Substitutions and Chocolate Chip Cookies


September 15, 2012 by jenniebean10

I don’t think people actually try out my recipes all that often. Well, if they do, they don’t tell me about it 😦 The banana pudding was an exception, probably because most people have those ingredients! Complaints I’ve received about my recipes are that some ingredients are weird, or that the recipes seem too involved. I will readily admit that I’m more than happy to spend HOURS cooking or baking something, and I know that’s not for everyone. However, when it comes to this issue of obscure or “weird” ingredients, I call BS for the most part. I personally find it nearly impossible to follow recipes EXACTLY. Oftentimes, I don’t have the exact ingredients specified. Even more often, I just feel like throwing in some other spices because I think it’ll taste nummy! If I’m baking and I don’t have eggs, I substitute with bananas or flaxseed. Don’t be afraid of substitutions! Just get a little creative. Here are some random substitutions I can think of off the top of my head:

Ingredient                                                  Substitute

marjoram                                                        oregano
1 c. buttermilk                                               1 T lemon juice or white vinegar + enough milk to make it 1 c
1 egg (baking)                                               1 T ground flaxseed + 3 T water (mix until thick and gelatinous)
… 1/2 banana, mashed or 1/4 c unsweetened applesauce (good in quickbreads & muffins)
1 c. oil or butter (in quickbreads)            1 c. unsweetened applesauce (texture will be denser)
sugar… on!

One thing I changed in my baking a few years ago was the type of sugar that I use. I never use the ultra-refined granulated white sugar. I do my best to avoid highly processed and refined foods, simply because I know there have to be better alternatives. This is not a post about sugar or my hatred for HFCS, so I’m not going to get up on a soapbox and preach to you about how much I hate Monsanto/poison/people who say corn sugar/yadda yadda yadda. I’ll leave you with this link to Robert Lustig’s (UCSF) famous lecture on fructose – Sugar: The Bitter Truth, though.

The main substitute I use for generic “sugar” is organic evaporated cane juice. One of the best places to find this is at Trader Joe’s. (You could obviously find this stuff at Whole Paycheck, Plum Market, probably some major grocery store chains, and any health/natural foods store). A great natural substitute for brown sugar is turbinado or demerara sugar – think of sugar in the raw, or just larger, browner sugar crystals. The larger the sugar crystal, the dryer it will be. This has never been an issue for me, but if you’re worried, add your dry ingredients to your wet ingredients slowly. That way, you can gauge how dry the batter will be, and determine whether you need to leave some of the flour out. You can also add a tiny bit of molasses, honey, or maple syrup to your sugar to add moisture. Liquid sweeteners I have in my kitchen are honey, maple syrup, and raw blue agave nectar – cup for cup, these sweeteners are heavier and denser than granulated sugars, so you definitely don’t need as much. I’ve read that 1 c granulated sugar = 7/8 c honey. My agave nectar says that it is “25% sweeter than sugar, so you need less”. I’m not really sure about the health benefits of agave nectar (the bottle says it’s a low glycemic organic sweetener) – my vegan friend gave me a bottle of this, and I haven’t used it up yet. I’ve made cookies and muffins with it, and it seems to work fine. To sum it up, my main suggestions with sugar are to 1) steer clear from the ultra-cheap ultra-refined crap you see dominating the shelves at most grocery stores; 2) use less than the recipe calls for – we tend to over-do it on the quantity of sugar in recipes, which are sweet enough with probably 2/3 the amount of sugar that’s called for – if your batter or your finished product ends up too dry, cut out an egg white, use an extra egg yolk, or find a way to add some more moisture in there without using so much sugar; 3) blend sweeteners, experiment, and try something new!

So, now for the real purpose behind this blog post! Last week, my friend Jenny invited me over for dinner, and I offered to bring dessert. She said it didn’t need to be anything fancy, so I heeded her advice and made the easiest, most classic thing I could think of that her son Alex would most definitely like: chocolate chip cookies :]

I know that the world doesn’t need any more recipes for chocolate chip cookies, but I wanted to try something new. Now normally, I just generally stick to the Tollhouse cookie recipe. I mean, who can argue with it? It’s really freaking good. Well, I had some Ghirardelli chocolate chips, and I thought it rather blasphemous to use them in a Tollhouse recipe….so this time, I decided to try something new. I browsed my favorite food blogs for choc chip cookie recipes so that I could get some ideas and a sense of the proportions, and came up with this new recipe essentially from scratch. I’m very proud of it, because it turned out EXTREMELY well.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/2 c unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. cinnamon
3/4 c. unsalted butter, melted
1 c. organic evaporated cane sugar
2 T. agave nectar*
1 t. pure vanilla extract (Madagascar)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 c. chocolate chips

1. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and preheat oven to 325°F (165°C).
2. Sift together the flours, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a small/medium bowl and set aside.
3. In a medium/large bowl, melt the butter, then cream together with the sugar and agave nectar using a wooden spoon. Beat the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla in until creamy and light.
4. Mix in the sifted dry ingredients just until blended. Stir in the chocolate chips.
5. Cover and refrigerate the dough for at least 30 min, and up to 3 days. (I let mine sit in the fridge overnight and baked a dozen cookies off just before going to my friend’s house. I shaped the rest of the dough into balls and froze them for later.)
6. Shape into balls and place on the cookie sheets, 3 in. apart. Bake at 325°F for 12-16 min. Remove from oven, let cool for 1 minute on sheets, and transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. Or eat them right away and burn the roof of your mouth with the melted chocolate chips!

*If you don’t have agave nectar, I’d probably substitute with 1/4-1/2 c. of the sugar. If I had time, I would’ve made this with browned butter. Ah well, another post, another recipe, another day!

My final thoughts on baking and cooking are these ones:  Don’t be afraid to change things up or make mistakes, because you might stumble upon something that is totally awesome. My favorite recipes are those where I tweak ingredients so that I can claim the recipes as my own. This one wasn’t adapted from any one in particular, and the cookies are baller, so I felt like a rockstar after making them. (I know, I know, anybody can make chocolate chip cookies, but I still felt awesome!)


2 thoughts on “Substitutions and Chocolate Chip Cookies

  1. Kelsey Mc says:

    Several things:
    1) Whole Foods = Whole Paycheck. HILARIOUS.
    2) Even though you stayed off your soapbox for the most part I noticed that you still tagged this post with “ban HFCS” LOL
    3) Some of the stuff you make is too fancy for me/uses ingredients I would never buy, but I blame me not making your recipes on the fact that I don’t have my own place right now 🙂
    4) Recipe substitutions are AWESOME. It’s so cool what you can use to replace something else and I used a lot of substitutions when I cooked in my own apartment last year!

    • jenniebean10 says:

      Ha! Yeah, I had to get that in there somehow. And yeah, substitutions are the best. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started a recipe and then realized, “Oh shoot! I don’t have that!!! What can I use instead….”

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