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Altered Honey Wheat Cookies
Dorie's recipe, misread and tweaked, feeds me and my love of baking...
Although I have been doing a pretty good job of remaining committed to less sugar in 2012, I find that this directly affects my life because in my heart and soul, I am a baker. Some people flick on the TV after supper, I linger over the dishes and scheme over tomorrow’s baked goods. I didn’t realize just how much of my sweet baking I would do in the waning hours of the evening (and in the just-after-breakfast hours of the morning). A good chunk of my baking life seems to have gone away altogether, the interest of my health seems a small consolation since I adore the assembly of baking just as much as tasting the end result.

I could easily dwell on my now austere life, free of dessert. I could slip easily into the self-pity of a non-baking life. But I haven’t done that at all! I have baked less, but I have reconditioned myself to bake more on-demand, with much less or no refined sugar, and I am tackling some of my old favorites with new-found excitement.
I will confess that even though I agree with most notions that baking is a calculated art, one best accomplished with good measuring and minimal tweaking, I often misread recipes and plunge into “the guts” of a recipe thinking I know what the author intended when really I do not. A week or so ago this happened to me with a familiar recipe of Dorie Greenspan’s, a cookie recipe made with lemon and honey that I’d read a hundred times in her Baking book but never made.

Honey is on my list of wholesome sweeteners, one of the exceptions to my not-so-rigid sugar free lifestyle that I sometimes wrestle to include in sweet recipes. But this recipe was written specifically for honey, and for toasted wheat germ – which I didn’t have – so I bravely substituted wheat bran (and then substituted way too much of it due to my lack of aforementioned recipe reading).
My result was the perfect little tea cookie, an exception to my no-dessert rule that is very much at home on the side of a cup of coffee or tea, and a good candidate for the freezer where I can quickly snitch one when no one is looking. They are soft, lemony and wheaty, just healthy enough to cause me to roll the top of each into some grated chocolate. Just because dessert should feel a little desserty, don’t you think?

I will generally slash the sugar in half in nearly any recipe I’m trying for the first time, which is what I did here. I don’t think I would omit it altogether however, because Dorie has trademarked the rubbing of citrus zest with sugar. Doing this makes beautifully scented sugar, fully worth any sugary repercussions in my opinion.  Remember to mix up the dough two hours (or better yet, overnight) before you'd like to bake.
Altered Honey Wheat Cookies (adapted from Dorie Greenspan)

1 3/4 c. all purpose flour
1 c. wheat bran (I didn't have quite enough, and topped off the cup measure with oat bran)
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/4 c. granulated sugar
lemon zest from one lemon, grated
8 T. (one stick) butter, room temperature
1/2 c. honey
1 egg
grated chocolate for topping, optional (bittersweet or milk chocolate)

Combine flour, wheat germ, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and whisk to combine.  

In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), rub the sugar together with the lemon zest until the sugar is moistened and smells very lemony. Add the butter and mix well on medium speed (hand mixer or stand mixer) for 3 minutes. (I actually set a timer. You want the sugar to begin to dissolve into the butter.) Add the honey, and beat for another 1-2 minutes. Add the egg, and again, beat for 1-2 more minutes. The mixture should be smooth and "fluffy".

Add the flour mixture in two portions, and beat on low speed just to incorporate after each. Refrigerate the dough at least 2 hours and up to two days.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 with a rack in the center of the oven. Roll 1 1/2 inch sized balls (I use a disher for uniform sizes), and press the top of each gently into some grated chocolate. Place 2 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Put a thin coating of flavorless oil on the bottom of a glass, and gently press each cookie to about 1/4 inch thickness. Bake cookies one tray at a time for 10-12 minutes until they are just firm to the touch. Store in an airtight container up to three days at room temp, or two months in the freezer.

Admittedly, these cookies were did not go over big with my kiddo, but once in a while I do like baking just for me. Little rewards and reminders of why I love baking with every inch of my homemaking self: They are the three or four bites that satisfy more than any bagged or boxed imposters, and keep my life gently sweet in all of the best ways.

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