A Chip Off the Old Block…Almost

20 Jun

As I try to adopt a more plant-based diet, one of the main challenges I’m facing is saying good-bye, or at least greatly minimizing, the use of butter, eggs and dairy in my cooking and baking. So, I’m always on the hunt for baking recipes that meet the “I’d never know this was vegan” test.

I l-o-v-e chocolate chip cookies and have set a high bar for these treats. The chocolate chip cookies I’ve come to love must have just the right texture: a little crunchy around the sides and slightly chewy in the middle. And cookies made with high-quality chocolate, real butter and real sugar (no artificial sweeteners) will always make me swoon. I refuse to waste calories on cookies out of the box or ones purchased from a grocery store chain bakery. Call me a snob, but a girl needs to have her standards.

This weekend, I experimented with the chocolate chip cookie recipe out of the Joy of Vegan Baking cook book. It marked my first time baking with Ener-G Egg Replacer and despite being vegan, these cookies are in no way low-calorie. I couldn’t taste any discernible difference with the egg replacer, but I was able to still detect the fake “butter” (Earth Balance). I don’t think I have a sensitive palate, but whenever I eat Earth Balance, I can taste/feel an odd aftertaste in the back of my throat.

The original recipe calls for baking the cookies soon after mixing the dough, but I decided to do a little test by adapting the method from one of my all-time favorite chocolate chip cookies recipes from the New York Times which calls for allowing the dough to sit in the fridge for at least 24 hours before baking. This allows the dough to soak up the liquid ingredients (eggs) and results in a drier, firmer dough which baking experts like Shirley O. Corriher believe bakes to a better consistency. Since there were no eggs in my dough, I wasn’t totally sure what would happen, but I thought I’d give it a shot.

I baked a portion of the dough immediately after the dough was mixed and the cookies were fine. I baked this batch for 10 minutes, but even with the residual baking that occurred with cooling them for 2 minutes on the baking sheet, they were still a little underdone. The cookies were also greasy, but the texture was similar to cookies made with real butter and eggs. But of course the taste wasn’t quite what you’d expect with the animal-based products, but nonetheless delicious.

Then, I waited 36 hours and baked a batch for a total of 13 minutes. The texture was a bit chewier and edges a bit crispier. I don’t know if it was the longer waiting time or the longer baking time, but the flavors were deeper, almost a little more caramel-like.

My verdict: I think it was definitely worth waiting the additional 36 hours to bake the cookies. Although the Ener-G Egg Replacer box suggests that dough made with the product should be cooked off right away, I don’t think I experienced any negative results by waiting. Also, next time, I will experiment with using bittersweet chocolate and maybe playing around with the amount of salt in the dough so that I can add a little sprinkle of sea salt on top of the cookies. Lastly, against my better judgement I measured rather than weighed my dry ingredients, despite the weights being included in the recipe. Guess it was just me being lazy.

So tasty and almost like the “real” thing

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield: Approximately 3 dozen cookies

Adapted from The Joy of Vegan Baking

Ingredients:

4-1/2 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer (equivalent of 3 eggs)

6 tablespoons (90 ml) water

1 cup (225 g) non-hydrogenated, non-dairy butter at room temperature

3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar

3/4 cup (170 g) firmly packed light brown sugar (can also use dark)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2-1/4 cups (280 g) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (175 g) non-dairy semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup (150 g) chopped nuts

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat.

In a food processor or blender, whip together the egg replacer and water until thick and creamy. Blending these in a food processor or blender results in a better consistency than if done by hand.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl, cream the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla. Add the egg replacer mixture and thoroughly combine. Gradually beat the flour mixture into the  butter mixture until it begins to form a dough. When it is almost thoroughly combined, stir in the chips and nuts, if using.

At this point you can either bake the cookies right away or let the dough chill in your fridge, covered, for 24-36 hours.

Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto prepared baking sheets and bake one sheet at a time for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown (I had to bake my batches for 13 minutes in my oven). Let stand for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

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