A whiff of cookies baking in the oven takes me back in time. Pure joy. Typically, it was Christmas and I was visiting my grandmother. While she wasn’t a very good cook, she sure knew how to bake! Cookies were a specialty and we kids did more than enough “taste testing.”
Since blood sugar is an issue for me, I’ve worked and worked at perfecting the perfect “sugar-free” cookie. After all, I would rather go without a cookie than eat one that doesn’t take me back to that special time in my life. My preference is a moist cookie, rather than a crisp one. And those are super hard to produce when you are baking sugar-free cookies.
The reason is simple: Sugar plays a key role in how a cookie bakes. And baking without sugar means you need to expect the dough won’t rise or spread, the cookies don’t want to brown, and the finished product is often dry.
So creating a great-tasting, sugar-free cookie recipe is a bit of a challenge. It’s not as simple as taking your favorite cookie recipe and simply swapping refined sugar for a substitute or a fruit butter. Knowing what to replace sugar with within your recipe is obstacle No. 1. Maybe you are using an alternative like sucrose or stevia in the raw (and if so, you need to know how each of them reacts to heat). Sugar substitutes will create a cookie that is more cake-like in texture. Sugar also caramelizes and browns your cookie.
There are two ways around that when you are making sugar-free cookies. First, you can wash your cookie with milk or egg white, and that will help foster browning, or, in the case of the recipe I have created, you can use cocoa powder. The color will mask the fact that the cookies haven’t darkened in color.
Refined sugar also makes a cookie tender and moist. If we remove the sugar, we want to make sure we put the moisture back in. In this recipe, we’ll do that with frozen bananas, dates and raisins. (You can also use prune butter, if you prefer.)
Here’s the catch. We’re not using refined sugar, but make no mistake: These cookies have sugar in them. Plenty. And they have calories. The difference is the sugar is from fruit. But it’s still sugar and has to be accounted for if you’re trying to keep an eye on your blood sugar.
My recipe calls for frozen bananas. I know most of you are thinking . . . frozen bananas? The reason I use them is that’s how I store my overripe bananas. When I buy bananas, and they go past their prime, I’m not always ready to make something with them. So I stick them (peel still on) in a zipper bag in the freezer. Then, when I want to make banana bread, or a sugar-free dessert, I have very ripe bananas ready to roll. Don’t be alarmed when you pull them out; the peels will be dark brown. But the banana inside is simply perfect for baking.
So gather the ingredients and the amazing little people in your life, and create a memory—and a cookie—they’ll recall for years to come.
Chris Xaver, Ph.D., is a local TV and radio personality with three children and five grandchildren. Her healthy lifestyle show, The Sweet Life, is airing on public television stations nationwide.
Photo above: Charlotte and Bryce Dunn photographed, George Dunn Photo.