The Straight Dough(p)

It was only a matter of time. After releasing a glorious vegan version of their infamous cookie dough ice cream, Ben & Jerry’s has now unveiled the next level of dough indulgence upon the world. Joining the previously limited run of “just the chunks,” vegans will soon see a variation with their names on it appearing in grocery stores and scoop shops nationwide.

This is the real deal; the straight dough(p). Cylindrical extrusions exactly like you would see rolling down factory conveyor belts, destined for an unceremonious ice cream burial. Now, they’ve been freed of that typical, undistinguished fate for a glorious full feature. No longer the sidekick but the true hero, every nuance of their buttery, brown sugar sweetness can be properly appreciated. Never before have I tasted anything so closely matched to the flavors of homemade dough without reaching right into the bowl of my stand mixer.

Suddenly, I’m three years old again, standing on a chair to see over the tiled kitchen counter while my mom prepares cookies. Stretching to reach the very edge of the beater, I surreptitiously swipe tiny morsels of soft batter, one after another, letting the flavors explode across my palate and slowly dissipate before going in for another bit. Each stolen taste was just enough to flood my senses with the slightly grainy texture of undissolved sugar and flour, subtly balanced salted edge, and deeply satisfying richness. Stealthy, I was not, but my mom charitably humored my advances, pretending to be engaged with very complicated oven calibration every now and then while I made my moves.

Like the flashbulb of an antique camera, the memory fades off into black, and just like that, the bag is empty, too.

Ben & Jerry’s, take another bow. This is a completely faultless edible masterpiece by any standards. If you’ve ever craved raw cookie dough, this is what you’ve wanted all along.

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Not Half Bad

Any chance to celebrate is one worth taking, as is evident by the profusion of often dubious national holidays. Adding a touch of whimsy to the monotonous daily routine, marking a date as something special to anticipate, the reason to rejoice is not actually important. Those moving targets simply provide a convenient excuse and a general focus for unscheduled merriment. As silly as National Splurge Day sounds, I still can’t be too mad at it for the joy it must bring a select few. If you have the means and the inclination, why not?

While I’m probably the worst person to consult about commemorating a real momentous date on the calendar, such as my own birthday, I can fully appreciate the potential it holds. It somehow figures that my half-birthday, a real non-event if there ever was one, tends to get more attention.

No matter how many years and months I tack onto my own age, certain things never get old, such as the love of chocolate chip cookies and brownies. Since it’s my half-birthday, I had half a mind to make something special which resulted in this half-and-half mashup of the two. Baked brownies that emerged from the oven with an impossibly lustrous, glossy, crackled crust seemed almost too beautiful to cover up, but it was too late to pull back on the reins by then. Buttery raw cookie dough smothers the entire sheet pan, more decadent that plain whipped frosting yet not nearly as tooth-achingly sweet.

I’m not one to toot my own horn, but I have to admit, these exceeded expectations. First of all, they’re completely gluten-free, which is not my strong suit when it comes to baking, and secondly, there’s no refined sugar. Rather, these decadent treats employ coconut sugar to evoke the nostalgic flavor of earthy molasses, further enhanced by the roasted notes of coffee in the brownie batter. In fact, if you can’t make it past that base and just call it a day with the Best Vegan Brownies Ever©, I won’t blame you one bit. When you want to pull out all the stops and really celebrate life, no matter the real occasion, this dessert is for you.

Half-Baked Bars

Best Vegan Brownies Ever:

1/2 Cup (3 Ounces) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1/2 Cup Hot Coffee
2 Cups Coconut Sugar
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
2 Cups Oat Flour
1 Cup Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
3/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup Chopped Walnuts

Cookie Dough Topping:

2 Cups Vegan Butter
1 1/2 Cups Coconut Sugar
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
3 1/4 Cups Oat Flour
1 Cup (6 Ounces) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a good length overhanging the edges to form a sling. This will make for easier removal later on. Lightly grease and set aside.

For the brownie base, place the chocolate chips in a large bowl and pour the hot, freshly brewed coffee on top. Let sit for a minute to begin melting the chocolate before stirring. Stir vigorously before introducing the coconut sugar. Continue mixing until smooth, dissolving the sugar and fully melting the chocolate. Pour in the oil and blend until homogeneous.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the oat flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Ensure that there are no lumps before adding the dry goods into the bowl of wet. Add the vanilla and nuts last, and mix thoroughly until there are no remaining pockets of flour or cocoa. Don’t worry about over-mixing because there’s no gluten here, so go crazy!

