Loaded Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies, plus a lot of ingredients that supposedly promote lactation in women who have just given birth, but anyone can eat them because really who is going to resist chocolate chip cookies?

Once you dip a toe into the mommy internet, it’s not long before that becomes a deep dive. I spend a bit of time most days skimming Pinterest, my pregnancy app (Ovia), aggregate parenting advice blogs (twiniversity and what to expect), and healthcare organizations (American College of Gynecology and Obstetrics, the Mayo Clinic, and whatever clinical studies show up in pubmed when I google a given question). I like this combination of things because it exposes me to a wide range of advice from people of various levels of experience and authority, which allows me to balance industry medical standards with community wisdom and creative ideas. I also check anything I actually plan on following through on with my doctor, so nothing is too far out there. I find that even for the most out-there sounding ideas, there’s about 20 different sources repeating it. And one thing I’ve seen again and again since I first became pregnant is lactation cookies.

There’s this anxiety among new moms that our bodies will fail us and we won’t produce enough milk to feed our babies. This anxiety is heightened for moms of multiples (unhelpfully abbreviated to MOMs), because we have more babies but still just one body. When I took a breastfeeding class (which I would definitely recommend doing), and then again when I took a birthing class led by a labor and delivery nurse who is also a lactation consultant, and then again when I talked to a full-time lactation consultant, I found out that this anxiety is largely unfounded. Except in extremely rare cases, women who have just given birth produce enough milk to feed their children because supply matches demand – so the more often you have milk expressed, the more the body knows to produce. According to these experts, problems with supply are typically caused by a poor latch – babies not connecting fully and not drawing out as much milk as they are sucking.

So why am I wasting any effort making lactation cookies? Because even with that constant asking, I can still give my body some help by encouraging it along. It seems like there is some evidence to suggest that there are a few “health food” ingredients that promote lactation, but as with any herbal, holistic, or “traditional” medicine there are few clinical trials that actually support those claims because such trials are typically funded by manufacturers (i.e. pharmaceutical companies) and most makers of these ingredients aren’t big enough to fund those trials. The main ingredient that shows up in lactation cookies is brewer’s yeast – doctors will occasionally recommend that nursing women drink a yeasty beer like Guinness for the same reason. They also include some combination of more common foods like oats, flax seeds, and walnuts. You can buy cookies and granola bars with these ingredients in them but it’s way cheaper to make them yourself. Honestly, one of the biggest selling points for me is that lactating (nursing or pumping) takes a tremendous number of extra calories and I already have a hard time eating enough, so having a mildly healthy cookie (yes, an oxymoron) to snack on sounds pretty helpful.

Whenever I want to develop a recipe, I usually google around to find a few different versions of it. Especially for baked goods, most recipes will end up nearly identical – this isn’t a coincidence, because either there’s one way to make it that everyone seems to like or the recipe itself originally comes from the back of a package that’s available nationally and that’s how most families have learned to make it. As I suspected, most lactation cookies are what I do when I want to doctor up a variation on standard chocolate chip cookies – they start with the Tollhouse recipe and add in the key ingredients without changing the base recipe very much if at all. My recipe is a riff on my preferred variation on chocolate chip cookies – cranberry oatmeal – with the addition of brewer’s yeast, ground flaxseed, and chopped walnuts. I changed the proportion of the flour so that the oats would absorb the butter and eggs and end up really tender, but the wet ingredients are basically unchanged. I also use less chocolate than the standard recipe because as much as I love chocolate, I like a balance between the flavor of the cookie itself, the tangy cranberries, and the chocolate. I also had some concerns about the flavor of the brewer’s yeast – I tried both the brewer’s yeast, which comes in a very concentrated powder, and the flax seed meal on their own before adding them into the recipe. Flax meal is almost tasteless, but brewer’s yeast is really strong – funky, bitter, tangy in a way, nutty, and salty. I wanted to add enough to the recipe that it would actually do something, but not so much that the flavor overpowered the rest of the cookie. Some recipes I read called for only 2 tbsp. brewer’s yeast, which I thought was basically irrelevantly small. The most I saw was 5 tbsp. I settled on 4 tbsp (1/4 cup) because I thought that would be enough to have an effect without bringing too much funky flavor – for reference, the package, which recommends the stuff as a dietary supplement dissolved in water, says one serving is 2 tsp, so I’m still not sure the brewer’s yeast on its own is enough to promote lactation. This mix was a success! The cookies do taste a little different than regular Tollhouse cookies, but not in a bad way – they have a slightly nutty yeasty tang to them, which makes them taste a bit more substantial. They don’t bake up as fluffy as without the extra ingredients, but I think that’s because of the flax meal, which can be used as an egg substitute and so may have weighed down the dough a bit. But the combination of flavors is great, and these cookies have a nice chew. And they are husband-approved, and he normally describes my cookies as “too healthy”. Finally, I wanted to make these cookies last, so I formed the dough into logs, used the favored fridge-aging method, letting the dough sit in the fridge at least 8 hours before baking so the dry ingredients absorbed the wet and developed the flavors a bit, and then sliced the logs, baking 12 of them right away (most destined for the freezer for instant gratification), and freezing the rest to bake individually or in small batches later on.


Loaded Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookies

Makes about 4 1/2 dozen cookies.

In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients:

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1 3/4 cups flour

1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats

3 tbsp flaxseed meal

1/4 cup brewer’s yeast

1 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 cup dried cranberries

3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

 

In a separate bowl, cream together the wet ingredients using an electric mixer or stand mixer. Starting with:

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted softened butter

3/4 cup white sugar

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

Once the butter and sugar are soft, fluffy, and smooth, add 2 eggs, one at a time.

Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet, in about 3 batches, fully hydrating the dry ingredients before adding the next batch.

 

Split the dough into 2 batches and set them in plastic wrap or parchment paper, massaging the dough out through the paper to create logs about 1 1/2″ in diameter. Let sit in the fridge at least 8 hours before baking or transferring to the freezer. When baking, slice into 1/2″ rounds.

Bake at 375* for 9-11 minutes, and move to a wire rack to cool.

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