I can’t lie to you – I am a sucker for a freshly baked cookie! While I do my very best to feed my family healthy low-fat meals and in general limit the amount of sweets they eat, even I must admit there is always a place for a fresh from the oven homemade cookie.
Not only do I enjoy the pleasure of spending time with my kids while baking (a great way to get them to talk) and eating (my husband’s favorite part) our homemade goodies together I also take comfort in knowing exactly what’s going into the foods they eat. With so many additives and preservatives lurking in our packaged foods today I like that our homemade treats contain only words I can pronounce (i.e. ah, butter, sugar, eggs, etc.). Not to mention that I probably already have most of these ingredients sitting in my fridge and pantry right now.
However, given my desire for a healthy lifestyle I’m always on the look-out for new ways to cut down on the fat and calories in our much loved baked goods without sacrificing flavor or texture. Of course there are lots of dessert recipes that use fruit purees, especially apple sauce, as a method for cutting down on the butter or oil in a recipe. While I’ve had some success using this approach with cakes, muffins and quick breads where the goal is for a spongy or moist texture, I find this same approach simply does not work with cookies. Unlike cakes, a great-tasting cookie is crispy on the outside with a slightly chewy inside – in my opinion this texture profile can simply not be accomplished without a little added fat. I personally find these fruit enhanced cookies a bit too sticky and cakey to be described as a great-tasting cookie.
Finally, to my rescue came One Smart Cookie by Julie Van Rosendaal. I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to find her book since it was first published in 2000, but I can’t tell you how happy I finally did. I actually stumbled across her book on another blog (sorry, I’ve forgotten who’s). While the author was not specifically discussing her book, but rather her personal weight loss goals for the New Year, Ms. Rosendaal’s book was featured in a photo. Intrigued by the title I immediately went to my local library website and requested a copy of this cookbook to try out (Hint: I always borrow a cookbook before committing to a purchase in case I find the recipes unappealing.)
Needless to say, it only took about two recipes to be convinced that One Smart Cookie was a keeper! Not only do her cookies stand up to the real think – only healthier, but you can proudly share them with the most skeptical cookie connoisseur and they will not notice a difference, nor will they miss the added fat (just ask my husband, our resident Cookie Monster). Here are a few of her tricks:
Reduce The Amount Of Butter Most cookie recipes call for 2 to 1 sticks of butter. The cookies in this book require no more than ¼ cup or half a stick of butter (and some call for even less). In the foreword Ms. Rosendaal points out that everyone needs a little fat in their diet and with respect to cookies, a little fat goes a long way to achieve a chewy, crispy cookie.
Throw Out The Yolks But Keep The Whites While some of her recipes still call for a whole egg, there are many more that replace the whole egg with egg whites, once again reducing the added fat.
Stick With Lower Fat Versions of Popular Ingredients Low fat cream cheese, sour cream, milk and even peanut butter will reduce the amount of calories and fat in many baked goods without destroying flavor, unlike many fat-free varieties.
Cocoa Powder In Replace Of Solid Chocolate Cocoa powder with a little added milk or water has less fat than solid baking chocolate. In many of her chocolate-based recipes Ms. Rosendaal replaces melted baking chocolate with cocoa powder.
Do Not Over Mix or Over Bake! What I also love about this book are the recipes are so simply to do – in many cases it is not even necessary to pull out your mixer, in fact, she warns us to not over mix our dough, which would result in a tough cookie. Also she cautions us to not leave the cookies in the oven too long, but rather take them out when they are only slightly golden around the edges and still a bit soft on the inside.
Use More Whole Wheat Flour As you might already know, I’m a big fan of replacing half of the white flour called for any recipe with whole wheat pastry flour – Ms. Rosendaal recommends it to. Whole grain flour improves the “healthfulness” of the cookie as well as increases its fiber content. I find whole wheat pastry flour is very effective in baked goods because of its more refined texture versus traditional whole wheat flour. It can easily be purchased right in your supermarket’s baking aisle.
Hope you give this cookbook a try -- I can't wait to try another recipe!