Tuesday, June 16, 2009

veganification

Lately it may seem that there have been more important things on my mind than food, things like naked ladies and beanie babies and dazzling personal revelations. And in some ways, that would be true. But in other ways, it would also be pertinent to note that in the past week alone I have tried two new cookie recipes, which I naturally have managed to completely give away as of this afternoon, and I tried another the week before that. While I'll admit that other food in my life has taken a bit of a backseat, cookies have been on a veritable upswing.

I've been experimenting lately with vegan cookies, due partly to a friend's dietary habits but also because I like to surprise people with food. One way of doing this is by messing around with the flavors: "Have a lentil scone! A sweet tomato dessert topping! A black olive muffin!" Another way of doing this is by adhering to some sort of dietary restriction, like being gluten-free or allergic to soy. Making vegan baked goods that don't taste like crap will, in my experience, gain you a lot of raised eyebrows and verbal or physical high fives. The especially nice part of this is that good vegan cookies are not incredibly hard to pull off; there are lots of great recipes out there, and in fact my favorite ever chocolate chip cookie recipe is vegan. But it's always nice to show people it can be done and that vegans aren't just complete weirdos that eat grass.

This first recipe was for Red Hot Mamas, an excellent cookie name if ever there was one. That recipe actually covered both of my "surprise!" food strategies, because they are spicy vegan chocolate chocolate chip cookies. Oh yes. Those cookies powered a number of people through a queer dance party and a decent amount of beer.

The second recipe was not vegan but also contained something of a surprise ingredient, although it was admittedly not as surprising as cayenne pepper. These chocolate chip pecan oatmeal cookies are pretty awesome on their own, but the nutmeg and orange zest give them an especially nice little zing. I carried and dropped off bags of these cookies all over the place on Saturday as I embarked on a rather epic walk to Roscoe Village, five miles away.

The final batch was both more and less exciting than I was anticipating. I went to Rose-Anne's on Sunday and she served me these amazing cookies that had the texture of cornmeal muffin tops; it might sound weird, but you have to believe me when I say that it's absolutely awesome. Awesome enough that I wrote down the recipe in my notebook while everybody else made small talk, and immediately set out to make a vegan version when I got home. The disappointing part of this experiment was that the switch to vegan (or maybe just my baking skills) changed the texture that had drawn me in, but it was of little matter in the long run because people apparently LOVED these cookies. I got rid of a batch and a half (forty-two cookies, all told) in about a day, and I only ate maybe five of those myself. Regardless of my textural disappointment, I think that has to be considered a success.

So here's the (heavily annotated) original recipe, and my vegan modifications are in parentheses next to the things I changed. I don't remember where the original came from, which makes me a shitty citationer, but maybe Rose-Anne will chip in on that one? Anyway.

(Vegan) Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies

Ingredients:
-3 cups whole wheat or white wheat flour (For me, all whole wheat was maybe a little heavy. I did half and half on my second batch and preferred it. But I suspect R-A used white whole wheat, and hers were delicious and light.)
-1 1/2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
-3/4 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-2 large eggs (or about half a banana. I bet applesauce or oil would work too and might change the texture, but I got a lot of complimentary comments about the banana.)
-1/2 cup buttermilk (Or use 1/2 cup dairy or almond milk and 1/2 tbs lemon juice that you've mixed together and let sit for fifteen minutes. A handy trick indeed for those who do not commonly just have buttermilk sitting around.)
-1 tbs dark molasses
-1 1/2 tsp vanilla (I just had to invest in a larger vanilla bottle because I ran through TWO last week in a rather abortive effort to make vegan strawberry shortcake. Huh.)
-1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted or vegan butter, melted
-1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
-3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (I ran out of walnuts before my last half batch, and the resulting cookies were predictably equally enjoyable with only chocolate chips involved.)

Pre-heat the oven to 350. Put a silpat or parchment paper on a baking sheet. (I love my knockoff silpat from the grocery store!) In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt together, and then stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts. In a medium bowl, mix the eggs (banana), (butter)(almond) milk, molasses, and vanilla. Whisk in the melted butter. Make a well in the dry bowl, pour in the wet and stir until mixed. Make into medium-sized balls and place a few inches apart on the baking sheet. (My sheet fit twelve; they don't spread incredibly, but they do spread a bit.) (Also, if you let the dough sit for a few minutes, it will be far easier to handle. It lets things dissolve together more, I think.) Bake for about fifteen minutes, until they appear dry and golden brown but are still soft. Cool on a baking rack. Impress your friends with your vegan cookies.

2 comments:

Rosiecat said...

Hello, Ms. Vegan Baker Extraordinaire! The original recipe is from the February 2008 issue of Bon Appetit. You're right that I used white whole wheat flour. I've had a lot of success with that flour, but I was curious about what heavier whole wheat flour would do to these cookies!

So how would you describe the texture of the vegan version? The banana sounds delicious--I could definitely see that working, flavor-wise.

One other thing I should confess is that I often make cookie dough, bake a sheet of cookies, and then throw the rest of the dough in the fridge. The cookies you ate on Sunday were from dough I made on Saturday night, so I'm inclined to agree with you that cookie dough improves with a little bit of time.

ammie said...

Yeah, I would have used white whole wheat if they had had it at the store. I generally am not that big a fan of whole wheat baked goods; I know they're better for me, but they're so heavy! The cookies I made were heavier and didn't have that cornmealy graham cracker texture that yours did, which made me sad. But people seemed to like them anyway, and next time I'll try the other flour and see if it changes things.
And cookie dough! I sometimes refrigerate, but I also notice that when I let the dough sit between the first tray of cookies and the second it handles much more easily and it more cohesive. Which equals less cookie dough all over my hands, which is sometimes nice :)