Joel has a, shall we say, ever so slightly suboptimal habit of eating in the middle of the night. (Sorry for spilling the beans, honey! Does it help that I find it cute?) So, if we ever happen to have tortilla chips (with a hint of lime) or cookies in the house, which we do on occasion, I frequently find they disappear at a rate much higher than they should based on the scientific observations I make of them being eaten. I also find crumbs on the counter in the morning.
It’s something I can’t say I really identify with. Not because I’m anywhere near being above bad habits or in possession of an iron will. But rather because, if I wake up in the middle of the night, I definitely don’t feel hungry. I’m more likely to feel like a partially brain dead mole, and flail about blindly because my eyes are still stuck shut, and mutter things like, “the tortoise is about to submerge, we must save the depot!” or “do you think the otters need more water in their bedroom? And, I think they should each have their own kibble bowl.”
I won’t be thinking about snacks.
When I am thinking about snacks, my general strategy with regards to preventing unwanted or unnecessary snacking is to keep snack foods out of the house. If you need a snack, eat a piece of fruit or nuts.
Except, this apparently makes me a meany-pants. Or a meany-face. Or perhaps even a meany-face with mean pants. And I don’t want to be any of those things. Plus, let’s face it, every now and again, a crunchy little bite of snack does seem awfully appealing (though still not in the middle of the night!), no matter how much we oppose snacks on principle. Principles only go so far when your tummy makes a frightening grumbly bellowy noise and it’s still 3 hours until supper.
So, I’m trying to remember, now and again, to make some non-fruit-or-carrot snack foods to keep around that are relatively nutritious and gently filling.
I was going to concoct an awesome grass fed milk-cheese and nut flour based version of Cheez-its (though I’ve been told not even to bother because nothing can compare to a commercial Cheez-it, even a really good home made one made with orange cheese and white flour, which pretty much sounds like a challenge/invitation to me), when I stumbled upon a recipe for these graham cookies, or crackers, or whatever they are. I know graham crackers are called crackers, but don’t they really fit better in the cookie category?
But that’s neither here nor there.
I’m slightly surprised the recipe caught my attention and held it. Normally I write-off “health food” cookies, cakes, and such, with a sniff and nary a second glance (if you need to be told “hey, at least it’s healthy,” to coax you to eat it, that’s a good sign something’s not quite right). Most of them look like they’re created out of some sense of penitence, like, “I’m really sorry I like sweet things, and now out of remorse I’m going to eat this weird chewy carob-spelt thing that I’m going to call a cookie.” (No offense meant to carob or spelt, they’re perfectly nice things.) Or they’re recipes that cut out all of the fat, thus creating cardboard facsimiles of dessert.
Normally I say, if I’m going to eat dessert then I’m going to eat a real dessert, a flavorful one with lots of butter and flour, and I’ll just not eat much because when you get something really good, you don’t need much to be satisfied.
But something about these cookies seemed earnest, in an appealing way, as if, though they were going by the name grahams, this was really an allusion to the general shape and texture, and they weren’t trying to be anything but themselves. Their ingredient list was packed with delicious, subtle sounding flavors, ground hazelnuts, coconut flour, maple syrup. They just so happen to be surprisingly good for you, but that’s not their defining feature, it’s a side-effect of the fact they’re made with really quality stuff.
The fabulous flavors you can discover in cooking with interesting ancient flours, nut meals, honey, coconut, and friends are not exactly news. But, I guess I hadn’t registered it fully. I had low expectations for these grahams, even though something kept nudging me to make them. And then my expectations were smashed.
They are fantastically tasty. They break between your teeth with a crunch, and then a soft give as you reach their centers. The nutty, crumbly base of ground hazelnuts and coconut flour laced with the barest flick of cinnamon tastes toasty and warm, like an evening by acampfire. The coconut flour and oil give the cookies just a subtle coconuttiness, but nothing that makes you say, oh these are coconut cookies.
The honey and maple syrup in the cookies leave them just vaguely sweet, like shortbread, making them all the more welcoming of a drizzling of deep, dark chocolate and a few pinches of flaky sea salt, an addition the hazelnut and coconut were rather clamoring for anyway.
I made these delicious little bites to store in the freezer for Joel’s midnight kitchen visits, but I’ve discovered that one makes an extremely nice addition to my 3pm coffee break (they’re pretty tasty frozen as well as fresh, I might add).
Now who’s leaving a trail of crumbs on the counter?!
Hazelnut Coconut Grahams with Dark Chocolate and Seasalt (makes about 2-dozen 1-inch cookies) (adapted from The First Mess)
- 1 slightly heaped cup of hazelnuts (pecans are also delightful)
- 1/4 cup coconut flour, plus a couple extra tablespoons, as necessary
- 1 tsp. cornstarch or arrowroot powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- a pinch each of ground cinnamon and salt
- 1 Tbs. honey
- 1 1/2 Tbs. maple syrup (grade B) or molasses
- 1 Tbs. cream
- 1/3 cup room temperature coconut oil (solid, and barely soft)
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- chocolate ganache (see below) and flaky sea salt for topping, if desired
- Preheat your oven to 325F. Put the hazelnuts and the coconut flour in a food processor and process until everything has turned to a flour-like texture. Pulse in the baking powder, soda, cinnamon, and salt until just combined.
- Add all of the remaining ingredients (except the ganache, of course!) and process until they are completely blended. If the mixture doesn’t pull away from the sides and come together into a moist dough, add a Tbs. of coconut flour at a time until it does.
- Line a baking pan with a piece of parchment paper. Dump the dough out onto the parchment and gently pat it out with your fingers until it is somewhere between one-quarter and one-half inch thick. Bake in the oven until the edges are darkened and the top feels dry and fairly firm to the touch, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
- Once cool, cut the sheet of cookie into small squares. Top with ganache.
Dark chocolate ganache
- 1/3 cup finely chopped dark chocolate (70% cocoa or more; I used 78% and it was all kinds of awesome)
- 1 and 1/2 Tbs. coconut oil or butter
- flaky sea salt (optional)
- In a small heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the chocolate and the oil/butter, and heat over medium-low heat, stirring gently until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Drizzle the ganache over the grahams, then sprinkle them with sea salt (or cocoa nibs, or nuts, or coconut flakes). Allow the chocolate to set – chill in a refrigerator to get the chocolate to harden faster – before eating.