Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Chocolate, Yes. Gluten, No. Cookies & Muffins

I love when my mystery and chocolate worlds cross. Today I welcome mystery author and chocolate lover Wendy Hornsby.

Wendy Hornsby:
Chocolate, Yes. Gluten, No.

When my daughter was found to be gluten intolerant, I began experimenting with gluten-free cooking. For some dishes, like the Sacher torte I adapted from the dyingforchocolate.com site for our Christmas dinner, simply substituting gluten-free multi-purpose flour for wheat flour works famously. But that isn’t always the case. I think that the biggest issues involve replicating the mouth feel and texture of some favorite foods. For my Aly, I wanted to make a good, rich, homemade cookie that was crunchy without being hard. The flourless peanut butter chocolate chip recipe below is easy, delicious, crisp, and completely gluten free.

Gluten Free Chocolate Surprise Peanut Butter Cookies 

Yield: about 18 -3” cookies
Preheat oven to 350.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Ingredients
1 egg
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. gluten free vanilla
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 cup fresh peanut butter*
¼ cup gluten free chocolate chips or chunks

*Peanut butter note: use fresh or homemade peanut butter only, not the bottled kind because you never know what has been used as emulsifiers (same comment for vanilla and chocolate). The only ingredient should be roasted peanuts. If salt has been added, eliminate salt from the recipe. Usually, fresh peanut butter can be found in the deli or produce section of your market (comes in a plastic container like potato salad). Or make it yourself in the blender.

Method 
Beat together egg, sugar, and vanilla until the mixture is foamy and pale yellow. Add salt, baking powder and soda, beat well. Add peanut butter. Mix until well incorporated. Form dough into balls about the size of ping pong balls. With a finger, make a dent in the centers, press about 4 chocolate chips into the dent and form dough around them, hiding the chips in the center. Place on lined baking sheet. Dip the tines of a fork in sugar and with the back of the fork, press hatch marks into the dough until cookie is about ¾ inch thick. Cookies don’t rise or spread very much.
Bake for 11 minutes, or until cookie bottom just begins to brown.

P.S. I tried mixing chocolate chips into the dough, but had more success hiding them in the center. Everyone likes a surprise, and what better surprise than some unexpected chocolate?

While we’re on the subject of gluten-free eats, it’s important to remember that, generally, gluten-free flours and gluten substitutes that make baked goods palatable have precious little nutritional value. When you’re making treats like a Sacher torte or cookies, who cares? But when my daughter was a new mother, and especially when maternity leave was over and she had to go back to work, having nutritious gluten-free grab-and-go food on hand was a problem.

Aly has always loved good muffins. I experimented until I had an easy muffin base that could be adapted to incorporate all sorts of good, wholesome ingredients. Admittedly, the recipe below for Chocolate, Chocolate Chip, Banana Nut Muffins verges on the treat category, but they were very popular with a pair of young, very tired parents. Every week or ten days, I would make a couple of muffin variations and ship them off, or, better still, deliver them in person.

Gluten-free Chocolate, Chocolate Chip, Banana Nut Muffins 

Yield 12-14 muffins
Line muffin cups
Pre-heat oven to 350

Ingredients 
2 eggs, beaten ½ cup soft butter (or canola oil for dairy free version)
 ½ cup plus 2 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 ½ cups mashed ripe banana
¼ cup unsweetened apple sauce (optional)
1 cup chopped walnuts, pecans or lightly toasted almonds
¾ cup (or more) dark gluten-free chocolate chips or chunks
1 tsp. plus generous pinch baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 ½ cup gluten-free all purpose flour (I have success with Namaste brand, but there are several to try) 1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¾ cup gluten free cocoa powder (e.g. Trader Joe’s)

Method 
In a large bowl, cream together beaten egg, butter, sugar, and vanilla until fluffy. Gently stir in mashed banana, apple sauce, chopped nuts, chocolate chips. In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, dry seasonings, and salt. Add to wet ingredients above and stir by hand just until all ingredients are incorporated. Distribute into lined muffin cups and bake until toothpick comes out clean, about 25 min.

For a very good variation, instead of mashed banana, cocoa powder and chocolate chips, use 1 ½ cups (total) grated zucchini and/or carrots and ½ cup unsweetened applesauce. Keep the chopped walnuts. Prepare as above.

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