Earlier this year I had the pleasure of seeing one of my favorite chefs speak on a panel about the origins of food culture. Among the more expected topics–family traditions, weather, class, geography–he suggested something rather unexpected. What if some food culture was born simply out of boredom? What if our experiences in our kitchens reflect an innate human desire to tinker, to constantly innovate on a tried and true dish simply for the surprise and delight of it of it all? Yes there is satisfaction in the ruminative act of making a recipe precisely to yield a consistent end result; yet the magic often happens in those unexpected moments when we decide to veer off course, when we swap out a different type of flour, or toss in a little extra this or that simply because our human selves can't help it. These cookies were born out of this notion (and busy fingers that can't ever seem to stop tinkering). Based on a classic oatmeal chocolate chip cookie recipe, one of the first things I ever learned to bake, they have evolved quite outrageously over the years. There was the almond extract phase of 1996–1998, the "chill for 24 hours" phase in the early aughts, and the strange and starchy honey-coconut phase in more recent years. And now there are these: sweet, salty little bundles of cookie goodness, with an unexpected depth from toasted pecans and flavorful flour, and a crazy crunch from the addition of espresso beans, offset by the smoothness of milk chocolate. And in this moment, they are perfect.
• 2 cups gluten-free rolled oats
• 1/2 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour blend (like this)
• 1/4 cup gluten-free buckwheat flour
• 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
• 1 tsp. baking soda
• 1/2 tsp. baking powder
• 1 scant tsp. sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
• 1 3/4 cups pecan pieces, toasted lightly if possible
• 1/2 cup dark maple syrup
• 2 tbsp. full fat coconut milk (or other nut milk of choice)
• 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
• 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
• 1/2 cup dark chocolate covered espresso beans
• 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
• 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 350° F, and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup of the oats, the flours, coconut sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until smooth. Set aside.
In the bowl of a large food processor, pulse the toasted pecans until a fine meal forms, being careful not to over-process and turn it into nut butter. It should be the texture of dry sandbox sand. Add the bowl of dry ingredients (reserving the bowl to use later), and pulse 2-3 more times, just until mixture is evenly incorporated. Add the maple syrup, coconut milk, coconut oil, and vanilla extract, and continue to pulse until the mixture comes together to form a stick dough.
Using a large spatula, scrap this dough back into the reserved mixing bowl. Fold in the remaining 1 cup gluten-free oats, and all of the chocolate with your spatula or a large wooden spoon.
With wet hands to prevent sticking, roll the dough into large (1.5" diameter) balls and place on prepared cookie sheet, spacing them about 1-2 inches apart. Flatten slightly with the palm of your hand, and sprinkle each dough ball with a pinch of sea salt.
Bake cookies in batches for 9-12 minutes, or just until they've puffed and become golden brown around the edges. Allow to cool slightly before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. Sneak a bite of the melted goodness when they are still warm and store the leftovers at room temperature for 3-5 days. Makes about 26 cookies.