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Substituting Agave Nectar for Sugar in Tahini Oatmeal Cookies by Deb Schiff

Welcome to my first column for Cooking for US! My topics will deal mostly with sugar substitutions (mainly agave nectar) and organics. On my blog Here and There , amongst other things, I write about (and take photos of) my adventures making recipes Deb-friendly. By that I mean cane sugar free because I’m sensitive to high-glycemic sugars.

One of the ways I deal with my sugar sensitivity is to alter recipes from reliable test kitchens to accommodate a sweetener I can tolerate. The low-glycemic sweetener agave nectar is top of my list at the moment. However, it’s a challenge in some recipes since the nectar is liquid (it doesn’t come in a powder yet, but it’s coming), and it doesn’t behave entirely the same way as cane sugar does in all applications. The Blue Agave site recommends cutting other liquid in the recipe by 1/3 and reduce cooking temperatures by 25 degrees (F). I’ve found in baking that it may not be necessary in all cases to cut the heat at all.

One example of that is in this great recipe from Nic at the Bakingsheet (originally from the March 2005 issue of EatingWell).

She titled her entry “Heart Healthy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies,” but I’m not sure I entirely agree since the recipe does contain butter and a whole egg. But, since cholesterol isn’t a worry for me, I decided to remake the recipe to suit my sugar sensitivity needs. I also made a few more alterations to suit my tastes. Here’s the recipe with my substitutions as indicated.

Tahini Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups rolled oats (I used organic steel cut oats)
½ cup all-purpose flour (I favor King Arthur)
½ cup whole wheat flour (Bob’s Red Mill)
1 tsp ground cinnamon (I also added ¼ tsp allspice)
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ cup tahini (cut this by 1/3 if you’re using agave nectar)

4 tsp butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar (I used Madhava’s Raw organic agave nectar)

2/3 cup packed light brown sugar (again, I substituted with the agave nectar)
1 large egg (I used omega-3 enriched, free-range chickens’ eggs)

1 large egg white (I omitted this due to the liquid proportions of the agave nectar)

1 cup chocolate chips (I used carob chips, and I also added ½ cup of organic coconut)
½ cup chopped walnuts (I don’t like walnuts, so I used toasted almonds.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line baking sheets with parchment paper. (I have yet to actually purchase parchment paper, so I just lightly sprayed the sheets with canola oil. The cookies didn’t stick, so I’d use the same method again.) Whisk together oats, flours, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl. (I also mixed the allspice in with the dry ingredients.)

Beat tahini and butter together until blended. Add sugars and beat until well combined. Add in egg, egg white and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Stir in oat mixture until...

...nearly incorporated, then add in chocolate chips. (I did this in reverse order. After I blended the agave nectar with the tahini and butter mixture, I stirred in the coconut, then the carob chips and the almonds. Next, I added the flours and spices.) Do not over-mix.

Drop dough by tablespoons onto the baking sheets. (I wouldn’t use tablespoons again because the cookies spread and came out pretty big. I like little cookies because it helps...

...with portion control.) Bake for 10-12 minutes for chewy cookies and 15 minutes for crispier cookies, until golden brown at the edges. (The timing was right for 12 minutes in my oven. I turned the pan 180 degrees six minutes into the cooking time.)

Remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 4 dozen. (It didn’t make 4 dozen for me, it was closer to 3 dozen, and I used a tablespoon for my drop cookies.)

I really liked how they came out in this version, although I’d like to try it several different ways in future versions:

  1. No coconut. If I intend to use coconut, I’d use crushed pineapple, cut the amount of agave nectar and butter, and use macadamia nuts.
  2. Add nutmeg.
  3. Use oat flour instead of all-purpose flour. This can be done by whizzing the oats in the food processor until they’re powdery.
  4. Use applesauce, cut sweetener and fat.
  5. Get really indulgent and add ½ cup of carob powder.
  6. Use peanut or another nut butter instead of the tahini (which I do like, but more in hummus and baba ganoush than in cookies).

The nice part about trying new recipes with the agave nectar is that I don’t get the negative effects I used to with cane sugar. It’s also much tastier than the sweeteners made in a lab.

If you try this recipe or another with agave nectar, please let me know how it turns out.

If you enjoyed this article, please visit her website at: Here and There

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This article was published on Wednesday 21 June, 2006.
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