Some food, some drink.
Sunflower and Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies, Courtesy of Bainter Extra Virgin Sunflower Oil.
The good people at Bainter Sunflower Oil provided me an opportunity to sample their Kansas-made, cold press, extra-virgin sunflower oil. That bottle of liquid gold is the inspiration for a truly unique chocolate chip cookie recipe with a Great Plains twist. This semi-sweet chocolate and sunflower seed-studded cookie gets a double dose of local ingredients, employing whole white wheat flour as well as the sunflower oil that might be the best thing coming out of little ol' Hoxie, KS.
As Navin R. Johnson could tell you, you're not somebody until you've had your name in print. Shortly after an article ran in The Hays Daily News about the video series we're doing, I got an unsolicited package at my doorstep from just up the road in Hoxie, Kansas. Inside was a bottle of Bainter Sunflower Oil that I didn't have to pay for. Hey, free stuff!! Spontaneous publicity is workin' for this guy!
Kansas is actually known as "The Sunflower State," so to an outsider, sunflower oil from Kansas might make quite a bit of sense; but the truth of the matter is, when a local thinks of sunflowers, it usually concerns what's growing in the ditch next to what's actually being farmed. Anyhow, my preconceived notions of sunflower oil were (up until this point) synonymous with any other vegetable oil; which means something rather one-dimensional and boring. However even before I started to read the label, I could tell that I was holding something quite different than the sallow, supermarket fare that I was expecting. Here was not the pale shadow of a lipid bleached and refined, but something rich and golden in color. I popped the lid and took a sniff, and I swear that if my eyes were shut then I would have told you that there was a bag of roasted sunflower seeds under my nose. I poured myself a tall teaspoon and took a slurp (who doesn't enjoy a good oil slurping?). Rich, buttery-smooth and with the same flavor and aroma of fresh-roasted sunflower seeds; and surprisingly not at all bitter or raw tasting (you peanut-friendly folks who have voluntarily choked down a Sun Butter and jelly sandwich know exactly what I'm talking about).
Bainter Sunflower Oil is cold-pressed, which basically means you're getting extra virgin sunflower oil; so it goes without saying that this stuff is a fantastic condiment to your favorite focaccia. Likewise, salad dressings and vinaigrettes made with the stuff are really going to to taste noticeably unique compared to those concocted with the same ol' e.v.o.o. The folks at Bainter Sunflower Oil also think that their product is just great for baking; and rightfully so. By comparison, a few of my favorite baked good recipes just wouldn't be the same if I didn't use olive oil, so I could see the same holding true for a good sunflower oil in this case. Looking for a recommendation, I browsed over the recipes page on Bainter's site and found a chocolate chip cookie recipe of all things. I'm a firm believer in the Better Homes and Gardens chocolate chip cookie recipe, which uses a blend of butter and shortening, so you gotta understand that a cookie recipe that uses a full cup of liquid oil leaves me a bit skeptical. All the same, I'd never have had the opportunity to try a sunflower oil-spiked chocolate chip cookie had the the good folks at Bainter Sunflower Oil not graced my doorstep with a free sample; so in that spirit, I decided to bake some cookies.
Recipe: Jump to the detailed recipe. (or, keep reading for the gist of it) -
Preheat your hot box to 350F
Combine sunflower oil, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, eggs, and salt in a stand mixer and mix at medium speed for 3 minutes. Wheel it back to the lowest speed and add the chocolate chips and raw sunflower seeds. While continuing at lowest mixing speed, add baking soda, a.p. flour, and whole white wheat flour and continue to stir until just intedgrated. Dough will be oily and shiny (but that's not a problem). Portion into 1.5 inch diameter balls (a #50 disher is perfect for this) on a parchment or Silpat lined sheet pan, then gently flatten the tops with a flat-bottomed drinking glass. Bake at 350F for approximately 10-12 min. Cookies will be puffy and may not look all that brown, but that's ok. Leave them on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to finish cooling on a rack.
I had to modify Bainter's recipe just a wee little bit, but y'all know that I can't even leave my own Grandmother's recipes alone.
- I swapped out roughly half of the all-purpose flour for whole white wheat flour. I almost went whole hog, but that's another cookie.
- Wha-?! No salt? At all? This is a product derived from sunflower seeds we're talking about here, and you can't have one without the other. I went with a whole teaspoon of Kosher here.
- Lastly, the recipe calls for chopped walnuts; but as those nuts are going to be suspended in sunflower oil, I thought it seemed only appropriate to use sunflower seeds instead. Anyhow, as a bonus it keeps the recipe friendly to those that have nut allergies.
- On the subject of sunflower seeds, make sure that you're using seeds that have been liberated from the achene (read: shelled) and in this case, raw is best as you can expect the seed to roast in the cookie's innards.
- The recipe as wrote calls for you to mix in the chips and seeds before adding the flour. They ain't kidding. Unlike a cookie recipe where the butter is creamed into the sugar, the texture of the dough before baking is a bit more dense, and adding the mix-ins before the flour ensures a better distribution of the good stuff without your getting tennis elbow in the process.
- I reckon you don't need a stand mixer for this, but I will say that since creaming's a no-go here that I was shooting for a bit of an emulsion out of the mix of sugar, oil, and eggs. Three minutes of medium speed mixing translates into a lot more work for you without a stand mixer. Who are you kidding anyway? If you're serious enough about cookies to have read this far, just go buy one already.
- My secret weapon for shelling out consistent cookies is a #50 disher. It's the perfect size for a properly portioned cookie. In this case to ensure even cooking as well as even portioning, I'm mashing down my dough balls just a little bit with a flat-bottomed glass. These cookies won't spread properly if you don't nudge them in the right direction a bit.
- These cookies have a tendency to wanna stick. The original recipe calls for a greased sheet, but parchment or a Silpat on that half sheet pan would be a cleaner choice.
This is a cookie that's gonna surprise you. The taste of this chocolate chip-studded beauty is honestly like no other you've had before; and as soon as you spy those sunflower kernels in there, you know exactly what's up. You can definitely taste the essence of the sunflower; oil and seed alike, but it's not over the top. The whole wheat flour helps to keep the cookie chewy and moist after it cools, but be sure to store them in an air-tight container after the fact, lest you like a crumbly cookie. If I was gonna change one [more] thing with this recipe, I think I'd go with a darker chocolate. The sunflower oil really bolsters the sweetness of this cookie, and I think it could do with a chocolate that's a bit more on the side of bitter (but hey, that's just me).
So will I bake again with my bottle of Bainter Sunflower Oil? You bet! I've always dosed my whole wheat breads with a little olive oil for texture as much as flavor, and I think there's a winner in cold pressed sunflower oil as well. Likewise, I've not made granola in a long while, and I think it'd be a perfect application to showcase the richness and subtle complexity of this fine Kansas-made product.
In case I wasn't clear enough to begin with, I didn't pay a single red cent for my bottle of Bainter Sunflower Oil; but that doesn't mean that you should think my opinion biased because of it. That said, we rural Kansas foodies gotta stick together; so if you're looking for favor in my voice, I'd roll with that instead. ;-p
(Thanks again to Bainter Sunflower Oil for providing me with a sample of their fine wares!)