Chocolate chip cookies are my favorite treat. And, right now, I have 6 dozen in my freezer. That's 72 cookies. What can I say? I'm nesting.
I've been making the same oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for the past few years. I have a couple on rotation (or, rather, I have them both on a constant schedule of: "we exist in Katie's freezer at all times..."). One is a buttery and rich cookie from Smitten Kitchen, and the other, a healthier item. A riff on Quaker's Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (made chocolate, of course), which M and I often eat for breakfast and sometimes eat for dinner when we get home really late from work. I tweaked the recipe again this past week, and I think they're finally ready to be shared (or at least officially recorded for future edits).
When I think back to first experimenting with this recipe, my mind takes me to early 2016. It was a little less than a year since I had started my first independent psychotherapy practice and I felt frustrated that my mind, which was absolutely riddled with anxious self-doubt and the weight depression, hadn't shifted. My struggle had slowly grown ever since I started my field work in early 2015, and despite all of the ways I had learned (and I had learned some quite beautiful ways) to approach one's struggle psychologically/behaviorally/physically/spiritually, I felt absolutely stuck. Despite having a rational part of myself that knew my worries were not objectively true, I could not separate myself from the emotional turmoil and felt ashamed that it was so persistent (made stronger due to the fact that my professional role was to be helping people who were struggling with the same damn thing). Ugh - it sucked. And, you know how sometimes your attempts to make things better just make everything worse? Yeah, that was happening too. You couldn't pay me to go back to that time.
But the thing about life is that it tends to sandwich dark and light together.
When I reflect on this period, I find it punctuated with so many beautiful moments. I was actually really excited that the business side of my practice was going well. M and I were excited to be newly engaged, and we were having fun with the planning process. Our apartment at the time had beautiful light and this amazing back porch where I kept flowers and herbs. I'd curl up on the steps with a cup of coffee in the morning, watch the light come in, and exhale. Or, I'd wake up before sunrise and paint in the warm glow of my work lamp. I'd walk and run in the park all the time, and found myself loving hours upon hours in the kitchen. I started experimenting with all sorts of unique ingredients, making meals, baked goods, and my own stocks and soups. Along the way, I learned: when you cook often (especially when you are cooking for two), you better learn how to freeze. That was a fun thing to begin too - freezing (I'm sure you're thrilled, haha, but it actually is fun!).
To get back to the cookies - when we came back from our honeymoon, between kicking up our feet and immediately planning honeymoon number 2 - we decided that the home-i-est thing we could do is cook. So I made cookies. Dark chocolate, oatmeal, lavender and walnut cookies. I made two dozen, and froze most of them (pre-portioned in storage bags so we could bake as many as we wanted to eat at a time). Our cookie game has been consistent ever since!
Let's get to the recipe
Here's the thing. Making a delicious chocolate chip cookie isn't a difficult thing to do. If you are looking for a classic chewy, crispy, bakery style chocolate chip cookie, I don't see a need to look further than Bon Appetit, Barefoot Contessa, or Smitten Kitchen. There are tried and true recipes out there that will do you no wrong if you are looking for a reliable classic. As many a food blogger has joked, it's probably true that the internet doesn't need yet another chocolate chip cookie recipe.
But, what I was aiming for here was a bit more specific - a healthy take on a chocolate chip cookie. I'm going to let myself use that word (healthy) without also hopping on a soap box about how normal baked goods are good for our health too (don't get me started...). ANYWAY - what I mean by "healthy" here is just that I wanted to bake something that I could eat for breakfast with yogurt, without feeling like I'd had a monotonous granola bar or a decadent pastry. I wanted to bake something that would feel like a treat as a part of lunch or as an afternoon snack but that wouldn't leave me with a sugar rush. Overall, the goal was to bake something wholesome - something that would keep someone feeling good even if they ate one every day.
I tried a couple "healthy" recipes online, and found them to be okay. But, ultimately, what I felt was missing was the satisfaction that comes from walking a recipe through all sorts of iterations until you get to that final moment where you say: this is the one. The process that really makes a recipe feel like yours.
This recipe has gone through many iterations. I have experimented with switching up the type of sugar (trying granulated, light brown, dark brown, maple, honey, etc), the flours (AP, gluten free, alternative grains flours, etc), and the fats (coconut oil, butter, 1/2 butter-1/2 coconut oil mix). I‘ve tried all sorts of spices and extras, like: lavender, walnuts, pecans, cardamom, cinnamon, etc.
Some have been too dry, too crumby, too oatmealy, not oatmealy enough, not sugary enough, too starchy, not substantial enough, too chocolaty, not chocolatey enough...the list goes on. But since yesterday's edit, I've landed on a cookie that both M and I really love.
Again, this cookie isn't your classic chocolate chip cookie. You won't find instructions to whip your butter with granulated sugar. It's not brown-sugar-buttery, gooey in the center, or crispy on the edges. If you’re in the market for one of those beauties, follow one of the recommended links I included in an earlier paragraph.
