The holidays are many things, some wonderful, some less so. But always, as another year draws to an end, I find they are a moment of reflection. Much has happened in the ¡dpm! household this year. Happy things — we got married! — and sadder ones — I lost my last living grandparent, my abuelita. I learned a great many things from my abuelita, and she appears often in these pages. As holiday madness descends, and I turn to the kitchen to make the dulces navideños of the season (most all of them her recipes), I find myself thinking of her often. I can almost see her, sitting in morning sunlight at the small table in her Córdoba kitchen, spreading butter on bread, sprinkling it with sugar, sneaking me a treat before a day of baking.
This navidad, I find myself craving something simpler and more reflective than the spiced marshmallows and boozy caramels of recent holidays: the most wonderful of sweets I inherited from my grandmother, turrón de quaker.
This was — and continues to be — a favorite of mine, my comfort food: decadently sweet, but simply made, coming together in but a few minutes with pantry staples. It’s not meant to be fancy, or expensive, or even that impressive. It’s just really good — and not only because it is also, for me, deeply nostalgic.
(Why “Quaker”? It was the only “brand” oats only available in Argentina for much of my childhood!)
It’s celebratory yet homey, and perfect for a moment of reflection, at that lull point of the afternoon, with mate; a break from the madness.
turrón de quaker.
2 cups quick cooking rolled oats (Quaker brand, if you’re going for “authenticity”)
150 grams of unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
5 generous tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
5 to 10 tablespoons whole milk
12 to 16 unsalted “Stoned Wheat” crackers, or something similar
1. Butter the bottom and sides of an eight inch square glass baking dish (or one in an equivalent size.)
2. In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Turn down to a low flame, and add the sugar and cocoa, stirring to combine. Add the oats, and stir for two minutes, to cook the oats a bit.
3. Add the milk bit by bit, mixing well after each addition, until the mixture has a nice, spreadable consistency. You don’t want the mixture to be too thin, or it won’t set, but too stiff won’t work well either. Taste, and adjust the sweetness and chocolatey-ness by adding more sugar or cocoa to increase, or more oats and milk to decrease. Stir constantly to prevent burning. Remove from heat once you are happy with the texture and taste.
4. Cover the bottom of the baking dish with one layer of crackers, arranged tightly. Carefully add half of the oats mixture, pressing down evenly with a buttered spatula. Press on a second layer of crackers, and top with the remaining half of the oat mixture.
5. Cover tightly, and refrigerate for two to three hours, until set. Cut into squares, and enjoy!