Friday, September 16, 2011

(Almost) Vegan Oatmeal Cookies

This past Sunday I was supposed to spend the day outside, starting with a morning hike in Griffith Park, followed by a potluck picnic (both organized by the LA Foodies meet-up group). I had a batch of these cookies all baked up and was excited to explore yet another part of my new home city. But when my alarm went off at 8am, I awoke to nausea and a splitting headache. I gamely got out of bed...for all of five minutes, just long enough for me to realize that a hike was totally not happening, and then I was back under the covers for the duration of the day.

So, instead of frolicking in the California sunshine, enjoying what nature LA offers and indulging in homemade goodies with new friends, I spent the second half of my weekend in bed, sleeping fitfully and eating absolutely nothing for 24 hours. Fun times.

Luckily, I had eaten one of those potluck cookies the day before this lovely little bug hit (a necessary test run, you know), and so can confirm that these are delicious, despite some rather dubious alterations to the recipe on my part. You see, these cookies were not originally vegan (and, as the title suggests, still aren’t really since they have white chocolate in them, but you could easily leave that out or just replace it with vegan chocolate chips, more dried fruit, or nuts). The recipe, from Cooking Light magazine, calls for half a stick of butter and an egg. I had everything else that goes into the cookies (well, except for the originally-called-for dried strawberries; I subbed dried cranberries instead, though I’d like to try the strawberries at some point), just not butter and eggs.

Rather than buy these things and possibly have them go to waste (neither are used all that often in our house unless I’m doing a lot of baking), I wondered if I could adapt the cookies and make them (almost) vegan. I knew vegan cookies existed, so how hard could it be?

 Not hard at all, it turns out, at least for this particular recipe (Note: oatmeal cookies are very forgiving!) – you can replace the butter in a cookie recipe with three-fourths the amount of vegetable or canola oil (so 4 TB butter = 3 TB oil). Egg replacers required a bit more research, as there are lots of suggestions out there in the Internets, but I decided to try the cornstarch method. The egg in this recipe mostly just serves as a binder in the dough, so technically cornstarch dissolved in water should work just as well.

My hunch was right, as it turns out – the cookies came out great. I was afraid they would harden too much once cool, but while the outsides became quite firm, the insides were nice and chewy with great flavor (of course the white chocolate chips might have helped with this – I might make them truly vegan next time to see how they turn out without the chocolate). And while the meet-up group didn’t get to try any, the people in my building sure seemed to like them – I left the container in the lobby with an inviting note in the morning, and they were all gone by that afternoon!

(Almost) Vegan Cranberry-White Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
Adapted from Cooking Light

The original recipe called for 1/3 cup white chocolate chips, which I doubled because I like chocolate, but I had trouble incorporating them and all the cranberries into the dough, as both mix-ins were rather large (ended up eating a few stragglers). Next time I might go for smaller chips, or just finely chop a whole chocolate bar. To make these truly vegan cookies, substitute vegan chocolate chips, nuts, or more dried fruit for the white chocolate.

¾ cup all-purpose flour

1 cup regular oats

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup packed brown sugar

3 tablespoons canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 3 tablespoons water

¾ cup dried cranberries (or try dried strawberries; blueberries could be nice too)

1/3 – 2/3 cup premium white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, oats, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl stir together brown sugar, oil, vanilla, and cornstarch mixture until smooth. Add dry ingredients and stir to combine; mix in cranberries and white chocolate chips. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet [I ended up forming the dough into balls with my hands in order to incorporate all the fruit and chocolate, which tended to want to fall out of the dough. Didn’t seem to affect the finished product.]. Bake for about 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool on sheet for 1 minute, then remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about two dozen cookies [I got slightly more].

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