This is a vent and a recipe. I tried to think of a good way to connect them and all I came up with is life is short so have some cookies but have some whole grain cookies so your life is not too short.
Got it? Good.
Anyway, seriously, I have just been having angst lately over the belly button gazing that we inflict on ourselves in this society. My sister did a semester abroad in Portugal, and her professor there explained to his Portuguese students that there is nothing Americans like better than to examine and pick at their own flaws (the context of his comment cannot be done justice to here so I’m going to skip it). I’ve thought a lot about this observation in light of our fixations on health and being healthy. And our fixations on the health of our kids.
Take the sun. Do we worry about the fact that we are all vitamin D deprived? Do we fixate on the fact that we are a nation of tv watchers who never get off the couch? Do we stay out of the sun and slather ourselves in sunscreen when we do leave the house? Do we get cancer from the sunscreen we apply? Do we spend a fortune on zinc oxide sunscreen and therefore skip fresh fruit at the grocery store that week? And after we’ve worked it out for ourselves–bad enough–what do we do for our kids? Do we obsess on the chances of something dire happening to us doubling or tripling–when we have no idea what the original number is and maybe it’s doubled from .0000004% chance to .0000008% chance.
I’ve just had it. I am tired of nitpicking over every little food, fat gram, calorie, sun ray, chemical, ETC that we get exposed to. It is nothing but a big guilt cycle–especially for us parents but I would argue for any of us as individuals too–and I for one would like to get off this ride. I would like to stop worrying because my kids got a little pink while they were outside in the fresh air getting exercise. I would also like to stop worrying that their brains will decay because they’ve watched some tv. I would like to stop worrying that I’ve ruined their future appetites by having dessert around a lot. I would also like to stop feeling guilty that *I* did not get on the treadmill tonight and instead chose to work on this post.
I don’t have the answer to getting rid of a guilt/worriwort complex–but I do have a good compromise for dessert. Kim Boyce takes the approach in her Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours that whole grains flours, used correctly, are not just healthier but also tasty. I love this approach–especially because she uses a variety of whole grains–because I am not a fan of just subbing whole wheat flour in whenever possible. That is the guiltY approach, this is the guilt-FREE approach, where you try a whole grain because it sounds tasty. The healthiness is just a happy benefit. Boyce has me actually excited about tracking down various whole grain flours and trying them out.
The first flour I found was whole grain spelt, so I turned to the spelt chapter. The first recipe I tried was this Chocolate Chocolate Cookies (note that she does not even mention the spelt in the title of the recipe). These cookies were awesome. John did not care for them, but I never figured out why and in light of the reaction I got from me, my kids, and his department when I sent them in, I decided I don’t care. They are 100% whole grain (kick that guilt to the curb!), rich, chewy and delicious. Make sure you use a good bittersweet chocolate at least 70% cacao because at 8 ounces, they form the bulk of the flavor of the cookie, and also because the cookie needs a fair amount of sugar for its texture (no guilt! no guilt!), so you don’t want them to be too sweet. The cacao nibs on top also help balance the sweetness.
*Note that the recipe does call for a total of 1 pound of chocolate. Half of that is for melting into the dough. The second half, for which you can substitute chips (I did), is for folding into the dough before baking.
- 8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 8 oz chopped bittersweet chocolate at least 70% cacao (for melting into the dough)
- 4 eggs
- 2 1/4 cups sugar
- 2 cups whole grain spelt flour
- 4 t baking powder
- 8 oz chopped bittersweet chocolate or bittersweet chocolate chips for folding into the dough at the end
- to taste cacao nibs
- to taste coarse sea salt
Melt the butter and 8 ounces chopped chocolate in the microwave at 50% power in 30 second intervals. Stir until smooth and set aside to cool a bit.
Place the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer (or use a hand mixer). Using the whip attachment, beat on high for 3 minutes, until pale and fluffy.
With the mixer on low speed, pour the chocolate mixture into the eggs and mix to combine.
Whisk the dry ingredients together. Add to the chocolate mixture and mix on low until partially combined. Dump the chopped chocolate or chocolate chips into the bowl and finish mixing by hand, gently folding until no streaks of flour remain and the chocolate is evenly distributed.
Chill for at least 2 hours, or preferably overnight (note: the cookies bake well after 2 hours but better after overnight).
When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone. Scoops balls of dough about 2 tablespoons in size--I baked them 6 cookies to a sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt and cacao nibs.
Bake for 17-20 minutes; the cookies will still be soft in the middle but should be firm at the edges (the cacao nibs will be dark brown). Let cool on the pans for 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack. These cookies are best eaten the same day they are baked, and preferably warm, but they will keep for 2-3 days. The dough will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days, so I recommend not baking them all at once (unless you need them all of course).
Ah, all the self doubt–especially the parental self-doubt. I know it all too well. I never second guessed myself this much before I had a child. What I wouldn’t give to go back to being that headstrong young adult who knew the answers to everything1 The cookies look great. Have your dessert, enjoy it, and remember that one day a low-sugar diet may also be declared unhealthy (or at least I keep hoping so!).
I love the attitude in this post! I was just about to start a day of berating myself for eating some banana chocolate chip snack cake last night when I’m supposed to be “dieting” but there’s no sense it. You’re right. Thank you!
Oh yes. Back in the ’70’s when my girls were growing up, we had no sugary treats in the house. Today, as they raise their kids, I see a complete turn around. Apparently they felt very deprived.
I love love love this post! I could not have said it better myself! *Applause* Bravo!
I’m also glad that you skipped the treadmill and made these…these cookies are good for the soul!
The Chocolate Priestess says
In general I find using whole grain flours requires more moisture in recipes. Would you agree?
Yes. In a case like this, I just follow the recipe, but if I am subbing whole grain flour into, say, bread, I will expect to add more water/liquid.
Great post….so many worries, so little time…and often unneeded guilt! But on to the cookies, which look fabulous!!! Love the double dose of chocolate 🙂
Laura @ SweetSavoryPlanet says
I am with you. If you try to make a cookie something that is something healthy instead of a treat it probably won’t taste like a cookie anymore. I like my cookies to taste like cookies but I also love whole grains and believe they add to the flavor and texture of baked goods and take them to a whole new delicious level. All things in moderation, food and life is meant to be enjoyed!