Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Tale of Two Cookies

It has probably become evident by now that I like cookies. Sweet, simple, easy to bake, and perhaps a bit too easy to eat, cookies are one of my favorite desserts. I think I get that from my mom, who was prone to whip up a batch or two when she was craving something sweet. I used to “help” her (mostly by eating dough) just like my two boys help me now.

My friend Jessica who is the Cooking Equipment Guide (check out her site for all kinds of handy information) recently sent out a request for bakers for the Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Bake Sale at the Dogwood Festival this weekend in Atlanta. I gladly jumped at the opportunity because 1). It’s a good cause and 2). It’s a good excuse to bake (and eat) cookies.

After the commitment, comes the dilemma of deciding what to bake. While browsing recipes online, I came across a recipe I immediately had to try – Joy the Baker’s Browned Butter Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies. Browned butter + Sugar= Caramel-y Goodness! On Wednesday, I got to baking (with my almost-3-year-old assistant). I made a few minor adjustments to the recipe, for instance subbing two eggs for 1 egg and 1 egg yolk (I hate to waste an egg white). I also added more brown sugar in lieu of granulated sugar because I love brown sugar. And I added more coconut, because I love coconut. You catch my drift …

I hardly ever take tutorial-type photos of my process because I’m usually too crazed and/or my small kitchen is a wreck. In general, you don’t want to do things the way I do them. However, I had my camera nearby and my boy decided that he wanted to be a photographer. Here’s what he captured (which actually turned out looking kind of like an art school experiment).

Browning butter is fun, but a bit tricky since there is a fine line between browned and burnt. Expect a lot of bubbling, popping and hissing. When it appears to be golden, pour it out in a bowl and cool separately from the pan so it doesn’t continue cooking in the hot pan. Other than browning the butter, which takes a little extra time, the recipe is simple and yields delicious, moist chocolate cookies with just a hint of caramel and coconut. Just don’t overbake (like I tend to do) – or they may turn out a bit on the dry/cakey side.

The next day, I decided maybe I should tone down the buttery decadence for my next batch of cookies. I found a “healthy” oatmeal cookie recipe and adapted it to be vegan. Vegans enjoy cookies, too! I found subbing applesauce for the eggs turned out quite nicely. I also used whole wheat flour, flaxseed meal and wheat bran to add a little fiber and nutritional value. I did not take pictures of the process for these – nor did I have an assistant (which was kind of nice).

Here are both batches. Which would you pick?

Out of curiosity, I ran both recipes through a nutritional recipe analyzer to see how they compared. I don’t think you want to know the stats on the chocolate chip cookies (though I am listing them below – shield your eyes). Let’s just say, they are in the category of “enjoy one for a splurge.” However, the oatmeal cookies were lower in calories and fat and a bit more high-fiber. They were good, but as my husband said, “They have that health food store taste.” I personally like the health food store taste, but I also like the taste of fattening indulgence. It’s all about balance – something I think we all struggle with in life.

Generally, my philosophy on desserts is that they are a treat and should taste good. I don’t use fake butter or fake sugar, but I am finding there are ways to sneak in a little whole wheat flour or unrefined sugar to make them a tiny bit more nutritious. Here are the recipes. Try them and see what you think!

Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Adapted from Joy the Baker)

2 sticks butter (unsalted)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup, packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup coconut, flaked, sweetened
1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli 60% Cacao)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. On one sheet, spread coconut and toast in the oven for approximately 5 minutes, or until slightly browned. Remove and cool. Melt butter over medium heat until well browned. Pour into a bowl and allow to cool slightly. Mix sugars, butter and egg until creamy. Add dry ingredients. Fold in chocolate chips and coconut. Use an ice cream or cookie scoop to evenly place dough onto cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown but still soft in the center. Cool on pan for approximately 5 minutes before removing.

Nutrition Information / Serving (one large cookie)
236 Calories 2g Protein 11g Fat

Vegan Oatmeal Trail Mix Cookies
(Adapted from a recipe)

3/4 cup canola oil
1 cup, packed brown sugar
3 tbsp. honey
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup oatmeal-old fashioned rolled
2 cups whole wheat flour (I prefer white whole wheat for baking)
1/2 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
1/4 teaspoon ginger, powdered
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I mixed raw pecans and roasted peanuts)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or lightly grease). Mix together first 5 ingredients. Gradually mix in flour, baking soda, salt, bran and flaxseed meal. Stir in nuts and chopped fruit. Drop by teaspoon full about an inch apart. Flaten slightly. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Allow to cool on pan for five minutes before removing.

Nutrition Information / Serving (one large cookie)
189 Calories 2 g Protein 8 g Fat
*Note: The majority of the fat comes from the nuts. There is no saturated fat.

Now, if you are in the Atlanta area, get yourself to Piedmont Park today and find the Cookies for Kids' Cancer Bake Sale. To learn more about this great organization and how to host a bake sale in your area, click here. Also, going on today in Cumming is the Hike4Hyde which I mentioned in my Cookies and Community post a while back. That's where I'll be -- and there will certainly be cookies there as well!

Vice or virtue – What’s your dessert philosophy? I’d love to hear from you!


  1. Those vegan trail mix cookies actually sold like hotcakes, especially in the morning when people probably were wanting something that tasted a bit healthier. I was thinking they would be great to take on a camping trip or a hike, no?

    Thanks for baking, Rachel! I loved this blog post!

  2. Just to let you know, vegans would not consider those cookies to be 'vegan' since the recipe includes honey. I'm sure agave syrup could easily be substituted to make them 'by the book vegan.' Thanks for the recipe. I think I will give them a try possibly with different fruit--maybe dried blueberries?