In the past three years or so, two little words have been popping up all over the place with increasing frequency. Printed on restaurant menus, discussed on online forums and written about in newspapers: gluten-free.
To my uneducated self I assumed: Hm. Gluten-free means no carbs right? The horror! I tried this once before with the South Beach Diet. Worst four hours of my life.
But a certain recipe gifted to me by a woman in Vietnam led me to do a little more research. Gluten-free does not mean no carbs. As Mr. Tinker, my seventh grade science teacher said, to assume only makes an ass of you and me. (As a side note, he also showed a video of live childbirth in class, to a group of stunned 13 year olds and was known to pull over on the highway and pick up roadkill, taking home the mangled carcasses to store in his freezer for experiments. He was an awesome guy.)
Gluten-free simply means a diet free of gluten-containing cereals. The most common is wheat, but it also encompasses barley, rye and malt, amongst others. But things like corn, potatoes (sweet and white), quinoa, buckwheat (pure), taro, and yams may all be eaten on a gluten-free diet.
Gluten is also used as a stabilizer in some of those wonderfully chemicalized, 50-ingredient products like ketchup, commercial salad dressings and ice cream, making avoiding gluten all the more complicated.
The most common motivation for a gluten-free diet is Celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which the lining of the small intestine is damaged by eating gluten, leading to a myriad of stomach problems.
Stomach problems, hm, stomachs remind me of eating. Off of indigestion and onto the recipe.
Gluten-free almond butter chocolate chip cookies.
It took me forever to actually make these cookies, we got back from Vietnam in April. I waited so long basically out of sheer cheapness. Almond butter can be very expensive; it was $7 a jar at our co-op in Vermont. But now that we live closer to the wonder that is Trader Joe’s, where a jar costs $3.99, I took the plunge.
If you make these expecting a soft and chewy chocolate chip cookie, you will be disappointed. Like many gluten-free baked goods, they are a bit rougher, less delicately textured, a little more rugged.
Instead, think about a pretty chocolate chip cookie and a tall, strong biscotti getting together and having a baby; these cookies would be their love child. The nuttiness of almond, with rich dark chocolate and a nice chewy crunch, they’re quite good, simple to make, and full of heart-healthy fats. I’m not saying eating one of these is like popping a vitamin by any means, but there is no oil or butter added and the sweetener is sucanat.
Sucanat is what I like to call hippie sugar. Of all major sugars derived from sugar cane, it ranks highest in nutritional value. Brown and grainy, sucanat is unprocessed and unrefined, it’s simply dried sugar cane juice. You can buy it at most grocery stores, but to save money, head to the bulk section of Whole Foods or your local co-op. A one pound bag costs roughly $3.99, where as 3/4 of a cup, the amount called for here, will cost you less than 50 cents from the bin.
A word of caution, when baking err on the side of under-cooked, or the crunch factor will be too pronounced. I’d suggest to start checking them at 8 minutes, looking for a hardened top, just shy of browning.
Gluten-Free Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 24 cookiesIngredients1 cup unsalted almond butter, stirred well3/4 cup sucanat1 large egg1 teaspoon vanilla1/4 teaspoon baking soda1/4 teaspoon sea salt3 ounces dark chocolate, 60 percent cocoa or greater chopped into small pieces
Instructions1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium bowl stir together first five ingredients until blended. Stir in chocolate.2. Drop dough by rounded tablespoon onto parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until very lightly browned.3. Let cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes. Remove to a wire rack and let cool for 15 more minutes. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.