I Found the Holy Grail… of Cookies

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Ages and ages ago (read: two years ago), I tried a VegWeb chocolate chip cookie recipe and was disappointed in the results. So I continued my search for the holy grail of vegan chocolate chip cookies, and a year and a half ago I tried a PPK recipe, hoping it would answer all my cookie desires. It was good, but not great. But Nora left me a comment recommending Dreena Burton’s Homestyle Chocolate Chip Cookies, citing the awesome caramel-y flavor that a healthy dose of maple syrup and a bit of molasses lends them. Intrigued, I gave them a try. But I made the mistake of baking while distracted, and I misread the 1/4 tsp of molasses as 1/4 cup. Yep. Needless to say, the results were not exactly reminiscent of the chocolate chip cookies of my childhood. However, they were still yummy in their own right, and I made a mental note to re-try Dreena’s recipe – I figured that if it could stand up to my horrible miscalculation, it was probably a pretty damn fine recipe.

Two cookies on a plate next to a glass of almond milk.

You have chosen... wisely.

And it is. Oh man, it so is. It’s awesome. I made these cookies last night, and I want to devour them all for breakfast today. Nora was totally right; the maple syrup and molasses combine to make a cookie that is not just sweet, but flavorful. Just like I don’t enjoy things that are spicy for the sake of being spicy, I don’t always like sweetness for sweetness’ sake. I want depth of flavor and a nuanced sweetness, and these cookies bring that to the table (literally). They are so, so good.

Another shot of the two cookies on a plate.

Nom nom cookies.

I made nine big ol’ cookies in this batch; next time I’ll make them smaller so the recipe will yield more. They were delicious when warm and they’re delicious when cooled, and the dough is amazing straight outta the bowl. And that’s an essential part of a good cookie recipe, don’t you think? ;)

So, in short, this may very well be my holy grail of cookie recipes. The 1/3 cup of maple syrup is a bit much, though, so I doubt I’ll make them incredibly often. But when I do, I know they’ll be worth it.

What’s your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe? Have you tried Dreena’s?

Alert, alert! Giveaway: your input needed!

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Hold the presses! It’s nearly October?! When did that happen? April may be the cruellest month (and that’s debatable), but September sure feels like the shortest. I know people (including me) say that all the time, but honestly? September flew by like a hummingbird on speed.

And that means that October fast approacheth. And that means that my one-year veganiversary fast approacheth!  I made the “official” switch to veganism on the first of October last year, just in time for VeganMoFo. I’d essentially been vegan for a while, but I came out of the closet, went public, and stopped with the very occasional consumption of eggs or dairy (which had mostly been to appease people and not make waves).

As I’ve said recently, making the official switch was by far one of my best decisions. So I’d like to celebrate! And what better way than by embracing my inner hobbit and giving away presents to all you wonderful folks? I haven’t yet decided what I should give away, so here’s the fun part – you can tell me! Do you like giveaways with food as the prize? A cookbook? An eclectic mix of fun ephemera? Let me know! I’ll take all your input into consideration and have the official giveaway post up in a week or so. :)

And just so this isn’t a text-only post, here’s a photo of some cookies.

Choco-chippers!

I’m pretty sure this was from a more successful attempt at making Dreena’s cookies than that last time I tried ’em… hehe.

Beer & Cookies

A confession: I shunned beer for the first 21.5 years of my life. I didn’t drink at all for the first couple years of college, and then when I dipped my toes into the wild world of alcohol, my exposure to beer was limited to sipping cans of Milwaukee’s Best and then discreetly leaving them on a dresser in the middle of a packed room before slipping out of some awful party a friend had coerced me into attending. I wasn’t a partier by any means, but every so often I’d try to force myself into enjoying myself at such a gathering, only to be reminded that they just weren’t my thaaang. Whatevs, man. I made my own kind of fun, and it did not involve beer.

It wasn’t until I spent a summer studying abroad in Ireland and discovered the joys of Guinness that I discovered that beer could be downright tasty! Now that I’ve veeegan, I no longer partake of that Irish staple (sadface!), but I now consider myself a fan of [good] beer. I went from barely being able to stomach half a can of  Budweiser in the first week of my senior year of college to truly enjoying a pitcher of Smithwicks (also not vegan, lamepants!) or a bottle of Corona by the time I graduated. I appreciate the finer things in life, what can I say?

