My parents recounted a bittersweet story from my childhood at dinner a couple weeks ago. When I was around two years old, my sweet grandpa was diagnosed with terminal cancer and not long afterward, my mom suffered a miscarriage. They were in the hospital at the same time and my dad shuttled me between floors in a little red wagon. On my grandpa’s birthday, my family gathered in his hospital room and tried their best to celebrate, but the mood was heavy.
There was a birthday cake in the room and I knew it. Once my tiny self couldn’t take the temptation any longer, I sidled up to that cake and poked my finger in it. Then I tried to sneak around the corner so I could lick the frosting off my finger. My whole family was watching and burst into laughter. It must have been a side-splitting, pink-faced, thank-God-someone-lightened-the-mood kind of roar because they’re still talking about the relief it brought to the room.
I wish I could still swipe frosting off of cakes and get away with it (you know I would if I could). One of my dear friends is going in for another round of chemotherapy this week and I wish I could do more to help. If I could poke a cake to make her laugh, I would. If I could cook nourishing meals for her, I would, but she lives a plane ride away. If I could meet up with that cancer in a dark alley and beat it into remission myself, I would. I can’t do any of those things for her, but she’s strong and I know that she has all the help she needs. I decided to send her some homemade cookies in the hope that they might brighten her day.
Sometimes food is all we can do. When it comes to handmade goods, I really believe it’s the thought that counts. I participated in a blogger event hosted by King Arthur Flour called Bake for Good last month that really drove that point home. The Bake for Good Tour was designed to encourage people everywhere to bake for good, whether that means that you bake for a friend who’s having a bad day, a women’s shelter, a classroom, you get the idea. Baked goods can both delight and nourish, which makes them an extra rewarding gift to give.
Honestly, I agreed to attend the tour so I could learn how to bake a pie (and eat it, too) as well as hang out with my college roommate while I was in town. I quickly realized, however, how passionate King Arthur’s employees are about their Bake For Good campaign. On day one, we all bonded as we learned how to braid bread and bake pies from Susan. On day two, we prepared a meal and served it (along with the bread and pies) to families in need.
I’ve attended other food blog events that made me feel gluttonous and uncomfortably spoiled, but this event was something else. I’ve been mulling over the experience in the weeks since and decided it was time to share the cause. So often, we want to help others but we don’t know how.
If you like the idea of baking for good and want to learn more about King Arthur’s mission, you can visit their Bake for Good page. If you’re in the mood to bake for good but aren’t sure how to go about it, check the #bakeforgood tag on Instagram for inspiration. My new friends have shared their experiences, too: Amanda, Kristin, Jim and Jena, Erin, Brenda, Stef, Alice and Taylor and Shaina.
We should talk about these cookies. They are tasty, peanut buttery treats stuffed full of chocolate chips and hearty oats. In fact, oat flour is the only flour involved, so these cookies are gluten free. They’re also naturally sweetened with maple syrup, which has more redeeming properties than the brown sugar called for in the original recipe. I found the inspiration in King Arthur’s Whole Grain Baking book, which reminded me of my friend Tessa’s new maple-sweetened peanut butter cookies recipe.
After comparing the two, I thought I just might be able to replace the sugar with maple syrup, and what do you know? It actually worked. These cookies are more like a no-bake chocolate oatmeal cookie than a buttery Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie. They’re soft and fluffy, with a creamy interior that almost seems to stick to the roof of my mouth like a spoonful of peanut butter. I brought my first batch over to my friends’ house on Sunday and my friends loved them.
- ⅔ cup natural peanut butter
- ⅔ cup real maple syrup, preferably grade B
- 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter or coconut oil, melted
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- 1¼ cup old-fashioned rolled oats, ground for 30 seconds in a food processor or blender
- 1½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- 2 cups (12 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with two racks in the middle. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (if you don't have parchment paper, lightly grease the baking sheets).
- Measure out the peanut butter and maple syrup—I found this easiest to do in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Add peanut butter to the ⅔ cup line, then pour in maple syrup until you reach the 1⅓ cup total liquid line.
- Pour the peanut butter and maple syrup mixture into a mixing bowl. Add the melted butter and whisk until the mixture is well blended. Use your whisk to beat in the egg, scraping down the side of the bowl once it's incorporated, then whisk in the vanilla, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Switch to a big spoon and stir in the ground oats, rolled oats and chocolate chips until they are evenly combined. Drop the dough by the tablespoon onto your prepared baking sheets.
- Bake the cookies, reversing the pans midway through (swap the cookies on the top rack with the cookies on the lower rack) until they're barely set and just beginning to turn golden around the edges, about 12 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool completely on the pans.
Make it gluten free: Be sure to use certified gluten-free oats.
Make it dairy free: Readers report that coconut oil and olive oil works in place of the butter in this recipe (I haven't tried). Use dairy-free/vegan chocolate chips.
Storage suggestions: These cookies keep well in an air-tight plastic bag for a couple of days. Freeze for longer-term storage.
Change it up: These cookies should be totally adaptable! Use only 1 cup oats, ground, for flatter cookies. Try substituting some chopped pecans or walnuts for some of the chocolate chips, and/or stir in the unsweetened coconut flakes. If you do both, you can call these cookies flourless cowboy cookies!
Recommended equipment: This 1 tablespoon cookie scoop makes it really easy to measure out cookie dough. I didn't know I could love a spatula so much until I met the GIR Ultimate Spatula.
If you love this recipe: You'll also love my gluten-free, maple-sweetened chocolate chip cookies.
P.s. Here’s a banana and honey version of these cookies!