Here’s how you make chocolate chip cookies: you beat the butter and sugar into a fluffy little frenzy, possibly forgetting about them both while you answer an email. You crack two eggs in, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl between each one, then swear at yourself for a) always throwing the vanilla into the baking drawer upside-down, since this time it leaked, and b) spacing out on the computer instead of blending the dry ingredients, because now you need them. You whisk flour—or flours, if you’re me, because I love the chew of chocolate chip cookies made with a mixture of bread and whole wheat pastry flours—with salt and some sort of leavening and perhaps a bit of spice, dump it all into the mixer, and stir. Then there are the add-ins—chocolate (always), oats (more often than not), dried fruit (sour cherries, please, never raisins), and toasted coconut. These are my favorite cookies.
That’s what I used to think. That’s what I thought until I morphed into one of those people who may or may not be allergic to certain things. (The horror.) That’s what I thought until today, in fact, when I decided that rather than substituting various things into my standard chocolate-chunk cookies—ground flax for the eggs, new flours for all-purpose, and the like—I need to research my standard definition of “cookie.”
I didn’t have to go much farther than Super Natural Every Day, Heidi Swanson’s newest cooking bible. I’ve liked Heidi’s recipes in the past because they’re fresh and creative, but in the last six months—yes, it’s been that long since I cut out gluten, eggs, and soy—her books have provided constant inspiration when I’m trying to find a path out of the way I used to cook (or at least from empty kitchen to warm dessert). She cooks things that are instantly familiar, even if you’ve never tasted anything remotely similar. She uses unique ingredients without making them seem like substitutions. And in my experience, every recipe works every time. Case in point: chocolate chip cookies.
Heidi calls these “Carnival Cookies.” It’s fitting, given the original combination of peanuts, popcorn, and chocolate chips, but for me, the name is more about the fun. Stirring up something called a cookie without going through the normal cookie motions—for one, these don’t require a mixer, or even sugar—was somehow liberating, allergies be damned. Substituting a big handful of millet for some of the oats, and pecans for the peanuts, was easy enough, and made these safe for my father-in-law, who’s allergic to peanuts. They’ll work for my friend’s hypersensitive son. And they’ll work for me, because if I’m allergic to anything in this world, it’s a week without a great cookie.
Millet-Pecan Carnival Cookies (PDF)
Changed only slightly from Heidi Swanson’s recipe for Carnival Cookies in her latest book, Super Natural Every Day (Ten Speed, 2011), these cookies are a blast. Between crunchy millet, swaths of chocolate, and little popcorn grenades, they’re far more interesting in the mouth than your average chocolate chip cookie—and appropriate for many with dietary restrictions.
Active time: 20 minutes
Makes about 24 cookies
1 1/2 cups well-mashed bananas (about 3 large)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup barely warmed (not solid) extra-virgin coconut oil
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup raw millet
1/2 cup almond meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2/3 cup chopped toasted pecans
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups popped corn
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the bananas, vanilla, and coconut oil. Set aside. In another bowl, whisk together the oats, millet, almond meal, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Fold in the pecans, then the chocolate chips, and finally the popped corn. (It won’t look like normal cookie dough.) Shape the dough into 1-inch balls with your hands, packing the dough firmly together. Place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheets, and press each ball down a bit with the palm of your hand, so each mound of dough is about 1/2-inch tall.
Bake the cookies for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, or until the bottoms of the cookies are a deep golden brown. Allow the cookies to cool completely, directly on the baking sheets.