And by “the finer things,” I obviously mean baking chocolate chip cookies at 9:00 o’clock on a Friday night while drinking a locally-brewed beer and dancing around in my sports bra while listening to Lady Gaga. This is truth, folks. My roommate’s on a trip for work (I went on one last week too! More about that later.), so I have the apartment to myself. Clearly this means I need semi-nude solo dance parties.

So after my workout last night, I decided to try my hand at another chocolate chip cookie recipe. I tried one back during Vegan MoFo and was less than thrilled, so I thought maybe the PPK would come through for me. Isa’s like a vegan goddess or something, right? And this was an occasion where the vegan stars aligned and I had all the exact ingredients for this recipe. Usually I haphazardly substitute milks and starches liek whoa, but I recently picked up a bag of tapioca starch from Woodman’s, and almond milk is my alt-milk du jour, so I pretty much followed this recipe to a T (although I did cut down on the amount of oil, and the dough seemed perfect). So – results?

Me want coooookies!

These are better than the VegWeb variety (though, admittedly, it’s been 6 months since I tried them), but again, I don’t think they’re my chocolate chip cookie holy grail. They are pretty damn tasty, though, and the dough was a treat to scrape off the bowl. I’d definitely make these again, but I think I’m still in search of my end-all, be-all of vegan chocolate chip cookie recipes. Anybody have a suggestion?

As for the local beer that accompanied the baking of these cookies, well, I tried New Glarus’ Spotted Cow ale. Honestly, I was underwhelmed, but I think this is because I generally don’t enjoy beers that are light in color. And no, I am not a beer connoiseur, so “light in color” is the  most description you’ll get from me! I tried Capital Brewery’s Maibock recently, and it’s freakin’ delicious. It’s their seasonal brew, and I absolutely loved it. I think I prefer heartier, maltier beers with less of a foamy head than the Spotted Cow variety. New Glarus Brewery, however, is very vegan friendly, so I’ll have to give some of their other varieties a fair chance before I swear it off entirely.

Even though the beer and the cookies slightly underwhelmed me, I’m not gonna lie – my Friday night was a freakin’ awesome night. Tipsy one-person dance parties, Lady Gaga, and cookies? Hell to the YEAH.

WHOA UPDATE, DUDES. I wrote this post last night, but guess what? These cookies are FANFREAKINGTASTIC the next day! They’re chewy and sweet and generally AWESOME. Maybe they are my holy grail. Whoaaa.

Oh, and also? I tried some Thai iced bubble tea for the first time today at the Madison farmer’s market, only to discover just now that it contained milk. I guess it did seem a little cloudy, but I never thought that iced tea would have milk in it! I am super ignorant, apparently. And also super upset at myself. :( Sigh.

Food Frenzy Friday

Get ready for some seriously good eats, folks! I’ve been a busy little vegan during the past 24 hours, and I have photographic evidence. But before the good must come the bad, alas. Thankfully, the only bad eats I’ve had lately were not made by me. Tonight my aunt I and went out to dinner so we could catch up and I could update her on some Important Life Events (more about those in the future). We decided to forego our standard favorite eateries for a new Thai place nearby; we felt adventurous and willing to give a new business a shot. Unfortunately, I wish we’d stuck to our tried and true restaurants, because this place was just not good. We ordered pad thai and a dish with steamed veggies and fried tofu, hoping to share the two between us. Well… we did share them. We shared the slimy, overcooked pad thai noodles and the flavorless steamed vegetables that probably came right out of the freezer. The only decent part of the meal was the peanut sauce, and even that was nothing to write home about. My aunt is much more assertive than I am and complained about the pad thai, so we didn’t end up paying for it (or eating it, for that matter.) Oh well – at least our conversation was satisfying.

