Friday, February 27, 2009

Best Cookies Ever!

I'm allergic to dairy (cows milk) and soy, so eating prepared food is pretty much out of the question. This has forced me to become a good cook and food scientist as I seek out and refine ways to make the foods I crave in a manner that won't make me ill. From time to time I may share these recipes with you, since I doubt I am the only person looking for these culinary answers.

I discovered my allergy when I was 27 after sufferering from some odd and seemingly unrelated symptoms for about 10 years, but I'll leave that story for another day. So, its been almost a decade of the challenge of cooking dairy and soy free and I think I have come up with some good recipes in the meantime.

Case in point. My recipe for:

Everything From Chips to Nuts Cookies

1/2 cup smart balance light margerine
1/2 cup spectrum organic all vegetalbe shortening (palm shortening)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup almond meal (or flax meal if you prefer)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp real maple extract
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup raw macadamia nuts, chopped
1 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Cream margerine, shortening and sugars, then add eggs, maple flavor, salt and baking powder. Toss in the flour, oats, almond meal, coconut, nuts and choco chips and mix well. Bake heaping tablespoons of dough on parchment covered baking sheets for 13-15 minutes. Great warm from the oven while the chocolate is still gooey and for as long as they last.

These are crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, packed with nuts and buttery, warm flavors. YES, I said buttery! Actually, the smart balance tastes more buttery than I remember butter tasting, though it has been a long time. And that, along with the brown sugar, maple extract, coconut, salt and almond meal converge to bring warm, caramel notes that could only be described as buttery.

The macadamia nuts are a bit over the top. They are expensive, but they add such a satisfying crunch to the cookie. The pecans play a background roll here, but could win the oscar for supporting actor. Kosher salt is awesome in cookies--the larger flakes make little pockets of salt that your mouth seems to discover and savor--so sophisticated! And why almond meal? Good question. There are several reasons. It adds to the nutty character of the cookie, it gives richness to baked goods when you use it to replace some flour, it adds nutrition (almonds are a powerhouse of nutrition) and it also helps (along with the oats, coconut and other nuts--think fiber, protein, fat) to lower the glycemic index of the cookie. That means that you won't feel quite so much of a sugar rush and then sugar crash after eating a few. I hate sugar hangovers!

These are big cookies with big flavor. They are rocky and dense and a terrible temptation. Should you be lucky enough to NOT be allergic to milk or soy, you could easily use the recipe using conventional fats and I beleive they would be just as good as mine. I can easily say though, that after a lifetime of baking chocolate chip cookies, and most of that time baking with butter, that these are the best cookies I have ever made, bar none.

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