Friday, March 14, 2014

Cookies for breakfast

There is a reason why they say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It is, as I have said before, the only meal (besides dessert—which of course is also very important) where it is acceptable to eat cake as the main dish. It is a baffling tradition, but one that we must fulfill nonetheless—and what better way to fulfill it than to eat a bowlful of cookies?

chocolate chip cookie crisp cereal
Murica. source

Let’s ignore the fact that, theoretically, this would produce the greatest cereal milk to ever grace this earth.

I myself have never eaten the stuff—my evil parents refused to let my brother and I consume such fare, relegating us to those grossly flavored oatmeal packets since we were tiny, impressionable children.  It’s a tragedy, really. What is childhood without Frosted Flakes and Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms? Frankly, I don’t know shit about those traditional kid foods, but that doesn’t stop me from lusting after sugary cereals every time I tag along my mother to the grocery store. Deprivation, I say. Post traumatic oatmeal disorder.

gross Cinnamon and Spice Quaker oatmeal packets
Just looking at this label makes me throw up a little in my mouth. Oh, the memories. source

Yet some accounts have forced me to reconsider whether any breakfast cereal—deliciously sugary and kid-oriented or not—could possibly live up to the potential of a box with the works “Cookie Crisp” on them.

In an ideal world, this box would be filled to the brim with miniature chocolate chip cookies, tiny versions of the Tollhouse classic with crunchy exteriors and chewy centers, perfect vessels for absorbing milk and imparting delicious cookie flavor into the remaining liquid. In reality, it appears they are not. It appears they are actually little wafers of cereal made to look like cookies, but that do not taste like cookies.

Devastating news, but I suppose it doesn’t affect me as my cruel mother still denies me a box of Cookie Crisp, even if I offered to pay for it myself. Well damn. I don’t need my mother to buy me anything. I can make my own cereal.

So I did.

Now, I did not make little Tollhouse classics with crunchy exteriors and chewy centers—rather, I opted to try a peanut butter version.

Ah, peanut butter. Not only did the Aztecs invent chocolate—or xocoatl, as they so romantically called it—but they also ground peanuts into the delicious paste we Americans now devour by the gallon and, consequently, invented the peanut butter cup.

Aztec sacrifice
Coincidence that the inventors of the peanut butter cup also practiced human sacrifice? I think not. source

Peanut butter has come a long way since its birth as a primitive roasted peanut paste. According to the National Peanut Board, Americans eat more than six pounds of peanut products per year—on average. That’s a shit ton of peanut butter, in case you have trouble interpreting numbers like that, and that’s not even including the brand spanking new fuckery on grocery store shelves these days that doesn’t have actual peanuts in it.

examples of Justin's Nut Butters
I don’t know what the fuck this stuff is, but I know it’s useless for Asian stir fries. source

And these days, like kale and bacon, it’s everywhere. But unlike kale and bacon, peanut butter—and I’m just postulating here—is here to stay. I’ll bet a ten dollar jar of caramel pecan butter that ten years from now, kale will be relegated its rightful position on the salad hierarchy (alongside iceberg lettuce), whereas peanut butter will continue creamy, stick-to-your-mouth reign for generations to come. Chocolate chip cookies are great, y’all, but there ain’t nothing like a peanut butter cookie.

So…about that cookie crisp.

my own peanut butter cookie crisp cereal
Hello again, sexy food photography.

It’s crunchy. Crunchier than the average soft-baked cookie, which is my personal favorite style. But it’s good. Mad good. Good enough to eat like potato chips out of a bowl while watching television. Preferably dipped in peanut butter.

Nutella: the world's most appetizing brown goopy stuff
Or white girl crack. Pick your poison. source

You could even get super creative and motivated and make adorable little cookie sandwiches, which you could then stuff in your mouth like a sleeve of Oreos. But that’s too much work. Why would you go through such a strenuous process—take two cookies, spread filling, sandwich together, repeat, ugh—when you can just dump a bunch of cookies in a bowl and pour milk over them?

bowl of peanut butter cookie crisp with soy milk
Is it dessert? Or is it breakfast? We may never know. 

Now, you might be wondering why I have deluded myself into thinking a bowl of cookies is a nutritious snack. Trust me, I feel you. I grabbed the recipe from Skippy’s official profesh website, which originally calls for a cup of butter, 12 ounces of chocolate chips, and 2 cups of all-purpose flour.  Not bad for dessert, but not the most sustaining or nutritious choice for breakfast. Might be a little healthier than a donut given the abundance of peanut butter and oatmeal, but not by much.

So I halved the recipe. Done! Only a half cup of butter, 6 ounces of chocolate chips, and—

Just kidding. I did halve the recipe (so as to not overwhelm my family with ten pounds of peanut butter cookie cereal), but I also made a few substitutions. Incidentally, I used old-fashioned oats instead of quick-cooking oats without meaning to…and nothing particularly bad happened, so I’ll put my stamp of approval on that substitution. For flavor and to reduce the blatantly delicious amount of fat in the recipe, I substituted half of the butter with banana. For veganization reasons I used Earth Balance instead of real butter and whole chia seeds gelled with water (in a 3:1 ratio) instead of eggs. Awesome, right?! I love having my cookies studded with little black seeds!

{Aside: Actually I’m pretty okay with the whole chia-seeds-in-my-baked-goods thing. Grinding chia seeds is too tedious. And anyway, I adore chia seeds—how can you not love these tiny pods of nutrition, complete with the fascinating ability to gel liquids, like tapioca pearls, without a shred of cooking required? Should do a separate post on chia seeds, just to express my passion for them. Thank you, blog world, for introducing me to this fabulous food.}

Excuse my logorrhea.

