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?
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.
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.
*Use real sugar. Not “tell the difference.”
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 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.