Friday, July 11, 2014

Using Stevia in Half the Sugar Chocolate Chip Spice Cookies

My stevia plant
When shopping last week, I finally decided to buy some of the "Stevia in the Raw" that works 1:1, cup-for-cup of sugar in a recipe. I have been wanting to try this product, but am always leery of the added fillers. I prefer stevia to any other sugar substitute and have used the liquid version and the flavored liquid versions in my morning oatmeal for years. I use Sweet Leaf brand packets in substitute for the sugar called for when making some other foods such as Basic Cole Slaw where it is indistinguishable from sugar or even in my Red Cabbage with Bacon and Apples. In these last two recipes I usually use 2 or 3 packets in a recipe. I  like the fact that stevia is a natural plant rather than a construct from some laboratory. When living in Florida, I had a stevia plant (right) and I dried leaves for my own use (below). 
My Own Dried Stevia Leaf

The large package of Stevia in the Raw states that the filler is maltodextrin. Turns out that maltodextrin is not necessarily that good for you, and sometimes also adds a lot more sweetness factor. It also translates into something nearly worse than sugar - but there are many sites out there that talk about all this. Any time there is a 1:1 ratio of usage with a sugar substitute, there has to be a filler product, so it just boils down to what you choose to accept. I will use the package of Stevia in the Raw because I bought it. I don't think I will purchase it again.

My real preference, as I mentioned, is using the liquids with flavors. I own quite a few flavors, though the ones shown in this photo above are my favorites. I just love using English Toffee stevia in my oatmeal as it approximates a brown sugar flavor that I miss. If I use fresh berries in my oatmeal I use the Mixed Berry flavored stevia. I could go on and on. 
Stevia Extract & flavors: English Toffee, French Vanilla, Mixed Berries, Chocolate Raspberry & Cinnamon

Meanwhile, since I bought the large bag of Stevia in the Raw, I wanted to try the recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies. The package suggests using half the sugar called for and substituting the stevia for the other half, as sugar has an effect on the moisture content in a recipe. I used the brown sugar called for and used the Stevia in the Raw for the white sugar called for. I didn't have another bag of the Andes "Creme de Menthe" baking chips, though I did have bags of dark chocolate chips on hand. 

"Half the Sugar" Chocolate Chip Spice Cookies
While assembling the ingredients for these cookies, I once again noticed on my counter a spice mixture I created some time back, but had yet to put to any use. At first I thought, "Why mess with flavors even more?" Because of my desire to taste this spice mixture in something - anything - I gave it a go in this recipe, sparingly. Two teaspoons of the mixture went into the dry ingredients. Ultimately, it gave a little extra flavor which did not detract from the enjoyment of the cookies, but did make you stand and wonder, "What IS that flavor?" The spice blend is of some very unusual spices when placed all together that would be equally at home in a sweet application, as with these cookies, or in a savory application. I will put some thought to a savory use for it sometime soon. Meanwhile:

CMR Spice Blend I

CMR Spice Blend I
makes about 3/4 cup

3 tablespoons fennel seeds
10 whole cloves
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
2 whole star anise
2 teaspoons mace blades (or 1/2 teaspoon ground mace)
1 tablespoon unhulled white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon good quality black tea leaves
1 tablespoon ground ginger

Use whole seeds whenever possible. Mace blades may be harder to find. Place all the whole spices except the tea into a dry skillet and heat, stirring constantly, until very fragrant. The sesame seeds will be lightly colored. Turn the hot spices onto a plate to cool. Once cooled, place them with the tea leaves into a spice grinder or coffee mill used only for spices. Grind to a fine powder, then add them to a bowl with the pre-ground spices. Mix well and store in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid in a cool, dark place.

As you can see, the mixture uses some of the sweeter spices such as fennel, star anise, cloves and ginger, while bringing in the unusual element of black pepper, sesame and tea, among others. It is an unusual mixture, but can bring some really stellar results. The addition of this spice is not necessary to make the Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, nor is the use of the Stevia in the Raw. The one big difference in the outcome of these cookies using the Stevia in the Raw was that instead of the cookies flattening out after baking and becoming chewy, they stayed domes and - while not crunchy - they do have a soft crispness to them. The flavor is great.

"Half the Sugar" Chocolate Chip Spice Cookies

makes about 50 to 60 cookies, depending on size
"Half the Sugar" Chocolate Chip Spice Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons CMR Spice Blend I, optional
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature
3/4 cup Stevia in the RAW (or use granulated sugar)
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 bag Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (350 on Convection Bake). In a bowl, sift or whisk together the first 4 ingredients and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the Stevia in the Raw and brown sugar until smooth. Add the eggs and beat well, then the vanilla. If using an electric mixer, lower the speed while adding the dry ingredients just until combined. Add in the  chocolate chips and nuts until incorporated.

Drop the dough onto ungreased cookie sheets using rounded teaspoons or use a 1 tablespoon capacity cookie scoop, setting the cookies at least 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake the cookies for 9 to 11 minutes, until golden. Allow them to set for about 30 seconds on the cookie sheet before removing to a rack to cool. 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.