Transfer the batter to your prepared pan and bake for 24 – 26 minutes, until the top is crackled and glossy, and the interior is still just slightly moist when a toothpick is inserted into the center. Cool completely before proceeding.

To make the cookie dough topping, cut the butter into small cubes before placing them in your food processor. Add the sugar and pulse to combine, pausing to scrape down the sides as needed. Add the vanilla and salt next, blending thoroughly to incorporate. Introduce half of the flour to begin with, allowing the machine to run until its fully integrated. Add the remaining measure of flour and puree once more.

If you’d like to keep your chips on the chunkier side, stir them in by hand. I like mine a bit more broken down and random in size, so I toss mine in last and pulse until the pieces are more or less evenly distributed throughout the mixture. It will be very soft, like frosting, at this point.

Spread the cookie dough topping over the cooled brownies in a smooth, even layer. Refrigerate the whole pan for 2 hours for more even, clean slices, or cut and serve right away if you simply can’t wait.

Makes 24 – 36 Cookie Bars

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Batter Up

Dumping, stirring, scooping; it was a hard job. Such were the demands of a fledgling baker, still too young to read the recipe and too small to reach the kitchen counter without the assistance of a stepping stool. Measuring ingredients was a task just slightly more advanced than my skill level, but diligently, carefully, I took pre-portioned scoops of flour and sugar, adding them to the mixing bowl with earnest precision. At the age of five, it was impossible to understand the alchemy that would transform these raw, unappealing components into my favorite treat. The magic started well before the batter ever hit sheet trays, though. Even better than the finished chocolate chip cookies themselves would be the reward for all my painstaking efforts: a lick from the beater or bowl, still coated in unbaked dough.

Golden and slightly granular from the coarse brown sugar, those morsels were the ones I savored most. Though each piece of the appliance was thoroughly scraped before being surrendered for my inspection, more than enough remained to sate my sweet tooth. Looking back, those errant chunks and chips left behind within the tightly coiled metal whisk may not have been so accidental, after all.

A love for cookie dough was fostered at a very young age, from some of my very earliest memories of cooking with my mom. It seems to be a common thread across almost all demographics, even for those who learned to bake later in life, that raw cookie dough evokes a certain nostalgia. Unpretentious, undemanding, its inherent simplicity is all part of the appeal. Especially when the heat of the oven loses its appeal through the steamy summer months, it’s difficult to resist the urge to skip baking when you could just as easily dive in with a spoon.

If you can delay gratification just a little bit longer though, I have an even cooler way to appease those childhood memories. Cookie dough pudding pops, with all the familiar flavors in a creamy, frozen package, may become the new nostalgic sweet treat.

Toasting the flour brings out the subtle nutty, roasted flavors imparted by baking, without the same intense heat. The base is otherwise prepared the same as any other cooked custard, so if you can stir a pot, you can whip up this buttery brown sugar pudding in no time. In fact, you may be tempted to eat the plain pudding prior to its trip to the freezer, and I wouldn’t blame you. Just try to leave a little bit for the popsicles themselves; you’ll be grateful to have them on hand (and in hand) the next time a craving strikes.

Cookie Dough Pudding Pops

1/4 Cup All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 Cups Plain Non-Dairy Milk
1/4 Cup Light Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1 Tablespoon Vegan Butter, Melted
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 Cup Chocolate Chips

Begin by lightly toasting the flour in a dry skillet. Place the skillet over medium heat and continuously, gently stir the flour, until faintly golden brown all over. Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup of the non-dairy milk to form a thick paste, beating out any lumps before proceeding. Continue to add in the remaining non-dairy milk and whisk vigorously to smooth out the mixture. Incorporate the sugar, vegan butter, and salt, stirring well. Cook, stirring periodically, until bubbles break regularly on the surface and the liquid has thickened significantly.

Turn off the heat, cool to room temperature, and then let rest in the fridge until thoroughly chilled. Stir in the vanilla and chocolate chips before transferring the mixture to popsicle molds. Place in the freezer and let rest until frozen; at least 3 hours.

