Sunday, March 11, 2012

So Much More Than Carrot Cake Cookies

Growing up, I loved carrot cake. Specifically, the gobs of cream cheese frosting on top, but also the texture of the batter, the occasional juicy bite of raisin, the super moist crumb, even the crunch of nuts (which I generally abhorred above all else in baked goods). Over the years, and several disappointingly super-sweet or over-oily carrot cupcakes, muffins or slices at restaurants, I finally stopped ordering them altogether. And, because I was young (like not even in highschool young) and all the cakes of the day came out of a box, I turned to the available mixes, which were okay.

But there was always something missing. The cakes and muffins looked gorgeous, were moist, but lacked the experience and texture I loved so much. Not to mention the canned frosting was all kinds of wrong. Too creamy, too sweet, no cheese to speak of. Of course, it's only now, years later, that I realize why - dehydrated carrots or - in one cake mix - corn syrup based, carrot flavoured pieces - are not in carrot cake or muffins. At all. My grandma would make muffins with the mixes all the time, but they were by far the best - once she added soaked raisins and a fresh-grated carrot to the batter. Not perfect, not the home-made, South Carolina dessert I remembered, but close.

I've made my share of carrot cakes too - even an award winning one - and I think that they're quite spectacular for a home baker. Unfortunately, there isn't quite the market these days for a stacked, frosted, super rich carrot cake. It's not chocolate, it's usually unsafe for those with nut and dairy allergies, and it is (as a rule) high in fat and sugar. Cupcakes and muffins today are viewed with either a "jumped the shark" loathing or nutritional suspicion - people know that most bakeries use cupcakes as delivery devices for frosting, and that even though yes, walnuts and carrots are healthy things on their own, picking up that muffin at the coffee shop can run you a nasty sugar, fat and carb deficit.

But nobody ever said anything about cookies! I was leafing through Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar and found their version on the theme, which intrigued me immediately. I started looking through my pantry and found lots of other "things" that would fit the flavours of sweet carrot, coconut and wheat to a T. By the time I was done, these cookies were essentially denser, chewier bites of all the best bits of carrot cake. And hey - they aren't diet food, except in small, small amounts, but they aren't meant to be, and they are fantastic. I hesitate to say it, but frosting-free is a-OK with these... but come to think of it, I might have to make another batch as sandwich cookies, just to be sure...

So Much More Than Carrot Cake Cookies
Makes 24
2/3 cup vegan "milk" (I used unsweetened almond), warmed
3 tbsp ground flaxseed
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/3 cup Demerara sugar
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup barley flour
1 cup triticale flour (my favourite is from Bob`s Red Mill)
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
pinch cardamom
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 cup tightly packed, fine-shredded carrots
1/2 cup large-flake oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup kasha
1/3 cup diced candied ginger
1/2 cup raisins, soaked in hot water and drained
1/2 cup gogi berries, soaked in hot water and drained
  1. In a large bowl, beat together the "milk", flax, oils, maple syrup, sugars, fresh ginger and vanilla. Set aside.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together the flours, wheat germ, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and sea salt.
  3. Stir into the above mixture, then fold in the carrots, oats, coconut, nuts (if using), candied ginger, raisins and gogi berries.
  4. Wrap in plastic and chill 1 hour.
  5. Preheat oven to 350F and line three baking sheets with parchment. Flatten into thick discs with the palm of your hand.
  6. Form fairly large balls of dough and place onto the sheets 2" apart.
  7. Bake 5 minutes on the middle rack of the oven, then move to the bottom rack and back 10 minutes longer.
  8. Cool completely on the sheets.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 174.4
Total Fat: 5.4 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 35.8 mg
Total Carbs: 31.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.1 g
Protein: 2.8 g