Shelly Butcher, Well Fed on the Town and An Open Cupboard – Vegan baked goods are an odd lot. Without butter and eggs, they are like photocopies of a photocopy of a photo–pale imitations of the original. I do enjoy trying my hand at vegan baked goods, and have managed a pretty decent cornbread. But I’ve wondered about those vegan goodies one sees in Bay Area markets. Are they tasty? Do they come close to their butter- and egg-laden cousins? Out of curiosity, I bought a sampling of locally produced vegan cookies and taste tested them all. Cookies are rated on a scale of one to five chips.
Vital Sweets: Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie
Flavor: Mellow sweetness perked up by chocolate chips. Needs salt to enhance flavor.
Texture: Pleasantly chewy on the inside, with crisp edges, but a bit dry.
Mouthfeel: These cookies have a somewhat buttery mouthfeel, but a distinct tofu aftertaste reminds you that they’re vegan.
Overall: This is a whole grain cookie that doesn’t look or taste like a “whole grain cookie.” The tofu aftertaste, however, interferes with the cookie’s mild sweetness. Could use more walnuts, a dash of salt, and a little less baking soda.
Rating: 3 chips.
Vital Sweets: Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookie
Flavor: Sweeter than its non-coconut counterpart, and without the pronounced tofu flavor. Still tastes a bit too much of baking soda.
Texture: Dry, crumbly, chewy–and not in a good way.
Mouthfeel: Feels a bit stale, unpleasantly airy and far too chewy.
Overall: If Vital Sweets removed the coconut, scaled down the baking soda, added salt and a little more liquid, these cookies might be more fun to eat.
Rating: 1 chip.
Grindstone Bakery: Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookie
Flavor: Sweet with a good amount of salt to round out the flavor. Baking soda, while present, does not dominate.
Texture: Pleasantly chewy, although the shredded coconut is a bit annoying. I found myself chewing bits of coconut after I’d finished chewing the rest of the cookie.
Mouthfeel: The main flour here is barley, which lends a soft, melting quality to the crumb. At times, it’s a bit too much, as the barley flour stickiness lingers on the tongue.
Overall: Fun to eat, if a bit sweet. This is a very substantial cookie that could easily replace a meal. The cookies are baked in a wood-fired brick bread oven, lending them a rustic density. These would go well with a glass of hot tea.
Rating: 3.5 chips.
The Vegan No Cookie Cookie: Chocolate Chip Cookie
Flavor: Very sweet, could use a little salt for balance. This cookie cries out to be eaten with a glass of milk (or almond milk). No baking soda aftertaste. The dark chocolate chips contrast nicely with the sweetness of the cookie.
Texture: Soft and chewy.
Mouthfeel: Melting and smooth. Barley flour is the main ingredient here, and it works well.
Overall: A good chewy cookie that goes well with milk. Could use less sweetener and more salt. Making a smaller cookie might help mitigate the sometimes overwhelming sweetness.
Rating: 4 chips.