Monday, December 5, 2011

Delicious Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

A picture of cookies made with the best paleo chocolate chip cookie recipe.
Picture of the BEST paleo chocolate chip cookie recipe out there.
After an exhausting baking and taste testing of six paleo chocolate chip recipes several weeks ago (that post is here), I set out to perfect a paleo chocolate chip recipe of my own - one that would hopefully offer a "less unhealthy" alternative to traditional chocolate chip cookies, but best match their flavor and appearance, using ingredients from the paleolithic diet. The result? Read on!

As a starting point, I used a recipe closest in taste and appearance to a traditional chocolate chip cookie (Recipe #6 of my Paleo Cookie Recipe Comparison). Tasters of the original Recipe #6 griped about the oiliness, sweetness, and flavor of the oil, so I began testing changes to the recipe.
A picture of cookies made with the best paleo chocolate chip cookie recipe.
BakerGal's delicious paleo chocolate chip cookie recipe! 
I made about 15 different batches, using each one to experiment with different sweeteners, oils, other ingredients (almond nut butter, cashew nut butter, hazelnut flour), and ratios until my taste testers and I were satisfied. For oil, I steered away from non-paleo options (canola oil, vegetable oil) and from paleo options that would introduce non-traditional flavors to my cookie (olive oil, coconut oil, walnut oil). Eventually, I settled on macadamia nut oil. Macadamia nut oil is rich and smooth with a pleasant flavor that doesn't interfere with the dominant cookie flavors. To sweeten the batter, I tested batches made with agave syrup, raw honey, and a homemade paste of dates. Extra dark chocolate chips helped temper the cloying sweetness tasters found unappetizing in the original recipe. I knew I had succeeded when one taster wandered through the kitchen, nabbed a cookie and ate it without realizing it was paleo.
In the process of making so many batches, I learned a few things that are important for the success of this cookie, including sweetener substitutions and measuring almond flour. I've noted these in the recipe notes of the final recipe below.
A picture of cookies made with the best paleo chocolate chip cookie recipe.
Best Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe
BakerGal's Best Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe, Makes 16-20
5 oz (1 1/4 cups) very finely ground blanched almond flour (NOT Bob's Red Mill...see notes)
1/4 teaspoon salt (I know you're supposed to avoid salt, but this is seriously important for flavor)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup raw agave nectar (or 1/4 cup raw honey plus 1 to 2 tsp water. See below for date paste substitution.)
1/8 cup macademia nut oil (link goes to amazon)
1 tsp vanilla extract
A scant 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips. I used Guittard Extra Dark chocolate chips (63% cocoa and incredibly smooth). Using a darker chocolate (for example, the Guittard 72% Cacao Baking Discs) will make the cookies less sweet.
  • Heat oven to 325.
  • Mix almond flour, salt, and baking soda well. In a small bowl, mix agave nectar, Macadamia nut oil, and vanilla. Combine wet and dry ingredients, mixing well. Add dark chocolate chips. Batter should be thick enough that you can roll a small ball between your palms and set it on the cookie sheet without it drooping or losing shape (see notes).
  • Make 16 - 20 small balls of paleo chocolate chip cookie dough and space them evenly on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Press the cookies down as flat as possible with the palm of your hand. This is important! The cookies will NOT spread out on their own.
  • Bake about 6 minutes. Watch closely and remove when the edges start to brown. . . they could be done at 4 minutes or at 8 minutes depending on the size of the cookie and your oven calibration.
Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe Notes:
Almond Flour:
The brand of almond flour you use is important because you want a flour that is very finely ground, and this quality varies greatly across brands. Bob's Red Mill almond flour is not finely ground enough - I did a test batch and the cookie batter is too runny and ends up ugly with a grainy texture. Honeyville Farms (link goes to amazon) is the brand I used for the cookies pictured above and would recommend. If you can't find Honeyville Farms almond flour or macadamia nut oil, you can follow the links in the post to Amazon to purchase it, or you can visit the "store" section of the blog, where I've provided links to purchase them.

Measuring the almond flour by weight is much more precise than measuring by volume, so use a digital scale if you have one. Trying to measure almond flour by volume can lead to over- or under-measurement: if it is too packed or too fluffed-up you fit too much or two little of it into your measuring cup. If you don't have a scale and have to measure by volume, then do your best to gently spoon the flour into the measuring cup and level it off with a straight-edged knife. As a rule of thumb for this recipe, you should be able to roll the finished paleo chocolate chip cookie dough into a ball between your palms, and when you set it down it should keep its shape. Add a little more almond flour if it doesn't pass this test.

Sweetener substitutions:
I prefer agave syrup's flavor and performance in the recipe, but tested some substitutions:
Raw honey: It works just as well. I tried a batch that turned out looking almost identical, feeling a little bit chewier, and tasting faintly of honey.
Date paste: If you prefer "whole sugars" that come embodied in their originating fruit, I also tried a date paste that worked but yielded a slightly wetter cookie with slightly less traditional flavor. To make a date paste substitute, take 8 pitted dried dates and chop them very finely. Add 1/4 cup water to the chopped dates and heat in a pan or microwave, stirring frequently until they've softened and absorbed some of the water (about 30 seconds in the microwave, stirring every 10 minutes). Add water as needed to keep them hydrated and jam-like in consistency. Remove from heat and mash the dates as thoroughly as possible with a fork. Add another few teaspoons of water if needed and heat again briefly to further soften the mixture. Place the paste in a measuring cup. If you don't have 1/4 cup of date paste, add enough water to bring the mixture up to the 1/4 cup line. Proceed with recipe as written.

Macadamia nut oil:
It has a long unrefrigerated shelf life, but doesn't often fly off the shelf at your local supermarket, so those bottles may have been there for a while. Be sure to select a fresh bottle.