Vegan Cookie Invasion

[by Naveen]
Me: "The food processor isn't working."
Jeff: "Did you put in the blade?"
Me: "No."
While struggling to get some results for lab meeting presentation #3 this month, one of my lab-mates asked if I would "volunteer" for taking care of next week's coffee break: every weekday at 3pm our lab congregates around a small table for caffeine, cookies, and conversation. Any sane person would have requested a postponement until after lab meeting presentation #4, but my time-management skills leave much to be desired. As if that wasn't bad enough, I decided to bake my own cookies, hoping to add some variety to the endless stream of Milano's, Oreo's, and Chips Ahoy. However, as my house-mate pointed out, it's hard to make anything taste bad with butter, flour, and sugar, so I decided to take on the challenge of making all vegan cookies.

After my group meeting presentation and a microbial journal club meeting, I stopped by Shaw's to get the raw ingredients and then set off to a marathon of cookie prep. I had done some background reading from Shirley Corriher's Cookwise, which offered a plethora of great information. Some samples:
  • Cookies made with butter (which has a fat content around 85%) spread out more than cookies made with shortening, since the texture changes more rapidly as a function of temperature.
  • Cookies made with brown sugar will brown more than table sugar (I guess that's not surprising). Honey is somewhat hygrosopic, so will absorb water after cooking, resulting in a chewier cookie.
  • Lower protein flour will lead to a lighter, more cake-like cookie.
I also read a related article in the Boston Globe about pie crusts, which dicussed the merits or butter vs. lard vs. olive oil vs. shortening. Vegatable oil fared surprisingly well. Michael Ruhlman also offered some insight from his Ratio philosophy. However, I couldn't find any data about coconut butter, which I would be using in several of the recipes.

Although the recipes varied in the specifics, the basic outline was:
  1. Mix together flour (spelt, brown rice, or whole wheat), oats (if needed), flax seeds (if needed), baking power and/or soda, and spices.
  2. Separately mix the sweetener (maple syrup, sucanat, etc.), fat (i.e. coconut butter, olive oil, peanut butter, or tahini), and apple sauce (if needed).
  3. Combine the dry and wet ingredients (food processors are amazing) and stir in the raisins, chopped walnuts, chocolate chips, etc., if needed. I ruined one of the batches by doing this all in the food processor, which turned the beginning of a gorgeous batch of chocolate chip-oatmeat-walnut cookies into brown sludge.
I now have five batches of dough sitting in the freezer, ready for a (hopefully) epic week of cookies.

Me (looking at five fist-size blobs of dough in separate Tupperware containers, after two hours of work): "I don't think this going to be enough."
Jeff: "Yeah."
Me: "I think I'll need to make a trip to Star Market."

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