Ah the cookie. A perfect sweet treat. Simple and comforting yet always held in high regard. Even some of the poshest "foodie savvy" restaurants in town include a dessert offering of "milk & cookies." (I recently went to Crossroads in LA and they served up homemade almond milk + cookies!) So why all the fuss about such a classic dessert? Well one bite of your perfect cookie and you know the answer to that question.
So now. Do you wish you could bake rich, buttery, bakery quality vegan cookies in your own kitchen every time you crank up your oven and grab a baking sheet? Well these are my seven secrets to success when it comes to vegan cookie baking. Plus I share my recipe for Dream Cookies. Aka, my best chocolate chip cookie yet...
Those tiny caramel-colored specks add loads of peanut-butter-y flavor..
(but shhh, they are actually freshly ground flax seeds!)
So melty fresh from the oven (not properly cooled, but that is fine by me.)
Oh and the perfect pairing, homemade almond milk...
Dear Mrs. Field's Cookies, For a long time no matter where I traveled or how many chocolate chip cookies I tasted, your warm, melty, fresh-from-the-mall-food-court mini cookies were always, always the "best" to my taste buds. (Maybe it is just a childhood memory thing, but whatever it is I remember the yum in each bite.) And even though it has been a good 15 years or so since I have indulged in one of your (non-vegan) buttery, golden cookies, those fond memories and flavors still linger. Well finally. Finally! I have a solid vegan cookie recipe that without a doubt now earns the title of my favorite cookie ever.
These "Dream Cookies" as I call them are pretty simple. Chocolate chips. Flour. Oil. Sugar. Vanilla. Salt. But it is the little things that make these cookies my best recipe ever. The nutty *ground* flax seeds. The gobs of *coconut* oil. The caramel-y sweet *vegan* sugar. The *real* vanilla extract. The mix of two varieties of flour, one fine and one rustic. And when served fresh from the oven, these melty chocolate chip cookies are pure heaven. Dreamy...
So how did I achieve my perfect cookie? These 7 secrets helped me craft a cookie recipe worth memorizing. And everyone needs one of those.
7 Secrets for Successful Vegan Cookie Baking
1. Ground Flax Seeds. My very first nut/seed grinder appliance that I bought about a month ago has changed my baking forever. I used to make my "flax egg" using a simple mixture of whole flax seeds and warm water. But using freshly ground flax seeds makes such a huge difference in the overall texture and nuttiness of my cookies. And this way, I do not even bother to blend the seeds with water. I just toss them in with the flour and let them plump and mingle with the dough liquid all on their own. The ground seeds have a bold flavor reminiscent of peanut butter .. which adds a wonderful complexity to the cookies.
2. Add lots of fat. If you really want to replicate that buttery, melts-in-you-mouth, rich, chewy, decadent cookie texture and flavor you remember from your best cookie memories, you really do have you use a generous amount of fat. The classic cookie recipes call for two sticks of butter. Well my vegan version preference is organic virgin coconut oil. (If necessary, Earth Balance/vegan butter works too.) It is the fat in cookies that gives them that richness. That flavor and texture that makes even a tiny nibble feel like a huge bite. I don't know about you, but when I make homestyle (higher in fat) cookies I find myself eating less of them than "healthy low fat" cookies! One cookie and I'm set.
3. Flour Blends. I experimented with several flour blends before coming to my favorite blend. I tried using all spelt flour. I tried using all white flour. I even tried using whole wheat flour. But my favorite blend combines super nutty and textured spelt flour with silky organic/unbleached white flour. (You certainly can give gluten free varieties a try, but please try to add some spelt if you can because it adds a unique flavor!)
4. Chocolate Chips. Do not skimp. For the best cookies, use the best chocolate chips you can find! I love ghirardelli's semi-sweet dark chips (milk free) and I also love Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips. You can even use dark chocolate chunks made by crumbling up your fave high quality vegan chocolate bar!
5. Chill it. I always chill the dough until it is in a rollable state. This way you get those pretty circle-shaped cookies instead of curvy globs. (Well ok, I like cookies in any shape really.)
