Friday, September 14, 2012

Healthier Whole Wheat Spiced Oatmeal Cookies Two Ways (& Ginger Cubes)

I had a whole long thing planned out with a very large sequential illustration in progress that I was totally going to post tonight.  Then I got up (to make ginger cubes) and heard the most horrible of sounds from the couch - my computer booting up after restarting itself for updates.  No, I did not save.

So then, my fitness nut husband asked me to figure out a way to make him our favorite oatmeal chocolate chip cookies with less fat.  I really wanted to have something to post and baking cookies is pretty therapeutic, and I had just bought the first couple Macintoshes of the season, so that ended up being just the thing to substitute for butter.  It smells like Thanksgiving in here now and I've eaten my dinner's worth in cookies.  Cause you know, I had to make sure the recipe turned out.  For science.  Thanks for the idea, honey!

The old Quaker oatmeal raisin cookie recipe is one of the first things I ever baked with my mom when I was a kid, and kept making throughout the years.  It's expected at most family gatherings that somebody will make them, and ever since I really got into baking in my teens, that someone's usually been me.  Of course we always made them with chocolate chips instead of raisins, and in the past few years I've made a couple other tweaks to the original recipe.

Here's the ingredients for the recipe I usually use:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla (actually, when it comes to vanilla extract, I have one of those big squeezy bottles from Costco and I just kinda go nuts. I don't think I've ever had something with too much vanilla.) or if you're feeling ambitious, scrape the beans out of a vanilla pod

1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice

3 cups "old fashioned" oats
as many chocolate chips as you want! I usually use a whole bag. Ghirardelli are the best.

And here's the recipe I made today:

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 small/medium Macintosh apple, peeled, cored and grated or pureed (or equivalent amount of apple sauce)
2 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped or pureed in blender or food processor
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract (lots of liquid from the apple here, so don't overdo it with the vanilla extract, if you're using vanilla bean go nuts)

All dry ingredients the same (if you're using fresh ginger, omit the dry.)

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Whip butter in stand mixer with paddle attachment for about 1 minute, scrape down sides of bowl
3. Add sugar(s), beat until creamy, scrape down bowl
4. If using the apple puree and/or fresh ginger, add, whip until consistency is fairly smooth, scraping off sides and bottom of bowl to incorporate everything
5. Add eggs, one at a time, and vanilla. whip until light and fluffy after each addition, scrape sides of bowl again
6. Combine all dry ingredients in a separate bowl; add to wet ingredients and mix well.
7. At this stage, if you're using the full butter amount and not the apple, gauge the moisture of your dough.  Because the original recipe is for white flour and not wheat, a little extra liquid is usually needed, but I like to wait until this point to decide how much it needs.  If you went light on the vanilla extract, you'll probably want to add about 2 tsp of water or milk.  Or if I have a pitcher of masala chai in the fridge, I add a splash of that.  If you used the apple, on the other hand, you might want to add a teaspoon or two of flour - your dough should be soft and sticky but not too drippy.
8. add oats, mix well
9. add chocolate chips, stir in

I recommend lining your pans with aluminum foil, especially if you're using the apple recipe, but no greasing is needed.  Bake for 10-12 minutes with the full butter amount, or 8-10 minutes with the apple substituted (you don't want to overdo cookies with low fat content or they'll get very dry.)

So what's my verdict on the low fat recipe?  Well, I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss that second stick of butter, but at the same time I am pretty pleased with the result.  It definitely doesn't taste like "health food," and believe me, if it did, I would not eat it.  The fresh ginger was kind of a happy accident in this case, I had just made ginger cubes and had a couple tablespoons worth of ginger in the bottom of the blender when I was getting ready to puree the apple, and thought, yum! Why not!  I will definitely be making that a regular part of my recipe.  I don't think cutting out the white sugar sacrificed any flavor either.  Baking with apple in place of fat gives things a more spongey texture, which isn't bad, just different in this type of cookie.

So the bottom line - get a plate of these fresh from the oven and a cup of milk, and you'll be just as happy with half the fat. 

Oh, and I must give my favorite variation on this recipe - replace chocolate chips with chopped fresh cranberries. YUM.  I would have done this today, but they're still not out in my grocery store!  When they are, I will make some even-healthier oatmeal muffins with them.

And as a bonus, here's some pictures of my ginger cube process!

These are so convenient to keep in the freezer, especially if you're a ginger addict like me.  It gets moldy quickly when you keep it fresh in the fridge, and peeling it is a real pain so it's better to do it all in one go.  In addition to adding it to masala chai, I will sometimes boil a cube with a vanilla bean and fresh lemon balm to make a delicious herbal tea, or just steep in a teapot and add some honey, to drink when my stomach's upset.  Ginger is great for digestion and curing nausea.  Also great for a sore throat or cold.  And if you do a lot of Asian cooking like I do - stir fry, curry, you name it - ginger is a must have for your sauce base and marinades.  And, as I learned today, adding to baked goods!

Enjoy :)

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