Talk about under the wire. Here it is, the LAST DAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS, and I’m still experimenting with baking cookies (and still posting to Holidailies). And guess what? I think I’ve hit on something.
I’ve been wanting to do a Christmas sugar cookie for years. Ever since I had to alter my diet and cut out wheat and refined sugars, it’s been a bit difficult to bake traditional treats (though there are so many great cookbooks out there, not to mention a whole lot of blogs using all-natural ingredients, which makes it easier and easier).
After baking with agave nectar for the past few years, I felt pretty good about that. But a sugar cookie? Wouldn’t it be kind of heretical to take the sugar out of it? (And what would I call it, anyway–”agave cookie cutouts”?).
But recently, I also started baking chia seeds (yes, those selfsame seeds that used to grow into little animals in pottery shapes for kids), only edible. One could say that “chia is the new flax,” since it contains the same healthful Omega 3 fatty acids, only more so than flax. Further, chia is lighter in color and texture–perfect for a creamy white, snowy “sugar” cookie.
Sugar cookies are also, traditionally, rolled and cut. When baking with agave, however, the cookie dough is more often soft and most suitable for scooping or smoothing into pans, to be cut later into bars (since agave is a liquid sweetener, after all). So what to do? I decided that the combination of coconut butter instead of butter (since it’s also solid at room temperature), and chia as an egg substitute would work best, since the chia would absorb some of the excess moisture in the agave. That way, I would be able to use almost the same ratio of flour to sweetener in a “regular” sugar cookie.
I’m happy to report that the dough came out beautiful! It was a teeny bit softer than expected when first mixed, so I split it in two parts, and scooped the first half (at room temperature). These cookies came out just barely golden on the bottoms, uniform in shape, with a beautiful, tender crumb and delicate flavor. Truly, they were delicious–a great plain all-occasion cookie that’s not too sweet.
I put the second half of the dough into the fridge to sit for an hour or two and firm up. I’m going to roll it out later, cut it into shapes (should be interesting, as we haven’t yet unpacked all my baking supplies, and I’ve got neither a rolling pin nor my cookie cutters), and bake it that way; I’ll post those photos as soon as they’re ready.
[Edit, December 2008: The dough was perfect once chilled--firm and easy to roll. Here's what the cookies look like rolled out, and cut with cookie cutters:]
In the meantime, I’ll share this recipe for those of you who may want to play around for next Christmas!
[EDIT, NOVEMBER 2011: I’ve since created a gluten-free version of these cookies, which is posted (along with a few other recipes) in this blog post.]
Ricki’s Sugar Agave Cookies (aka Sugar-Free Sugar Cookies)
6 Tbsp. (90 ml.) light agave nectar
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) finely ground chia seeds
2 Tbsp. (30 ml.) unflavored soymilk
1 tsp. (5 ml.) pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) pure lemon flavoring
2 cups (280 g.) spelt flour
1-1/2 tsp. (7.5 ml.) aluminum-free baking powder
1/8 tsp. (.5 ml.) sea salt
1/2 cup (120 ml.) refined organic coconut oil (or use unrefined if you don’t mind the coconut taste)
Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
In a measuring cup or small bowl, combine the agave nectar, chia seeds, soymilk and flavorings. Mix well and allow to sit while you prepare the dry ingredients, or at least two minutes.
In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt. Drop the coconut butter in small chunks (about 1 tsp./5 ml. each) over the dry ingredients. Pinch the mixture repeatedly between your thumb and fingers until all the coconut butter is blended in, no little lumps remain, and the mixture is crumbly. (It should hold together when you squeeze it in your palm). This should NOT be the same consistency as when mixing pie dough; you want all of the coconut butter to “melt into” the flour, with NO pea-sized bits of butter visible.
Pour the wet mixture over the flour mixture and stir until well blended. You should have a soft and slightly sticky dough, but one that holds together.
For drop cookies, you may use the dough immediately. Drop from a teaspoon or small scoop onto a cookie sheet about one inch (2 cm) apart. Flatten slightly with the palm of your hand or a silicon spatula.
For rolled cookies, gather the dough together and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate about an hour, until firm. Roll out to about 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) thickness on a lightly floured board. Cut into desired shapes and place on a cookie sheet.
Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, until edges are just golden. Cool before removing from sheets and decorating as desired. Makes 24-30 cookies. May be frozen.
Note, 2011: I’ve since made this recipe as a gluten-free cookie, using my all-purpose gluten free flour for the spelt and adding 1 tsp (5 ml) xanthan gum. They worked beautifully!
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(“Agave is also low-glycemic, Mum, so it should be just fine for dogs. How about some agave biscuits for us?”)
[This recipe (along with about 100 others, most not on this blog) will appear in my upcoming cookbook, Sweet Freedom, scheduled for release in early 2009. For more information, click on “Cookbook” at right, or visit the Sweet Freedom blog.]
© 2008 Ricki Heller