Thursday, January 03, 2008
Today's recipe for my Compassion Oatmeal Cookies is dedicated to all those pioneer vegan bakers out there who, through experimentation and innovation, have eased the way for others like me to bake animal-free versions of traditional goodies without sacrificing an iota of taste or flavor.
Anyone who's learning to bake always hears how baking, unlike cooking, is more science than art. How all the ingredients serve an exact purpose. And how veering even slightly from the measurements and ingredients in a recipe could mean grim consequences- or tough ones or flat ones or just plain tasteless ones.
As a result, most of us have accepted the role of eggs and dairy products like butter and cream in baking without question.
But vegan bakers challenged this notion. The options they suggested appeared a little quaint and even esoteric to those of us not used to natural foods. They asked that we substitute eggs in a recipe with tofu or cornflour or flax seeds and water. Replace dairy with soy milk. And they told us that replacing butter with oil would not really result in a discernible change in taste.
They also pointed out some little-known truths: that chocolate, for instance, could be vegan.
When I first began to bake, as a vegan, I scoured the Internet for suggestions for substitutes to animal products used in baking. I then began experimenting with them, gingerly at first and even a little sceptically. To my surprise, the results were pretty good. What's more, they challenged me to think and to experiment until I was producing results I could be really proud of. What also appealed to the health nut in me was that most of the substitutes also ended up making my favorite baked goods healthier. I was hooked.
I often tell friends who enjoy eating my vegan Compassion Oatmeal Cookies that they come as close to guilt-free eating (in every way) as any cookie ever will. They are chock-full of nuts, oats and whole wheat goodness, but what's better, they are absolutely scrumptious.
Compassion Oatmeal Cookies
Mix together in a bowl:
1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon or nutmeg, or both
Gather the remaining ingredients:
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 tbsp molasses
2 tbsp flax seed powder + 5 tbsp water
1/4 cup applesauce
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup canola oil
3 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup pecans or walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Beat the sugar, molasses and oil on medium speed with a hand mixer or in a stand mixer until well-combined
Add the flax seed mixture, applesauce and vanilla extract and mix for another 2 minutes.
Add the flour mixture and mix until the batter is smooth.
Stir in the oats and the nuts and mix well.
Grease a cookie sheet. Drop heaping tablespoons of the cookie batter on the sheet (this recipe makes 36-40 cookies). Bake about 10 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through the baking.
Remove from the oven - the tops of the cookies should be very lightly browned. Let the sheet stand on a rack for 2 minutes, then remove the cookies from the sheet and transfer to a rack to cool completely.