Category Archives: Gluten-Free

Chocolate Dipped BBQ Potato Chip Cookies – Gluten-Free

I’m excited to bring to you another gluten-free recipe this week. As you may know, I started doing gluten-free baking a while back because my wife does better when she eats less wheat. She can have some wheat without any ill effects, and so we sometimes don’t think about it. However, issues seem to accumulate over time, and that reminds us. Today while we were out grocery shopping, we did get some fun gluten-free foods, and having them around will definitely help.

But I don’t want her to miss out on my desserts, so I want to bake more gluten-free recipes again. I had that on my mind this week when putting this recipe together. I found a great recipe on smitten kitchen for potato chip cookies. It looked like a great recipe, and easy to make gluten-free, but it turns out I didn’t have any pecans. But by that point, I was kinda set on doing something to use up the potato chips I had. So I did some digging and found this other potato chip cookie recipe which looked good, so I ended up using that. But, I skipped the powdered sugar dusting from this recipe and went with the chocolate coating from the smitten kitchen recipe I had originally wanted to make.

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I tweaked the recipe a bit. One big change is that I went with gluten-free flour instead of regular. I didn’t have any of the Trader Joe’s gluten-free flour I usually use. But I had some Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free flour. I used some xanthan gum with it, as they recommend it in conjunction with the flour when making baked goods.

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Another change I made to the recipe was that instead of using plain potato chips, I used barbecue potato chips. They say that what you make can only be as good as the ingredients you use. So I didn’t use just any old barbecue potato chips. I used what I consider to be some of the best barbecue potato chips anywhere. They are Middleswarth kettle cooked barbecue potato chips. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a bit of a snack food snob (aka gourmet, aka connoisseur). These chips are ones I grew up on, so maybe I’m biased, but I think they’re really good. I used most of one of these 4.5 ounce bags. I crushed them by hand bit by bit inside a sandwich bag. Granted, I was also snacking on them at the time, so let’s say I used about three to three and a half ounces of chips.

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For the chocolate, I used what I had on hand. That may seem contradictory to my statement above about using the best, but I don’t think it is. I used half of a dark chocolate bar, the end of a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chunks, and some bulk milk chocolate. It was all good chocolate, so no worries there. And I think one skill that’s useful for a cook or baker to have is being able to make something good out of whatever you have on hand.

The recipe was pretty easy to put together. I mixed everything by hand. I baked the cookies for about 8 1/2 minutes. I ended up with 35 cookies.

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After the cookies cooled, I melted the chocolate and oil in the microwave and stirred it together. I dipped the cookies into the chocolate. Actually, I dunked them a little bit and then splooshed on the chocolate with a spoon. (Yes, “sploosh” is an industry term.) The cookies were a little crumbly and there was some slight breakage during this process. I then let them sit so the chocolate could set.

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After the chocolate set, I tried one. First the cookie part without the chocolate. It’s really good! It tastes kinda like shortbread, but I can also taste all the little crunchy potato chip parts. There is just a hint of the barbecue flavor. I then tried the side with the chocolate. It’s also good! There are a lot of flavors going on there, but they all seem to work together. I think this gluten-free flour is pretty good, too. It’s not quite as smooth as Trader Joe’s, but not bad at all.

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After I tried one, I cleaned up the cookies. While the chocolate was setting, I let them sit on parchment paper on top of the cooling rack. I figured it would be a lot easier to clean up than having them directly on the rack. It was, but some of the cookies got stuck to the parchment paper, and as I pulled them up, some of the chocolate got left behind.

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I brought some into work the next day. After I offered them and explained what they are, a couple of my co-workers took two each before even trying them. I guess they just knew the cookies would be good. ūüôā One of my other coworkers gave me a very funny compliment. She liked the cookie, and gave me a thumbs up. Then she said, “I would give you two thumbs up, but one of them is holding my cookie.”

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As I was going on my dessert rounds, one person was in a meeting, so I was going to come back, but he waved me in anyway, seeing that I had cookies with me. He referred to me as one of the best bakers to his meeting mate. After trying one he said, “I would’ve thought you bought this in a store.” In short, everyone loved them. I didn’t mention to most people that they were gluten-free. No one seemed to notice.

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There’s one other thing I should mention. As it turns out, the particular potato chips that I used are not gluten-free. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I double-checked the ingredients, and the barbecue seasoning in these chips contains wheat flour. However, you could easily make these with another kind of chips. For instance, Middleswarth makes lovely plain potato chips as well, or if you prefer barbecue chips, Martin’s makes some that are gluten-free. Either one would be a lovely choice.

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Do you have a favorite potato chip? I’m biased towards the ones I know, and while I’ve tried many others, I haven’t tried them all. If you know of a particular chip I should try, let me know. I’m always interested to try new ones out. And if you try making these cookies, I’d love to hear how they turn out with your favorite chip in them. So, happy baking and happy crunching!

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If you want to make them how I did, here’s my version of the recipe, adapted and combined from the following:

Potato Chip Cookies recipe courtesy of The Washington Post.

Chocolate dip courtesy of smitten kitchen.

Ingredients:

For the cookies:

2 sticks unsalted butter

1/2 cup sugar

1 3/4 cups gluten-free flour

7/16 tsp xanthan gum (if your gluten-free flour calls for it, as mine does)

3/4 cup crushed barbecue potato chips

1 teaspoon vanilla

For the dip:

4 ounces of chocolate

1 teaspoon grapeseed oil

I didn’t change the directions significantly, so you can follow along from the original recipes for those. Enjoy!

