Posted by on Nov 17, 2011 in Oatmeal, Vegan, Whole grain | 8 comments

Laughing Planet Café
Portland – various locations (plus Eugene and Corvallis)
$2.50

Are you still here?  Because if it were me reading this post, I would have scoffed at “hemp seed”, my nose would have scrunched at “hazelnut”, and you would’ve lost me completely at “carob.”

And, as if it needed one more strike against it?  It’s vegan!

There is NO reason that this should be a good cookie.

But it is. It totally IS! I’m still trying to figure out why –  and how – this is one of the best cookies I have eaten in months.

I was born and raised in Oregon, the state responsible for virtually 100% of U.S. hazelnut output. So it follows that I would love and cherish hazelnuts. But…I just don’t. Especially when paired with chocolate. Hazelnuts ruin chocolate. (Don’t get me started on Nutella. Nutella pisses me off, for reasons that transcend its inclusion of hazelnuts.) I mean, I don’t HATE hazelnuts altogether; they are nice when toasted and tossed into a salad or some other savory (as opposed to sweet) dish. But the fact remains that almonds and pecans are the superior nuts. I’m sorry, it’s just how I feel.

How can I explain this cookie? I never would have bothered to look twice at it if it were not for my friend Greg, who stepped into Laughing Planet while we were walking together on Mississippi  Avenue a few weeks ago. He told me it was a great cookie. He said that our friend Peter introduced him to it and now he was an avid fan. I was, naturally, dubious. But Greg broke off a chunk for me and…wow. It was oaty, of course, and the hemp seeds provided a light crunchiness without being too seedy – like in a sunflower seed way. (For the record, sunflower seeds have no business in cookies.)  And it was laced with what I thought were chocolate flakes, melting and blending with the other ingredients in a perfectly complimentary way- not dominating the cookie the way bigger and chunkier chocolate pieces do.

Note: this is one of the few cookies I’ve eaten (not baked by me) to which I did not need to add  salt. It is perfectly salted – and I love that it is not trendily marketed as a “salted” cookie; it is simply salted adequately, the way any good cookie should be. (Two Tarts Bakery and your “chocolate chip cookie with sea salt”: take note.)

It wasn’t until I stopped by Laughing Planet to buy one for myself yesterday that I realized that these “chocolate flakes” are (gasp) carob. CAROB! What? I was (still am)  scandalized. Having suffered more than a few shitty hippie cookies during my Eugene childhood – in which chalky carob chips were surreptitiously pinch hitting for the real thing – carob has long been on my list of confectionery deal-breakers. I don’t know if there have been profound developments in carob production since the last time I had a piece of that crap in my mouth (roughly 25 years ago), but trust me, the carob WORKS here.

The fact that I have stunned even myself by having just condoned carob should inspire confidence in the carob haters, for I am (was?) one of you. (Does anyone know why carob is supposedly more healthy than chocolate? I still don’t have the answer to this. I will go ahead and blame it on misguided and misinformed “health food” nutritional wisdom, circa 1977.)

Bottom line: Hemp Seed Hazelnut Oatmeal is a big fat oat-based cookie accented by dark non caroby-tasting carob flakes, lightly crunchy hemp seeds, toasted, chopped hazelnuts, and salt. There is an earthy, savory quality to this cookie – I’m guessing from the hemp seeds – and I imagine that even a person who “doesn’t like sweets” (i.e., no friend of mine) would quite enjoy it.