Saturday, August 09, 2008

A Different Oatmeal Cookie

Not so long ago, my daughter A., who is home for the summer after a highly successful Freshman year told me that she believed she had an adrenal gland disorder and planned to begin a diet that cut out, among other things, processed sugars and starches other than whole grains. This seemed like a reasonable choice, and since I'm dieting, I'm not eating much in the way of sugar and processed grains anyway. So there were already plenty of lentil-based and other legume-based meals being prepared. There wasn't so much in the way of sweets, though.

When you want something sweet but don't want processed sugar, dates are generally going to be your best friends. They're naturally so sweet that eating a date is much like eating candy, except with more fiber. And they're pretty easy to work into recipes. Baked goods without white flour are more problematic. L., my younger daughter, recently made her first unassisted batch of chocolate chip cookies and used whole wheat flour by accident, and the cookies were just fine, albeit different, but I wanted to try something different. So I went with ground oats.

I thought my initial attempt was quite good, and so did my partner, V. Upon first taste, A. said, "Well, they're pretty good for health food," but a few minutes later, she announced that they were growing on her. I think perhaps that her first sample came from the first tray I baked. They certainly appeared done and were a reasonable shade of brown on the bottom, but the next tray, which were darker, were much better, even though they came from the same batch of dough. Americans generally tend to underbake their doughs (and overbake their batters: hence all those dry cakes), which is one reason why so much of our bread and pastry is not what it should be. You should never underbake your cookies, but you should especially not underbake these cookies. They don't have any chocolate chips or molasses or anything similar to fall back on, but they really are yummy when fully baked.

Fully baked, of course, is something that varies significantly by oven and by pan. I always bake my cookies on heavy, silpat-lined half-sheet pans, and I think that's why so many of my cookies stay in the oven for so long. These cookies don't have a whole lot of fat in them, and they don't have any flour to give a firmer texture, so you'll probably want to bake them on lined pans in any case, but if you're using a thin, flexible, unrimmed cookie sheet, then they'd probably bake faster for you. In my case, it takes twenty-one minutes to get a properly baked cookie with this recipe.

The lack of flour is also probably why they don't spread or puff very much. I ended up with fairly small cookies, even though I used soup spoons to form them. On the plus side, my recipe calculator tells me that each cookie has only about fifty-five calories. They are decidedly in the not-too-sweet corner of sweet baked goods, but you will know that you're eating a cookie.

Oatmeal Date Cookies

2 c. whole pitted dates
1 c. boiling water
1 orange
3 c. rolled oats
1 c. roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
6 T. butter, softened
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract

Put the dates in a heatproof bowl, pour the boiling water over them, cover and let sit for a half hour or more. Zest the orange, then squeeze it and reserve the juice.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the orange zest, rolled oats, and sunflower seeds in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely ground. Add the salt and baking powder and mix well.

Put the dates, water, and reserved orange juice in a blender and blend. The mixture will be very thick.

In the bowl of your mixer, cream the butter until light. Add the blended dates, and mix well. Add the eggs and vanilla, and mix again. Add the dry ingredients, and mix.

Drop rounded soupspoonfuls of dough onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake for twenty-one minutes, or until well browned on the bottoms. Remove from oven, let cool briefly, then remove cookies to racks to cool thoroughly.

Makes sixty.

You could, obviously, make a number of adjustments to this recipe. You could add some spices and/or raisins and/or coconut and/or you name it. You could use a different nut: I would likely have used cashews if I'd had any unsalted cashews available.

I like them just as I made them, though, so I'll probably stick with the recipe, as will A., who has already demanded it so that she can make the cookies when she returns to school. That will happen far too soon.


Anonymous lindy said...

You are so right about Americans and our doughs and batters.And those cakes are dire.

Perhaps this is the reason that our banana, lemon, and other fruit /tea breads are so popular. We call them "breads", though they are cakes, and are fooled into not over-cooking them.

Maybe if we start calling bread "cake", we can get something good going on.

11:31 AM  

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