November 22, 2011

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

This afternoon I tutored a young writer who was writing an application for a professional program. English was not her first language but she spoke and wrote with considerable accuracy. At the end of our hour-long discussion about English articles, word choice, cause/effect sentences, and other gnarly grammatical issues, she asked me a personal question: "would it be appropriate to give a little gift to a mentor who is writing me a letter of recommendation? It's customary in my home country but in the U.S. it might be off-putting." I fully encouraged her to go with her plan. It was so sweet and heartfelt; I'm sure that any letter-writer would be completely delighted with a little token of gratitude. Frankly, I told her, there should be more gift-giving to those for whom we are thankful. Something small and unobtrusive, like a tin of cookies or a pot of flowers. After all, where did we get the idea that bigger is better? A small gift represents a large amount of thought and consideration. For those of us who are likely to enter the homes and lives of others for Thanksgiving celebrations, consider the impact that such small tokens of gratitude have, for host and guest alike.

With that, I present to you whole wheat chocolate chip cookies. Not a typo and really not an oxymoron either. Cookies can be (semi-) healthy too. I got this recipe from a wonderful book called Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce. In this book, Ms. Boyce teaches us that baked goods do not all have to be pasty, fatty, and heavy. She has spent years experimenting with all kinds of whole grains, and not just whole wheat flour: amaranth, graham, spelt, teff, buckwheat, barley, and several other exoticorustic (new word, please don't look it up for it is not there) grains grace her pantry. This cookbook explains the function and taste of all these grains, how to pair them with different sugars and flavors, and, most importantly, how to balance them with white flour. Whole wheat chocolate chip cookies are the only dessert in this book that uses exclusively whole wheat flour, rather than a mixture of grains and white flour. This is the third time I've baked them and each time I am stunned beyond measure at how good they taste. The whole wheat gives these cookies a nutty, round flavor, rustic texture, and overall wholesome taste.

I ran out of whole wheat flour today (of course) and all I had left was white whole wheat. Well friends, I am here to tell you that you can substitute whole wheat for white whole wheat at a ratio of 1:1. White whole wheat is simply milled from white wheat rather than the standard red. You can read all about it here and then I promise to stop with the nerdy Wikipediaing (also new word).

Simply put, these cookies are so rustic chic I can't stand it. Made with any kind of chocolate (I've used dark and white, and today I used semisweet), these are a grown-up version of the beloved chocolate chip and will accompany my lunchbox for the next couple of weeks.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Kim Boyce, Good to the Grain

Dry mix:
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Wet mix: 
2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons bourbon vanilla extract

8 ounces chocolate (bittersweet, semisweet, or good-quality white), either in chip form or chopped into 1/2- inch pieces

Preheat oven to 350 F and line large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl.
Add the butter and sugars in a stand mixer and mix until just combined, about 2-3 minutes (since the butter is cold, it will take a little longer to incorporate the fat into the sugar).
Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla.
Add dry mix all at once and blend on low until the flour is barely combined (30 seconds or less). Mix in chocolate pieces.
Form dough into large scoops (about 2" in diameter) and be sure not to overcrowd on the pag. I have a very large baking sheet so I can fit 12 at once, but 6-9 at a time would work just as well.
Bake for 16-20 minutes.

Happy pre-Thanksgiving, tell your friends and family that you love them, and make these cookies for your best girlfriends. They will be eternally grateful!

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