These cookies came about when I was craving something sweet with nuts and chocolate but couldn’t find any recipes for chocolate chip cookies with less than a full cup of butter or oil, which did not appeal in the slightest. I made a simple dough using no eggs, only 2 tablespoons of oil, ground flax seeds, wheat flour and brown sugar to make a nutty-sweet base for cookies studded with chopped nuts and dried fruit. I added white chocolate chips I had leftover from a previous recipe and on discovering that I was totally out of chocolate chips, added chocolate covered cocoa nibs for a deep chocolate hit and a little crunch. Since the dough is somewhat wet and contains no eggs it also happens to be perfect for licking off the spoon without guilt or worry.
The texture of these cookies is somewhat cake-like compared to traditional recipes but the texture lends itself well to binding hearty chunks of fruit and nuts. I dubbed them monster cookies after my first batch, in part because I made them a little on the huge side since I wasn’t being particularly careful or paying attention to the fact that wet dough such as that for drop cookies tends to spread quite a bit, and in part because that’s what my mom dubbed cookies that had any number of leftover bits of stuff mixed in when I was a kid. It sounds better than “leftovers cookies,” though that name would apply as well due to the versatility of the flavors in the dough that compliment any number of the usual cookie components. Toss in whatever you think sounds good or you have on hand. I added a chocolate component because that’s what I was craving, but these are equally good with just nuts and fruit. Or just nuts. Or chocolate. Really, any combination that you like should work here. You could probably even add a handful or two of rolled oats for texture, though the dough would be drier and the cookies chewier as a result. Bagged trail mixes would work in this recipe too, especially the kind that incorporate a variety of nuts and fruit bits–just run a heavy knife through the mix to make sure you don’t have too many whole nuts floating around.
Due to my aversion to eggs and butter in this recipe it comes out what we’ll call accidentally vegan as long as you take care to check labels on your mix ins–lots of bittersweet chips are vegan, but milk and white most definitely are not. If you’re serving this to kids with dairy allergies keep an eye out for hidden dairy in the chips or check with mom if the kid in question is not one of your own. It’s not quite a low-fat recipe due to the nuts, but it’s still better than anything with a stick of butter or margarine in it, vegan or otherwise.
Ground flax seeds can be found in many grocery stores alongside the rest of the grains and cereals as well as in health food stores. Be sure to use ground in this recipe unless you want your cookies to have unbroken seeds all throughout. The ground meal flecks the dough and adds a subtle nuttiness of it’s own without changing the basic texture of the cookie or making it into an obvious “health food” type of confection. Don’t omit them, as they also function as an alternative binder to eggs in this recipe. Ground flax keeps for ages in the fridge and makes a great topping for yogurt and and easy addition to oatmeal and many other dishes as well. I’ve even used it as a gluten-free breading for chicken and salmon. If you don’t already have some in your pantry it’s definitely worth the investment.
Yield: About 2 dozen cookies
1/4 cup ground flax seeds, divided
scant 1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup soy, almond or rice milk, water or apple juice
1/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon applesauce (no sugar added preferred)
2 tablespoons light flavored oil–flax, hazelnut, canola, etc.
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
pinch of cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar, loose pack or 3/4 cup firm pack
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1/2 cup chips of choice–chocolate, white, butterscotch, etc OR 1/3 cup chocolate covered cocoa nibs
1/2 cup chopped nuts–I use 1/4 cup pecans and 1/4 cup walnuts
1/4-1/2 cup dried berries or chopped up dried fruit–cranberries, raisins, chopped cherries, trail mix, etc.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix about half of the ground flax with the warm water and milk or water/juice in a mixing bowl and allow to sit for a couple of minutes to soak. Stir in the remaining wet ingredients, then add the sugar and stir until there are no lumps of dry sugar. Mix in the salt, cinnamon and baking soda, making sure there are no undissolved bits of soda. Stir in the flour using a spatula or wooden spoon until you have it incorporated into a wet dough. Fold in the rest of the flax seed and the chips, nuts and fruit of your choice. Drop by spoonfuls onto two prepared cookie sheets either greased or lined with a silicone bake liner. There should be around two to two and a half dozen cookies, depending on how small you make yours. This dough will spread when baked, so allow space between cookies. Alternately, you can make a little over a dozen monster-sized cookies, but allow lots of room on the sheets and spread the dough a bit with the spatula or spoon to prevent underbaking in the middle. Bake regular sized cookies about 8-10 minutes and monster cookies 10-13 minutes, checking for lightly browned edges and a spongy bit of spring when touched. Remove from oven when cookies are a just a little softer than you’d like, as they firm up a bit as they cool. Cookies will brown faster on a greased sheet, so if you’re making monsters you may wish to use the silicone liners to prevent the edges and bottoms from burning with an underdone center. Allow cookies to cool fully on a wire rack or brown paper. Store in an air-tight container.