I have crumbs on my neck and down my back. I noticed them while singing Joan to sleep just now, and realised they must have come from the cookies we baked this morning. We’ve baked a lot of cookies this past month. So much so, that if I were to offer Joan a cookie upon waking, there’s a good chance she’d say no*, because she’s entirely sick of them. How’s that for food habituation?
Cookies began covering my counter following a craving for chocolate chip bites. And then I got to thinking it would be neat to create a nut-free version of this recipe (which I adore and make often) for my clients with nut-free kids. Over the weeks, I trialled many different recipes and received vastly different results, ranging from “fine” to “oh good Lord, no”. We ate batches made with regular wholemeal flour, wholegrain spelt and unbleached white spelt (unbleached spelt, either wholegrain or white, won); with and without tahini (it’s a great addition), using honey instead of maple (the honey cookie was baaaaaaad, so in order to compensate for the price of maple syrup, I reduced the portion); with baking soda and with baking powder (soda works best); and with cacao nibs in place of chocolate (dark chocolate, all the way). It seems I won’t have to tire Joan with constant offerings of “choket chip cookie”s for a while, because, friends, we have ourselves a winner. The cookie I crowned is simple to assemble, bakes in no time, is nut-free AND egg-free (which means Joan’s egg-free pal can eat them), and, most importantly, fulfils the expectations one develops when those three glorious words, “chocolate chip cookie”, are paired together.
Despite the fact that Joan has been saying “No cookies” for a while, we do have a lot of fun baking together, provided I’ve picked the right moment, of course. I have learnt to keep the flour to myself and give her tasks that won’t require a load of clean up, such as pressing the button on the scale, helping me stir (five seconds for me, five seconds for her), and adding ingredients to the bowl. Joan is gentle with the whisk and has discovered the joy of licking the bowl, and as she concentrates on consuming every last scrap of batter, I relish a quiet moment, stirring + scooping… Today, after carrying a plate of warm from the oven cookies to the table, Joan asked to sit on my lap. The past few weeks she has been constantly asking me to pick her up and wanting to give me cuddles (“Cuddle Mummy. Big cuddle”). Perhaps she can sense this season of change. Trying for a second baby has flooded me with feelings. Feelings of hope and feelings of gratitude for what we already have, which is so, so much. And I have found myself soaking up each and every time she grabs my neck and pulls me close. Even when her hands are covered in cookie crumbs.
* After her nap: “Joan, would you like a cookie?”…
Ha. More for me.
Update: I waited two weeks, baked these again for a play date and Joan would not stop asking for more.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 10 cookies
Note: this recipe makes a sunflower seed meal to replace almond meal. If you don’t have a food processor or the need to avoid nuts, feel free to use almond meal. Know that it will be a heaping 1/3 cup of meal to make 40g, so I suggest you weigh the ingredients. Even an increase of 20g flour extra makes a difference to the texture of baked goods, and weighing helps avoid recipe disappointment. Also, I suggest following Joy’s instructions for measuring flour.
1 cup (115g) unbleached spelt flour (white or wholegrain)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom*
a tiny pinch of sea salt**
1/3 cup(40g) sunflower seeds
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon (25g) runny hulled tahini***
40g roughly chopped dark chocolate****
* you could use cinnamon, though I haven’t tried it and highly recommend the cardamom.
** I add ~1/8 teaspoon Maldon sea salt flakes.
*** My favourite. Not locally sourced, but SO tasty and runny (and perfect for drizzling on salads).
**** I add whatever chocolate I have on hand and sounds appealing. I’ve used dark cooking chocolate, Lindt and Green & Blacks, and enjoyed all versions. If your chocolate is a little salty, use less sea salt.
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line two baking trays with baking paper.
2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add the spelt flour, baking soda, ground cardamom and salt. Whisk to combine.
3. Add the sunflower seeds to a food process and blitz until they become a fine flour. Add the sunflower seed flour to the dry ingredients. Tip: I then add the chocolate to the food processor and blitz it until roughly chopped, leaving it until needed.
4. To a large mixing bowl, add the olive oil, maple syrup and tahini. Whisk briskly to form a thick paste (my tahini is runny and easy to add. If yours is stiff, just use your muscles).
5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and, using a spoon, fold until just incorporated. Add the chocolate chips and fold through again.
6. Place the mix in the fridge to chill for 10 minutes (an optional step, but it gets a better result).
7. Scoop out the mix using a tablespoon and shape them into balls with slightly wet hands. Place them on the tray and press down slightly. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes until slightly golden on top (I rotate my pans at 7 minutes then put them back in for another couple of minutes to ensure even browning – but that’s just my oven). It’s better to undercook them than overcook. Know that the top may looked cracked and the cookies may appear fragile, but they’ll firm up when cooling on the baking tray. Eat them once they’ve firmed up and cooled slightly. These cookies are certainly best on the day baked, though will keep in an airtight container for a few days.