Saturday, July 17, 2010

Banana-Walnut Chocolate-Chunk Cookies

Most of the recipes that I post are either recipes that I have developed or recipes that I have altered in some way. It is pretty rare for me, or for any professional or experienced cook I suppose, to leave a recipe unchanged. We just can't help ourselves. But today's cookie recipe is one that I am passing on unchanged. I like it just the way it is. It is destined to become a favorite "cookie jar" cookie at my house (my cookie jar being a Tupperware container that lives in the freezer).

These cookies remind me of the old-fashioned drop cookies of my childhood—Betty Crocker's Old Time Cinnamon Jumbles, Carrot Cookies with orange frosting, and my favorite, a soft chocolate cookie with raisins and chocolate icing that my Grandmother used to make (I don't have any idea what it was called). Soft and cake-like, with a domed, imperfect shape, these kinds of cookies seem to have fallen out of favor. This is possibly because of the supremacy of the chocolate chip cookie and it's relatives, or the fact that people really don't bake from scratch very much (these cookies have a definite homemade look about them). Also, unless you are keeping them in the freezer, they have a tendency to go stale quickly. Whatever the reason, you don't see them very often anymore so I was very pleased to come across this type of cookie in Martha Stewart's Cookies.

My mother made a Banana-Oatmeal cookie that was very similar to this one when I was a kid. Once, while I was in college, she sent a box of them to me in a care package. Because they do go stale quickly, she went to the trouble of wrapping each cookie individually—a special treat and gesture that has remained in my memory. You might wonder why I am now making the "new" version. Well, Martha's version has chocolate and walnuts instead of raisins and spices, so I prefer her version (sorry Mom).

I took a few of these cookies with me on my trip to Minneapolis a couple of weeks ago. They were perfect road trip fare—sweet, substantial and full of good things (walnuts, oatmeal, whole wheat flour, bananas), making for a sustaining sort of snack. I think they would make an excellent "on the go" breakfast, too. In general, I think desserts (cookies, fruit pies and tarts, certain kinds of cake...) make pretty good breakfast food. But even for those who don't share my opinion, I think these cookies would pass for an acceptable breakfast—certainly better for you than the processed breakfast foods that many people eat.

The main reason that I first tried these cookies was that I came across the recipe when I had one over-ripe banana sitting on my kitchen counter. It always seems to be this way—only one banana hangs around long enough to become ripe enough for matter how many we buy. I love banana baked goods, but most banana bread, cake and muffin recipes call for more than one banana. I realize I could freeze these singleton bananas and then bake when I have a collection of them—and I do occasionally freeze some, but for some reason this isn't something I'm inclined to do (I guess I would rather save room in my freezer for finished cookies).  Anyway, this cookie recipe only calls for one banana, and since it has the taste and texture of a banana cake, my problem is solved. 

Banana-Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies

1 c. all-purpose flour (4 1/4 oz.)
1/2 c. whole wheat flour (2 1/8 oz.)—I used white whole wheat
1 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. baking soda
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. mashed ripe banana (about 1 large)
1 c. old fashioned rolled oats
8 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. coarsely chopped walnuts (2 oz.), toasted

Whisk together the flours, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugars until pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg and then the vanilla. Stir in the banana. Add the flour and mix until almost completely incorporated. Stir in the oats, chocolate and nuts.

Using a 1 1/2-inch cookie scoop, scoop the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart.

Bake the cookies in a 375° oven, rotating the cookie sheet halfway through, until golden brown and just set—11 to 13 minutes. Let cool on the sheets for 5 minutes.

Transfer the cookies to wire racks; let cool completely. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 2 days. (The cookies may also be frozen.)  Makes 3 dozen medium-sized cookies.

(Recipe from Martha Stewart's Cookies)

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