Coco-Not Sugar Cookies

by Sarah on April 25, 2011 · 9 comments

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, but I’m going to go out on a (birch tree)* limb here and say that in cooking, the mother of recipe invention is oversight.
*You’ll get this later.

As in “Oops, I totally thought I had everything I needed to make this, but I guess I don’t! Silly me…what else can I use instead?”

For example, the delicious Coconut Cream Pie Cookies I teased you with a glimpse of yesterday would never have come to be if I’d been a thoughtful, well-planned baker on a mission. And thus, y’all should continue to pat me on the back for my lack of awareness as to the ingredients in my fridge.It all started because I had a 1 lb. bag of Xylitol on hand that had been sent to me by Matt at Emerald Forest. He was seeking recipes using Xylitol, and I, always willing to take freebies off of someone’s hands in exchange for creative cooking, said yes. [I like to think of a free products as a culinary muse of sorts.]The Emerald Forest Xyla is made from U.S. birch trees, and is touted as a natural substitute for sugar. They claim it looks, tastes, and acts* like sugar. I discovered this to be true when I accidentally spilled a bunch of it one my table. Looks just like the ‘real stuff.’ [Also now looks like the scene of a DEA bust.]
*OK, they may not have actually used the word ‘acts’ but can’t you just imagine a chorus line of sugar crystals dancing across a stage right now? And doesn’t that make you happy?Why’s it so special? Well, it has a low glycemic index (7 to sugar’s 68), meaning it is absorbed slowly into the bloodstream like a complex carbohydrate, reducing spikes in one’s bloodstream normally associated with sugar. [Diabetics, take note!] It’s also supposed to be really good for your teeth, helping restore pH balance and creating an ‘inhospitable environment’^ for bacteria growth, like plaque. This is the sugar substitute you’ll find in a lot of sugar-free chewing gum, like my personal favorite (and impossible to find) Trident Minty Sweet.^Again with the imagery…this time a band of jungle-crawling sugar crystals wielding spears chase out the invading plaque army. There may also be flaming arrows and war paint involved.

Anyways, when Matt asked if I’d like to have some to test out, y’all know I said, “Sure, why not?” Even if it was awful, I would at least now have something besides a xylophone to pack when I reached the letter X while going on an alphabet picnic.Besides, I was out of my current favorite sugar substitute, Stevia, so if someone wanted to keep me restocked for my daily dose of sweetened caffeine, well then, by all means, I was going to let them.So I found myself in The Smart Kitchen on Friday afternoon thinking, “What in the world is the best way to test this fake sugar out? How do I really know if it can be a good understudy in the performance of (baking) life?” Obviously I had to make something with sugar…something where sugar is not only a member of the company, but the star performer!*
*I have got to get over this acting metaphor. Perhaps I should go back to The Lord of the Flies-esque jungle war allusion?

Clearly, it was time for sugar cookies.

Since I’m a notoriously lazy baker, I knew there was no way I was going to have the patience to roll out and cookie-cut a bunch of crisp sugar cookies, much less decorate them with any semblance of adorableness. But there is a solution for bakers like me, and that is the soft sugar cookie. I discovered this recipe in college, and have held on to it ever since…but as I set to work I realized I had neither shortening, nor enough butter. But I did have cream cheese.After substituting half of the butter for cream cheese in an oatmeal cookie recipe once, I knew this might work well. But still, I didn’t have quite enough. Enter another of our (surprising) supporting cast members…Stonyfield‘s Plain Whole Milk yogurt! [Let’s not even get started on how obsessed with this stuff I am. What a fabulous dairy clearance find, for sure.]So I whipped all of that together with a generous portion of the Xyla/xylitol.I admit that this is where I got a little nervous. The xylitol didn’t seem to be blending all that well, and I didn’t really want a grainy texture in a soft cookie.
But with my whisks as weapons, I plunged ahead on the treacherous trail towards victory.*
*And yes, we’re back in the jungle.
And then—alas!–not enough all-purpose white flour. I had plenty of whole wheat flour, but I’m sorry, I’m not making a sugar cookie with that.

[This is the Ecto Cooler of flour. (Three points if you get the reference.)
Green bowls will do that for ya.]

What to do now? Well…I might not have had enough flour, but I DID have a whole bunch of finely shredded coconut!I stirred together my dry ingredients and then blended them in with the (not) sugar-butter-cream cheese-yogurt mixture.It seemed like the right consistency for drop cookies, so I went with it.

