From the Classroom to the Kitchen: Wholesome Pecan Spice Cookies
At first these cookies were just another one of my alternative baking experiments, which refer more heavily to my intuition than to cookbooks, and mix a range of nut-flours, unrefined sugars and omega oils until all my vegan and gluten-intolerant friends are wearing a crumb-crusted smile. But seventeen batches later, these cookies are not simply a phase in a concession of ephemeral recipes. They have a mission to accomplish, a message to send.
Made with wholesome, real food ingredients (mainly almond flour, coconut flour, coconut sugar, coconut oil and nut-butter) these gems crumble the dichotomy between "real food" and "dessert." They are not "treats" you pull from the jar only after behaving well, nor are they sweet indulgence when life gets bitter. Sure, they abide by the trending diet fads and steer clear of common allergies: they are wheat/ gluten-free, paleo-safe, and vegan-optional (actually a good option). But they are also decadent, full of texture, exploding with sweet, salty and spicy notes, and sturdy—I think we all can agree that many flourless and vegan desserts are like Andy Goldsworthy installation pieces, beautiful and worth-the-while, but of a fleeting composition . . .
My philosophy is this: food can taste like heaven, and ground us with plant-based ingredients and a solid composition. In other words, this recipe demonstrates that deliciousness and nutritional integrity are sisters, not competitors (I know this analogy doesn't work for all; I am blessed to call my twin sister my best friend, the sugar to my spice). So keep your "too good to be trues" to yourself. The items I bake in my kitchen are unbelievably delicious because of, not despite, their honesty; they have nothing to hide, and that is why you hide four of them in your bag as you dash out the door.
Taking the spotlight today are my Candied Ginger-Pecan Spice Cookies, the autumn variation of a versatile cookie dough I use for all of my cookie flavors. If you’re in a more exotic mood, or will only eat things that contain dark chocolate, stay tuned for my Seas-Salt Chocolate Macadamia Island cookies, which require nearly the same list of ingredients, and can be made by following virtually the same steps. That said, this pecan spice cookie made its first appearance on a hot summer day by the pool, and let me tell you: warm fall spices didn't stop sun-kissed bellies and sunscreen lathered hands from snatching these cookies right off the cooling rack. If that isn't convincing enough, try them with a scoop of burnt sugar-caramel ice cream ( for vegans, Coconut Bliss Ginger Cookie ice cream) and make yourself an ice cream sandwich!
Yields: 12 two-inch cookies
1 cup almond flour
1/4 cup coconut flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cloves (or 4 drops of clove extract)
3/4 cup coconut sugar
6 tbsp pecan butter or almond butter (I do half and half, pecan butter is a great choice for this flavor profile)
6 tbsp coconut oil
1 1/2 tbsp bourbon vanilla extract
4 drops of clove extract (if you didn't use ground cloves)
Vegan substitute = 1 flax egg (combine 1 tbsp ground flaxmeal + 2.5 tbsp water, let sit for at least 15 minutes, overnight is better)
1 cup diced candied ginger (plus a small pile to decorate cookies later)
1 cup chopped candied pecans (for batter)
1/2 cup whole candied pecans (to decorate tops of cookies)
1) Combine all dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.
2) In a large bowl, beat coconut oil and coconut sugar with electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds.
IMPORTANT: If your coconut oil is very firm, massage sugar and coconut oil with hands first for about 20 seconds until all large chunks soften to the consistency of softened butter. Then beat for another 20 seconds with Kitchen Aid or electric mixer. If your oil is very soft or melted from sitting in a hot kitchen, place the jar in your fridge for about 20 minutes until it is the consistency of soft butter before combining with coconut sugar.
The consistency of your coconut oil is key to acquiring the right cookie-texture; otherwise cookies may have a hard time cohering and end up melty and flat. Science.
3) Add almond butter, vanilla extract and clove extract to the sugar/coconut oil mixture and beat on medium until combined.
4) Add egg or flax egg to your sugar & nut-butter mixture and beat on low until incorporated.
5) Chop up your candied ginger and pecan pieces so they are ready to be incorporated into the dough. I mention this here because, the longer the dough waits on the kitchen counter, the more the coconut oil softens, which can result in a slight textural-difference in your cookies. Have the line-up all ready so the dough can get into the fridge as quickly as possible!
6) Add dry ingredients to wet; as you do so, fold in pecan and ginger pieces.
7) Place cookie dough in fridge for an hour to harden, or overnight covered with some plastic-wrap to protect other fridge-smells from seeping in.
8) While cookie dough is firming in fridge, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
9) When dough is firm, shape your cookies into whatever size you want (as long as they are uniform, else they won't cook evenly) and space them evenly (about 2 inches in between) on a non-stick baking sheet. I usually fit about twelve cookies per baking-sheet. Impress reserved candied pecans and ginger pieces atop each cookie for an extra crunch and aesthetic punch!
10) Bake for 11 -13 minutes or until cookies are golden brown and show minimum jiggle. As these cookies bake very quickly, I suggest turning on your oven light and keeping an eye on them after the 10 minute-mark.
IMPORTANT: cookies will continue to bake on the baking sheet after removing them from oven, so don't worry if they are still a little jiggly and raw-feeling when you take them out. They will coalesce quickly as they cool!
11) Transfer to a cooling rack and try to wait more than 5 minutes before consuming to avoid tongue-burns. You'll want to have your taste-buds in tact for these! :D
Congratulations, you're done! But, REMEMBER: these cookies are part of a larger, slow-moving movement to change the way our culture views enjoyment and satisfaction in relationship to food. There is more work to be done, and no doubt beyond our kitchens. However, with each cookie we share, we begin eating away at stigmatized notions of "indulgence," and offer a radical yet intuitive vision of health that seeks and savors, rather than sneaks and shames sweet satisfaction.
In addition to doing the heavy-lifting of challenging ideology, I hope this blog models how, with a few clicks of a button, we can transform our private hobbies and passions into platforms for social engagement, transfer our personal "goods" from the kitchen counter to the growing "table" of Counterculture. I hope you enjoy—the cookies and the concept they carry. Please email me with any questions, comments or suggestions.
Martha, bringing integrity, meaningful connections ,and successful products from the classroom to the kitchen.