Chocolate chip cookies

ImageI’ve been going through a chocolate chip cookie phase of late. I had a favorite recipe I used to use in my pre-vegan days, and I was hesitant to try a vegan version as I thought it just wouldn’t taste as good. Really, I should know better, but old stereotypes die hard. Also, vegan chocolate chips (i.e. ones that do not have milk in them) are expensive and hard to come by, and my food justice self cannot accept the $9/lb price as fair or accessible.  So, for the last 4 years or so, I have retired chocolate chip cookies from my baking repertoire.

Until a month ago. I was in Smart & Final (a restaurant supply store) and came across Ghirardelli’s 60% cacao bittersweet chips, which I had never heard of before. Could they be vegan? Alas no, they contain milk fat. On a whim, I grabbed a bag of semi-sweet chips on the shelf next to them. I scanned the ingredients, looking for a dealbreaker (typically whole milk powder, milk fat, cream powder or whey for chocolate chips). There were only 5 ingredients – sugar, unsweetened chocolate, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, and vanilla – none of which appeared to be derived from animals. Cautiously hopeful, I bought the bag and went online to investigate further. My research confirmed that Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips are “vegan by accident”. A happy accident indeed!

For my recipe, I turned to two of my favorite vegan cookbook authors – Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero – and their book Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. I was pleased with the result, and my tasters have been too.

C H O C O L A T E   C H I P   C O O K I E S

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup white sugar (I’ve used half this amount and it’s been fine)

2/3 cup canola/vegetable oil

¼ cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (if you only have sweetened, you can reduce the amount of sugar)

1 tablespoon tapioca or arrowroot

2 teaspoons vanilla

1½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

¾ cup chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 350°F . Lightly grease baking sheet with vegetable oil or place parchment paper on the baking sheet. Use fork to thoroughly mix the first 5 ingredients together in a bowl, until the mixture resembles smooth caramel. Mix in the vanilla. Add 1 cup of the flour, baking soda, and salt to the bowl and mix well. Mix in the final ½ cup of flour. Fold in the chocolate chips. Drop onto baking sheet leaving 2 inches between each cookie. Bake at 350°F until cookies are browned around the edges, about 8-9 minutes. Yield: about 16-36 cookies, depending on size.

High-altitude adjustments: When I bake this at 4,500 ft, I do so at 355°F for 12 or 13 minutes. The main visual cue that they’re ready is when the bottoms are ever so slightly browned.

Extra tips: I find it easiest to use a tablespoon to measure out the cookie sizes; this yields around 3 dozen cookies. Also, I usually reserve a few chocolate chips at the end, so that the cookies made from the batter at the end of the bowl are not chip-less.

Variations to try: I think these would be tasty with a dash of cinnamon added. Or with some unsweetened coconut. I’d also like to try a gluten-free version.

This recipe is dedicated to the inspiring animals I met this weekend at Animal Acres, a farm sanctuary outside of Los Angeles. Thanks to you all, especially William the playful calf.