16 June 2013

Chewy Lemon & Dark Chocolate Oat Bites

I love oats.  Oats, oats, oats.  Down to my belly for breakfast, dinner or dessert.  My favorite varieties are without a doubt old fashioned and steel-cut.  I really prefer their hearty texture for breakfast in Honey Baked Oatmeal or Banana Oat Pancakes as opposed to the smoother, creamier consistency of instant oats.  However, there are certain recipes were the texture of quick-cooking is absolutely essential.  And these Chewy Lemon Chocolate Oat Bites are the without a doubt one of those recipes.

Growing up, my mormor often made chewy oatmeal cookies with brown sugar, whipped egg whites and instant oats.  The cookies were fabulously chewy and adorably tiny...basically, the perfect popable pastry.  Made completely from oats with no added flour or leavening agents, her cookies were hearty and incredibly satisfying.  Plus they were tiny, meaning we could eat twice as many without any extra guilt (grandmother's are so smart).  To a six year-old girl, a third plate of cookies on her Peter Rabbit tea set is obviously the Best Tea Party Ever.

My mother swears that my cooking abilities skipped directly from her mother to myself.  I beg to differ as my mom is also a fabulous cook.  But my mormor and I both have a definitive flaire for experimenting in the kitchen.  She was always winning local cooking contests by following her foodie instinct rather than a recipe to the letter.  So I like to think of this cookie as an homage to her original recipe with a little lemon twist.

Now let's get down to business and discuss these cookies!  It all starts with the lemon twist.  I love the clean citrus flavor of lemon zest in baked goods, particularly when its brightness is paired with hearty oats.  And while mormor's original recipe called for brown sugar, I really prefer white sugar with the lemon to keep the bright and clean flavor on the forefront.

I may or may not have a unhealthy lingering obsession with coconut oil at present.  I sneak this delicious, heart-healthy oil into just about everything at the moment, and this cookie recipe is one of my favorite things to use it in.  Since the oil has a wonderful subtle sweetness of its own, you don't have to add as much sugar to achieve the perfect balance of citrus and sweet.

I use to make wee little oat bites with just lemon, but to satisfy the hubs I began adding chopped dark chocolate as well.  The result is insanely delicious.  The cookies are riddled with little bits of lemon zest and chocolate, ensuring that every bite is packed with plenty of flavor.  It's the perfect little cookie to bridge the choco-citrus dessert gap.

Chewy Lemon Chocolate Oat Bites (about 60 teeny-weeny cookies)

  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3/4 c white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c coconut oil (or 1/2 c vegetable oil + 1/4 c sugar)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 c instant oats
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/3 c dark chocolate, chopped
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the lemon zest and white sugar in a large mixing bowl.  Work the zest into the sugar with your hands for a few minutes until the sugar is fragrant.  Add the salt, coconut oil and lemon juice, stirring together with a rubber spatula until well combined.  Stir in the oats until smooth, then set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites with a hand mixer until white and frothy, about 45 seconds to a minute.  Gently add the whites to the oat mixture and stir together with the spatula to combine.  Add the chopped chocolate and stir until evenly distributed throughout the batter.  With a measuring teaspoon, scoop the batter ont the prepared baking sheets about an inch apart.  Bake for 8-9 minutes until the cookies are just starting to brown around the edges.  Remove and let cool for a minute before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container for a week.

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