January 25, 2009

I had to buy some mini chocolate chips to use as eyes for the snowpeople I made for the holidays but of course, as is the case for most of the adornments required by seasonal treats, I wound up with more chips leftover than chips used. They've been languishing with the frosting, red hots and sprinkles of assorted colors for the past month, and while the others might be in danger of meeting their fate in the trash, I figured I should do my best to make use of the chocolate. Of course my initial idea was a nostaligic revisiting of the Toll House recipe on the back of the bag but equally unsurprising was my decision to complicate things. After discovering that I had an abundance of hazelnuts I wound up tweaking a recipe from the Food Network's toothy and bafflingly slim Italian bombshell. The experiment was a solid success, producing a cookie that, while sort of vegan, retains its post-oven crispness such that it is perfect to dip in ginger tea. Pulsing the oats and nuts resulted in a uniform texture that was pleasantly nutty and granular, and the mini chocolate chips sat well alongside the similarly-sized chunks of hazelnut.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Veganish Cookies
inspired by Giada

brief note: Despite the inclusion of apple butter, these cookies do not taste like apple. There is a subtle fruitiness that pairs well with the chocolate and hazelnuts, almost like a fruit cake or lebkuchen. I wish I could say that I had been inspired to purposely emulate such established and successful a combination of flavors, but really I just used apple butter as a butter substitute and luckily it turned out well.

Also, I'm pretty sure that between halving the original recipe and jettisoning the butter, I managed to use twice as much butter substitute as butter. Meaning that I used 1/2 cup apple butter and 1/2 cup oil instead of what should have been 1/4 cup of each if I'd been paying more attention. The cookies turned out great but I'm suggesting that 1/3 cup of each be used because I think that would be fine and perhaps better given the proportions of the original recipe.

-makes 32 cookies-
1/4 cup rolled oats
1 1/8 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup apple butter
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup Fage 0% yogurt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup hazelnuts
7 oz semisweet mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350.

Toast hazelnuts and discard as much of the husks as possible before pulsing them in the food processor until chopped to your preference. I ground them to a pretty fine consistency because I didn't want huge chunks. Set aside.

Pulse oats in food processor and whisk together with flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Whisk together oil, apple butter and yogurt and add sugar and vanilla.

Gradually add dry mixture to wet and stir until just mixed before adding chocolate and nuts.

Set batter in fridge for 5-10 minutes before arranging tablespoon-sized dollops on a lined baking sheet.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until crisp. As happens with vegan fare, these fake-vegan cookies require some supervision. I baked the first sheet at 325 and they took over 20 minutes to firm up so I raised the temperture for the second round. Don't be alarmed, it's more a question of needing to frequently assess their done-ness rather than risking over-done-ness. These don't burn easily. Do remember that they will continue to crisp up after you set them on a rack to cool.