Wholesome coconut sugar snap cookies
As soon as the bulk bin of coconut sugar appeared at Sprouts, I was chomping at the bit to try it out. Coconut sugar may not be the most economical alternative sweetener, but I figured I use sweeteners sparingly enough, and quality trumps quantity, right? Less is more. Yet whenever I try experimenting with sugar alternatives and reductions, I have that devil's advocate in my head, insisting I'll just spoil dessert; I'll crave and eat more--better to just wholly indulge. These points have a place, but the one argument that makes me stammer is the terse "sugar is sugar", what's the point kind of tack. Nutritionally, you may hear that the nutrients in sweeteners like maple syrup or honey aren't enough to make a difference, that you'd need to drink barrels of the stuff to get any value, and that doing so would obviously leave your body worse for wear. I'm stubborn in my belief about selecting less refined alternatives, though, and constantly stumble on solid backing to that effect, too. Working on an article on alternative sweeteners for Natural Solutions magazine a couple of years ago, I had a chance to speak with Dr. Thomas Lee, a naturopathic physician in Kingman, AZ, and host of an award-winning website, Naturodoc.com. According to Lee, the stark, stripped down nature of regular refined sugar taxes the digestive system enormously, creating a ripple effect to the body's systems as a complex whole. They may not come in quantities large enough to provide great nutritional benefits per serving, but the trace minerals and nutrients contained in natural, less processed alternatives go a long way to softening digestion by their presence alone. As an added bonus, they provide a range of surprising and delightful tastes and textures. These are things I reminded myself when I started raiding the bulk bin.
Actually, I was careful to buy what appeared to be just enough for my first experiment, bagging .09 pounds at $4.99/pound. That amounted to just forty-five cents for a minimally risky dessert shared between 4 people at multiple servings. Not only that, coconut sugar is pretty awesome stuff, plus a fun talking point.
Made from coconut sap, coconut sugar is rated as a relatively low GI35, as opposed to most commercial cane sugars stacking up at about GI 68. Available in the bulk bins, it's 100% organic, unprocessed, unfiltered, unbleached, and free from preservatives. Trace minerals abound, too...maybe not enough for your tablespoon's worth to add up in your nutritional goals, but certainly enough to ease that digestion: it's high in potassium, magnesium, zinc, and iron, and also contains numerous B vitamins as well as vitamin C.
The first experiment was a peach crisp made using one of my favorite recipes on this site, the plum/any fruit crisp. I used honey with the filling, and replaced the brown sugar topping with the coconut sugar. The texture, which can be a little softly grainy, was perfect for a struesel style top.
On the following week, hurrah! Coconut sugar was on sale!! Just buy cents per pound, but enough to get the same amount again for less than forty cents, and yielding 4 dozen cookies by the time it was through. And about those cookies...
My little sister's new rescue dog, named Snickerdoodle for her coloring, provided the inspiration. Coconut sugar's dark maple color combined with whole wheat pastry flour and a lot of cinnamon ensured it was more of a gingersnap or molasses like cookie. However, I love the results. Using just 4 tablespoons of butter for nearly two dozen, 3/4 cup coconut sugar, an egg white and whole wheat pastry flour, you've got a fairly robust nutritional profile for a cookie, plus a simple recipe to make with really, seriously tasty results. They're on the spicy side, super moist inside with an outside crunch, and great with a cup of tea or coffee. The texture is finely grainy, but I happen to like it in this context. See you yourself, and let me know what you think. : )
Yield: approximately 20 cookies
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 4 tablespoons real butter, softened
- 3/4 cup organic coconut sugar
- 1 egg white
- *optional: raw sugar and cinnamon mix, for rolling (about 2 Tablespoons raw sugar to 1 teaspoon cinnamon)
- In a mixing bowl, whisk dry ingredients.
- In a small bowl, cream the butter and coconut sugar. Add the egg white and blend. (*You wouldn't think they'd really 'cream' given the thick texture of the coconut sugar, but they do, especially when adding the egg white.)
- Add the sugar mixture to the dry ingredients, and stir to combine.
- Roll dough into approximately 1-inch balls. If desired, dip in cinnamon sugar mixture. Place on prepared baking sheet approximately 1 inch apart. Press down lightly with a fork or glass bottom before baking.
- Bake at 400 F for 6-8 minutes.