By posting this recipe, I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the California Raisin Marketing board and am eligible to win prizes associated with this contest. I was not compensated for my time. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. A good friend bakes you Christmas cookies.
A great friend bakes you insanely delicious, dense, chewy, gluten free and vegan cookies made with no added sugar. I am a great friend.
You may be doubtful such a cookie exists, especially the whole 'insanely delicious' part. Let me assure you, these cookies are all I've made them out to be...and more.
What's my secret? A basic, pantry staple you probably already have on hand - raisins!
If you only enjoy raisins as a snack, let me tell you, you've been doing the raisin thing all wrong. Sure, a handful of raisins is a nutritious option to tide you over between meals, and a sprinkle of raisins is a lovely topping for your oatmeal. But by far, my favorite use for raisins is as a sugar substitute.
To make a sweet, raisin paste, simply soak raisins in warm water for 5-10 minutes then puree in a food processor. The paste can be used to sweeten smoothies, oatmeal, on peanut butter sandwiches, to make condiments (try it in my honey-bourbon barbecue sauce!) and in baking, where you can substitute 2/3 cup raisin paste for 1 cup of sugar. You'll likely need to increase the dry ingredients too.
You may be wondering why sugar-dense raisins are a better choice than plain sugar. It's a question I'm frequently asked about any naturally sweet food. Natural occurring sugars, like those found in raisins, are sugars found in whole foods, like fruit and dairy. They come in the package of a whole food, which provides nutrients like fiber (in fruit) and fat/protein (in dairy), which slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream. These whole foods contain other vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients which also have a beneficial effect on blood sugar regulation. Unless you're eating a quite large amount and have underlying problems with blood sugar control, this won't cause a spike in blood sugar.
Added sugars, on the other hand, are added to foods during processing and preparation. This includes refined sugars, like table sugar and high fructose corn syrup, but also unrefined sugars like honey and pure maple syrup. Although unrefined sugars do contain some beneficial nutrients and have slightly less of an effect on blood sugar, as a group, added sugars do not contain the fiber, fat or protein that slow that prevent spikes in blood glucose. While unrefined sugars are a good sugar substitute, naturally occurring sugars, like raisins, are best.
Kapeesh? Good. Now, back to the cookies.
To make these cookies, simply give all the ingredients a whirl in the food processor. That's right, you don't even have to dirty a bowl to make these babies. I was inspired by Christmas spice cookies when I made these, but you could always go the chocolate route. Simply substitute regular raisins and add in some cocoa powder to the mix and you've got a fudgy, deep chocolate cookie.
Have you ever baked with raisin paste before? What is your favorite Christmas cookie?
- 2 cups California golden raisins
- 3 cups almond meal
- 2 tablespoons almond butter or cashew butter
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon cloves
- Large pinch of salt
- In a medium bowl, warm 3-4 cups of water in the microwave for 3 minutes. Add golden raisins and let them plump for about 5-10 minutes.
- Drain the raisins and transfer to a food processor. Blend until pureed, about 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and process until fully combined and blended, scraping down sides as needed.
- Using a spoon, scoop spoonfuls of batter and form balls. The batter is very sticky, so wet hands are helpful. Place them 2 inches apart on a well greased cookie sheet. Flatten with the back of a spatula.
- Bake at 325 for 15-20 minutes until the tops are golden. The bottoms have the tendency to brown, so you may want to check after about 15 minutes.
- Let cool a few minutes on the baking sheet, transfer to a wire rack to cool fully. Will keep in a covered container at room temperature for a few days, or store in the refrigerator for a week or so.
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