It was the night I finally gave in. I had been off all sweeteners, natural, refined, raw, artificial – for over 3 months.Maybe I’d had one small sweet, here and there, fewer than 10 times (excluding my hefty portion of Jujube Crisp, which really wasn’t very sweet). I’d been following a diet of limited carbs, especially sweet ones…. my main fruit was berries, maybe a pear or nectarine. The reduced carbs was part of a sort of health renewal-get-back-to-true-me program that has been my focus for a year or so. I found cutting back on sweet foods was pretty straightforward, and only challenging at the start when my body still craved, was still addicted.. Then it got to feeling pretty great (and still does, now that I’m including small amounts of sweetened foods) feeling lighter, sleeping better, having more energy, and undertaking some serious viewing of the internal mirror.
One night however, I needed to have a cookie, or two, or three. I found my mind making a quick review of what cookie ingredients I might have in the house. Flour? Check. Butter? Check. Sweetener? Check. I had a bag of coconut sugar way back on a low shelf in the fridge. Oatmeal? Yes. Pecans or walnuts? Nope, but an almost empty jar of almond butter probably back on that same shelf. Cookies were looking like a possibility. They wouldn’t be amazing cookies… not the kind that you just might not be able to stop eating – but they would be tasty, and satisfy this sweet craving.
It’s a sort of discipline, you know. It’s why I always buy bread that is not scrumptiously good, like a good ciabatta or artisan loaf. No, I buy sprouted whole grain sandwich bread. It’s easy to eat just one piece toasted and it satisfies the wanting of bread. If I buy cookies, I pick a package of ginger snaps or other not- amazing cookies that taste good but are easy to stop eating after a few bites. (I’ve had a container of unopened Trader Joes ginger snaps in my pantry for months; easy to resist, they’re surely stale by now). It’s those carbs you know, you just keep wanting more. So I want cookies that are good but not addicting. It’s how I deal.
This was my rationalization as I headed into the kitchen to whip up a batch of something sweet. I deserved it. I imagined Mexican wedding cookies… those buttery balls with finely chopped walnuts, rolled in confectioner’s sugar… and put a half cube of butter in my mixing bowl. No pecans or walnuts? No problem. I put a few drops of olive oil in my measuring cup, scraped all the almond butter out of the jar and lo and behold, I had ¼ cup! That little bit of olive oil let that almond butter slide right into the mixing bowl. I’ve never baked with coconut sugar and it’s not super sweet, but it’s what I had… a half cup into the bowl.
A capful of vanilla. Not wanting to bother with an electric appliance, I pulled out a dinner fork from the silverware drawer and mashed and mixed until they were all creamed together. I could already smell those little sweethearts baking. Oh, right, the oven! I set it at 400° to preheat. Took a taste of the creamed mixture and it needed a touch more sweetness. I thought the coconut sugar had a funny texture. It’s very granular. I added 2 Tbsp. of maple syrup which I’d forgotten was in the back on the top shelf of the fridge behind various bottles and cartons. Yes, that was better. My thought was to add flour and oatmeal. I realized that what I thought was oatmeal was actually Trader Joes Multi-Grain Hot Cereal and I didn’t feel too confident substituting with that. So I just added a cup of unbleached flour (yes, I know, it’s not whole grain, but it is organic!I),and some cinnamon and salt. My fork got busy again and in a moment or two I had a small batch of cookie dough that would make decent drop cookies.
Sprayed a little oil on a cookie sheet. Oh, the stainless steel cookie sheet I have had for almost 40 years!!! That’ll make you feel old. I used to bake cookies for my now-40-year-old daughter on that cookie sheet when she was a toddler. Two spoons and a cookie sheet later I had cookies to bake. A dozen, to be exact. Not sure how well they’d spread out on their own, I floured my fork and criss-crossed it on top of each little dough drop to flatten them a bit. Into the oven!
(Oh, and by the way, sorry that the photos are a little dark. After all, it was after 9 PM and those newfangled coiled eco lightbulbs I bought don’t get very bright. So bear with me!)
Exactly 10 minutes later they were done. They did spread out a bit but didn’t melt into each other (so maybe the pressing with the fork wasn’t so necessary) and were perfectly browned. Still quite soft and when I tried to pick up didn’t hold together well. So I let them cool first, but not before taking a taste of one. A good chewy consistency, not too sweet, but sweet enough. I controlled myself and let them cool, hoping they wouldn’t get hard or crispy.
The final result? They stayed just the right amount of soft and chewy, crispy on the outside and firm enough when cooled that they didn’t fall apart at all. Really, the texture was quite perfect! Overall I was pretty happy with these cookies, evidenced by the fact that I’d eaten 6 of them before I had the dishes done. I thought, “Why oh why is my husband out of town and not here to eat the other half????” Then I sealed the remaining 5 in a plastic storage container and hid them from myself on the bottom shelf in the fridge behind the lettuce on the left side, and said to myself, “I’ll never find them there!”
Yield: 1 dozen cookies
You can use any nut or seed butter (peanut, cashew, sunflower, sesame, etc.) with varying taste results. This dough would also make good thumbprint PBJ cookies. Don’t flatten the dough balls, just press your thumb in the center and put a dab (1/8 tsp.) of fruit jam or preserves in the indentation before baking. And btw, maple syrup is really optional. I added it because I didn’t want to add more coconut sugar. Taste the dough and if you want it sweeter add a little more sugar!
¼ cup cold sweet butter (½ stick)
½ cup coconut sugar (or other unrefined sugar)
¼ cup almond butter (I used raw unsalted; roasted would taste better)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbsp. maple syrup (or other such as agave nectar or honey)
1 cup flour
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. salt (you might like a little more salt)
Preheat oven to 400°. Cream together butter, sugar, almond butter, vanilla, and maple syrup. Add flour, cinnamon and salt. Mix well. Drop by teaspoons full onto lightly greased cookie sheet. Flatten with a fork into squat patties . Bake for 9-10 minutes, until lightly browned on top and browned on the bottom. Let cool 15-20 minutes. Enjoy!