Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Santa? Toys? OK! Do That!

Thus quoth my two-year-old niece on the matter of the annual gift-man. Yeah, Santa, do that thang! Inspired by her holiday enthusiasm and her tiny brain's ability to now form simple sentences, I decided to get some holiday baking underway. I tackled chocolate chip cookies, which I've been meaning to bake since the NY Times posted this back in July. The summer heat left me with no desire to fire up a hot oven, and the inspiration has been simmering since sometime right after the fireworks.

The recipe is an amalgamation of a few tried and true ones - healthed up a bit by oatmeal and whole-wheat pastry flour, inherently awesome by the presence of chocolate. I heeded the Times' advice on chilling the dough, something a step I've only ever followed on my mom's peanute butter cookies. But for reals, it made such a difference. The result was a creamier, chewier cookie with a more consistent, vanilla-y flavor. I guess that the idea is that the egg saturates the dough - though I didn't use egg, the liquid egg replacer achieved a similar effect. If you use egg replacer, make sure it's a gooey one like a store-brand or one with a water base. The fruit-and-baking-powder trick doesn't really apply here. And a sprinkling of salt on each dough-drop really plays on the sweetness - but in retaliation, I reduced the salt in the dough ever-so-slightly. And if you make these guys with the egg replacer and spoon some of the dough into your mouth when no one's looking... then no, Virginia, there is no salmonella clause.

Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Cookies

3 1/2 C whole-wheat pastry flour
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 t fine-grain sea salt
1 c cane sugar
1 c brown sugar
1 c soy margarine or organic unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened at room temperature
3 egg replacers or 3 good-quality large eggs (EnerG Egg Replacer)
1 T pure vanilla extract
1 c rolled oats (walnuts or pecans work, too)
12 oz good-quality chocolate chunks (I love Ghirardelli, though it comes from the opposite coast) or 1 package chips

Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the butter with a hand mixer until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar one cup at a time and beat until smooth - the butter should return to that state it was at when you first beat it, but grainy with the presence of the sugar. Add the egg replacer or eggs one at a time and beat until incorporated, pausing to scrape the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract and beat in until the brown swirls disappear in the mix. Add the dry ingredient mixture to the bowl one cup at a time, beating until just beat - do not overmix! Pastry dough requires a gentle hand, or else the gluten in the flour become overtaxed and stretchy. Then stir in the oats and the chocolate.

If you can muster the wait...CHILL OVERNIGHT. I know, it's the hard-est part.

Preheat oven to 375. Line two cookie sheets with parchment or wax paper. Drop the dough by a tablespoon onto the sheet, allowing room for the little guys to grow in the oven (about 10 per sheet). Bake for ten minutes, or until just golden on the top. Great cookies are born from not over-baking. Transfer to wire racks and cool.

Yields about 3 dozen cookies.

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