I plopped them on the cookie sheets……where I pressed a couple (or a few) slivered almonds on top of each one. Just for fun. I also tried a little extra sprinkling of coconut on a few (which ended up extra toasty in the end, if you know what I mean).I cooked them for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees. They didn’t really brown on top (not enough butter I imagine), but they looked like pancakes on the bottom.Not only did they look like pancakes……they had the cake-like consistency of a pancake mixed with the texture of a cookie, and an underlying slight creaminess.Most importantly: they tasted like Coconut Cream Pie.As for the question of can xylitol stand in for real sugar?—well, I can tell you that by all accounts, the rate at which these disappeared meant no one had a clue I didn’t use real sugar. [Although by all means, you can!*]
*Use real sugar. Not “tell the difference.”

Coconut Cream Pie Cookies

(Makes 2 dozen)

4 oz. 1/3 less fat cream cheese
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 cup whole milk yogurt
3/4 cup Xylitol [or other granulated sugar substitute—or granulated sugar ;)]
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely shredded coconut
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Sliver almonds (optional)

1. Cream together butter, yogurt, cream cheese, and sugar.
2. Mix in egg and vanilla.
3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, coconut, baking powder, and salt.
4. Gradually blend in flour-coconut mixture to wet ingredients.
5. Scoop out onto a greased baking sheet. Press a few slivered almonds onto each cookie.

6. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, until bottoms are golden brown. [Tops will not brown very much.]


FYI: If you’re interested in purchasing some Xyla from Emerald Forest, you can use the coupon code FIRST through the end of April and receive 10% off. Also, they are currently doing a promotion where you’ll receive a free 1 lb. bag (like me!) if you spend $20 or more.
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Travelbug April 25, 2011 at 8:13 am

I SO enjoy the way your brain works when you write posts, they make me giggle
Your cookies look WAY yummy and i'll forgive you for your stevia devotion, something about the taste of the stuff makes me gag, i am odd :)

Maria @ Oh Healthy Day April 25, 2011 at 9:53 am

How in the world do you do it? Whenever I even substitute ONE ingredient (you saw my Easter treats post), my recipe goes from great idea to just okay. You amaze me!

Oh and I've never heard of this sweetener – will have to check it out sometime in the later future. I ate so many treats yesterday that my body is refusing sugar at the moment.

Meri April 25, 2011 at 10:18 am

Ecto cooler- that has got to be a juice box reference? Ohhhh, what are they called? the yellow boxes… I have to google this after I'm done commenting hahaha~

As for this post, I thoroughly enjoyed your "imagination sequences," and please don't censor them or edit them out- they make you stand out in a sea of recipes :)

Plus, these cookies look incredible. I'm doing one of my rare bookmarks here.

jensdaily April 25, 2011 at 2:29 pm


These cookies look so good, I can't get enough coconut lately.

Georgia | The Comfort of Cooking April 25, 2011 at 3:20 pm

These cookies look delish! I would have never known that you used an artificial sweetener. Yum!

baking.serendipity April 25, 2011 at 10:58 pm

I think the best recipes sometimes come from situations like this. Using coconut to help out the flour ratio was so smart…I wouldn't have thought of that! Awesome results :)

Leila @ Spinach and Skittles April 25, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Gaaaah, you are so freaking creative in the kitchen! I aspire to be like you! Cooking, sure, I can whip up something out of seemingly unrelated ingredients. But baking? I utterly fail at getting creative in that department. One of these days, one of these days.
I am very interested to try this birch tree "sugar" situation out. Have you tried it in coffee yet?
Oh, and "chorus line of sugar crystals dancing" totally made me smile.

Emily @ AVery Sweet Life April 19, 2012 at 11:00 pm

This is the first post of yours I have read, and you are really funny. I found myself chuckling many times! I love coconut, have never heard of Xyla, but will have to seek it out now. I wonder if granulated Splenda would also work? I have a ton of that and don’t know what to make with it.

Sarah April 20, 2012 at 6:35 am

Welcome to The Smart Kitchen! I’m glad I could make you smile. :) I bet Splenda would work…and it would probably be a lot less expensive! You might have to play around with the moisture level though. I’m not sure how it compares to he Xyla as far as sucking up moisture and all of that.

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