There are times in life when you need a fresh-baked cookie. Not a cookie from a package, not a previously baked cookie that’s been rattling around the kitchen for a few days. A warm, soft, freshly baked cookie, eaten while the house still smells of its transformative stint in the oven.
And one of those days is the last day of school.
Nothing says “I love you. Good job. You made it. I’m so proud of you. You can go ahead and exhale now, summer is here” like coming home to a plate of just-baked cookies. They are comfort and joy, all rolled into one.
And they’re really something to celebrate when you squish them together with ice cream in the middle.
But you can’t just use any cookie to make an ice cream sandwich. It’s one of my pet peeves when the cookie gets too hard and pushes all the ice cream out when you bite into it (of course, I eat it all anyway). I fervently believe a good ice cream sandwich, one that’s truly a pleasure to eat, must have a yielding cookie, and that’s not always so easy to achieve. But since I’m a stickler about this, and I really, really love ice cream sandwiches, I’ve developed a repertoire of ideal ice cream sandwich cookies.
This one, made with almond butter, is wonderfully soft and chewy, and just happens to be on the healthy side, too. The almond butter packs in some protein and vitamins and means I can use less butter, and I skip the refined white flour altogether and just use oats for whole-grain goodness. Yes, there’s sugar, but it is a treat after all.
These are the kind of cookies that I don’t have to freak out about if the kids end up sneaking a few extra. I won’t have to be the cookie police while they’re celebrating their last day of school. They’re the kind of cookies I can offer to the neighbor kids without feeling like I have to apologize to their moms afterward. And, as a bonus, these nutty, crispy, chewy, chocolatey, fruit-studded oatmeal cookies are exactly the kind of cookies I like to eat, too.
So when the kids finish their last day of school this week, I’ll have a plate of these ready, a carton of vanilla in the freezer, and we’ll kick off summer with a bang.
No-Flour Almond Butter and Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Makes 5 dozen
This recipe is inspired by one I found on the bright yellow bag of Snoqualmie Falls Lodge oatmeal. The original version turned out really thick and dense and tasted a bit too “earnest.”(Sorry Snoqualmie Falls!) I wanted a treat that happened to be good for you, not a good-for-you psuedo treat. So I swapped out the PB for almond butter, which allowed the sweetness of the sugar to shine through better, and cut out the white sugar for a generous helping of dark brown. Then I added cinnamon, ginger, pecans and dried fruit for complexity, and ground some of the oats for lightness. Squished together with some vanilla ice cream, they’re divine — and, yes, not all that bad for you either.
1 1/2 cups almond butter
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
3 large eggs
4 cups old-fashioned oats, half pulsed in a food processor until chopped
1 cup chopped semisweet chocolate
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional; if you want to skip them, make up the amount with more chocolate)
1 cup dried cherries, cranberries or raisins
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the almond butter, butter, brown sugar, vanilla, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger together on medium-high speed until well blended, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to medium-low and beat in the eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly blended. On low speed, stir in the oats, chocolate chunks, nuts (if using) and dried fruit until evenly distributed.
Use a small ice cream scooper to drop 2-inch balls of dough about 2 inches apart onto the prepared sheet pans. Sprinkle the tops with salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and the edges are crisp. They’ll look puffy but will firm up as they cool. Allow to cool on the baking sheet before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough, or shape into balls, freeze, then pack into freezer bags to bake at a later date.