Yield will vary depending on the size of your molds.

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Wild, Wild Digest

Naming recipes is an art, not a science, which leads many a cook to take quite a few liberties when bestowing titles upon their finished culinary creations. Recklessly creative, these innovators often leave future generations scratching their heads, wondering how such a description might fit the dish, or what the story behind it might be. One of the greatest mysteries to date is likely the truth behind chess pie, but that’s an investigation for another day. Today, I’ve got cookies on my mind; cowboy cookies to be exact.

Let’s be honest here- A cowboy cookie is really an oatmeal cookie, jam-packed with sweet and crunchy goodies. Brown sugar gives the dough depth, flavoring the entire treat with a hint of bold molasses beneath all the flashy additions. Chocolate chips and nuts, often in the form of pecans or peanuts, are absolutely mandatory, but like all vintage recipes, there’s a good amount of dispute about the rest. Some are heavy-handed on the spice, while others abstain completely. Coconut shows up in most ingredient lists, but not all, so there’s a good bit of argument about that tropical intrusion, too. For the sake of simplicity, let’s just say that a proper cowboy cookie is an oat-based morsel that’s composed of more goodies than actual dough.

That comparatively insignificant amount of dough got me thinking about- What else?- Ice cream. Cookie dough ice cream, one of the great staples of any childhood food pyramid, this is a treat that is almost universally enjoyed, but rarely varied between producers. Even the classics could use a little updating from time to time, which is where that wild combination of oats and nuts comes into play. Accentuating the idea of coconut by placing the nuggets of tender dough in a creamy coconut milk base, it leaves the cookie pieces themselves free to hold on to even more toasted pecans. Likewise, extracting the chocolate chip portion and swirling it through the entire pint stracciatella-style gives you thin ribbons of crisp cacao in every bite.

Consider yourself warned: This ice cream is seriously loaded. It wouldn’t be terribly surprising to learn that it’s composed of equal parts ice cream and cookie bites, without counting the added chocolate chunks.

When all is said and done, finding yourself with a heaping cone-ful of this ice cream, concerns about the incongruous name will simply melt away. These questions matter less when you can instead call it “delicious,” and leave it at that.

Cowboy Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Cookie Dough:

3 Tablespoons Non-Dairy Margarine
1/2 Cup Dark Brown Sugar, Firmly Packed
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/8 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/3 Cup Coconut Flour
1/4 Cup Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats, Toasted*
1/4 Cup Chopped Pecans
2 Tablespoons Coconut Milk

Stracciatella:

3 Ounces (1/2 Cup) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips, Melted

Base:

1 Batch French Vanilla Ice Cream from Vegan a la Mode (page 50), prepared with coconut milk for the non-dairy milk and oil instead of margarine; cooked, cooled, and unchurned

*To toast the oats, place them in a small skillet over medium heat, and shake them around over the flame for 5 – 10 minutes, until golden brown and aromatic. Remove the nutty-scented oats from the pan and let cool completely before using.

To make the cookie dough, place the margarine in the bowl of your stand mixer, and beat briefly with the paddle attachment to soften. Add in the brown sugar, vanilla extract, salt, and cinnamon, and cream everything together. Once the mixture is completely smooth and homogeneous, introduce the coconut flour, oats, and pecans next. Start to mix them in slowly, and drizzle in the coconut milk while the motor runs. Pause to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed, until everything comes together into a cohesive dough. It will be fairly stiff, so allow enough time for it to absorb all of the liquid- Don’t be tempted to add more.

Scoop out pieces the size of marbles, and roll them into balls. Place the dough balls on a small sheet pan, and stash them in the freezer for at least 2 hours before churning your ice cream. This will ensure that they’re firm enough to withstand the mixing process without becoming smushed.

Churn the completed ice cream base in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When the ice cream is about 5 minutes away from finishing in the machine, melt the chocolate chips, and slowly drizzle the liquid chocolate in a thin stream directly into the ice cream machine. It will freeze instantly on the surface of the ice cream, and the turning paddle will break it up into nice little chips.

Transfer the ice cream into an air-tight container, tossing in a patchy layer of frozen cookie dough chunks in between each addition as you scoop the soft ice cream in. Store in the freezer, and let solidify for at least 3 hours before serving.

Makes About 1 Quart

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