Good enough to eat

Do reach for the cookie jar, but make sure there are plenty of healthy, homemade goodies there.

Cookies 311 (photo credit: Anatoly Michaelo)
Cookies 311
(photo credit: Anatoly Michaelo)
My recent encounter with the perils of purchased sufganiot and other holiday treats this Hanukka left me with a sincere desire for genuine homemade cookies, but much healthier and tastier than anything one can buy, since most are made with white flour, white sugar and trans fats, and a plethora of baking enhancers and artificial colors and flavors.
To improve the nutritional value of cookies, you can substitute half wholewheat flour for the flour in a favorite recipe or use 70 percent whole wheat flour that functions as a whole-wheat pastry flour (available at Nitzat Haduvdevan and health food stores), or substitute one quarter-to one third of a cup of wheat germ for an equal amount of flour. Add unroasted nuts and unsweetened dried fruit (like dried dates, blueberries, cranberries, etc.) and choose from a variety of juice-sweetened jams to fill or glaze them (for glazing, dilute the jam with a little boiling water).
This week you’ll find three recipes – one is a delicious cookie using ground hazelnuts as part of its wheat flour mixture; another is a gluten-free cookie combining ground pecans with brown rice flour, perfect for those who like sweet without being overpowering. The recipes are adapted from Afia Bria Bekalei Kalut (Healthy Baking Made Easy), my new book published by Korim Publishers.
GRANDMA’S COOKIES Makes about 42 small cookies
These delightful little cookies are a variation of a recipe by Kristine Kidd, legendary former editor of Bon Appetit magazine.
✔ 100 gr. (3⁄4 cup) whole hazelnuts ✔ 1 cup 70% whole wheat flour ✔ Pinch salt ✔ 100 gr. butter, room temperature ✔ 1⁄3 cup organic cane sugar ✔ 3⁄4 Tbsp. real vanilla extract ✔ 1 egg yolk ✔ 1⁄4 cup raspberry or strawberry jam
Preheat the oven to 190ºC. Toast the hazelnuts in a baking pan, shaking occasionally, for about 8 minutes till golden. Remove from the oven and pour onto a towel. Rub till most of the brown peel is removed. Grind in a blender or food processor.
In a medium bowl, mix the flour and salt with a wooden spoon. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat honey, sugar and vanilla till light. Beat in the egg yolk. Lower speed and gradually add the flour mixture and ground nuts. Mix only until a uniform dough is formed (if the mixture is crumb-like, add a tablespoon or two of water).
Take a teaspoon of the dough and form it into a 2-cm. ball. Repeat, placing all the balls on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, leaving 3 cm between them. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to make an indentation in each cookie. Bake 7 minutes and remove from the oven (do not turn the oven off).
Using a tiny spoon, fill each indentation with a little of the jam (don’t fill it all the way or the jam will spill over during baking).
Return the cookies to the oven and bake an additional 8 minutes till the cookies are firm and golden. Let cool on a wire rack. Store in a hermetically sealed jar for up to 4 days or in the freezer.
These cookies have just a touch of sweetness and are especially good for those who want to reduce their intake of refined sugar.
✔ 2 Tbsp. butter, room temperature ✔ 1⁄4 cup maple syrup ✔ 1⁄4 tsp. salt ✔ 1 tsp. real vanilla extract ✔ 1 egg, beaten ✔ 2 tsp. rosewater ✔ 1 cup pecans, finely ground ✔ 1 cup brown rice flour
In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the butter, maple syrup, salt, vanilla, egg and rosewater till smooth, then add the ground pecans and brown rice flour and mix to form a uniform dough.
Remove the dough from the mixer and place on a piece of plastic wrap. Form the dough into a 1-cm.-high rectangle and cover with the plastic wrap on all sides.
Place in the refrigerator overnight.
Heat the oven to 180º. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and form 20 balls. Place on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet, lightly greased with butter.
Flatten out the balls and decorate the tops with the tines of a fork. Bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly golden. Let cool in the pan.
CAROB MOCHA COOKIES WITH CHESTNUT FILLING Makes about 40 cookies; 20 if filled
Serve these cookies as is or put two together with the chestnut filling.
✔ 1 cup 70% whole wheat flour or 1⁄3 whole-wheat flour and 2⁄3 cup white flour ✔ 1 tsp. instant coffee ✔ 1⁄3 cup carob powder or cocoa
✔ 1⁄4 tsp. baking soda ✔ Pinch salt ✔ 50 gr. butter, room temperature ✔ 1 cup organic cane sugar ✔ 1 egg, beaten ✔ 1 tsp. vanilla extract ✔ 20-40 walnut halves
Filling: ✔ 100 gr. vacuum-packed chestnuts ✔ 1 cup water ✔ 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract ✔ 1 cup cane sugar, ✔ Pinch salt and nutmeg
Preheat oven to 180º. In a medium bowl sift flour, instant coffee, carob powder, soda and salt. In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter and sugar till smooth and add egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture and beat 1 minute till dough leaves side of bowl.
Wet hands and form 2.5-cm. balls of the mixture. Place on a large parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Flatten out to 5 cm. If making filled cookies, press walnut halves into half the cookies. If not, place a walnut half on each.
Bake 11-12 minutes until cookies are dry on top. Do not overbake or they will get too hard.
To make filling, put all the ingredients in a small pot and bring to a boil. Cover and cook on low heat 40 minutes till soft and only one-quarter cup of liquids remain. Drain, saving liquid, and pulverize in a blender, adding liquids a tablespoon at a time till creamy but not mushy. Layer between two cookies (cookie with walnut on top) or store in the refrigerator for up to two days.