We have had dear friends visiting us from New York, and recently we found ourselves in a dilemma that many of us know well: after a delicious dinner, we all felt a sugar craving coming on, but we had no dessert! In New York, a deli is never more than a few minutes away and always open, but our life in the 'burbs of Berkeley doesn't make it quite that easy. COOKIES TO THE RESCUE!
Cookies are the perfect last-minute night time dessert because they don't mess up your kitchen too badly (Usually just one bowl and one cookie sheet), they only take about 5 minutes to make and 10 minutes to bake (and a rushed minute to cool) and everyone loves them. And let's be honest, my go-to and everyone's favorite cookie is one that has chocolate in it. But even without chocolate, some unique and delicious cookies that satisfy that craving can still be concocted. Enter black sesame seeds, the chocolatiest of seeds. This cookie recipe, like all delicious cookie recipes, relies on generous amounts of fat and sweetener. Making cookies "healthier" by lowering the ratio of these simply makes cookies that taste healthy and lack the textures we have grown to love.
But these cookies are still far healthier than most. The fat is a blend of earth balance vegan buttery spread and extra virgin coconut oil, which is rich in medium chain fatty acids and far easier for your body to burn than animal fats. It also adds a rich nutty flavor and crisper texture, almost like shortbread biscuits. For the sugar, I have blended brown rice syrup, a mild sweetener that tastes like horchata honey, and coconut sugar, made from the sap of the coconut palm. Both of these are minimally processed sugars full of natural molasses and trace nutrients, and they also are low on the glycemic index, meaning they absorb slowly into the bloodstream and do not cause spikes in blood sugar that can leave you feeling drained. To hold them together and keep them from getting too hard, I used ground flax seeds, which are a great source of amino acids and high-quality fiber. For the flour, I used a blend of rice flour and arrowroot starch, so they are gluten-free but still taste as decadent as if they were made with all-purpose flour. And finally, there are the sesame seeds, rich in minerals and one of the highest dietary sources of calcium. So make your cookies and eat them too!
The recipe below is gluten-free and free of refined sugar. You can substitute some or all of the sugar with any other sweetener of your choice, and replace some or all of the gluten-free flour blend with all purpose flour, if that's what you have on hand.
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground flax seeds, plus 3 tablespoons water
1/4 cup earth balance
1/4 cup extra virgin coconut oil
1 tablespoon tahini
2/3 cup brown rice syrup
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 cup white rice flour
3/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup arrowroot starch (see note)
1/2 cup black sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. First, whisk ground flax seeds with water and set aside to thicken while you mix the rest of the ingredients. Place earth balance and coconut oil in bowl and put in a warm place to soften. Once soft and melty, add in tahini and whisk until smooth. Add brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, vanilla and salt. Whisk well to combine. Add in soaked flax seeds and whisk 2 minutes or until fluffy. Then, add in flours and sesame seeds. Using a sturdy spoon, mix well until cookie dough forms. It should form one ball and there should be no dry flour or pockets of oil. Sprinkle in more rice flour if it's wet, sprinkle a little water if it's dry. Form small cookies the size of ping pong balls and place them on a baking sheet, pressing down slightly to flatten. They will not spread out very much, so they can be close together. Bake about 10 minutes, checking after 8. They will get lightly golden on top, but will not darken too much.
Let cool as long as you can and feast on dessert!
NOTE: Arrowroot is a white flavorless starch made from a tropical root. Any other starch can be substituted, such as tapioca, potato or even cornstarch.