Three Dozen Cookies, One Stick of Butter (!)

I realize that with my all-desserts-all-the-time blog that I'm not exactly the poster child for low-fat eats. I've said before that I'd much rather make my regular meals lean and mean than give up a good dessert made with real ingredients. I just don't see the point of making a low-fat cake. But let it be known that when I work out a recipe that cranks out three dozen generously-sized, utterly satisfying cookies with just one stick of butter, I am going to make a Big Deal out of it.

These Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies with Candied Ginger are the love child of one of my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes and a banana bread recipe that I've had bookmarked for months. Those who are slaves to the low-fat baking movement (or those who read the ubiquitous "healthy treats" articles in womens' magazines that tell you to do ridiculous things like putting only salsa on your baked potatoes and call fruit dipped in a teaspoon of chocolate syrup "dessert") will tell you that fruit purees can make a decent substitute for fat in baked goods.

In my opinion, in order for the fruit puree technique to produce truly great results, conditions must be perfect. Those conditions include recipes that call for oil and/or melted butter (think quickbreads and muffins) and also include ingredients that naturally work with the flavor of the fruit puree, should any of it sneak out into the baked good. And I don't know about you, but banana+chocolate+ginger+cookies=pretty great-sounding to me. I pulled out my ever-present bag of frozen-before-they-could-completely-decay bananas from the freezer and got to work.

It just so happens that one of my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes is made just like a quickbread, via the muffin method with melted butter--there's that other aforementioned condition for fruit purees successfully acting as a stand-in for fats. But let's not get ridiculous, okay? I have no interest in going all Susan Powter on my baking projects, so I only swapped out half the weight of the butter for mashed banana. The sweetness of the fruit also allowed for a third of the sugar to be slashed out too--bonus! All that was left to do was to add a little sparkle with minced candied ginger to the dough, and dish it out in delightfully non-dietetic portions.

I've decided that there is only one fragrance that can best the smells of banana bread or chocolate chip cookies wafting through the house and that is the smell of a banana bread/chocolate chip cookie hybrid. Oh. Em. Gee. And thankfully, the taste matched the olfactory delight. These cookies came out fabulously moist and chewy with crisp edges and were so flavorful that I really, honestly didn't miss the extra butter at all. Even better, they were more delicious the next day. That is to say the two that were left over were more delicious.

I was so overjoyed by the results of this recipe, I had to work out the math. And by my calculations, there are about 3 grams of fat per cookie, half the fat of an average chocolate chip cookie. In the Piece of Cake kitchen, that means you can shove them in your mouth two at a time. Hooray!

Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies with Candied Ginger

Makes about 3 dozen

Keep an eye on the cookies during the last few minutes of baking--you don't want them overbaked. Cooling the cookies completely on the sheet will make for a chewier cookie. If you want them more crisp, just transfer them to a wire rack to cool after a minute or so. After portioning the cookies, the dough balls can be frozen and stored in a zip-top freezer bag for up to three months.

2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 ounces mashed banana (about 1/2 cup, or 1 medium)
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (I like Ghiradelli 60% cacao, semi-sweet chips work too)
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, minced

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with an oven rack set to the center position. Have ungreased baking sheets ready (I like to line mine with parchment or Silpat, but it's not necessary).

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl by hand, mix together the sugars, melted butter, egg yolks and vanilla until well-blended. Stir in the mashed banana. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until nearly incorporated, then fold in the chocolate chips and crystallized ginger.

Portion tablespoons of dough out onto the baking sheets, 12 per sheet. Bake one sheet at a time for 14-16 minutes, or just until golden brown. Don't overbake. Cool completely on the baking sheets on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

CookiesShauna Sever