I admit, unashamedly and without hesitation, that I am a chocolate chip cookie snob. They have to be just so, otherwise there is no reason for them. They’re simple, yes—even basic, some may say—but it’s their simplicity that has made them a classic. For me they have to be just crisp enough around the edges to hold their shape, but doughy in the middle, more like hot cookie dough rather than actually baked. They need a lot of chocolate chips, as much as the cookie can physically handle, and heavily perfumed with vanilla. They need both white and brown sugar to achieve ultimate taste and texture, and the same goes for a mix of butter and shortening; I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but leaving out the shortening means the cookie tastes too much of butter, and you miss out on what makes this cookie great.
Growing up, my Great Aunt Ann made the best chocolate chip cookies—no argument. They were filled with chocolate chips, the perfect balance of crisp and soft, and slightly paler than the other commercial cookies I would have eaten; a true testament to the use of shortening and her perfection of the recipe. Aunt Ann set some pretty high cookie standards for me. These cookies would set the standard that all future cookies would be judged by.
Depending on the version of the cookie’s origin that you believe, this puritanical stance is either very fitting or very close-minded. Ruth Graves Wakefield, proprietor of the Toll House Inn, a popular restaurant in Whitman, MA, invented these in the 1930’s (can you believe less than 100 years ago we didn’t have these wonders!?). Anyway, she added chopped semi-sweet chocolate to cookie dough either purposefully to create something new and interesting, or, as a result of being out of baking chocolate, added the semi-sweet on a whim, hoping it would melt into the dough while baking, and a happy accident was born. I prefer the latter, mostly because it excuses my own kitchen accidents (“the chocolate chip cookie was an accident so maybe this isn’t so bad!”).
All of this brings us to today. A while back a vegan chocolate chip cookie recipe from the Brooklyn-based bakery Ovenly made its rounds around the Internet. The bakery’s “Secretly Vegan Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies”, featured in their cookbook Ovenly: Sweet and Salty Recipes from New York’s Most Creative Bakery (Harlequin, Sept. 2014), used canola oil rather than butter and shortening, and water in place of eggs. I immediately dismissed it. I have nothing against vegans. I truly respect what they do. It takes real passion (especially because, and I apologize, your cheese is truly awful). I just find that vegan desserts that rely on butter and egg substitutions are often a little lacking. However, these are not. We finally got around to trying Ovenly’s recipe out and they were fantastic. I am totally converted. I can’t say that they replace the originals for me… but they totally could. Seriously. They were that good.
I got to thinking about what other cookies would fit this format, and I turned to coconut oil. Since this dough needs to be chilled for a while before baking, and coconut oil solidifies when it’s cold like butter would—not to mention its subtle coconut flavor—I thought it would be a great addition. Let me just say that it was. Not to mention it cuts down the chilling time from 12 hours to around 2. Instead of water, I took the opportunity to get a little more coconut flavor into the cookies by using some coconut water. The combination of coconut and chocolate just begs for almonds in my opinion, so I added some and I couldn’t be happier.
I promise that you will NOT be disappointed in these—vegans and non-vegans alike will love these! The non-vegans don’t even need to know they’re vegan, and they’ll never even guess!
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