Happy Trails Cookies
Have you ever heard of date sugar? I recommend you give it try. It's delightful.
The teachers at my son's preschool are my go-tos when testing new recipes. I bring them cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, brownies, cookies, even frosting. This happens so often, in fact, that one of them recently told me to stop because she couldn't button her jeans. I have the same problem, so I can sympathize. One teacher, however, has never been able to play taste-tester because (insert violins playing here) she's allergic to sugar. Like no sugar. At all. Ever. When she told me this I was baffled. How does she survive?
This sad and tragic tale brings me to a new subject. A happy one. Date sugar.
I'm well aware of sugar alternatives; agave, honey, maple syrup. But date sugar is new to my pantry vocabulary. I, ironically, was given a bag of Bob's Red Mill Date Sugar by the sugar-llergic teacher. Apparently she can't enjoy sugar alternatives either. I don't think I'll be spending much time with her in the future; she's super depressing.
My curiosity was struck by the possibilities of date sugar. I've never tried it, never seen it used, I've never even heard of it. But I could only imagine it would be delicious, because dates, not only have an incredibly rich flavor, they're very naturally sweet. When I ate Paleo (for five whole minutes) they were my one sugary indulgence.
Being a date sugar newbie, I did some research. While I adore sugar, I do know it's lacking in nutritional value and should be enjoyed in moderation. Having young boys, I'm always open to learn of healthy (-ish) alternatives. Especially if it lessens the infamous sugar crash.
Here's my discoveries:
- Date sugar, despite the name, is not sugar at all. It's simply dried granulated dates. The kind I'm using, Bob's Red Mill Date Sugar, is made from premium quality Deglet Noor dates.
- Date sugar is high in fiber and beneficial to your digestive system.
- The processing is minimal, retaining the date's natural tannins, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.
- Less sweet than granulated sugar, it tastes, well, like dates, with a yummy butterscotch undertone.
- The glycemic index is lower than sugar, but, like all sweeteners, it should still be used in moderation.
- Can be used in baking recipes as a one-to-one replacement for both white and brown sugar.
Overall, a healthier, wholesome alternative. And something different to try.
So I got baking!
I loved the idea of a filling cookie to take on hikes with the boys. Something that would give them lasting energy but was still seen as a treat. With date sugar's butterscotch-like flavor I thought it would pair wonderfully with oatmeal, walnuts, and cranberries. And I couldn't resist adding some M&Ms. I just love the pop of color and, of course, a little milk chocolate.
I started with my favorite oatmeal cookie recipe as a base and swapped out the white and brown sugar for date sugar. The batter looked a bit different, in both texture and color. It was course, dark, and heavy, which made me a little nervous, but I kept going. I added the extra goodies, did a final mix with a wooden spoon, and scooped them onto a cookie sheet. They baked differently, as well. They held their shape, which caused me to flatten the second batch a bit with a spatula so they looked more like cookies, not balls. When they reached a nice golden brown I took them out of the oven, let them cool...and I stared at them skeptically.
The result was delicious. You can taste the dates, the flavor is very prevalent, but it's a fantastic flavor! They kind of remind me of granola bars, but so much better. Perfect fuel for the trails (hence me naming them Happy Trails Cookies). My boys loved them and were delighted to have them in their lunches for the week. They'd be a great breakfast cookie as well. I'm looking forward to my next, slightly guilt-free, experiment. Perhaps date sugar brownies?
Happy Trails Cookies
* Makes about 18 cookies
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 3/4 cups Bob's Red Mill Date Sugar
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature (If at high altitude, add an egg)
- 3 cups of rolled oats
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 cup of M&Ms or semisweet chocolate chips
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- With an electric mixer, beat the butter on high till creamy. Add the date sugar. Beat until light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Scrape down the bowl.
- With mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix till just combined. Scrape the bowl as you go.
- With a wooden spoon, stir in the rolled oats, chopped walnuts, dried cranberries, and M&Ms. It'll take some muscle.
- Using a cookie scoop or spoon, roll about 2 tablespoons of batter into a ball. Place on cookie sheet about 2" apart. Flatten slightly with a spatula.
- Bake until cookies are golden brown along the edges, about 25 minutes.
- Allow cookies to cool for 5 minutes and then transfer to rack to cool completely.
Baker's Note: Date sugar has a unique texture and consistency. The cookies won't flatten in the oven like they would if you used granulated sugar. They hold their form, which is why I suggest flattening them ever so slightly. They tend to harden a bit more as they cool. They're best enjoyed the day of baking, but will store in an air tight container for 3 days.