On Friday night, Kim Boyce won the James Beard award for Best Baking and Dessert cookbook for Good to the Grain, her cookbook on baking with whole grains. Boyce is a former pastry chef as well as the mother of small children, and her interest is not just in making things healthier but in taking advantage of the different flavors and properties of different whole grains. Her book has chapters on oats, corn and whole wheat but also on spelt, amaranth and teff, to name a few. (I've never baked with teff, but it's used in the Ethiopian bread called injera.)
Despite their use of whole grains, these are not lo-cal, low sugar or low fat recipes. Boyce was, after all, a pastry chef. But they are thoughtful recipes and almost always delicious. I've made three or four things from the book already (and have several others bookmarked), but the one recipe I've returned to multiple times is her whole wheat chocolate chip cookie recipe. While chocolate chip cookies (much as I like them) are not usually my standby cookie recipe (that would be one kind or another of oatmeal), this recipe might challenge that--or, if I'm honest, is challenging it already, given how many times I've made these in the past few months.
I've made a few changes to Boyce's original recipe. One is that I cut it in half. The original recipe--2 sticks of butter, 2 cups of sugar, 8 ounces of chocolate and all--makes 20 large cookies. As a person who likes to eat cookies and also doesn't want to later regret eating said cookies, I prefer to make smaller cookies. My half recipe makes about 30 small cookies, ones you can eat (relatively) without guilt. The other thing I did in this version was to replace 2 tablespoons of butter with peanut butter. This was less for health reasons than that it seemed like a slight peanut undertone might go well with these, and it does. (If you skip the peanut butter, use a full stick of butter.) I followed Molly's advice and used white whole wheat flour and would recommend that, though regular whole wheat flour makes good cookies as well. I also opted for a chocolate bar broken up and put in the mini-chopper over chocolate chips. It gives you some chocolate dust as well as chips and integrates itself into the batter nicely.
One other thing to note--these cookies seem to gain flavor with time. They also freeze very well. It makes a person feel better about everything to know that there's a Ziploc bag of delicious cookies in the freezer, ready for when unexpected guests arrive or just for when the day calls for a cookie or two. There's no reason to hide the fact that these are made with whole grains, but if you don't tell, I'm not sure anyone would guess. But whether you disclose the ingredients or not, whether you add the peanut butter or not, whether you make large cookies or small ones, I hope you will agree that not only is Kim Boyce a winner, but these cookies absolutely are as well.
Happy Mother's Day and enjoy!
Adapted from Kim Boyce's Good to the Grain
- 1 1/2 cups white whole-wheat flour, plus more for the work surface
- 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped into 1/4- and 1/2-inch pieces
Position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a mixing bowl, adding any large bits of grain or other ingredients that remain in the sifter.
Combine the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer; beat on low speed for about 2 minutes, until just blended. Add the peanut butter and blend until combined. Add the egg, then the vanilla extract.
Add the flour mixture and beat until barely combined. Stop to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the chocolate, and beat on low speed just until evenly distributed.
Lightly flour a work surface. Transfer the dough to the work surface and use your hands to fully incorporate any remaining flour or chocolate from the bowl.
Scoop small mounds of the dough onto each baking sheet, spacing them several inches apart. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through. . Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool before serving or storing.
Repeat to use the remaining dough.
Approx. 30 small cookies