Cream cheese cuts some fat in ‘ultimate’ cookie

A beloved cookie reinvented as custard pie recently appealed to readers of this blog.

Admittedly, the concept is a bit nebulous for kids, who expect cookies to come in familiar, portable, hand-held packages. Custard remains a challenging texture for my almost-3-year-old son. And he hasn’t come around to the merits of pie, period.

So cookies seemed the best course for a belated Valentine’s Day celebration for four kids younger than 3. But it couldn’t be just any cookie. This recipe’s inclusion of cream cheese was guaranteed to impress my son, who loves it spread on toast.

Swapping cream cheese for some of the fat in a typical cookie recipe is one strategy billed as heart-healthy. The other is trans fat-free margarine. But I stuck with butter. I did find that my substitution required extending the baking time by one or two minutes to produce a nicely browned cookie.

The quantity of sugar here yields a very sweet treat, but I didn’t reduce it for fear of compromising the cookies’ structure. My concession: cut the vanilla to 1 teaspoon and substitute another teaspoon of almond extract, which I favor in desserts, particularly those with nuts. Pecans, which I already had in my freezer, stood in for the walnuts. And I went with regular dark-chocolate chips instead of miniatures.

Tribune News Service photo

The Ultimate Heart Smart Chocolate-Chip Cookies

Nonstick spray, as needed (optional)

1/4 cup trans fat-free margarine

1/4 cup (2 ounces) reduced-fat cream cheese

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

13/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup miniature chocolate chips

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or coat with cooking spray; set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat together the margarine, cream cheese, brown sugar, granulated sugar, egg and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt; stir into sugar mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.

Drop by rounded tablespoonsful onto prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes, or until edges begin to brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 24 cookies.

Created by Kelli Gibbs, dietetic intern for Heart Smart, and tested by the Detroit Free Press Test Kitchen.

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