeys herbs and spices to be of the highest quality and potency. You can certainly make your own apple pie spice by blending spices in your own kitchen (and I give you a quick recipe for it today), but I find buying the blend pre-mixed is a time saver.

(Read more about today’s Penzeys giveaways after my recipe below.)


Finally, this recipe calls for “quick cooking oats,” and in case any of you are wondering…

QUESTION: What’s the difference between Quick Cooking Oats, Rolled Oats, and Steel Cut Oats? Is one “healthier” than the other? Can I substitute one for another in a recipe? 

ANSWER: (1) Steel cut oats (left) are whole oats that have been chopped up a bit. (2) Rolled oats (center) are whole oats that have been steamed and rolled flat. (3) Quick cooking oats (which is what this recipe calls for) are rolled oats that have been chopped up even further so they'll cook faster. 

All three of these oats carry nearly the same amount of fiber and nutrition. The primary difference among them is in how they’re cut. Read more hereAs for recipes, do not substitute. Any recipe the specifies a certain kind of oats is attempting to create a specific texture in the end product, so substituting one type for another will produce less than optimum results. 

Cleo Coyle’s
Overnight Oatmeal Cookie Brittle
(Or drop cookies)

As readers of this blog know, whole grained oats and I are old friends. For today’s recipe, I’m employing the same technique I used in my Oatmeal Cookie Muffins. (For a PDF of that recipe, click here.)

The technique is simply this: I soak the oats overnight. This hydrates the oats, allowing the mixture to develop great flavor and the proper texture for the recipe. The next day, I simply stir in a few more ingredients and then bake the whole thing as a large, flat pan cookie. It hardens as it cools. Then I’ll either break it up like brittle or cut it into shapes with a pizza cutter. You can also create drop cookies from this recipe, just be sure to flatten them out with the crisscross of fork tongs before cooking. 

To download a PDF copy of this recipe that you can print, save, or share, click here

My highly sophisticated method for finely
chopping nuts: Seal whole walnuts in a
plastic bag and bang away. Whole
walnuts are less expensive than
pre-chopped and can't we all use a
little primal pounding therapy before
the holidays?
Makes about 24 pieces of brittle or 2 dozen drop cookies 


For the overnight mix:

2 cups “quick cooking” oatmeal (not instant, not rolled)

1 cup light brown sugar 
1/3 cup apple sauce (natural, 
no-sugar added) 
1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil 
1-1/2 teaspoons apple pie spice (I use Penzeys; you can also mix your own, see how below**) 

For the next day additions: 

1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts (chop first, and then measure)
1/4 cup raisins

Tasty variations: Replace raisins with Craisins or dried cranberries; replace walnuts with finely chopped pecans or hazelnuts.

Holiday add-ins: 1/4 cup toffee bits (such as Heath brand Bits ’O Brickle). In addition, try adding 1/2 cup butterscotch chips; OR 1/2 cup white chocolate chips; OR split the amount, adding 1/4 cup of butterscotch and 1/4 cup of white chocolate chips.

**Make Your own Apple Pie Spice (from For every 1 teaspoon mix the following spices: 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom (some cooks replace cardamom with ginger)


Step 1 – Overnight soak: Into a plastic container, stir together the quick-cooking oats, light brown sugar, apple sauce, oil, and apple pie spice. Mix until well combined. Seal the plastic container and place in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight. Do not skip this step. You must allow the oats to hydrate and the flavors to develop. (Do not soak longer than 48 hours.) 

Step 2 – Create the dough: Add in the egg, salt, vanilla, finely chopped walnuts, and raisins. Mix well. (If you are adding any other optional extras, fold them in at this time.) 

Step 3 – Line your pan: Preheat oven to 350º F. Very important: You must line a baking sheet or half-sheet pan with parchment paper. If you do not line the pan, you will not be able to lift the brittle off the hot pan and cool it properly. 

Step 4 – Flatten the dough: The secret to this cookie is spreading it very thin. So dump the dough onto the lined pan and use a fork (yes a fork, it works best) to flatten the dough into an extremely thin layer (around 1/8 inch). 

Step 5 – Bake and cool: Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. The cookie is done when it turns a light brown, feels fairly firm to the touch in the center, and is crisp around its edges. (See my photos.) Remove pan from oven and see below for options on cutting. 

Option A - Break like brittle: Slide the parchment paper off the hot pan and onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes. You can speed up this process by sliding the rack into the refrigerator. Once the cookie is hard, break it into pieces with your hands, as you would peanut brittle. To keep the brittle from become too dry or stale, store it sealed in a plastic container. 

