Santa Wants a Low-Fat Cookie

It's December 1, people. I guess that means we can start yanking out the garland and hanging the mistletoe. With the first holiday-season weekend about to kick off, many of you, I'm guessing, are making those lists. I'm notoriously slow to acquiring a holiday spirit, but my goal each year is to c'mon and get happy a little earlier in the season.

Holiday cookies with lower-fat bonus points.(Kim O'Donnel)

One activity that does a good job of removing my cynical mask is cookie baking. It's kind of hard to be a grouch when you're up to your elbows in sugary dough that transforms into little love nuggets that make the whole house smell like a fairy tale. I can't resist.

And who doesn't love receiving a gift box of homemade cookies? Really, there should be a cookie holiday at some other time of the year, when we really need it, like in March. We all could use a little sugar high (and love) while anxiously waiting for spring to arrive.

We all know, however, too many sugary morsels with our coffee makes for one porky Santa's helper. Moderation, as we all know, is key to wearing the same pair of jeans in January.

It also doesn't hurt when we can cut corners in the kitchen. The two recipes below come from a spanking new cookbook by pastry guru Nick Malgieri and David Joachim. Malgieri, whose classes I've taken at the Institute of Culinary Education (when it was called Peter Kump's), is known for his diverse repertoire of global desserts and confections, but this time, he's lightened things up.

I love how the cookie recipes below get lower-fat treatment without fake results. No cookie Botox, my friends. Just a few tweaks to shave off a little fat and cholesterol. The chocolate chip cookies, for example, contain half the butter that is used for the original Toll House cookie recipe, and I'm telling you, it's undetectable. And these chocolate spice numbers -- think chocolate ginger snap. I love the little flavor kapow in the mouth and the mere 3 mg cholesterol per cookie is a welcome bonus.

See what you think, and share any low-fat cookie treasures this way. Ho, ho, ho.

Later today, I'll give my guinea pig Sam Litzinger a bite of these little treasures. Listen to Sam licking up the crumbs on Washington Post Radio, at 2:20 this afternoon (107.7 FM, 1500 AM).

Chocolate Spice Cookies
From "Perfect Light Desserts: Fabulous Cakes, Cookies, Pie, and More Made With Real Butter, Sugar, Flour and Eggs" by Nick Malgieri and David Joachim

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (leveled with a spoon)
1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sugar
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
¼ cup molasses

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and set aside.
In another bowl, mix butter and sugar together with a large rubber spatula. Mix in applesauce and molasses until well combined.

Stir in dry ingredients to make a soft dough. (KOD note: I placed dough in fridge for a few minutes to relax)

Drop tablespoons of the dough (or use a small ice cream scoop) an inch apart on cookie sheets, lined with parchment paper or foil.

Bake cookies for about 10 minutes, changing position of pans about halfway through baking. Also turn pans back to front at same time. Cookies will be fairly moist when done. Avoid overbaking or they will be dry and hard.

Slide liners from pans to cool cookies.

Makes about 36 cookies.

Per cookie: 61 calories, 2 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 1 g protein, 12 g carbohydrates, 0 g fiber, 3 mg cholesterol, 69 mg sodium.

David's Skinny Chocolate Chip Cookies
From "Perfect Light Desserts: Fabulous Cakes, Cookies, Pie, and More Made With Real Butter, Sugar, Flour and Eggs" by Nick Malgieri and David Joachim

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (leveled with a spoon)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup light brown sugar
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups chocolate chips (about ¾ of a 12-ounce bag)
2 cookies sheets lined with parchment paper or foil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix flour, baking soda and salt together in a bowl and set aside.

Beat butter and sugars together with an electric mixer on medium speed until well mixed, about 1 minute. Beat in egg and milk until they are absorbed, followed by the vanilla. Don't worry if mixture looks curdled; the flour mixture will smooth it out.

Scrape down the bowl and beater and beat in flour mixture on low speed.

Use a rubber spatula to fold in the chocolate chips.

Chill dough in the bowl for 15 minutes to keep cookies from spreading too much while baking.

Form dough into 1 ½-inch balls or use a small ice cream scoop to from the cookies. Arrange balls of dough 2 inches apart all around on the prepared pans.

Bake cookies for 8-12 minutes, or until they look dull on the surface, have spread and are still quite moist. Cool cookies on pans on racks for 5 minutes. Slide liners to racks to continue cooling cookies

Keep stored between sheets of wax paper in a tin or plastic container.

Makes about 30 cookies

Per cookie: 114 calories, 5 g total fat, 3 g. saturated fat, 2 g protein, 17 g carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 11 mg cholesterol, 85 mg sodium.

By Kim ODonnel |  December 1, 2006; 10:56 AM ET Cookies , Holiday Treats
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Could the Chocolate Spice Cookies be made with pumpkin or prunes instead of applesauce. If so, which might work better?
(I'm allergic to apples.)