You can expect this cookie to be satisfying, nutty, chocolatey, substantial, and full of texture. When it's based from its frozen state, it's a happy mound about the size of your palm. When baked, it takes on an appetizing toasted caramel-brown on the outside, has a light cake-like interior, and is punctuated with lots of delicious melted chocolate. Last, it can be edited to your liking by switching out flours - you'll find my favorite recommendations below) or by adding alternative spices to really make it your own.
I hope you enjoy these and feel welcome to share any adjustments that you like.
WHOLESOME OATMEAL, LAVENDER, DARK CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
(about 2 dozen palm-sized cookies)
- INGREDIENTS -
1.5 cup oat (or almond) flour*
1 tsp baking soda (sifted if it’s clumpy)
1 tsp salt
1 cup coconut oil (softened to room temp or melted)
1-2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup coconut sugar (firmly packed, like brown sugar)
3 cups Old-Fashioned Oats
1.5 cup dark chocolate chips (I use 60% Ghirardelli)
Optional ingredients that I love to add
1 TBSP culinary-grade lavender (crushed until fragrant with a knife or mortar and pestle) 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans (I leave these out when I’m making the almond flour version)
2 scoops of collagen peptides (this is my absolute favorite protein. It doesn‘t influence flavor and will not break down during the baking process)
Maldon sea salt (to sprinke on top in order to bring out flavor)
*A note about alternative flours
In this (my most recent) round of experimenting, I baked four batches of these cookies - exactly the same, except the flour was switched out. I tried oat flour, almond flour, gluten free flour and spelt flour.
you can use any one of these flours in place of the oat flour. Alternative flour ratio is 1:1 My reflections and recommendations are below.
Oat flour - My original recipe calls for oat flour. These are wonderful. They are light and have a toasted nut flavor that works beautifully with the chocolate, walnuts, and lavender. To make your own oat flour, either purchase or blend Old Fashioned Oats in a high power blender (we use a Vitamix) until it is the consistency of rough flour.
Almond flour - Almond flour has been pretty popular in healthy baking circles, and while it often works beautifully, I sometimes find it seems unintentional in baked goods. As in, when you "sub almond flour" for AP or another type of flour, you're not creating something that is made better by the almond flour. You are simply left with a strangely almondy (and maybe even sub-par) version of the item you're trying to bake. This isn't the case when using almond flour in this recipe. The almond version came out lovely. So lovely in fact that it absolutely competes with the oat flour as my primary recommendation! The floral-like taste of almond works beautifully with the oats, chocolate, and lavender. Though, I might consider leaving the walnuts out of this version. Too nutty, perhaps? The photos you see are a mixture of the oat flour and almond flour version of this cookie.
Spelt flour - least favorite of my favorites - but still a solid favorite. This cookie is a bit starchier than the others, but not in a bad way. They are wholesome and carry the slightly sweet and nutty flavor that spelt flour provides. I name them as my least favorite just because they feel a bit more dense than the oat or almond varieties.
Gluten free flour - not bad per se, but turned out to be the most dense and starchiest of the bunch (likely due to the fact that my GF flour includes potato starch).
Preheat oven (or toaster oven) to 350 degrees. Line baking pan with parchment paper.
Combine oat flour (or almond, or spelt - depending on your choice), salt, and baking soda in a small bowl (I tend to sift my baking soda with a fine mesh strainer since it tends to cake on me, but it's not essential).
In a larger bowl (or into your Kitchen Aid's vessel if you've got one!), combine your coconut oil and coconut sugar. Beat for a good 5 minutes. Add vanilla and two eggs, and beat until combined.
Pour your dry ingredient mixture into your wet ingredients and mix until thoroughly blended.
Add your 3 cups of Old Fashioned Oats and chocolate chips. Add your nuts and lavender (if you are using them). Mix until all ingredients are combined.
Decide whether you are freezing or cooking the whole batch.
Either way, press your dough into medium sized pucks (about two-to-three inches in diameter and an inch thick).
If freezing: pop a few in your oven and line the rest in a freezer-safe bag (we've been re-using gallon-size zip locks labelled with masking tape), glass snap-ware container, or something that will protect your cookies over time.
If you're baking the lot: place them on your lined baking pan and pop them in the oven.
Baking time: 12-15 minutes (depending on your oven) or until lightly browned. To retain moistness - bake only until light golden brown and err on the lower side of my baking recommendation. I have had a tendency to over-bake them (i.e. letting them hang in the oven for 15-18 minutes) out of fear of under-baking them, and they they're still good, but I (and I imagine most of you would) prefer them baked correctly.
When out of the oven, let them cool, sprinkle with Maldon sea salt, and enjoy!
If you bake these, let me know how it goes!