Thursday, May 9, 2013

Vegan Oatmeal Cookies with White Chocolate and Coconut

The vegan diet seems to be gaining more popularity. In the grocery store, packaged foods normally have a sticker printed on the side indicating whether the product is "vegan friendly." Most restaurants will make an effort to provide a couple vegan options for entrees. Vegan recipes are taking over the internet! It has been quite the trendy diet particularly among those who are trying to make a conscientious effort to eat more whole foods. Now, eating a vegan-friendly diet does not seem incredibly difficult to me if we are talking strictly main dishes - just make food with lots of olive oil, fruits, veggies, and grains. I don't eat a lot of dairy anyway because of my lactose intolerance. Paul, on the other hand, would have a little more difficult time with it because he could never kiss his cheese fetish goodbye. Overall, I think a vegan diet would be fairly doable.

Until it comes to baking and desserts.

How can you bake without butter?! Eggs?!? Milk? Most forms of chocolate!????!

I envisioned just about every vegan baked good turning out about as hard and tasteless as a hockey puck.

One of my dearest friends from high school is a hard-core vegan. And you know what else? She also enjoys baking! In fact, when we have gathered together at various bridal and baby showers over the years, she normally brings some freshly baked vegan desserts. And they have always been moist and incredibly delicious! Ever since tasting some of her recipes, I have kept an eye out for vegan baking recipes for both her and I to test out. Obviously, vegan recipes are particularly tricky to execute well. You cannot simply substitute vegan-friendly ingredients for non-vegan ingredients and hope that it all works out for the best. The entire formula usually needs to be revamped in order to guarantee optimal taste and texture. So far, there have been some successful recipes and some very humbling failures. My attempts at a vegan challah were less than stellar. The bread pudding I tried to make with the salvaged remains was even worse. I'm going to guess that challah is just not challah without all those eggs.

One of my favorite vegan recipes thus far are for these oatmeal cookies. I actually whipped them up accidentally one day because I was babysitting for a bunch of kids and wanted to make them a snack, but did not have any butter in the house. I used it as an opportunity to try a vegan cookie recipe. The batter took no more than 7 minutes to whip up and another 20 minutes to bake in the oven. The results are a chewy, sweet cookie full of flavor from coconut, white chocolate (vegan white chocolate, of course), and brown sugar. Matthew loves these and Paul thought they were pretty fantastic too!

Oatmeal Cookies with White Chocolate and Coconut
adapted from Serious Eats

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons agave nectar (or honey)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup shredded coconut, toasted
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cup vegan white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk together the sugar, oil, agave, salt, water, and vanilla in a medium bowl. In a larger bowl, combine the four, oats, coconut, and baking soda. Make a well in the center and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix well to combine. Stir in the white chocolate chips. You might have to use your hands to get everything to mesh well.

Press the mixture into the bottom of an 8-inch baking pan. Place on the middle rack in the oven and bake for 20-22 minutes, or until lightly browned and just set. Let cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into bars. Or, scoop out cobbler-style while still hot and enjoy with a large helping of of ice cream.

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