6. Hot Oven. The coconut oil really does like a hot oven. I place the cookies in a 400 degree preheat oven and then turn it down to 375 right away. I find that a hot oven crisps the cookie edges quite nicely. You do not need to do the 400 degree trick, but just be sure to use at least a 375 degree oven. (Try a few ways and see what works best for your cookies.)
7. Cookie Intuition. After you start baking cookies a few times you will start to learn from your successes and your failures. And yes all cookie bakers have failures! In fact my first round making these cookies I baked them just a few minutes too long and the edges all blackened from the coconut oil and hot oven. Then another time I used raw turbino sugar with all spelt flour and the cookies came out way to sandy in texture. #fails happen! Just be sure you learn from your mistakes and try again. And even though I should tell you that following my recipe will lead to full proof cookies - the truth is that ingredients, ovens, tools and handling processes will always vary. Your best friend in the kitchen is your cooking intuition! And the only way to acquire some of that is to keep cooking. Keep baking cookies. Again and again. And again! (Not a bad plan is it...)
So if someone in your house says "Hey, you are baking cookies AGAIN?!" Just reply with "Yup! Kathy told me I have to bake cookies again and again until I find my cookie baking intuition!" :)
..actually, you can apply this to ANY cooking project. Practice makes perfect. Smoothies, pasta, salads, muffins, bread, pizza. Whatever you want to be better at cooking, just keep making it again and again and again and I promise your intuition will find you eventually.
Dream Cookies, chocolate chip dream
makes 1 dozen medium-large cookies
1/2 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp white flour (organic, unbleached)
1/3 tsp pink salt (any salt to sub)
1 1/2 Tbsp freshly ground flax seeds
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp organic sugar (I used Florida Crystals)
2 tsp creamy peanut butter (optional)
1/2 cup + 2 tsp melted virgin coconut oil
2 Tbsp almond milk
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (vegan chips, dairy-free)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Grab a baking sheet and grease it lightly with cooking spray. I use coconut oil cooking spray.
3. Grab a large mixing bowl and add the flour, salt and baking powder.
4. Grind your flax seeds in a seed grinder or coffee grinder. Add them to the dry bowl.
5. In a medium bowl add the coconut oil, sugar, optional peanut butter and almond milk. Heat in the microwave until the coconut oil is super soft or melted and everything is warm in temperature. About thirty seconds in the microwave should do it. Note: If you do not want to use the microwave you can allow the coconut oil to soften to room temperature on its own or by placing the coconut oil jar in a warm water bath. Just make sure the almond milk is also room temperature before combining. Cold will turn the coconut oil hard and cause a cookie fail.
6. Stir the sugar/oil mixture and add the vanilla extract. Stir the sugar/oil mixture into the dry flour mixture. Stir well until you have a wet thick yet oily dough.
7. Fold in the vinegar and chocolate chips. Tip! Use slightly chilled chocolate chips (I place mine in the fridge an hour before baking, this helps to firm up the dough a bit faster since the cold turns the coconut oil firm.)
8. Place the dough in the fridge just long enough for it to become sticky and firm like PlayDoh. You want to be able to roll the dough into a ball in the palm of your hand. Roll dough and place on baking sheets. Optional: roll cookies in sugar for an extra sweet accent.
9. After you place cookies in the 400 degree oven, turn the baking temp down to 375. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes - or until the tops begin to very slightly brown. The cookies will be very soft when you take them out of the oven, but as they cool they will become buttery and cookie-like in texture. Allow to cool for at least 10-15 minutes before disturbing. (I just leave mine right on the baking sheet for a few minutes .. that is why it is better to pull your cookies out a bit under-done since the bottoms can continue toasting a bit. The oil keeps them quite hot.)
10. Cool. Eat. Enjoy. Store sealed in a container on your countertop. If storing in the fridge just be aware that they will firm up quite hard in the fridge and should be warmed slightly before serving.
enjoy enjoy enjoy. Now whip up some almond milk and get your fancy-restaurant-at-home on.