Friday, March 16, 2007

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yesterday I went to a beautiful Vietnamese restaurant, and had a very tasty, and rather large, lunch. Then I went home and took a nap. When I woke up, my lunch was exactly where I left it - sitting like a brick in my belly. I wasn't hungry again for the rest of the day, but for some bizarre reason I developed an ENORMOUS craving for these cookies. The craving was still there when I got up this morning, so as soon as I had my morning cup of Earl Grey, I pulled out my mixer.

Not only are these cookies whole wheat, but except for the chocolate chips, they are vegan. Also, they are sweetened with reduced fruit juice concentrate rather than refined sugar. There are a couple ways of acquiring reduced fruit juice concentrate. Method #1: buy a jar of Wax Orchards Fruit Sweet at a health food store. Method #2: buy a 12 ounce can of apple or white grape juice concentrate, and simmer on the stove until it reduces to 1 cup. I have used both and could not differentiate between the two in the end product.

Right out of the oven, these cookies taste like you forgot the sugar, but after they have cooled, they taste less like health food and more like kick-ass peanut butter cookies. I'm not super happy with the grain sweetened chocolate chips, but it seems like regular chocolate chips would be overwhelmingly sweet in the context of a fruit-sweetened cookie. These cookies have a satisfying chewy texture when you get them out of the oven in time; otherwise they are crispy.

I found the original recipe in Mani Niall's Sweet and Natural Baking: Sugar-Free, Flavorful Recipes from Mani's Bakery. The only changes I made this time were to add the chocolate chips, and to use salted peanut butter, rather than unsalted (I take every opportunity to add salt to my baked goods - I swear that it makes them better.) I also usually use almond butter rather than peanut butter when baking these cookies, but I am planning on gifting them to a peanut butter lover, so I figured I would try the traditional flavor this time.

To make the cookies:
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup natural style nut butter (I can attest to successful cookies with both almond and peanut, but have yet to try anything more exotic. I have been reading interesting things about cashew butter - I think that may be next) I prefer to use roasted and salted as opposed to raw, unsalted.
- 3/4 cup fruit juice sweetener of choice (see above)
- 1 generous tsp vanilla
- About 3/4 cup grain sweetened chocolate chips

Oven to 350 degrees, parchment paper on two cookie sheets. Mix wet ingredients in mixer, add dry ingredients, beat until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Make balls with 1 Tbsp of dough, then squish with a wet fork to get the traditional pattern. Grain sweetened chocolate chips behave a little strangely; it is best to remove the chips at the edges of the cookies, and stick them in the middle of the cookie before baking, otherwise they burn. Bake 7-10 minutes (these are easy to overcook due to their color - watch closely, and take out when they are just barely browning on top.)

ps - With the leftover dough I made three jumbo cookies. Each cookie used about a quarter of a cup of dough, which I flattened to a half-inch thick disk. Definitely the way to go if you like your cookies chewy.

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