Yes, I’m a baker, so it stands to reason that I don’t have too much of a problem cooking with sugar, butter and gluten most of the time. However, if I can bake something delicious and full of energy that just so happens to NOT contain these things, I consider it a win all round!
We bake lots of different recipes at Bee’s Bakery, including gluten-free, vegan or more health-conscious bakes. These oaty cookies are just the sort of baking I like to do when I’m making something for health-conscious friends, or with kids, or even when it’s just me at home. It’s important for me to have a reasonably healthy diet at home, to make up for all the broken biscuits I eat at work!
The recipe is adapted from my first recipe book, Bee’s Brilliant Biscuits, which is out early in 2016 and contains plenty of other vegan and health-conscious recipes, too.
It’s actually easy to substitute refined sugar in your bakes. For instance apple sauce, the base of this recipe, is a core part of vegan or free-from added sugar bakes, as its naturally sweet in taste, and helps to bind ingredients together. Just make sure you choose a brand with no added sugar. Once I got used to working with it, it felt easy and natural to use, and I love the taste.
Alternatively, for a homemade version, cook 2 medium-sized peeled and cubed apples in a pan until they make a nice gooey appley mash with no big lumps. Using apple sauce is one way of binding vegan ingredients together, but there are plenty of others, too. Here is a really useful article from Jamie about vegan substitutions in baking.
The base recipe for these oaty cookies is easy to adapt – I’ve added peanuts and peanut butter to one batch, orange zest and thyme to another; mixed dried fruit including flame raisins and cranberries work well; and chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and goji berries make a great combination. When I’m baking with kids, I find that encouraging them to include ingredients that they both know and love (raisins often fall into this camp) alongside brand new ones, such as seeds and zests, works brilliantly to broaden their horizons and encourage the idea of trying new things in cooking, too.
BEE’S NO-ADDED-SUGAR HEALTHY OAT COOKIES
Makes around 10–12 cookies
- 220g apple sauce (available in jars from most supermarkets – choose one without added sugar – or you can make your own (see above)
- 1 large ripe banana (even better if it’s overripe) mashed until smooth
- 1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- 90g rolled / porridge oats (the cheaper the better, as they’ll be nice and crushed up)
- 45g ground almonds
Plus one of the below combinations as you fancy:
- 2 tbsp crunchy peanut butter plus two large handfuls unsalted peanuts
- 2 large handfuls of dried fruit e.g., raisins, cranberries, dates, prunes
- 4-6 tbsp of any combination of chia, pumpkin, sesame, poppy seeds or pine nuts
- the zest of one orange and the leaves of two sprigs of thyme
Combine the apple sauce, mashed banana, cinnamon, oats and ground almonds in one big bowl – mix really well, until your arms are little bit achy – then leave to rest for at least 10 mins so the oats begin to soak up the moisture and you have a nice gloopy thick mixture.
Preheat your oven to 170°C then add your choice of chopped nuts and dried fruit, into the bowl and mix well.
Spoon equally sized dollops or regularly sized discs of mixture onto a baking tray – go for nice round shaped dollops and squish them down a little bit in the middles. If you like them, sprinkle some seeds on top for a crunchy texture.
Bake at 170°C for 20 – 25 mins until the edges are crispy and the tops go a little golden brown.
Serve straight away, or store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.