The frogs are singing again. I think, somewhat unconsciously, I consider the singing frogs as our local sign that our long, slow winter may actually be easing – always an encouraging thought in these parts. Their singing comes as a result of them rising up out of their self-imposed confinement in the muds of our local streams and marshes, once the temperatures rise above 50 degrees or so, as it has recently – but it won’t stay this warm, and our friends, the frogs, will once again sink in the mud -just like Punxsutawney Phil– for the remainder of the winter.
Frankly, I ignore the singing frogs as a harbinger, although I do enjoy hearing them in an otherwise dreary season. Our much more legitimate harbinger of spring are the birds which congregate in our myrtle trees each April morning, making glorious collective song to greet the dawn – when I hear that, I know for sure that winter’s grip is broken once again.
So, let’s celebrate the frogs’ good fortune -which I’m quite sure they are doing by breaking into song- by putting together a treat in their honor. I have recently uncovered a recipe for a cookie made with leftover cereal (do you remember that I recently started a ‘Leftover of the month’ category for this blog? – well, I did!), and since it was labeled with a pedestrian name, Steve Bechtold’s Cereal Cookies, I thought I’d rename the cookie in honor of the singing frogs. They shall henceforth be known as Frogs’ Joy Cookies – and I’ve dropped the word ‘cereal’ from the name, because cereal doesn’t exactly denote an exciting cookie. OK, Frogs’ Joy doesn’t either – so what!
I don’t know about you, but our ‘collection’ of old cereal can get out of hand. Once we’ve tired of a certain kind of cereal, it’s also losing its crispness as well – still, it’s just not right to just throw it out – so you leave it in the box taking up room in your cupboard. I recently got a new box of cereal and went to put it away, and there wasn’t any room in the cereal section for another box – so I began thinking, what can I make with all this leftover cereal? Why not some cookies? And the more I thought, the more I realized that this could also be my Leftover of the Month blog post too. Hey, why not!
Now, we’re not fans of sugared cereal – most of ours are flakes of some kind, or some variation of the bran twigs type cereal. So I looked for something that could use those – and no marshmallow, no bake type – only true baked cookies. Took me quite awhile to find something interesting, but when I did, it came with a bonus – it wasn’t just a cookie, but a cookie with a story – and those are always the best kind.
Seems that Steve Bechtold’s father was a career Navy vet, and that he spent much of his active time running the kitchen of the ships he served on. Steve remembers that his father returned home with several 3×5 cards containing a few of his favorite recipes from his Navy galley days, and one was for these cookies – the cookies went on to become a family favorite, which his father would dutifully bake at the appropriate times. And then his father died, and soon after the family lost most of their possessions in a flood, including the recipe for the cookies – they became just a fond memory to Steve.
Steve eventually decided to join the Navy himself, just as his dad had done, and interestingly, he too was assigned to mess hall duty. One day, the Mess Chief handed Steve a recipe card, and immediately Steve knew he had found the cookies his father had made all those many years of his childhood. Apparently, the Navy too had liked this cookie well enough to make it a standard menu item in every ship mess hall – funny how the best never stays secret for long.
There’s nothing unique about these cookies, they are just a nice combination of ingredients that come together to create a few good cookie characteristics – this is a ‘butterscotch’ base, not unlike that which gives a chocolate chip cookie its identity – but there is less ‘scotch’ here. It turns out a crispy, chewy texture, with both internal crisp crunch (the cereal) and chewy oatmeal too. I added raisins (the original recipe suggests this is a cookie in which many adaptions may occur), but know that adding raisins to a crisp cookie will, in time, soften the cookie – but ours won’t last that long!
Also keep in mind that by playing with the time your cookies are baked, you can control the texture of the cookie – bake for 1 or 2 minutes less than suggested and your cookie will be softer – bake for the suggested time, and your cookie will be chewy – bake for 1 or 2 minutes more than suggested, and your cookie will be crisp. Amazing.
Frogs’ Joy Cookies
(or Steve Bechtold’s Coconut Cereal Cookies)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
Sift together above ingredients and set aside to add later.
10 ounces butter
1 cup granulated sugar
7 ounces brown sugar
Cream together in mixing bowl for one minute.
Mix at medium speed until light and fluffy, about three minutes.
2 whole eggs, lightly beaten on low speed
1 teaspoon vanilla
Add to flour mix while on low speed until combined.
4 oz coconut
3/4 cup rolled oats
4 cups corn flakes, or other cereal
Add to dough.
Mix at low speed just until combined.
Let dough rest 30 minutes.
Divide into two equal parts and form into rolls.
Slice each roll into 25 pieces; place on ungreased pan.
Flatten to 1 /4 inch.
Bake in oven preheated to 375 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes, or until lightly brown.
Remove from pan while still warm. Recipe makes about 50 cookies.
I’ve given you Steve’s original recipe, and I followed it in making my cookies (except for adding raisins), and here’s what I’d consider changing:
* The most difficult part of making these cookies is that the dough is hard to handle if it’s too warm (75F+) or too cold (refrigerated). As you notice in the recipe, the dough is not chilled – they must have cold kitchens on Navy ships! My kitchen is about 65F in winter, and I found it better to chill it a bit (only 10-15 minutes) before working with it. The more ‘additions’ you make to your dough, the more fragile it’ll be.
* I made the first half of these cookies via the suggested ‘roll’ method – but I used a spoon to make small rolled balls for the rest – I think the rolled balls work better than making a roll and cutting it in pieces – whatever works best for you.
* Many things can be added to these (dried fruit, chopped nuts, choc chips, etc.), just remember that the more you add to the dough, the more fragile it gets, and the more you change the cookie’s texture – so experiment and learn.
* If your chosen leftover cereal is not crisp any longer, put it into a flat baking sheet or pan and give it 10 – 12 minutes at 225F to bring it back to crispness – you’ll have a better cookie.
This is certainly a delicious cookie, and a fantastic way to use up some of that old cereal in your cupboard – in fact, they’re good enough that I’d be tempted to use some of my new cereal to make them!