More so than most holiday desserts, cookies are the perfect portion-controlled treat that — when enjoyed in moderation — can be a better option than a big wedge of pie or cake.
But in case you plan on eating more than one, there are some strategies for baking a healthier holiday cookie.
For starters, you can add fiber and nutrients by replacing some or all of the white flour with whole wheat. In most cases, up to half of the all-purpose flour can be replaced with whole wheat without significant changes to flavor and texture.
If you do replace all of the white flour with whole wheat, you may need to adjust the liquids, too. Whole wheat flour absorbs more liquid than white, though this shouldn't be a problem with 50-50 ratios. Also, consider trying different varieties of whole wheat flours, some of which work better for sweet baked goods better than others.
For 100 percent whole wheat cakes, cookies, quick breads or muffins, you might try whole wheat pastry flour, which is made from soft wheat. This flour (look for it in the natural foods section at your market) is low in gluten, the protein that gives dough elasticity.
You might also consider white whole wheat flour, which has all the nutrition of standard whole wheat flour, but with a lighter color and milder flavor.
White whole wheat flour is milled from a hard white winter wheat berry, rather than the hard red spring wheat berry of traditional whole wheat flours, and is especially good for blending with all-purpose flour.
Of course, the add-ins can also be a cookie's nutritional downfall. So rather than mixing in chocolate chips or other bits of candy, you might want to add healthier ingredients, such as nuts or dried fruits.
This recipe for pecan-cinnamon wafers is an award-winning entry from EatingWell magazine's annual holiday cookie contest, published in the November/December 2010 issue. These classic, crispy cookies are made with 100 percent whole wheat pastry flour and are laced with healthy, monounsaturated fat-rich pecans.