Sunday, January 13, 2013

Chewy Crispy Yummy Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

It is within discussion of chocolate chip cookies that we find our kindred spirits.  The crunchy versus soft debate, chewy versus cakey, chunks versus chips, white chocolate, dark, sea salt, walnuts, thin, thick, yadda yadda yadda.

I like them all.  Does that mean I'm a universal kindred spirit?  Or maybe just that one area of my life that is blissfully free from judgment is the wonderful world of cookies.

We went to an open house last night at our sweet friends' house just up the street.  It was one of those parties where more and more wonderful people I know from completely unrelated arenas of my life kept walking through the door, creating some kind of magical voodoo spell that drilled in--as if I could forget--what an incredible community we have here in Reno.

And there were chocolate chip cookies.

They were homemade and so, so good.

They reminded me that, due to crazy fall semester schedules, feeling quite under the weather, and then devoting all of December to Christmas cookies (spritz, Russian tea cakes, almond peppermint candy canes, chocolate dipped hazelnut crescents, almond roca cookie bars, and some others I seem to have filed in the "don't need to remember these until next December" brain space), it's been awhile since my kitchen has been home to this classic, universally loved variety.

Here's a secret about my baking: I'm a little over-confident in my skills and the willingness of my ingredients to turn into exactly what I want them to.  In other words, I'm a little slap dash with it all.  I know they'll tell you that "baking is a science, you know" and "you must follow the recipe exactly."  But I don't particularly care.  I think intuition and a willingness to love even the imperfect or not-quite-as-I-expected-but-lovely-all-the-same attitude will take you a long way in the kitchen.

This becomes especially true in the world of gluten free baking.

We're not 100% gluten free (see: drinking 3 Sierra Nevada Pale Ales last night), but both of us have a tinge of an intolerance which I won't go into right in the middle of waxing on about cookies.  Let's just leave it at this: we eat mostly gluten free at home and most of my baking has followed suit.

If you're interested in gluten free and you haven't heard of Gluten Free Girl and the Chef, get your booty over there.  This couple is a powerhouse in the world of good food and will make you feel so good, so optimistic about being gluten free that you will want to toss those rice cakes in the trash, run to the kitchen and spend several hours making a feast of delicious food, forgetting all the while that it has any special "restriction" attached.

Gluten Free Girl introduced me to the concept of baking by weight.  It's a game changer.  Rather than go into it here, if you're interested, read this.  It explains everything.  Since I started baking by weight, I've had about  a 99% success rate subbing gluten free flours and starches into my old tried and true recipes, and I imagine that extra 1% is attributable more to my "eh, it'll work out" mentality.  The thing with baking by weight is that it lets you use your recipes.  You know, the ones in your grandmother's handwriting?  The ones you tore out of Cooks Illustrated years ago that have never done you wrong?  Those of us who like to cook and bake generally take some pride in having tried and true recipes that almost become part of our being.  You shouldn't have to start all over with that just because you're not doing the wheat thing so much (or at all) anymore.  Just sub in 140 g of homemade gluten free flour mix per cup of flour called for in the recipe and you're good to go.

On to the cookies.  But first, a few notes.

  • Last I checked, the Aherns were recommending a gluten free flour mix of 40% whole grain flours and 60% starch.  I've been doing a 50/50 blend for quite some time and it works for me.  We were avoiding corn there for awhile, so I've gotten into the habit of using all potato starch for my starch, but I've had equal success using cornstarch or arrowroot.  Of the three, I think I prefer corn, but the difference isn't terribly noticeable.  For the whole grains, I've been using a blend of millet flour, sweet white sorghum and oat flour, but mostly because these tend to be the least expensive flours.  This shifts depending on what I have on hand.  I just dump in the whole grains flours more or less equally without much attention to specific quantities of each.  I make up a big batch of this mix and keep it on hand at all times to use wherever flour is called for.
  • I've noticed in recipes that the 140 g per cup thing doesn't quiiiiiite work for me.  I usually need a tiny bit more flour, especially when I'm baking something free form (i.e. banana bread does fine with the 140, cookies need a little more structure).  I usually start with the 140 and then add 20-50 grams more until the texture looks right.  Sometimes if I'm unsure, I'll bake off a couple of cookies to see if they spread too much and add flour as needed.
  • I use coconut flour here because it's delicious (according to some, it make everything taste like Twinkies.  Since Twinkies don't exist anymore unless you're a greedy hoarder, I suppose we can start saying "this tastes like Twinkies!" about everything and confuse the sh*t out of kiddos who will never know what the heck a Twinkie tastes like).  Coconut flour absorbs an incredible amount of liquid, so I tend to add it as my "thicken this up a bit" flour at the end, and always use less than I think the dough can take because the amount of liquid it soaks up surprises me every time.
  • I've found that gluten free cookie doughs do well to sit around for just a bit to let everything absorb.  This helps get rid of some of that grittiness and also helps the dough (and cookies) hold together.
  • I use more vanilla in gluten free doughs than I do in wheat doughs, since the gluten free is missing the flavor of wheat.  I never thought of wheat as having much flavor, but it does.
  • Please keep in mind that I live in the desert, so my ingredients (particularly my grains and starches) are extra dry.  If you live somewhere humid (aka somewhere where the winter dryness doesn't make you want to claw your face off and shove tubes of salve up your nasal cavity from December through March), you may need to add a bit more flour to get the right consistency.  Play with it.
  • I added a bit of oatmeal for extra texture.  If you're not down with the oatmeal, a bit extra coconut flour can use substituted.  I'd start with 20 grams and go from there.
  • Lately I haven't been keeping brown sugar around, hence the white sugar + molasses.  If you' have a better stocked pantry, feel free to use 1 c. brown sugar and 1/2 c. white.
  • Gluten free baked goods dry out quickly, so rather than bake off a bunch of cookies at once, I usually bake one sheet of them, then portion out the rest, flash freeze it and store the cookie dough in a doubled up freezer bag.
  • Forgive the lack of photos.  It's dark and my photography skills are lousy enough without adding overhead flourescent lighting.
Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1.5 c. white sugar
2 T. molasses
1 T. vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk

  • In a stand mixer or with a hand beater, beat these together for a couple of minutes, or until uniform.  This won't get fluffy because of the melted butter.  Still, don't skimp on the mixing.
280 grams gluten free flour mix
45 grams coconut flour
1/2 c. old fashioned oats
1 T. cornstarch (this helps with chewiness)
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 c. chocolate chips (if you're chocolate crazy, add as much as you want.  I just like a little cookie with my chip)
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet and beat to combine.  No worries about over-mixing, since there's no gluten that can over develop.
Allow this to sit while you go preheat the oven to 325°, or for about 15 minutes.

Divvy up your dough as you like; I prefer to drop it by tablespoons onto a parchment (or silpat, if you're fancy) lined baking sheet.

Bake cookies for 8 minutes, or until just barely beginning to brown and still very under done in the middle.  Allow to cool (or don't) and get to it.

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