Since moving to Rome in November, Italy has not stoppped to surprise me – while healthfood stores are hard to track down and most Italians think nothing of eating sugar-laden pastries for breakfast, a pile of pasta for lunch and a pizza for dinner (which might also explain the mountain of prunes on offer in most supermarkets!), it is surprisingly easy to find a huge variety of different types of flours and sweeteners. My small local supermarket stocks spelt, buckwheat and kamut flour (in addition to a whole plethora of different types of wheat flours for baking and pasta-making), I know a couple of places where I can buy chia seeds and I can get my hands on maple syrup, agave syrup and molasses with a simple detour during my lunch break.
While my impression is that there cannot be a big market for these ingredients in Italy given that I have yet to eat a homemade birthday cake in Italy that wasn’t baked by myself (and even if I doubt it would include any wholemeal flour or alternative sweeteners), I am perfectly content with the easy availability of these ingredients because it has allowed me to play around with plenty of different types of flour and sweeteners over the past few months, including when I came up with these cookies.
I baked these cookies when really I should have been unpacking the first set of boxes in our new flat (we are picking up another set if boxes from storage this weekend), but after a month of not having access to an oven it didn’t take long to figure out where my priorities were (at least for the short time it took me to whip up these cookies). Rather than start tackling my long baking ‘to do’ list I played around with my favourite cookie recipe because sometimes all you want is to curl up on the sofa with a glass of milk and a cookie (carefully choosing your position so as to avoid seeing the pile of boxes right around the corner).
My main goal was to make this batch a little healthier than the original recipe so I used olive oil instead of butter, reduced the sugar to almost half of what the original recipe called for and swapped buckwheat groats and cacao nibs for the chocolate chips. The result? About a dozen big, fat and chewy yet crunchy cookies – if I didn’t know it better, I wouldn’t even have guessed they only had half the sugar of the original recipe. Truth be told, Alessandro found these cookies a little on the ‘healthy’ side which just meant I had the justification I needed to call these ‘breakfast’ these past few days (but then again, Alessandro gets upset every time I bake and it turns out I am baking neither brownies nor donuts!).
Cacao Nib and Buckwheat Crunch Cookies
90ml olive oil
35ml almond milk
200g oat flour
50g rye flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
150g muscovado sugar
50g cacao nibs
50g buckwheat groats
Sea salt flakes
1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
2. Beat the egg and almond milk with an electric whisk on medium speed while slowly pouring in the olive oil. Once the olive oil has been totally absorbed, add the muscovado sugar and turn the whisk to high speed, beating until the mixture is pale in colour and no longer feels gritty (ca. 5 minutes).
3. In a separate bowl whisk together the oat and rye flours, the baking powder and baking soda, the pinch of salt, the cacao nibs and the buckwheat groats.
4. Add the flour mix to the egg mix in one go and carefully combine.
5. Using two tablespoons drop dollops of dough roughly the size of two tablespoons on the baking tray, making sure you leave some space inbetween the dollops (I was able to fit 9 cookies on one tray). Scatter some fleur de sel on top of each dollop of dough.
6. Place in the oven for ca. 15-18 minutes. Using a spatula carefully lift the cookies of the baking tray on a cooling rack.
Note: please feel free to substitute the cacao nibs with chocolate chips and the buckwheat groats with your favourite nuts or seeds.