Cookies for Uncle Mark

I’d like to talk to you for a moment about my brother-in-law, keeping my fingers crossed that he won’t mind too much that I’m doing so. The recipes I’m about to present won’t really make much sense without hearing just a little of his story.

Uncle Mark, as he is known by my children, has been seriously ill over the course of the last two years. A grueling combination of surgery, intensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy, whilst largely achieving its goals, has unfortunately also had some unwanted consequences. Considering Uncle Mark’s passion for cheese and chocolate, it seems to be especially cruel that he is now no longer able to digest fats.

Low-fat and fat-free cooking throws up its own challenges, none felt more keenly than in the area of baking. At Christmas last year, I made a fatless chocolate/raspberry cake that Uncle Mark (perhaps politely?) complimented by carrying home the left-overs. It may have been the brandy syrup with which I laced the cake … but Aunty Lucy emailed me to ask for the recipe.

Following this apparent success, I wondered whether he might also like a couple of low-fat cookie recipes and decided to do a spot of online research to discover the principles of fatless baking. I stumbled upon a goldmine of information on fruitful fat substitutes by Sandra Woodruff, excerpted from her book, The Best-Kept Secrets of Healthy Cooking. Rather than reproduce her insights here, I’ll leave you to find out which conversions give the best results, how to calculate the amount of fruit to use, how to avoid toughness when eliminating fats, how long to bake your fat-free goodies for and at what temperature by clicking on the links above.

And when you’ve done that, please do return here for some As-Fat-Free-as-Possible Banoffee Cookies and Melt-in-the-Mouth Gingerbread.

To Uncle Mark, with love.

Errr … yes, that photo does have chocolate chips in it, and no, they’re not fat-free. Sorry. It’s just that I wanted to test out the cookies on my children before offering the recipes to Uncle Mark, and T helped with the baking … I’m sure you get the picture. You could pretend that they’re brandy-soaked raisins, if that helps …

Banoffee Cookies

3 1/2 oz mashed banana
5 1/2 oz granulated sugar
6 1/2 oz light muscovado sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 egg whites (3 1/2 oz without shells)
2 oz porridge oats, blitzed to a flour in a food processor
8 oz plain flour
4 oz rice flour
1 tsp baking soda/bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
7 oz raisins, soaked for 10 mins in a little hot water or brandy, then strained

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Beat together the banana and sugars in a large mixing bowl.

Add the vanilla and egg whites gradually, beating to incorporate.

Stir in the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Add the drained raisins and stir to incorporate evenly.

Drop generous tablespoons of the dough onto parchment-lined baking trays (allow room for spreading). The dough is very sticky, so the parchment lining really helps here when removing the cookies after baking.

Bake for 8-9 minutes (8 minutes gives toffee pools, whilst 9 mins gives a drier cookie).

Remove with a spatula and allow to cool on wire racks.

Makes c. 23 cookies.

Gingerbread Cookies

1 oz pitted dates, finely chopped
2 1/2 oz sweet potato purée
5 oz castor sugar
7 oz dark muscovado sugar
1 tsp whisky
2 eggs (3 1/2 oz without shells)
2 1/4 oz porridge oats, blitzed to a flour in a food processor
9 oz plain flour
4 oz rice flour
1 tsp baking soda/bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Beat together the dates, sweet potato and sugars in a large mixing bowl.

Add the whisky and eggs gradually, beating to incorporate.

Stir in the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Roll generous tablespoons of the dough into balls. Place on an ungreased baking tray and squash to a 3/4  inch thickness with a spatula, the heel of your hand or the back of a fork.

Bake for 8 minutes.

Remove with a spatula and allow to cool on wire racks.

Makes c. 23 cookies.

Leave a comment


  1. Lucy

     /  January 31, 2011

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I was just thinking at lunch-time how you hadn’t yet posted this month. I can’t wait to try them out and research the link to Sandra Woodruff’s ideas.
    Lotsofluvnhugs, Lucy (aka Aunty Lucy) xxoo

  2. Uncle Mark

     /  January 31, 2011

    These look marvellous – thank you so much for thinking of my plight!

    • Fingers crossed you like them, Mark. A friend has promised a recipe for a delicious fat-free teacake/loaf, if you’re interested too …

  3. Lucy

     /  February 1, 2011

    Me again. Not had a chance to try out the recipe (too busy writing reports and making venison casserole for dinner tonight) but I did post a link to your blog on Facebook and 9 of my ‘friends’ liked the link…you’re more popular than me, that’s for sure! xx

    • Hehehe – well, thank you! I’m not sure popularity can be gauged by clicks though, so you’re probably safe! It’s the people who ‘click-through’ who tend to hang around 😉

  4. Dad

     /  February 2, 2011

    I hope venison casserole goes well with both banoffee cookies and gingerbread cookies.

  5. Wow… I’ll try them out straight away. Thanks

  6. Lucy

     /  February 21, 2011

    Banoffee cookies now tried and tested by Mark, me and a couple of friends who we visited for tea and cake yesterday. I got a text from one of them saying she had enjoyed one today as well as a ‘guilt-free snack’. They are lovely! I think with my oven I ought to leave them in for a bit longer than the 9 minutes. I used sultanas and castor sugar as we didn’t have any raisins or granulated sugar but I’m not sure it made too much difference. I cunningly used up the egg yolks in a cabonara-type pasta sauce. Thank you again and I’ll let you know how the other recipe fairs when I try that one out. xx

    • Phew – the ultimate test! I’m glad you liked them! Did I tell you that the girls prefer the banoffee cookies while I prefer the gingerbread ones, especially when they’re still warm? It’s best to eat as many as possible as soon as you can though, because they’ll dry out more quickly than cookies that use butter (now there’s a good excuse if ever there was one!)

  7. Weight Watchers taught us to use pumpkin in place of oil for any cake. If it’s hard to come by in the UK, I suppose well drained baked pumpkin would work. Butteryum posted this:

    • Thanks for the link, Vicki. I’ve always preferred sweet potato to pumpkin, which is perhaps lucky since I haven’t seen the canned pumpkin purée in many places yet. I used sweet potato purée when I made Rose’s Great Pumpkin Cake, and it worked well (it’s possibly less watery than making your own pumpkin purée … not sure as I haven’t tried it!).

  8. Lucy

     /  April 12, 2011

    OK, dumb questions coming up…sweet potato puree…cooked? If so, how and for how long? If not, how to puree it?! Did warn you. x

    • Just like mashed potato – peel it, cube it, boil it in water, drain it, mash it. That’s what I did, anyway! From what I remember, one sweet potato gave about twice the amount of puree needed for the recipe (I might be wrong about that, but I seem to remember making a second batch of cookies fairly hot on the heels of the first). Whatever, it’s 2 1/2 oz of the mashed sweet potato, not 2 1/2 oz of the raw sweet potato that you need.

  9. Natalia

     /  April 7, 2016

    I LOOOVEEE your blog! Thank you for your originality! Your recipes are wonderful!

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