Thirteen isn’t known for being a lucky number. Most buildings skip having a 13th floor, the number doesn’t appear in many film titles and when it does, things don’t usually work out that well. Friday the 13th, Assault on Precinct 13, and 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi pretty much prove my point. Yet, it was on the 13th try that I finally had a breakfast cookie worthy of walking up four flights of stairs to put in front of Healthyish editor Amanda Shapiro.
Breakfast cookies are apparently a THING, as Amanda mentioned one day. (We even did one years ago that now feels ahead of its time given that it has quinoa in it.) I figured, if we were going to do a healthy cookie, we would need to pack it full of savory flavor in the form of tons of mix-ins like nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. The morning glory muffin, that back-to-the-land sensation of the ’70s, became my inspiration. Bursting with nuts, seeds, shredded carrots, and whole grain flour, I just needed to shrink it down to cookie proportions and give it more cookie-like texture.
Around versions #3 and #4, it started to be very obvious to my colleagues that I had gone down a dark hole. My first efforts had a very obvious flaw: The baked cookies looked exactly like the raw ones. To get more color and activate the baking soda, I added molasses but got flashbacks to those terrible cookies sold in front of the registers at health food stores. So I tried making my own oat flour in the food processor, which, unfortunately, combined with the applesauce to make breakfast cement. Let’s just say that things got worse before they got better. While some recipe failures are easy to cover up or quietly redo, baking fails tend to be rather obvious. Slamming around sheet pans full of ugly cookies to the soundtrack of constantly-beeping kitchen timers didn’t help to deflect attention. I thought I had nailed it at #7, but then Amanda dropped the hammer and reminded me that we’d agreed not to use any refined sugar in the cookie. Hmmpf. The thing is, fat and sugar are the two primary ingredients that make a chewy, crispy, and moist cookie. Take them away, particularly the sugar, and there often isn’t much left to get excited about.
So I put the brown sugar away and wondering how to proceed. Often, when developing a recipe proves challenging, there is a breakthrough moment that changes everything. Yeah, that didn’t happen. If it had, I might have been able to stop around #8. Instead, it was a slow grind, making small changes that, over time, began to add up. My colleagues probably noticed that I was slamming the baking sheets a bit less savagely. It all just started to make sense: coconut oil, egg, yogurt, and maple syrup provide the wet ingredients for the dough. Shredded carrot, coconut flakes, pepitas, raisins, walnuts, and flax form the bulk of the cookie. A scant amount of whole wheat flour, rolled oats, and leavening provide just enough structure to hold it all together. The only key was figuring out the right ratios to get everything to cooperate.
Sometimes luck just doesn’t have anything to do with it. Try #13 wasn’t so much a game-changer as a realization that there was nothing I wanted to change. It was chewy, crispy, and just right.
Make these tonight and have awesome breakfasts all week:
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