Option B - Slice into shapes: For this option, you'll want to under-bake the brittle slightly, leaning more toward 25 minutes rather than 30. When the pan cookie is finished baking, slide it, parchment paper and all, onto a cutting board. Quickly, while the pan cookie is still warm, use a pizza cutter to slice off the rough ends off the cookie, creating a straight edge on all four sides. Now slice up the warm cookie. Cut first into large squares. Then slice the squares into diagonals to create triangles. Once it's completely cool, store it sealed in a plastic container. 

(Option B - Sliced into Triangles)

Option C - Drop Cookies: Instead of making one big pan cookie, you can simply drop heaping teaspoons of dough onto a lined baking sheet. With the prongs of a fork, crisscross each mound to flatten, much as you would a traditional peanut butter cookie. Bake for about 15 minutes. 

The drop cookies in my photos are all dressed up for the holidays and include my optional add-ins: butterscotch chips, white chocolate chips, and toffee bits. 

Apple Pie Spice

Penzeys makes its Apple Pie Spice from a mix of China and Korintje cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, and cloves. Frankly, I didn’t know the difference between China and Korintje cinnamon, but Penzeys catalog educated me. China Cinnamon (Tung Hing) is extra sweet, spicy and strong. Indonesia Cinnamon (Korintje) is as strong as China cinnamon but smoother, more mellow, and not as nippy. I love the two cinnamons working together to give the best flavor possible to my cookies.

As is obvious, simply reading the Penzeys catalog (which includes info and recipes) is a joy. It’s free and you can subscribe to it here via their online site. If you win the $25.00 Penzeys gift card, you can order your herbs and spices through their website, drop by their stores, or order by phone via their catalog. Then you can cook and...

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

To get more of my recipes,
enter to win free coffee, or
learn about my books,
including my bestselling
Haunted Bookshop series,
visit my online coffeehouse:

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are national bestselling
culinary mysteries set in a landmark Greenwich Village 
coffeehouse, and each of the ten titles includes the 
added bonus of recipes. 


The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
, which Cleo writes
under the name Alice Kimberly
To learn more, click here.


  1. This recipe sounds delightful. I need to clean and organize my kitchen so I can start my holiday baking...and I think I need to try this one!

  2. Oh yum. The nice thing about this is that you're doing most of it the day before. Would be perfect for the holidays. Thanks for this, Cleo!

  3. The brittle looks delicious. Thanks for the recipe and the detailed instructions.

  4. I love brittle and can't wait to try this recipe! Looks and sounds delicious!

  5. That brittle looks sooooo good. I can't wait to try it!

  6. I can't wait to try the brittle recipe! This treat sounds like it could become a new family tradition! Thanks!

  7. Cleo, what a fun and easy bit of deliciousness. Love all the antioxidants, etc. Good for you sweets. Yay.


  8. This recipe will be tried - I love Penzeys - great spices.....

  9. Wow I am so "in" with this brittle recipe. I'm also a whole grain fan and crave them like some people crave chocolate. Thx so much for sharing!

  10. My husband LOVES oatmeal raisin cookies so I might have to try the brittle. And Penzey's is on my list of places to check out - it's just a little farther than I usually go for shopping.

  11. This looks awesome! I try and stay away from flour so it's even more appealing. Thanks! :-)

  12. Wow! These look great! find the right oatmeal....:)

  13. need to get the proper oats to make this. i can't wait to taste!

  14. I've printed out the recipe--and I've just got to try it with some craisins and butterscotch chips. Also thanks for the apple pie spice recipe---I often skip trying to make a recipe if I don't have the proper spice---put now I don't have to skip those with apple pie spice in them.

  15. I just finished making oatmeal cookies for my hubby, but I think I'm going to try these, too, as they sound wonderful. Had not heard of Penzeys before and have ordered a catalog. Thanks!

  16. These look positively addictive! But Cleo, you forgot a crucial step in the instructions for cutting the baked cookie into diamonds: Promptly eat all scraps remaining around the edges. :)

  17. I'm so with Laineshots...the scraps after you cut them!!!!

    We make a yearly trek to the Penzey's is a wonderful store and a really good thing that it is not closer to us ;-) Their catalog is almost as much fun...each issue includes several recipes and cooking hints from faithful fans!

    I'll be making a big batch of these for our wonderful mail lady, Melissa...she braves icky dirt roads, our precarious winter driveway and our barky dogs and always brings them treats to boot!! I think some of these and your microwave fudge will make a great Christmas gift. No doubt Chef Connor will add lots of goodies...he just suggested bacon!!! Oh that boy!

    Thanks Cleo for a terrific recipe and a great giveaway!


  18. Fascinating recipe, Cleo. What a lovely gift! You're certainly keeping the family tradition of making fine treats for the holidays.

    ~ Krista