Loving Lavender & Chocolate
Yes, I know, again with the time lapse between updates, but I’ve got a good one to start off June. It’s cookies! Everyone loves cookies, right?
I’ve been playing with lavender for the past month or so, which is one of those perfect springtime flavors. Yes, lavender is most likely to evoke memories of Grandma’s sachets and scented soap, but it’s also a time-honored cooking herb. It’s light, just a little sweet, and in the right amount lends that extra little pleasant surprising something to a dish, whether it’s in Herbes de Provence, brewed with a bit of chamomile and mint tea or even in chocolate chip cookies.
I’m one of those people who prefers her chocolate chip cookies chewy, not crispy, and I’ve been tweaking and experimenting for ages. Thanks to some tips from the last week’s episode of America’s Test Kitchen, I think I’ve finally hit on just about perfect mix for that ooey-gooey chewy chocolate chip cookie – and since it’s me, of course there’s a twist or two in this recipe. Not only have I included lavender and white chocolate chips into the mix, since I’ve got the husbeast to consider, the recipe is completely dairy-free, even the white chocolate chips.
So here it is:
(dairy-free) Light & Dark chocolate chip and lavender cookies
(yields approx. 18 generously sized cookies)
16 tblsp (1 cup/2 sticks) Earth Balance (or butter if you’re not under any dairy restrictions)
1 cup DARK brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar + about 1/2 tblsp (if using real butter, omit the 1/2 tblsp sugar)
1 whole egg + 1 yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 unrefined flour UNSIFTED
1 tsp baking SODA
1 tsp salt (I use pink himalayan, which is a bit stronger so I use a little less than 1 tsp)
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tblsp dried lavender
1 cup Trader Joe’s chocolate chips*
1/2 cup vegan white chocolate chips (I used VeganSweet chips and they work great – http://www.veganstore.com/product/637/other-chocolates)
*according to ATK guys, the best commercial chocolate chip available is the specific 60% Cacao Ghiradeli chocolate chip. Nestle and the Ghiradeli Semi-Sweet chips were in the bottom, and Hershey’s Special Dark chips were runner-up. Having tried those against the Trader J’s chips, the Trader J chips still come out on top, in my opinion.
1 large shallow baking pan or cookie sheet
SILPAT silicone sheet or baking parchment paper
1 frying pan
1 large heatproof mixing bowl
measuring spoons & cups
wooden spoon or mixing spatula
1. preheat oven to 375, get a large baking sheet and line with either a SILPAT sheet (works best) or parchment paper. Make sure the oven rack is in the middle.
2. Take 12 tblsp of the Earth balance and melt in a shallow frying pan over med heat until bubbling. You’ll start seeing some of the “solids” separate from the oil, so occasionally whisk – you’ll want to do this for about 5 min. Once the Earth Balance stops bubbling, throw in the 1/2 tblsp sugar and whisk (NOTE: if you’re using real butter, skip adding the 1/2 tblsp sugar). You’ll start seeing the solids in the oil browning. At this point, turn off the heat and whisk another 30 sec before pouring into a large heat proof bowl. Add the remaining 4 tblsp Earth Balance and whisk until integrated. The “butter” should have that lovely light caramel color.
3. Whisk in white & brown sugar, eggs & vanilla extract until smooth. Let sit 3 minutes. Whisk & rest another 3 min. Repeat for a total of 3 cycles. You’ll notice the mixture has something of a satin-y finish.
4. Add 1 cup flour, cinnamon, lavender, salt & baking soda. STIR with a spatula or wood spoon until barely integrated. Add remaining 3/4 flour and mix until flour is just absorbed. Add dark & white choc. chips and mix until chips are distributed well in the batter – don’t overmix! The batter will be very soft and “slack.”
5. Spoon about 3 tblsp. worth of batter onto the pan in a loose ball (about the size of a small scoop of ice cream). You’ll probably fit about 6 balls on the sheet, leaving at least 2 in. between cookies because they will spread. Don’t try to cook 2 sheets on 2 different levels of racks in the oven, the cookies won’t bake evenly – one will be overdone and the other underdone; best do one sheet of 6 cookies at a time. Bake for approx. 10-12 min, until you can just lift the edges of the cookie. Use a flat spatula to transfer cookies onto a cooling rack. Cookies will cool to a slightly chewy, soft texture with the bottoms and edges JUST a little crisp. I know it’s hard not to eat the cookies while they cool, but giving them at least 20 min to cool is necessary to create that chewy soft texture.
Attempt to not eat all in one sitting (but if you fail, that’s ok – but do try to share).
Browning the butter really enhances those toffee-notes in the cookie and doubling the amount of dark brown sugar to white sugar makes the cookie chewy due to the high molasses content of the brown sugar. You can sub golden brown sugar if you can’t find dark brown, but the cookie won’t be quite as chewy. Also, make sure the brown sugar is fresh and soft – to keep it from hardening, put the sugar inside a ziplock bag, even if it already has a ziplock resealable bag.
You can of course, leave out the lavender and/or the white chocolate chips for your standard delicious chocolate chip cookie, or use as a base for adding other flavors (I know I’ve got some different flavor profiles I want to experiment with!). Enjoy!