Who doesn’t love a good choc chip cookie?
I’ve been involved in baking in some form or other my entire life. My Mum used to bake a lot, my Dad used to make and ice all our birthday cakes, and with four older sisters there was always someone cooking something in the kitchen. The Edmonds cook book in our house, like many others in NZ, was a bit of a bible. From the banana cake to the cinnamon oysters, the classic scones to the cheese sauce and one of my all time faves the zucchini pie (which isn’t really a pie..!) we made it all.
One of my absolute childhood faves was the Sante biscuits, and these were regularly made in our house. The sweetened condensed milk was a favourite ingredient, especially with one sister who virtually drank it from the can (not naming names, but you know who you are). If there were leftovers of it, it was mixed with malt vinegar and made into a favourite salad dressing (sounds gross, but in fact was the perfect balance of sweet and sour and totally delicious in my Grandpa’s salad. So weird though, looking back! Did anyone elses family do this?).
As with all of our old favourites, these delectable bickies have had the healthy hippy organic makeover. To remain true and fair to the original santé biscuit however, these have been kept to a minimum. I’ve tried many different variations in the quest for a less refined cookie, and think this version is tops.
I substituted the condensed milk in the recipe for tahini, which is genius as our kids school and kindy have a no nut rule. In my last batch I was a little short on tahini so I added in some runny honey which enhanced the gentle depth of caramel sweetness from the coconut sugar (another substitution), without making the cookies overly sweet.
I’ve trialled many different flours for these cookies, and have found spelt to be the best. Yes it still has gluten, but the biscuit holds its crumb well and does not crumble like with rice flour. It also doesn’t dominate the flavour like buckwheat can. While I use those flours in other baking, for these biscuits the spelt is key. I’m not gluten intolerant, but I have noticed over the years that I have an issue with wheat. I don’t have it very often as a result, and when I do I feel drained and completely wiped out.
I’ve read widely about this and one theory is that it’s because of the type of wheat grown these days, or all the glyphosphate sprayed on the crops, or the process of bleaching the flour, or all of the above. Like anything, I encourage you to do your own research and find what works for you. After reading Grain Brain, I definitely avoided even spelt (even though organic) as I learnt what grains do to the gut and the brain. However, it matters what you do most of the time, not some of the time and as these are a sometimes food, spelt glory helps to maintain the integrity and crumb of the original santé biscuit.
My best piece of advice for these cookies is: make a double batch. If, like me, you have eager kitchen helpers you’ll all inevitably end up eating a decent portion of the cookie dough. Afterall, being a diligent taste tester making sure all the ingredients taste good before they go into the mixer is a job worth rewarding. As a child my sisters and I would often fight over who got to lick the bowl or the ‘k beater’ and these are such fond memories to have. I hope my boys, by being involved in the kitchen grow up to be competent and confident bakers (unlike their Dad, who, while being handy on the bbq cannot cook much else and has been known to burn toast on occasion...:).
Single batch (all organic ingredients)
125g butter, softened
¼ c coconut sugar
2 T tahini
1 T runny honey
½ t vanilla essence
1 ½ c spelt flour
1 t baking powder
½ c choc chips
A few notes on the ingredients. Quality is essential. I like the following;
Butter – Organic Times. I can taste the difference between this and more mainstream butter. A good second is the Lewis Road butter.
Coconut sugar – adds a delicious, subtle caramel type flavour. If you’re not a fan you could try Rapadura or Jaggery, or even a raw sugar – all from Cane but all with their own unique flavours.
Tahini – I like Vigour Vitality. They do a range of incredible nut and seed butters so you could take your pick here with what you like best.
Honey – If you use a honey, go for a runny hunny. You’re needing a liquid that is quite thick and tacky as it is creamed initially with the butter. Brandwise, I like Hunters Hives Honey – check them out on facebook.
Vanilla – you could use vanilla bean paste if you wanted to, or scrape the inside of a vanilla bean. It’s not a show stopper if you don’t have any but it does play a nice part in adding to the overall cookie experience. I like Heilala.
Spelt Flour – White is good and behaves quite similarly to conventional white wheat flour. Wholemeal Spelt also works, but you may find you need slightly less as it will absorb more than white spelt.
Baking Powder – Get a quality one.
Choc Chips – I like the Ceres choc chips. They are smaller in size to some other brands which I like because you’re not overpowered by chocolate chips. Don’t think that means that there aren’t plenty in there, half a cup is more than ample in a single batch. Coming from a complete chocoholic, I would not jip you on the quantity of choc chips, trust.
Before you begin – always PREHEAT the oven. In this case to 180C and bake.
Line a tray with baking paper and set aside on the bench.
Cube the butter and add to the mixing bowl along with the sugar, tahini, honey and vanilla. Cream until light and fluffy. This may take a few minutes depending on the softness of the butter and the speed of the mixer. You may need to stop the mixer and scrape down the side of the bowl a few times. Once combined and looking fluffy, spoon in the flour and baking powder while the mixer is on a low gear. Stop mixer and scrape sides as needed. Once it has all just combined (try not to over mix as this works the gluten) add in the choc chips. It becomes quite hard for the mixer to turn at this point, usually because I’m making a double batch, so stir in the chippies if need be.
Using a soup spoon, spoon out small amounts of cookie dough and roll into balls, I like mine slightly smaller than a golf ball. Continue doing this until you’re all done. You should have around 20-25 if you’ve made a single batch depending on the size you’ve rolled them.
Using the bottom part of your palm, press gently to flatten the balls out a bit. If you like the lined look, press a fork gently over the top.
Place in the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes. They will look quite greasy initially but will go a delightful golden colour. They will still feel soft when they are ready, but will harden as they cool on the bench.
Let them cool, if you can, and try not to eat them all at once.