Being mostly unlearned in the art of whole grain cookie baking, I did a little more research first. Facts of interest: White whole wheat flour absorbs more moisture than all-purpose flour does. This means, if you are experimenting with white whole wheat flour, you have to watch moisture levels and may need to adjust hydration. Also, many other websites/bloggers (a quick Google search turned up Washington Post, Orangette, Food in Jars, Habitually Hungry and others) have blogged about making whole wheat chocolate chip cookies from Kim Boyce's book Good to the Grain, with positive reviews. Boyce's recipe, however, calls for traditional whole wheat flour, rather than white. (If I'm trying something new, I always do google searches to see if anyone has made it. Sometimes you find good tips that way!)
My normal chocolate chip recipe calls for 175 grams of unbleached all purpose flour; I decided to replace all of that with white whole wheat and opted to omit ground oats or nuts, given the moisture issue. After mixing in the dry ingredients, I examined the dough to see if it needed more liquid: it looked identical to the dough made with all-purpose flour, though it felt a good deal stickier than normal. It definitely wasn't too dry, in any case, so I went ahead and baked them. After 22 minutes in the oven, the cookies looked done and I left them to cool.
Ready for the verdict?
These baked up up tawnier in color and somewhat sturdier -- without being tough or heavy -- than the original cookies. On day 1, the cookies were soft and the chocolate was melty. On day 2, the cookies developed a chewy texture. A nutty/wheaty flavor is present, but it is subtle. The big role the whole wheat plays, I think, is to counterbalance all the sugar, because these cookies taste balanced. You can actually taste the butter and the flour, which is a big plus in my book; I'm not big on cookies where the first and last thing you taste is SUGAR. So, if it's not clear, we loved them. My sampler, whose rate of cookie consumption was roughly 4:1 compared to mine, loved them on both day 1 and day 2 while I love them most on day 2. I'm a sucker for chewy cookies.
To recap: The substitution of white whole wheat flour for unbleached all purpose made our cookies sturdier and added a subtle, but appealing, wheaty background flavor. If I had a complaint, it was that I kind of wanted more wheat flavor. In fact, we don't think anyone would know these were whole wheat cookies unless you explicitly said so. That was a pretty surprising finding. Will I make them again? Definitely. Not because they are significantly more nutritious (I suspect they are marginally more nutritious, but still not health food obviously), but because the taste/texture were to our liking. However, I don't think I'll abandon my old recipe just yet; I often like oats in my chocolate chip cookies and I'm not sure these chewier cookies could have supported a full cup of oats.
Who knew you could get super delicious cookies from whole grain flour? It feels virtuous, yet badass.
Chewy white whole wheat chocolate chip cookies
(adapted from David Lebovitz)
yields 2 dozen cookies
This is how I do it: I mix the cookies and bake a few for the first night. While the first batch is in the oven, I form the remaining raw dough into cookies, transfer them to a sheet pan and stash them in the freezer for 30 minutes or so. When the cookies are firm, I put them (frozen, but still raw) in a gallon ziplock bag. Why hello, individually frozen, ready-to-bake cookies available for eating at all times! Frozen cookies take a minute or so longer to bake, but the texture doesn't suffer at all. In fact, they bake up thicker, which I prefer.
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (120 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) (115 grams) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch (1cm) pieces
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups (175 grams) white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1 1/2 cups (200 grams) semisweet chocolate chips (I also like Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet for extra chocolate punch)
- Adjust the oven rack to the top 1/3 of the oven and preheat to 300F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
- Cream the sugars and cold butter together until smooth. (If using a stand mixer, I beat on low for at least 2 minutes. If mixing by hand, it's important to beat the butter/sugar thoroughly, so that the butter is softened and plenty of air is incorporated.) In the same bowl, add the egg, vanilla, and baking soda and mix just to incorporate. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour and salt, then mix them into the batter. Mix in the chocolate chips.
- Scoop the cookie dough into 1.5-2 tablespoon (5cm) balls and place 8 balls, spaced 4 inches (10cm) apart, on each of the baking sheets. Sprinkle each cookie with a scant amount of sea salt. (At this point, if the dough has gotten at all warm (which it likely has), I like to stash the entire baking sheet in the freezer for 20 minutes or so. This helps the butter refreeze, which will prevent your cookies from spreading.)
- Bake until pale golden brown. In my oven, this takes 19-20 minutes, but start checking at 16-18 minutes to make sure they don't overcook. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.