Keeping the Joy in Whole-Grain Holiday Baking

November 22, 2014 Updated: March 12, 2018

When I was five, my mom invited a bunch of my kindergarten girlfriends and their moms over for cookies, cocoa, and caroling to celebrate the holidays. That tradition turned into an annual holiday ritual, and I grew up equating the holiday season with massive amounts of baking, particularly cookies.

The holiday party tradition has carried on today, decades later. My four daughters and I kick off the season by hosting a mother-daughter tea every year. This is a perfect time to explore one of my favourite healthy baking secret weapons—white whole-wheat flour.

Despite how it sounds, the term “white whole-wheat” is not referring to bleached wheat flour. Rather, white whole-wheat flour is milled from a variety of wheat that has a lighter colour and less pronounced flavour than the more conventional variety used for whole wheat. The result is a whole-grain flour that works great for baking since the texture (soft) and colour (white) are closer to the all-purpose flour we associate with holiday baking.

Try white whole-wheat flour in my chocolate almond crescent cookies and you’ll have the added bonus of some healthy, filling fats (almonds and coconut oil), along with a relatively low sugar content. And then try swapping white whole-wheat flour for part or all of the all-purpose flour in some your own favourite recipes.

Chocolate Almond Crescent Cookies

Makes 16 cookies

• 113 g (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 113 g (4 oz) light cream cheese (Neufchatel), softened
• 2 ml (1/2 tsp) vanilla extract
• 1 ml (1/4 tsp) salt
• 250 ml (1 cup) white whole-wheat flour
• 1/4 cup almond butter
• 10 ml (2 tsp) coconut oil
• 10 ml (2 tsp) unsweetened natural cocoa
• 15 ml (1 tblsp) maple syrup
• Confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 190º C (375º F). Line a baking sheet with kitchen parchment.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to blend together the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla until smooth. Add the salt and half the flour. Mix on low until well-blended. Add the remaining flour, switching to mixing by hand if too thick. If the dough is too sticky, add another teaspoon of flour.

Transfer the dough to a work surface and shape into a disk. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 15 to 30 minutes while you prepare the filling.

In a small bowl, whisk together the almond butter, coconut oil, cocoa, and maple syrup until smooth. If needed, microwave the mixture for 10 seconds to soften.

Once the filling and dough are both ready, on a lightly floured surface roll the dough out to about .3 mm (1/8-inch) thickness. Use an 8 cm (3-inch) biscuit or cookie cutter to cut rounds from the dough, gathering the scraps and rerolling as able. Place 5 ml (1 tsp) of the almond filling in the centre of each round of dough.

Dip your finger in a small cup of water and gently wet the edges of the dough, then fold one side over the filling and crimp the edges together. Arrange the cookies on the prepared baking sheet, then bake until barely golden, 12 to 13 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool completely. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the upcoming cookbook, “Supermarket Healthy.”

From The Associated Press