After honing her skills in Chez Panisse, Claire Ptak opened up a modest bakery in East London that fully delivers on flavor and comfort. I've been dreaming of visiting the bakery ever since, sitting outside the bakery, watching the world go by-as one does in Europe. Once I saw these vegan cookies, a stroke of inspiration hit as I immediately dived into a recipe from Claire Ptak's The Violet Bakery Cookbook.
A lot of her best hits have graced the blogosphere in the past few years, from her incredible Butterscotch Caramel Blondies to her classic Buttermilk Banana Bread. Naturally, I gravitated towards these reliable favorites like everyone else. But, believing in Claire's foolproof recipes, I ventured past the shiny classics and discovered a hidden gem, a dark horse, if you will: Chocolate Oat Agave Cookies.
It's easy to brush past a vegan, sugar-free, and potentially gluten-free cookie. My first reaction: Is that even a cookie anymore? I'll take the blondies, thank you very much. My second reaction: how good can they be, really? I had to satisfy this insatiable drive to experiment on all things foreign and obscure.
These cookies are light on sugar, heavy on time in terms of buying such unfamiliar ingredients. With these cookies, I realize that I've barely scratch the surface of the complex world of alternative baking techniques. The laundry list of foreign flours and binders can be daunting, but if you have an afternoon to head over to Whole Foods and buy these flours, I could think of a worse place to start.
Once you pass that initial hurdle, you'll have opened up yourself to a whole new world of flavorful flours, maybe learn a thing or two on the science behind binders and why they work. At the very least, you'll appreciate eggs a whole lot more.
Ultimately, Claire's poetic description convinced me to make these humble little cookies:
These cookies are deeply satisfying. Oaty and chocolatey in equal measure, they are sweetened only with agave nectar. There is, of course, a small amount of sugar in the chocolate itself, so you could replace the chocolate with cacao nibs or use chocolate made with 100 percent cocoa solids. We used to call this “the vegan cookie,” but found that nonvegans wanted to try it, too. It is made with gluten-free oats and other gluten-free flours (if you can’t find oat flour, just pulverize rolled oats in a food processor). We substitute flaxseed for the eggs, because the flax meal thickens the dough and binds it together in the same way eggs do, and instead of butter and milk, we use vegetable oil and shredded apples. Once we changed the name, these cookies remained popular with our loyal vegan and sugar-free customers, but new fans caught on, too.
Beetroots and Polar bears,
chocolate oat agave cookies
slightly adapted from The Violet Bakery Cookbook
YIELDS 12 large cookies
Cook time: 45 minutes
Preheat oven to 355° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk dry ingredients together.
In a medium bowl, combine wet ingredients well. Then slowly pour mixture into the dry ingredients. With a spatula, stir until fully incorporated. Add in the chocolate chips.
Scoop a dough into large tablespoons of dough, squashing the dough into 1/2 inch disks. Leave 1 inch in between, these don't spread much in the oven.
Bake for about 15 minutes until cookies are a light golden brown.
Serve while warm with a warm cup of tea.
1 3/4 (190 g) cup oat flour*
6 tbsp (50 g) chickpea flour
3 tbsp + 1.5 tsp (30 g) arrowroot flour**
3 tbsp + 1 tsp potato flour***
1 tsp xanthum gum
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup (30 g) ground flaxseeds
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp (100 g) agave nectar
2/3 cup (150 g) canola oil
2.5 ounces (75 g) apple, peeled, cored, processed in food processor
1.5 tbsp vanilla extract
5 ounces (150 g) dark chocolate pieces
*pulverizing rolled oats in food processor works perfectly; substitute with gluten-free oats if desired
**substitute with cornstarch or tapioca starch if needed
***substitute with rice flour if needed
Storage Notes: Cookies keep well in an airtight container for up to a week. The dough freezes well.