To me, cookies aren't just for special occasions; I can find a reason for a cookie (or two) anytime. Before I had children, my cookie jar was always stocked with a fresh, homemade batch. Fast-forward 10 years: my time is limited and my cookie jar often bare. Some might resort to packaged cookies or store-bought dough, but being a baker and health-conscious mom, I try to steer clear of processed treats in favor of homemade.
That's why I love this speedy, vanilla-infused cookie dough that can be rolled into a log, stashed in the freezer and pulled out whenever I want to bake cookies (see recipe below). With a roll of this cookie dough in the freezer, I'm just 10 minutes away from a low-calorie, natural homemade treat. Plus, with this master recipe, you're not limited to just sugar cookies: you can transform the dough into four additional flavors (see related links for variations below the recipe). Stir in chocolate and mini chocolate chips for a chocolate-chocolate chip cookie. Or add peanut butter and chopped peanuts for a slimmed-down version of traditional peanut butter cookies--ours have just 58 calories compared to 288 in a classic peanut butter cookie. My cookie jar will never be empty again.
Easy Slice & Bake Cookies
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Makes: About 6 dozen cookies
Active time: 35 minutes | Total: 3 hours (including freezing time)
To make ahead: Store wrapped rolls of dough in the freezer for up to 3 months.
It's quick and easy to mix together these slice-and-bake cookies whenever you need something sweet. The recipe makes enough dough so you can bake half and put the other half in the freezer--ready to pull out and bake up a few fresh cookies anytime.
1 1/2 cups white whole-wheat flour (see Tip)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
5 tablespoons canola oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Coarse sugar for decoration
1. Whisk white whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
2. Beat sugar, oil and butter in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer on high until smooth, scraping down the sides. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth, scraping down the sides. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined.
3. Place half the dough on a large piece of plastic wrap and shape into a 10-inch log (it's OK if it's not perfectly round). Repeat with the remaining dough. Wrap and freeze until just firm, about 45 minutes. Reroll the logs to make them rounder and return to the freezer until very firm, at least 1 hour more.
4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
5. Remove one roll of dough at a time from the freezer and let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. Unwrap the dough and slice crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick rounds, turning the dough a quarter turn after each slice to help keep the cookies round.
Place 1/2 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. If your cookies aren't as round as you want them to be, shape the dough with your fingers.
Sprinkle each cookie with a little coarse sugar and gently press it into the cookie to help it adhere.
6. Bake 8 minutes for soft cookies or 10 minutes for crisp cookies. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining roll of dough, if desired.
Per cookie: 45 calories; 2 g fat (1 g sat, 1 g mono); 7 mg cholesterol; 7 g carbohydrate; 3 g added sugars; 1 g protein; 0 g fiber; 24 mg sodium; 9 mg potassium.
Tip: White whole-wheat flour, made from a special variety of white wheat, is light in color and flavor but has the same nutritional properties as regular whole-wheat flour. It is available at large supermarkets and natural-foods stores and online at bobsredmill.com or kingarthurflour.com. Store it in the freezer.
What is your favorite healthy treat to make when you don't have a lot of time to bake?
By Stacy Fraser
Stacy Fraser is Test Kitchen manager at EatingWell. With a background in ecological agriculture and many past growing seasons under her belt, Stacy began her study of food in the field, literally. Before joining the crew at EatingWell, Stacy managed the kitchen of breakfast and lunch hot spot Penny Cluse, in downtown Burlington, Vermont, where she learned how to make simple, delicious food from fresh ingredients.
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