Sometimes I think I would make an awesome housewife. Like today, when, after spending the morning running to the bank and the grocery store, I decided to spend the early afternoon baking cookies while listening to The Young & the Restless and The Bold & the Beautiful in the background.
Recently when I was paging through my copy of The Food Matters Cookbook (by Mark Bittman), I realized that the way he presented recipes made me actually open to trying to bake vegan desserts. I’ve become pretty comfortable with preparing meals that are vegetarian or vegan, but I’ve shied away from vegan baking. I was always suspicious of what weird type of tofu* or soy product must go into cookies if there will be no eggs or butter.
Then there was the day when my lunch consisted of a giant vegan oatmeal cookie. It was towards the end of the semester and I was stressed and having a weird day where I had no interest in eating any foods. Except baked goods. So I figured I’d give this vegan cookie a try. If I’m going to have a cookie for lunch, it might as well be a healthy one. As I was finishing the cookie, and marveling at how good it was, I turned over the package to see what actually went into it. Turns out, the one cookie was actually two servings, and I had just eaten almost 500 calories-worth of cookie. So my notion of vegan = healthy, low-calorie food went down the drain. In fact, that seemed worse than a lot of the non-vegan baked goods I usually eat. I mean, three sea salt brownie “petites” from Trader Joe’s is less than 200 calories. Thus my suspicion of vegan cookies was replaced with a general bitterness towards the deceitful cookie and the food co-op where I purchased it.
But back to the other day when I was looking through the Food Matters book… I love the idea of being flexible, and having options and choices about the amount of animal products put into your food. So when a recipe calls for vegetable oil or butter or a combination of the two, or gives me the option of using eggs or applesauce, I feel less cornered into veganism. I understand true vegans probably have more of an all-or-nothing approach, but for someone who simply trying to reduce her consumption of animal products, the flexibility is great.
I was striving to make these cookies as close to vegan as possible (just out of curiosity), but I did stick to cow’s milk (I happen to have a lot of milk in the fridge right now, and want to use it up before it goes bad) and I’m sure the Ghirardelli chocolate had some additional milk in it. But I did use vegetable oil instead of butter and unsweetened applesauce in place of eggs. “Creaming” sugar with oil doesn’t look quite the same as it does when you’re using butter:
I also substituted sliced almonds for the chopped walnuts or pecans, as someone in our household (not me) does not like walnuts and pecans. Oatmeal cookies without raisins sounded wrong to me**, so I was going to add those in, but when I came across dried cherries at the store, the thought of chocolate, cherry, and almond together was too good to pass up.
The final change between my recipe and Bittman’s is that he called for teaspoon-size mounds of dough, but with all of the cherries and chocolate chunks, a teaspoon was barely enough to include chocolate, cherry, and enough dough to hold them together. So mine ended up being more like two teaspoons, and by the end, generous tablespoon-size mounds. (Does anyone else find that as they bake cookies, the cookies get progressively bigger from the first baking sheet to the next?) I almost wonder if the teaspoon is a typo, because despite making larger cookies, I ended up with 44 cookies, rather than the 36 the recipes estimates.
In the end, these semi-vegan cookies turned out to be quite yummy.
Chocolate Chunk & Cherry Oatmeal Cookies (adapted from The Food Matters Cookbook)
1/2 cup of vegetable oil or 8 tbsp (1 stick) of unsalted butter or combination of the two
1/2 cup of sugar (as in regular white sugar)
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup of applesauce or 2 eggs
3/4 cup of whole wheat flour
3/4 cup of all-purpose flour
2 cups of rolled oats (I don’t really know what “rolled oats” means… I just used regular old-fashioned Quaker oats)
1/2 cup of sliced almonds (or 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts or pecans as the original recipe calls for)
Pinch of salt
2 tsp of baking powder
1/2 cup of almond milk, rice milk, oat milk, or cow’s milk (I used 2% cow milk)
1/2 tsp of vanilla extract
4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate, broken into small chunks
about a 1/3 cup of dried cherries
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, beat oil and both sugars together until blended. Stir in applesauce (or eggs).
In a separate bowl, mix both flours, oats, nuts, salt, and baking powder. Alternating between milk and the dry ingredients, add a little at a time to the sugar mixture, stirring to blend. Then stir in the vanilla, and then the chocolate chunks and cherries.
Put tablespoon-sized mounds of dough on an ungreased baking sheet, about 3 inches apart. Bake until lightly browned, about 14 minutes. Cool for several minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Cookies can be stored in a sealed container for several days.
*I keep trying tofu in various forms, but unless it’s in miso or hot & sour soup, I just don’t enjoy it.
**If you’ve known me for most of my life, this is probably a shocking statement, given my general dislike for raisins. But I’ve actually grown to tolerate them, and sometimes, like them.