Vegan cookies for the holidays

More adventures with aquafaba.

I realize cookies aren’t exactly something a nutrition expert should be celebrating, but I love cookies.  I’d bake them everyday if there was someone else to eat them up.  Lacking that, I wait until December to start baking a revolving repertoire of Christmas cookies.  I’ve got old favorites, but always feel the need to experiment.  Recently, I’ve gotten interested in the challenge of vegan baking, so what better excuse to make more cookies?  Vegan cookies for the holidays.

Back in November, I experimented with vegan pumpkin pie, using aquafaba in place of eggs.  So why not try aquafaba with cookies?  To refresh your memory: aquafaba is the water drained off canned garbanzo beans.  It whips up like egg whites, and can be used in some situations as a vegan egg substitute.  It worked out well for pumpkin pie.  Cookies will be a bit more challenging, as the texture of cookies is decidedly different from pie custard.

The basic requirements for cookies include

  1. shortening (fat), preferably one that is mostly solid, such as butter
  2. sweetener: sugar is best; honey will make the batter too liquidy
  3. a binder: typically eggs, but for a vegan cookie something else
  4. flour, flavoring, etc.  All of which are vegan by default.

I decided to start with something straight forward: chocolate chip cookies.  Instead of butter, I used a combination of coconut fat and oil.  Coconut by itself is extremely saturated and solid at room temperature, hence the oil to add some softness.  Instead of eggs I used whipped aquafaba.  You need a really good electric mixer for that, running at high speed.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 of the aquafaba liquid from a drained can of garbanzo beans, about 6 TB
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 4 oz by weight of coconut fat (it really helps to have a kitchen scale.  Otherwise this is about 1/2 cup packed coconut fat)
  • 1 TB canola oil
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar (or 1/2 white and 1/2 dark brown)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1-3/4 cups flour
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (you can find vegan chips, which will be dark chocolate. Or buy a bar of vegan chocolate and chop it up to make 1 cup pieces)
  • 1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes – optional
  1. Oven at 400° (see NOTES)
  2. Using a high speed mixer with the whip attachment, beat the aquafaba and cream of tartar until it forms stiff peaks similar to egg whites, about 5 minutes.
  3. Using a stand mixer with beater, beat the coconut fat and oil until smoothly combined.
  4. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy, another 2-3 minutes.
  5. Mix in the salt, baking soda and vanilla.
  6. On low speed, add about 1/2 cup flour.  When mostly mixed in, add about 1/3 of the whipped aquafaba and mix gently on low.  Add another 1/2 cup flour and another scoop aquafaba.
  7. Mix in the final cup flour.  Add enough of the remaining aquafaba to make a stiff, not runny, batter.  You may not use all of the aquafaba.  You should be able to roll a ball of dough and have it hold it’s shape, not too sticky.
  8. Gently mix in the chocolate chips and coconut if using.
  9. Roll the dough into small balls, about 1-inch diameter, no bigger!  Place on ungreased baking sheet and bake 8-9 minutes until the cookies are just set and slightly browned around edges. They should NOT spread out too far.  If they do, you need more flour in the dough.

Of course, the main question is ‘How do they taste?’  Truthfully you’d be hard pressed to recognize that these are vegan.  They do have a slightly coconut taste, not overwhelming, perfectly enjoyable.  You could add more or less chocolate chips, or use some other kind of add-ins, such as dried fruit.

If you’ve got favorite holiday cookies that use eggs and butter, you might experiment using the coconut-oil combination and aquafaba.  I expect it will work for drop sugar cookies (not rolled cut out cookies), and other drop cookies such as ginger or molasses flavors, which are popular in winter.  Brownies or other bar cookies should work well.

NOTES: Ideal oven temperature can be tricky to recommend, as ovens vary from one kitchen to the next.  I started baking at 375° but decided late in the baking that 400 might work better for browning.  A low oven temp will cause the cookies to spread out in a puddle before they start baking.  If you’re unsure about your dough, bake just one or two cookies at first and see how they work.  Then you can add flour if necessary, or raise the oven temp slightly.  And again, you may not need to use all the aquafaba.  I had a bit left.  It’s just bean cooking liquid, so I disposed of it.

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