Category Archives: Cookies

Hippie sugar, gluten-free, and making an ass of you and me

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, or evaporated cane juice, is a brand name sweetener named for the French term, sucre de canne natural.

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 cookies
Ingredients
1 cup unsalted almond butter, stirred well
3/4 cup sucanat
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 ounces dark chocolate, 60 percent cocoa or greater chopped into small pieces
Instructions
1. 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.

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Filed under Cookies, Dessert, Gluten-free, Recipes

A sweet and savory start

I created this blog in October, something I’ve been meaning to do for a while now. I fiddled with the lychee picture for far too long, I hemmed and hawed over the name (still undecided) and finally, I published.

Then… silence.

Two months of silence to be exact. I’ve thought about blogging quite a bit, but when it comes down to it, to me it feels simultaneously like shouting into an empty room, and one filled to the brim with people, staring, judging. Do I have anything to say? I’m not sure. Do I fear coming off as self important and precocious? Yes. Should I just shut up and stop worrying how I will come off? Definitely.

So, here it goes. To introduce myself, I am a writer who recently moved from Vermont to Boston, leaving behind a stable (relatively) staff writing position at a wonderful newspaper smack in the midst of a floundering economy. Now, I’m making a go at freelancing (Is that laughter I hear?). I plan to use this blog as a place to publish recipes, thoughts on food and other things, all of which will be very deep, philosophical and most likely rife with regurgitated and inaccurately stated tidbits from NPR.

On to the first recipe.

Rosemary butter cookies dipped in dark chocolate.

Savory and herbal, buttery and sweet, bitter from a quick wallow in melted chocolate. These aren’t kissin’ cousins of the powdery (and delicious) Walker’s, but chewier and dense. Fresh rosemary is a must, even though it’s a bit pricer. Also, you know the Processor Pause, the moment where you’re in the kitchen, about to start cookin’ and you stop – staring at the cabinet that houses your food processor. A complex inverse ratio calculation running through your mind:

extra dishes+hassle

_____________________

less prep time+ less manual labor

To haul the contraption out or not to haul it out, that is the question. I usually don’t. But in this instance, do it. Integrating the butter, sugar and flour evenly without over working can be frustrating, it’s worth it if you have one. If you don’t, no problemo. I tested the “by hand” method on my guinea pig of a sister and she did just fine. I’ve included a few tips for those who prefer going old school, including a neat trick involving a cheese grater and some good ol’ fashioned elbow grease.

These are a great hostess gift, the rosemary gives it a little something special. But beware, home alone with a batch of these babies and a lack of self control can mean trouble. Trust me, I made 12 batches (288 cookies) to perfect the recipe and I have no idea where they went. None.



Rosemary butter cookies dipped in dark chocolate

Makes about 24

1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter

½ cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 heaping tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced

2 cups white unbleached flour

½ teaspoon sea salt

8 ounces (one and 1/3 cup) good quality dark chocolate, 60 percent cacao or higher

By hand:*

1. Mix butter and sugar until thoroughly combined. Add vanilla and rosemary, incorporate fully.

2. Sift salt and flour directly into mixing bowl. Mix until just incorporated, don’t over work.

*Note: This can be the most frustrating part of the recipe, incorporating the flour into the butter/sugar mixture without over working. If you have a food processor, it’s worth the extra dish, if not try this: Grate the butter into the bowl with the medium slots of a cheese grater, add the sugar and mix with your hands. Add the vanilla and rosemary, then sift the flour and salt directly on to the mixture. Combine all ingredients with your hands, working the flour into the butter until it resembles a dry, but uniform pile of crumbles.

Skip to step 3.

———-

Food processor:

1. Pulse butter and sugar until completely incorporated, roughly 10 seconds, add vanilla and rosemary.

2. Sift flour and salt directly into processor bowl, pulse until combined, roughly 15 seconds.

———–

Note: At this stage the mixture will appear crumbly and dry, not cohesive, this is okay, the butter will work it’s magic in the oven.

3. Pour mixture onto large piece of plastic wrap, wrap tightly and chill for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. 15 minutes in, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, line a 9 by 12-inch pan with parchment paper, excess paper draped over the edges.

4. Dump the mixture into the pan, pressing it down to create a uniform layer.

5. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees, or until the very first light brown spots appear on the crust.  Remove and cool for 5 minutes in the pan, lift out by gently pulling up parchment paper, set on a wire rack until completely cooled. Slice into 2-inch squares.

6. Melt chocolate gently in double boiler on the stove, or in the microwave in a non-reactive bowl, first for one and half minutes, then for 15 second intervals until smooth.

7. Gently dip half of each cookie into melted chocolate, use a plastic spatula to coat missed areas and wipe off excess chocolate. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheet, once every cookie is coated, put the tray in the refrigerator to harden for 15 minutes. Store in an airtight container.

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Filed under Cookies, Dessert, Recipes