I meant to add that I may do future versions of this recipe, such as chocolate chip cookies, or sprinkle-studded vanilla wafers, or even those square brownie ones. But then I went off on a tangent and lost my soul and now here we are and here is the recipe:

Peanut Butter Cookie Crisp
80 grams • oats (both old-fashioned and quick-cooking are fine) • 1 cup
125 grams • white whole wheat flour • 1 cup
2.3 grams • baking powder • ½ teaspoon
2.3 grams • baking soda • ½ teaspoon
0.75 grams • salt • 1/8 teaspoon
128 grams • peanut butter • ½ cup
56 grams • Earth Balance (or other butter substitute) • ¼ cup
110 grams • mashed banana • ¼ cup
110 grams • brown sugar • ½ cup
12 grams • chia seeds • 1 tablespoon
4 grams • vanilla extract • 1 teaspoon
35 grams • finely chopped nuts (such as walnuts or peanuts) • ¼ heaping cup
Stir chia seeds with 3 tablespoons water and let sit for about five minutes. If you don’t have chia seeds, use another egg analogue (equivalent to one egg) or an actual chicken egg.
Combine oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In an electric mixer, beat peanut butter, Earth Balance, and banana until smooth. If all of the ingredients are the same temperature, the result will be much smoother, so I recommend letting them come to room temp before proceeding with this step.
Add brown sugar, chia egg, and vanilla and mix. Add flour mixture one scoop at a time while the mixer is running until the dough begins to take shape. Fold in chopped nuts.
Place dough between two sheets of parchment paper or wax paper (the former is preferable, as I found the wax paper tore a bit) and roll out until the dough is about ¼ inch thick. Freeze for about ten minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Using the large opening of a pastry tip, cut out small circles of dough about ¾ inch in diameter. If you don’t have a pastry tip, you can either make your own cutter with a bit of aluminum foil or roll small balls with your hands, then flatten them on the baking sheet. Try to make all of the balls the same size, but it is okay if they’re not. Mine certainly were not. I’m no domestic goddess. If you want, you can chill the dough for another five to ten minutes, but this is optional.
Bake the cookies in a preheated oven for about six minutes, then check for doneness. I ended up baking my cookies for about ten minutes per batch, but your preferred crispiness or oven temperature may vary, so play it by ear. Once you remove the cookies from the oven, leave them on the baking sheet for a few minutes to allow the bottoms to crisp up. Like cereal.
Proceed to marvel at how adorable the cookies are. Then eat. With milk. Or ice cream. Or dipped in chocolate sauce. Let your inner genius guide you. 

The cookie dough, may I mention, is dangerously delicious. If I didn’t restrain myself with iron chains I may have ended up spreading it on toast with reckless abandon.

peanut butter oat cookie dough, ready for the oven
If you get to this stage, consider yourself lucky.

(Note: if you are confused about the “large opening of a pastry tip” phrasing, consult this recipe for cookie crisp. I saw this method on several different blogs and was inspired to adapt blatantly copy it for my own take on the cereal. Yes, you heard that right: there are other cookie crisp recipes out there. It’s incredible.)

Now, you may think this endeavor of mine—to make truly delicious breakfast cereal—is cray-cray as fuck, nutrition-wise. But compare these cookies to granola, and they don’t look so bad.

To see exactly how this recipe breaks down, I used Sparkpeople’s free recipe nutrition calculator. Could have done it by hand, but I’m lazy, and their database is probably about as accurate as you can expect to get. Because most commercially produced granolas have about 250 to 300 calories per serving (even if that serving is the size of an atom), I cut the recipe into twelve servings, which came out to about 228 calories. That’s a tiny serving, but it’s something (and probably larger than some particularly sneaky cereal types).

peanut butter cookie crisp nutrition facts
Yeah, science bitch.

Compare this to the actual cookie crisp:

actual cookie crisp nutrition facts
I don't know what the hell this has to do with a wolf. Don't look at me that way!

On one hand, the commercial variety only has 100 calories per ¾ cup. On the other, it has a whole nine grams of sugar, which is huge when compared to the 14.5 grams (only 5.5 more) of sugar there are in my cookies for a 228 calorie serving. But my cookies have a shit ton of fat—12.1 grams, compared to 1 measly gram in the original. Now, don’t get scared away, because monounsaturated fat is supposedly great for you, and polyunsaturated is not far behind.  Not to mention, there are a whole 5.6 grams of protein in these motherfuckers. Whoop-de-doop.

So the original Cookie Crisp is basically a bunch of simple carbohydrates. Sounds sooooo filling. </sarcasm>

Now let’s compare it to granola, the epitome of breakfast health foods and hippie food ideals. Here is an example of some granola my mother bought recently. 

coconut cranberry granola nutrition
Wow. Such health.

This is coconut cranberry granola—a new addition that utilizes the trendiest of fats, coconut oil, and has a pitiful lack of sweetness despite being loaded with 11 grams of sugar per serving. Peh. I’d rather eat a bowl of cookies for only 3.5 grams more. The protein is about the same, as is the fiber…but wait! Where is the monounsaturated fat? Why are there six grams of saturated fat, which is nearly half of the recommended daily intake, per measly half cup serving? You fellow may argue about the nutritional superiority and holy natural glow of coconut oil all day long, but little June Baby now has a reason to claim her cookies—her sugary, delicious, peanut buttery cookies—are nutritionally superior to a box of granola.

So take that. 


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