I love to bake. Now that I’m a mom I have more excuses than ever (never mind my child is still a baby and doesn’t care if I feed her cake or vegetables, so we usually go with vegetables). One of my favorite things to bake is chocolate chip cookies from a recipe my mom cut out of The Oregonian a few years ago. She’s converted the recipe to be Fair Trade Chocolate Chip Cookies just by using certified ingredients. They were amazing to begin with and now they are incredible, since they help farmers and their communities.
The three fair trade ingredients she uses are:
Chocolate Chips – Sunspire makes a brand of fair trade chocolate chips available at Whole Foods. They haven’t always been in stock when I’ve looked for them but generally are. Look for the Transfair logo.
Vanilla – Vanilla plants in many parts of the world have to be hand-pollinated, making it by some accounts the most labor-intensive crop on the planet. Vanilla prices skyrocketed in 2000 following environmental disasters in some of the biggest vanilla producing countries. Many companies switched to synthetic vanilla flavoring as a result while, at the same time, farmers around the world planted more vanilla to try to capitalize on the high prices. These forces combined caused prices to drop more than 90% and put the vanilla industry in general in crisis.
I only use real vanilla in my baking and I want the industry to thrive, not be in danger of extinction all together. Fair trade vanilla ensures the farmers receive a livable wage for their efforts. I found Frontier fair trade vanilla at Whole Foods. The vanilla is from India and is grown using sustainable agriculture practices, according to the bottle.
Fair Trade Sugar – Wholesome Sweeteners offers a wide range of fair trade sugars, which I’ve seen at Haggen’s, Whole Foods and New Seasons in my area. The U.S. grows 80% of our sugar domestically and imports the rest. Sugar is a polluting crop in the U.S. and is highly subsidized by the government, meaning it’s really not economical to grow it domestically but our government uses tax money to pay farmers to grow it to make it worth their while. The sugar we do import is grown by impoverished farmers in the developing world, according to Transfair, who have a hard time competing because of our subsidies and tariffs. Fair trade sugar ensures the farmers receive fair wages plus that they follow strict environmental standards. Fair trade sugar is significantly more expensive than conventional, sometimes three times as expensive or more, in large part because of our subsidies. I still buy U.S. grown white sugar and have been buying fair trade brown sugar, since the price difference isn’t quite as great as it is with white.
Here’s how to use these fair trade ingredients for a scrumptious batch of fresh cookies:
Fair Trade Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup whole-barley flour (available where Bob’s Red Mills flours are sold)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup fair trade brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp. instant espresso powder
2 tsp. fair trade vanilla
1 Tbs. cider vinegar
2 cups fair trade chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flours with the salt, baking soda and baking powder. Cream butter with sugar and espresso powder until smooth and somewhat lightened. Add vanilla, vinegar and egg; then mix in dry ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips by hand. Drop spoonfuls of batter on baking sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes, until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes before transferring to rack to cool completely.
Did you try these cookies at the trunk show Saturday? They ran out fast but if you were lucky enough to get one, what did you think?
Coming tomorrow: Day four in two weeks of product reviews for Fair Trade Fortnight. Tomorrow’s product is a book that will help you shop better, no matter what you’re in the market for.