Now we’ll move onto better – and tastier – things! My parents are away for a short vacation, so I’m enjoying having the run of the kitchen. Not that they don’t love it when I cook for them, but I kind of enjoy being able to blast my music while I’m cooking! Plus I can experiment with new recipes and not have to worry about anybody seeing my failure… not that I’ve failed lately. Yet. Anyway, when I filled out that Vegan’s 100 List last week, I was shocked to realize that I’ve never made vegan chocolate chip cookies. Although I’ve only been officially vegan since the beginning of this month, I’ve made exclusively vegan baked goods for almost a year now. So when I saw some dairy-free semi-sweet chocolate chips on sale at the grocery store, you know I had to snatch up a couple of bags. Last night I decided that I should make some cookies to accompany the new Office episode. I debated between using a chocolate chip cookie recipe I found on the PPK and the Happy Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe that has rave reviews on VegWeb. Ultimately I went with the VegWeb recipe. All those laudatory comments left me with pretty high expectations. So how did they turn out? Well… they look pretty!

Happy cookies?

And they taste pretty good, although I’m not sure these are my holy grail when it comes to chocolate chip cookies. I found the dough waaay too dry and ended up adding extra soy milk, so I’m a little skeptical of this recipe. At first I was not impressed at all, but after I ate a couple the taste began to grow on me, and today they taste even better. But I’m definitely going to try another recipe next time I get bitten by the chocolate chip cookie bug! What about you guys? Do you have a tried and true chocolate chip cookie recipe?

My next kitchen endeavor occurred this morning when I consulted the wonderful Vegan Brunch in search of a waffle recipe. I ultimately settled on the Chelsea Waffles, since I wanted a pretty neutral flavor that would pair well with my marinated apple topping (chopped apples + cinnamon + turbinado sugar + maple syrup). It turned out to be an excellent choice.

And in the mornin', I'm makin' WAFFLES!

Oh, yum. These were awesome! I didn’t have barley malt syrup, so I substituted a mix of brown rice syrup and blackstrap molasses. This worked really well, although I think it made the waffles sweeter than they should have been. Still utterly delicious, though. But what else should I have expected from this book?! Duhhh.

My final cooking experiment came from Vegan Dad. Although I’ve been a huge fan of his blog for ages now, I’ve never actually tried one of his recipes before today! But I’ve had a box of vital wheat gluten sitting in my pantry for about a month, and I decided it was time to tackle a seitan-based recipe. Now, I’ve only actually eaten seitan twice in my life before today. Both times it was from Whole Foods’ prepared foods bar (the two times I tried it were the only two times I’ve actually eaten there). But I enjoyed it, and since everyone and their mom seems to whip up seitan in their sleep, I knew I had to attempt it.

When I was omni, I was never a huge wings fan, but somehow the idea of vegan wingz really appeals to me. I’ve made the tempeh wingz from Don’t Eat Off the Sidewalk twice; the first time I didn’t have panko and they were really kinda gross, but the second time I absolutely loved them. So I thought that trying out Vegan Dad’s Ultimate Vegan Hot Wingz would be an appropriate way to attempt seitan. And I was right.

Wingz, baby.

Although wingz aren’t the most photogenic food, I think these lil guys are sorta cute. I ate them with about 3/4 of a red pepper, not because they were spicy at all but because wingz feel like junk food to me, and in my mind I can counter eating junk food by eating straight-up, super-healthy, raw veggies. Whatever. In any case, the wingz were surprisingly yummy! I was a little nervous that they’d be too squishy; a few commenters apparently had that problem and I was concerned that I’d used too much onion and destroyed the delicate liquid/dry balance. But the dough stayed together perfectly well, and I loved the feel of it! Is that weird? I’ve always been a tactile kind of girl; I love polymer clay and Play Dough used to be one of my favorite “toys”. So I got a kick out of the strangely-textured seitan dough, I’m not gonna lie. And the end result was so good. I used the wing sauce recipe from Don’t Eat Off the Sidewalk instead of Vegan Dad’s, since I really like that one, but other than that I didn’t stray from his recipe at all. And I’m glad I didn’t.

So, all in all, the past 24 hours have been an EPIC SUCCESS. And who knows what the weekend will bring! I’ve got the kitchen to myself for two more days… muahahaha.