with Greg Patent, Award Winning Cookbook Author

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am very new to gluten-free baking, and it’s not because I’ve developed a sensitivity or intolerance to gluten.  I am a baker, and I have been asked to teach a class on gluten-free baking at Rancho La Puerta next month (April, 2012).  So in the past few weeks I’ve plunged head first into this bewildering and enormous area of possibility.  And a whole new world has opened up for the baking wizard.

But where would I begin?  My first source of information came from Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annalise G. Roberts (Revised and Expanded Second edition, Surrey Books, Chicago, 2008).  In this book, I found a basic gluten-free brown rice flour mix that works in most baked goods except for breads (the author provides two different formulas for those).

Venturing on, I discovered web sites devoted to gluten-free cooking and baking (glutenfreegirl is excellent) that called for flours made from almonds, hazelnuts, amaranth, millet, garbanzos, fava beans, tapioca, sorghum, white rice, quinoa, buckwheat, corn, and teff, and starches produced from tapioca, potato, arrowroot and corn.  And these were just a start. Because gluten-free flours and starches lack, well, gluten, xanthan or guar gums must be added to certain recipes to help the baked goods set properly and give them the expected texture.

I bought all of these products, turned my kitchen into a baking laboratory, and began experimenting with various blends.  I also found Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Mix, made with garbanzo bean flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, white sorghum flour, and fava bean flour.  Would that work just as well as the blends suggested by the many gluten-free web sites?

The answer to that question is it depends.  Many of these flours have physical and chemical properties and taste profiles that we are only just beginning to figure out.  Gluten-free baking is really in its infancy, and it will take a lot of fiddling and finagling by dedicated bakers to come up with recipes that aren’t just gluten-free versions of gluten-containing recipes, but recipes that are unique because they’re gluten-free.  This is what gluten-free baking should be about.

One thing I’ve come to appreciate about gluten-free flours and starches is that they’re all of different densities, which means that for best results you’ll need to weigh them!  The excalmation point means that perhaps the gluten-free movement will  finally rid us of cumbersome cups and that all kitchens will be equipped with a scale.  I can only hope.  If you don’t have a scale, put your measuring cups for dry ingredients on a sheet of waxed paper and spoon the flour or starch into them to overflowing, then sweep off excess.  Starches, in particular, compact readily and are dense, and they like to stick to cups and spoons, so fluff them up with a fork before measuring.

Here is one recipe from my Rancho La Puerta gluten-free baking class, Chocolate Chip Cookies. These are huge (I like my cookies big) and they’re easy to mix up, easy to bake, and they taste great.  Note that my recipe uses only ½ teaspoon baking soda.  This amount is just right.  Too many chocolate chip cookie recipes use too much baking soda, causing the cookies to spread out and become thin instead of staying on the thickish side and having a nice chew. 

Be sure to mix the dough a day or so before baking and refrigerate it.  The sugars take time to dissolve completely and the caramel flavor from the brown sugar needs time to develop.  The brown rice flour mix formula is from Gluten-Free Baking Classics.  Even the Land O’Lakes web site uses it in many of their recipes.

Gluten-free Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups brown rice flour (250 gm)

2/3 cup potato starch (120 gm)

1/3 cup tapioca flour (40 gm)

1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar (break up any lumps)

½ cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

12 ounces (2 cups) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

1. Whisk together to combine thoroughly the brown rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca flour.  Measure 2 ¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons of this mixture (12 ¾ ounces) and transfer it to another bowl.  Whisk in the xanthan gum, salt, and baking soda.  You’ll have a few tablespoons of leftover mix.  Save it to flour foods you’ll be frying or for a sauce you’ll thicken.

2. Melt the butter and transfer it to the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add both sugars, attach the flat beater, and beat on medium low speed until smooth and the butter is incorporated into the sugars, about 1 minute.  You shouldn’t see any butter floating around by itself.  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat on medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute.

3. While beating on low, gradually add the flour mixture and beat until thoroughly combined.  Scrape the bowl and beater and stir in the chocolate chips with a wooden spoon.  Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight or for up to 3 days.

Here’s the chilled dough showing scooped out spots.

4. To bake, adjust an oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  You’ll need a large, 14 x 17-inch cookie sheet. Have four sheets of cooking parchment cut to fit the pan ready. Or use silicone baking pan liners or aluminum foil. Divide the dough into 24 portions, 2 ounces each.

Roll each into a ball.  The ball of dough will measure about 1 3/4-inches in diameter.  When baked, the cookies will be about 3 ¼ -inches in diameter.

Place 6 cookies on each sheet of parchment, spacing them well apart, and flattening them slightly.

5. Slide one parchment sheet onto the cookie sheet and place in the oven.  Bake until cookies are pale golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set and look browner than the rest of the cookie but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes.  Rotate the pan halfway through baking.

Cool cookies on the cookie sheet 5 minutes, then transfer them with a wide metal spatula onto wire cooling racks to cool completely.  Store airtight.  If you can’t wait, please try these cookies warm.  They’re fantastic that way.

Makes 24 large cookies.



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