There is something so homey and warm about making cookies in the winter. Nothing beats coming inside from the cold, and having your senses surrounded by the fragrance of fresh baked cookies. Last week I decided it was time to make a batch of oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips. Anyone that knows my health issues also knows that I generally use all organic ingredients, and whole grains, when I bake or cook. At one time I’d make non dairy, non refined sugar desserts that could rival any hypoglycemic tickling desserts.
One of my favorite powdered sweetener substitutes is brown rice powder sweetener. Not having any on hand, I decided to use a different powdered sweetener. First of all, I want to say that the recipe I was using was for tried and true oatmeal cookies with chocolate chips. I have used organic whole grain wheat flour many times, with no problems, for these cookies. All my organic ingredients had been used before in this cookie, with the exception of the sweetener I was substituting. The recipe called for two sugars, one brown sugar and one cane sugar. I used organic brown sugar so that the flavor would not be changed substantially. For the cane sugar substitution, since it is better to substitute dry for dry to avoid the consistency challenges, I tried a new unrefined sweetener: lucuma.
Until last month, I had never heard of lucuma. Lucuma powder is derived from the lucuma fruit, which is found in Peru. It has a fragrant, maple-like flavor. They are known to be an excellent source of carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and contain especially high concentrations of beta carotene, niacin, and iron.
Because it was listed as a sweetener, I decided to replace part of the sugar in the cookie recipe with lucuma. In all my years, or decades, of baking and cooking, I have never experienced the outcome that I did. I can laugh about it now, but the expense of all organic ingredients made this a very expensive wasted effort.
In the beginning, my cookie processing seemed to go as usual, until I added the lucuma to my mixing bowl. My Kitchenaid stand mixer began to labor, and that was before I even added the flour mixture called for in the recipe. I swear it was moaning, or was that coming from me? Although the recipe asked for 2 tablespoons of milk, after adding the flour and organic oats and organic chocolate chips, I ended up dumping a pint of milk into the mixture just the beater could turn. Mr. KitchenAid was laboring, so much that I decided I’d better remove the bowl.
Problem #1: The kitchenaid mixing bowl was screwed in too tightly from the resistance coming from the unusually heavy cookie dough.
I took the dough out and put it in a plastic food bag to keep it from getting dried out, and then proceeded to clean the bowl while still stuck in the stand mixer, so that I could put it on the dining room table and make room on the counter. After doing so, and accidentally leaving the mixer too close to the edge of the table, it fell and hit the area rug on the floor. The shock of it all loosened the mixing bowl. Well, at least one good thing came about, albeit inadvertently. Mr. Kitchenaid had spoken: never use lucuma in cookies again!
Problem #2: Returning to the scene of the crime, I opened the bag and reached in to work with the cookie dough. The dough had metamorphed into a cross between cement and a rock.
So there it was, sitting like a huge, amorphous blob of rock hard cement that smelled like cookie dough, with chocolate chips sticking out of it. It was like some bizarre, odd sculpture, an ode to the chef, teasing and taunting the cook who painstakingly had measured all ingredients, used top quality everything, and had anticipated several batches of lovely oatmeal cookies. Instead, I had this “thing” on my kitchen counter, this inedible, rock hard “thing.” It also ‘grew’ in that the volume was clearly more than the sum of the ingredients used. Who knew that 3/4 cup of lucuma could do all of this?
After talking to my naprapath about this, she had a good laugh and asked me to blog about it. I decided that this would be a good idea, if nothing else, than to save anyone else from a similar fate. Organic Lucuma powder is not a cheap item, either, as a small bag runs around $9. A gal I know who eats macrobiotically commented that it was a good thing that this happened, because who knows what this combination might have done to my digestive system. I have to concur with her.
So I finally did a little digging, and apparently lucuma is often used in a range of desserts and as a partial flour substitute. Oh oh, I thought. After looking around for lucuma desserts, I found they all had one thing in common. Not one of them called for whole grain wheat flour, nor did I find recipes for lucuma and any flour containing glutens. So now I will state the obvious: apparently one should not mix lucuma with gluten flours unless they want to make desserts that could substitute for projectile weapons.
Lucuma, from all that I’ve read about it, seems to be a wonderful sweetener when you are doing ‘raw foods cooking’ — which I will keep in mind for the summer, when I modify my diet for the seasons. As for now, I have a batch of whole grain, all organic, lucuma free, double chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven. Mmmmm. Next time I substitute sweeteners and I want to do a complex sweetener that is kinder to the metabolism when baking, I’ll go back to rice syrup.