Baking Advent: celebrating the festive season with a different daily baked good.
Well before the current fad for food characterised mostly by what it isn’t – gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, vegan, plant-based and so on – Heidi Swanson, author of the blog 101 Cookbooks (and four cookbooks of her own) published a recipe for Nikki’s Healthy Cookies. Based on a mixture of oats, ground almonds and coconut, and free from added sugar, these cookies had been developed by her high school friend Nikki as a treat she would be happy to give to her children who, Swanson notes, had been largely nourished on whole foods. The recipe is from 2008, but the philosophy of these cookies couldn’t be more au courant – again suggesting, perhaps, that it is the progressive, trend-seeking and setting enclaves of New York, California and the Bay Area that dictate food trends in Europe, albeit sometimes years later.
I’ve adapted the recipe below – primarily by substituting the desiccated coconut called for, as I didn’t have any in the house and didn’t feel inclined to buying a packet of something that would then sit, unused and dusty, in the cupboards for an age – and, with my tweaks and metric measurements, and reflecting on how very of-the-moment this recipe is, I’ve renamed my version ‘Zeitgeist cookies‘.
These cookies aren’t just for appropriate those voluntarily choosing exclusionary diets: I made them to bring to a gathering of friends, one of whom has been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. For her, the lack of high-GI flour and inclusion of wholegrain, lower-GI rolled jumbo oats and almonds (which do not affect blood sugar) and lack of added sugar made these a treat she could enjoy more easily than baked goods based on refined ingredients. She also said that the inclusion of dark chocolate was (relatively speaking) fine for her as dark chocolate has less sugar than other kinds, and the fat means the sugar is released more slowly into the bloodstream.
These are not thin, crunchy, crisp cookies: the banana makes them moist and soft all the way through, although they hold their shape well and are not particularly cakey in texture. The taste of the banana carries well and plays off nicely against the chocolate. Given that the original recipe was developed by a whole-foods-orientated mother, I’m not sure to what extent children would like these. The texture is nubbly, maybe even slightly chewy, from the oats, and they’re studded with dark, rich chocolate which adds a faint hint of bitterness. While these tastes and textures would be welcomed by adults, I do doubt somehow that children would really fall on these – particularly if they’re used to more conventional treats. My friends and I considered this as we nibbled and concluded that using milk chocolate instead of dark would make them more child-friendly (and still probably lower in sugar than most cookies).
Recipe below the jump.
Adapted from Nikki’s Healthy Cookies, published on 101 Cookbooks.
Makes about 42 smallish cookies
- 3 large, very ripe bananas (mine came to 325g, which worked well), mashed thoroughly
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 60ml melted coconut oil
- 210g jumbo rolled oats
- 95g ground almonds
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp fine salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 200g chopped dark chocolate – I like chopping a bar into a mix of small bits, slightly larger chunks, and very fine, almost powdery, bits of chocolate
- Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a few baking sheets with baking paper and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the mashed bananas, vanilla extratc and liquid coconut oil.
- Separately, combine the oats, ground almonds, cinnamon, salt and baking powder.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix to combine. Stir in the chopped chocolate.
- Drop dollops of the cookie dough onto the lined baking sheets – they should be about two teaspoons’ worth, or half a tablespoon, and 2-3cm apart. You may need to push (or, to use a technical term, ‘smoosh’) the cookie dough together a bit if the oats and chocolate come apart a bit on the sheet (they are less crumbly once baked and the ingredients do adhere).
- Bake for 12-14 minutes, until they have firmed up slightly and are golden at the bottom. In my oven, 13 minutes achieved the perfect balance between firm enough and yet not burnt.