Posted by: Cookie Addict | December 1, 2006 12:15 PM

Thanks for the low fat cookie ideas, I can't wait to try them. Since it's so early in December, can you please give some tips on cookie storage in general - and any modifications for the lower fat variety? I made & froze Thanksgiving cookies a couple of weeks early, but they didn't hold up well, IMHO. They still disappeared, but they were not in tip-top condition. Thanks!

Posted by: LPC member... | December 1, 2006 1:04 PM

For the best "make and freeze" cookie results, make the dough, shape the cookies, and then freeze them before baking. Bake them directly from frozen (may take a few minutes longer than non-frozen), and you have perfect fresh-baked cookies! Many cookie recipes can also be frozen into logs, then sliced and baked.

I've never been happy with the texture or flavor of cookies frozen after baking.

Also, I like nibbling on the raw cookie dough, straight from the freezer, because that's just the kind of heathen I am. ;-)

Posted by: Divine Ms. K | December 1, 2006 2:17 PM

Kim, you are great! Cookie botox, indeed! I'll be making both these recipes on Sunday afternoon. Lover of butter and sugar though I am, I find that cutting back on both is fine. And a good vegan cookie recipe, without b or s or eggs, can be mighty tasty too.

Posted by: Carolyn | December 1, 2006 2:52 PM

Has anybody been able to find empty cookie tins this year for homemade cookie gifts? I found only small ones at K-Mart; haven't ventured anyplace else yet. If somebody knows of a store with a cookie tin stash, please let me know. Thanks.

Posted by: Southern Maryland | December 1, 2006 2:52 PM

Southern Maryland--

I saw the tins in passing at the Container Store. I have no idea what the prices looked like. Sometimes they have decent buys, sometimes its highway robbery.

Posted by: Alexandrian | December 1, 2006 3:14 PM

I saw cookie tins at Sur La Table the other day. Maybe the Container Store would have some, too?

Another good suggestion for reducing the fat in cookie recipes: replace half of the butter with canola oil. The oil doesn't not have the saturated fat of butter, but still gives a moist cookie. I've tried this with oatmeal cookies and it works great. Also, to cut calories, most recipes will still be fine if you cut down on the amount of white sugar.

Posted by: Christa | December 1, 2006 3:17 PM

My mom is diabetic, so I have made your cranberry pistachio biscotti for her subbing Splenda for the sugar and they turned out great!

Posted by: Arlingtonian | December 1, 2006 3:30 PM

I make cookies every Christmas and have had some luck finding inexpensive tins at craft stores such as Michaels. Try the dollar store too. I have bought some at The Container Store but they are more pricey. Container Store does have this cute stripey waxed paper which is great for a festive lining for your tins.

Posted by: LCA | December 1, 2006 3:43 PM

Target has boxes in the gift wrapping section. Not tins, but they were very inexpensive. I think less than $2 for 4 boxes. I think they were called china boxes.

Posted by: Containers for Cookies | December 1, 2006 3:57 PM

Kim, if you were going to do the spice cookies w/o chocolate, what would you substitute?

Posted by: SS | December 1, 2006 4:09 PM

Thanks all for your cookie tin suggestions -- I'll check them out this weekend. I created a monster years ago when I started baking cookies for my Grandmother who had everything she ever needed. Since she had people dropping by through the holidays, I made several varieties of cookies for her. Now that she's gone (lived to be 97!) I give them to my bosses at work, the neighbor who cuts my grass, a batch to the office to share, and my sister-in-law for holiday visitors.
Happy holidays to Kim and all of you. 8-)

Posted by: Southern Maryland | December 1, 2006 4:58 PM

Food Network's "Ham on the Street" had a pumpkin chocolate chip cookie recipe on its Thanksgiving special. So I think pumpkin would substitute quite nicely for the apple sauce. Pumpkin doesn't have a very strong taste, so I don't think it would clash with the chocolate. And you get a bit of beta carotene in the deal, too.

Posted by: Slvr Sprng | December 1, 2006 6:02 PM

Pumpkin and chocolate chips go great together! The pumpkin adds a wonderful hit of fiber to the cookie that you don't get with refined flours.
I bake a fairly high fat pumpkin/choc chip cookie (from a 1993 Southern Living recipe) and it is very soft and cakey - and folks LOVE it.
I think I may try it with 1/2 the butter and see how it comes out. You may be on to something!
Can't wait to try the two lo-fat recipes you've provided. Thank you.

Posted by: Christine | December 1, 2006 6:14 PM

I made the Chocolate Spice cookies on Saturday to take to a party. They were a big hit with my friends, who have quite varied tastes. Thanks for the addition to my cookie repertoire!

Posted by: Val | December 3, 2006 10:58 PM

JoAnn's has tins, in a ton of sizes, and they are 50% off through Dec 15. Only decent priced tins I have found around here during the past few years.

Posted by: secretfun | December 5, 2006 10:02 PM

I veganized the Chocolate Spice cookies by substituting olive oil for the butter and they turned out great. Really addictive.

Thanks kindly!

Posted by: shan | December 17, 2006 11:15 PM

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