Who doesn’t love sugar cookies? Even though I’m a certified health nut (err, I mean coach), I find their simple buttery sweetness to be nearly irresistible -- and so do my clients. So, I’ve adapted the traditional recipe to make it a bit healthier but just as tasty. Of course, my cookies are still cookies, so please indulge in moderation.
Here are some of my secrets that you can try out in your own recipes:
- Coconut sugar: It comes from the coconut tree, but this all-natural sugar (aka palm sugar) doesn’t taste like coconut. Instead, it has a mild brown sugar flavor that’s perfect for baked goods. But the best part about it is that it has a lower glycemic index (about 35 compared to 60 for white sugar), so it won’t raise your blood sugar nearly as much. It also measures just like regular sugar, so you can use the same amount listed in your recipe. Yes, it’s still sugar, but every little health boost counts.
My favorite coconut sugar brands: Organic Nectars’ PalmSweet or Sweet Tree’s Blonde Coconut Palm Sugar. I don’t like sugar substitutes, which won’t provide the same bulk and never taste quite right to me.
- Gluten-free flour: After cutting gluten (a protein found in wheat) out of my diet, I lost those last stubborn 5 pounds and gained a lot of energy. So, I still try to avoid gluten when I can. My favorite gluten-free flour brand is Cup4Cup, which was created by Thomas Keller, chef at the famed California restaurant The French Laundry. The all-purpose blend replaces the same amount of regular flour in recipes, so it’s easy to use and great in all baked goods. I also like Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Flour, which is available at supermarkets, though you’ll need to add 1/4 teaspoon of xanthan gum per cup of flour for best results. Almond flour is another good substitute that’s high in protein. Here’s a great recipe from Elana’s Pantry, one of my favorite blogs. But I advise against using whole-wheat flour, which I find makes cookies too tough.
- Real butter: If you’re vegan, you can use a vegan butter substitute. If you’re not, I urge you to use real butter in your cookies. I find that sugar cookies and other baked goods just don’t taste as good without it, so I think it’s worth the splurge -- especially if the rest of your ingredients are on the healthier side. Try to make it organic.
Completely You’s Healthier Sugar Cookies Recipe
Makes 40 cookies
1.5 cups gluten-free flour (note: check the brand to see if you need to add xanthan gum for best results; you can also use all-purpose flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups coconut sugar (you can use regular sugar if you must)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
2. Mix together the flour, baking soda and baking powder and set aside.
3. Place the sugar and butter in a large bowl. Using an electric hand-mixer, mix together until smooth and creamy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Then, gently blend in the dry ingredients.
4. Make balls of dough from rounded teaspoons. Place the balls on ungreased cookie sheets, at least 1 inch apart.
5. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden. Do not overbake.
6. Let the cookies stand on the cookie sheets for three minutes. Then, remove them with a spatula and allow them to completely cool on a wire rack. Store them in a plastic container.
Variations: Dip cooled cookies in melted 70 percent dark chocolate, or break dark chocolate into chunks and push one chunk into the center of each cookie before you bake them. Yum!
What are your favorite cookie recipes? Share below in honor of National Sugar Cookie Day.