Deprivation and Innovation

March 20, 2008

whilst watching Aliens

I'm not certain what it is about late night baking, but lately I've found myself settling in around midnight exorcising some floury demon. A few weeks ago a couple hours of indulging in cheeses, olives, bucatini all' amatriciana and three flavors of gelato at Otto resulted in an inexplicable and quite frankly distressing craving for cookies. Maybe olive oil + wine + curds + pig's jowl = cookie, I don't know. Forced to abandon my initial idea to hit up Build A Green Birdbath Milkpaint Corkboard Bakery for their stealth vegan chocolate chip cookie bomb of addiction, I decided that my cookie craving could be standing in for a desire to create and went home and started mixing. [Paul Reiser! Sigourney Weaver and her terrible hairdo do not trust Paul Reiser. He explains 57 lost years in the same tone he'd tell Jamie that Murray ate her slipper. Cats know what humans do not! Oh, oops, dream sequence. Wow I really don't remember a lot of this movie.]

I was going to make these, but my penchant for pseudo-veganization and complications rode high once more. Molasses is my friend of late so there was no question about that oozing in somewhere, and I've been trying to figure out when and how butter substitutes are suitable so I tried an oil and apple-butter combo. [You should believe Ripley, ill-coiffed Lily Tomlin look-alike skeptic and company.] Conceding that my cookie had morphed into a different animal entirely, I threw in cinnamon and pecans for the hell of it.

I was dubious during the preparation process since until the addition of the yogurt the dough has the gritchy consistency of lake sand. The resultant cookie bomb [stick to your guns Ripley, those colonial marines can suck it. And those drinking glasses are completely impractical.] was a fantastically dense hunk of savory nuttiness with enough of a hint of sweetness to still qualify it as a cookie. Their crisp shell masks an unexpected chewiness and have kept marvelously in the freezer. I wouldn't go so far as to suggest everyone adopt "When In Doubt, Add Molasses" (or maybe "Ultimate Badasses Use Molasses"?) as their new baking motto, but I continue to be flummoxed and fascinated by the stuff. Just beware treacle-filled bowlers...

Vegan Cocoa Pecan Molasses CookiesMakes 3 dozen cookies
Adapted from this original non-vegan recipe. The resultant cookie bomb is dense and cakey with a vague nutty and fruity flavor imparted by the apple butter and the molasses. Though many recipes that call for yogurt stipulate full fat, I myself have never had a problem using non- or low-fat and prefer to use Fage when possible. Suggested alternate additions in place of chocolate chips and pecans: peanut butter chips, walnuts, dried cranberries or sour cherries.
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
8 Tbl unsalted butter or oil (safflower) (I used 6 Tbl oil and 2 Tbl apple butter)
1/3 cup molasses
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
14 Tbl unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

Mix together the oil and sugar, then add cocoa powder and mix until well-blended. At this point the dough resembles wet dirt.

Stir in yogurt, molasses and vanilla (the dough should become much more manageable after these additions). Mix until just combined and toss in the chocolate chips and pecans.

Evenly place tablespoon-sized dollops on baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes or until the tops of the cookies look set. Remove from oven and leave on baking sheet for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack.

Bruising and Boozing

March 16, 2008

The following series of posts will be horribly out of chronological order but nevertheless replete with deliciousness so I feel little chagrin. I'd all but chained myself to my chair to get some posts dashed off when my wine-seltzer-fruit punch cocktail (not as good as it sounds...or perhaps just as good as it sounds?) kicked in and instead of typing out the five or so entries I've had swirling in the cranial vortex for the past few weeks my fingers started searching out new things to bake. Sharing responsibility with the alcohol for this baking itch was a near-moldering banana in the fruit basket that gradually loomed so large in my sights that I could resist it no more than Macbeth his ghostly knife. For that banana to come to rest in the trash would be a musaic tragedy, and I was going to save it. Deciding that I also wanted to use maple syrup and nuts, I scoured the web and ended up working from a composite of about a dozen recipes.

Let's just get this out of the way: the cookies are vegan. Let's get another proclamation out of the way: I have a feeling that the majority of cookie recipes I post will be vegan. There's little logic to it, I've already declared my fealty to Lord Dairy in so many words, but I really like dense salty cookies and quite often going vegan is the way to achieve this result (though just wait until I try my black olive shortbread, those buggers are going to be so oozy with salt and butter that after eating them you won't be able to engage in anything requiring dextrous digits). There will be no further apologizing or justifying in this department but, being a fan of grandiose statements applied to trivial subjects, I hereby dedicate myself to pushing the limits of applesauce, bananas, psyllium and all other stand-ins for lactose and embryos. Onward.

Vegan Maple Banana Oatmeal Cookies
yields 36 cookie nuggets
A few notes:
-I have fallen in love with the taste of maple syrup in baked goods but you can certainly substitute brown sugar if you'd like a cookie without that maple edge.

-Bananas are often employed as an egg substitute (~1/2 pureed banana per egg) and can have a surprisingly minimal effect on the overall taste of a baked good.
My confounding recent conversion to the pro-banana camp leads me to suggest that another half or even whole banana be employed in this recipe to really give these cookies a banana kick, the one lends a pleasing hint and does the job of an egg but some might desire more of a smack of banana flavor.
-I'm not positive that the soy milk is necessary, I just thought the dough seemed a bit dry.

Though I resisted the my typical urge to start adding ingredients willy-nilly, I am fairly convinced that additions such as apple butter, crystallized ginger, yellow raisins or ground flax seeds would all yield a tasty result.
3 Tbl oil (I used canola, I suspect safflower or any vegetable oil would work just as well)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 mushy banana, puréed or otherwise reduced to a pulp
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 Tbl unsweetened soy milk
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 - 2 cups rolled oats
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375F.

Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.

Whisk the oil, honey, maple syrup, soy milk and vanilla. Stir in the banana, pecans and rolled oats.

Gradually add the flour mixture, stirring whilst adding and thoroughly mixing until dough is a gummy mass.

Evenly distribute tablespoon-sized dollops of dough on baking sheet and flatten slightly if desired. These cookies really do not spread during baking so if you prefer discs to nuggets, prep accordingly before putting in the oven.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until cookies are slightly browned and crisp. Remove from oven and cool on rack.