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Gluten-Free Banana Chocolate Muffins

Happy October everyone! Now that fall is in full swing here, it’s clear that pumpkin overload is in full effect. (Not to be confused with Full Force.) I’m sure you see it too, with the overflow of pumpkin-y things in every shop. We often shop at Trader Joe’s, and it’s clearly the case there. They have more pumpkin products than you ever thought could exist. (Or should exist, really.)

You can almost plot out the seasons by what food is prevalent at Trader Joe’s. The season before pumpkin season at Trader Joe’s seems to be mango season. It’s the same as with pumpkin, just with mangoes. I knew the seasons had started to change when the mango and pumpkin products overlapped briefly. But the mangoes have been fully replaced by pumpkins now.

Alas, seasons change. Time marches on. Sometimes things slip through the cracks. Most recipes I write about soon after I make them, but some sneak past (they’re sneaky like that), and I don’t get to write about them till much later. So I’m writing to you this week about another one of those. I bring you another entry from my (soon-to-be-picked-up-and-become-a-major-tv) series, recipes of future past.

I haven’t been baking as much gluten-free these days. Which means I have a lot of gluten-free flour stocked up, so I really need to do so again. But this was a good gluten-free muffin recipe from the New York Times. You might remember the gluten-free whole grain cheese and mustard muffins I had written about previously. These banana chocolate muffins are their siblings. That is to say, they came from the same article.

These days I generally use regular recipes and just substitute in gluten-free flour. But back in the day when I made this, I wasn’t as confident that I could do that, and so I sought out recipes that were specifically gluten-free. In this case, I followed the ingredients listed in the recipe and I used the different gluten-free flours they listed.

Bananas seem to go well in muffins. They’re in this recipe. They’re in the gluten-free peanut butter banana chocolate chip muffins I made. And they’re in one of my favorite muffin recipes ever from Moosewood Cookbook.

It’s been a while, but as I remember these, they were good muffins. Banana-y and cocoa-y, with bits of chocolate inside. As with some other gluten-free baked goods, they were best fresh or warmed up. After a while though, the texture is different, and they end up being more grainy.

They look pretty decadent, but they’re not as ridiculous as they might seem. Check out the ingredient list.

As they’re way in the past at this point, and I didn’t have much in the way of notes, I don’t have much more to say on them. But let me know if you try them out. I’d love to hear your take on them. Or if you have any favorite muffin recipes, gluten-free or otherwise, feel free to share those as well. Or favorite banana recipes. Or, you know, the location of the fountain of youth. I’m not picky.

Recipe courtesy of The New York Times.

Gluten-Free Whole Grain Cheese and Mustard Muffins

This week I bring you another recipe from my long-ish running series, “Recipes of Future Past”. This one also happens to be gluten-free, and is near the beginning of my gluten-free baking.

Before we discovered that my wife didn’t get along that well with wheat, I had never considered baking gluten-free. I had heard of it, but there wasn’t any real impetus to do so. Shortly after we found out, I decided that I would try gluten-free baking.

I looked up some gluten-free recipes that looked interesting, and I went out and got a whole bunch of different gluten-free flours. I used them in a couple of recipes, but after that, they mostly just sat there unused. That’s because it got complicated. I found that many gluten-free recipes used specific flours. There are so many different kinds, and everyone uses different ones. So having enough for all of the different recipes would mean stocking many, many different kinds of flour. It just wasn’t practical.

What I soon realized though, is that I didn’t have to go that route. I stumbled upon a really great all-purpose gluten-free flour from Trader Joe’s. At that point, I didn’t need to seek out recipes that were specifically gluten-free. I could use any recipe and just substitute the all-purpose gluten-free flour for the “regular” flour. And with this particular gluten-free flour, it works. No more stocking up on half a dozen different kinds of flour. No more researching recipes specially crafted to be gluten-free. Just one substitution and I’m done. Thank you, Trader Joe’s!

But this recipe was made before I figured all of that out. IIRC, I went out and found some millet. It was not a grain I was familiar with, but hey, why not. I don’t remember what gluten-free all-purpose flour I used for this, as I believe it predated my using Trader Joe’s gluten-free flour. My guess is that it was probably Bob’s Red Mill, as that’s the brand I generally find when I’m looking for alternative flours. I did not use the optional walnuts.

I enjoy mustard, and I enjoy cheese, so I figured this would be a good gluten-free recipe to try. And as I recall, it was. I remember them being decent muffins. The only caveat is that between the cornmeal and the millet, I believe they were a little grainy.

It was a while back that I made them, so I don’t remember them all that well at this point. I would have to try making them again in order to have more to share. But given that I would have to get millet specifically in order to make them means I’m not all that likely to do so, unless I can find a reasonable substitute. If that happens, I’ll be sure to let you know.

I should also mention that around the time I made these, I also made another set of muffins that I found at the same time from the same source: Gluten-Free Banana Chocolate Muffins. As I’m constantly expanding the Recipes of Future Past section, you will probably hear about these sooner or later.

If you happen to make these, let me know how they go. I’d love to hear. And if you have any other gluten-free recipes, or recipes that you’ve successfully gluten-freeified, feel free to share. I’d love to hear about those, too.

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Recipe courtesy of The New York Times.

Sarah Bernhardt Cookies Revisited

You may remember that I made these cookies once before. You can read all about the story behind the cookies and why I made them in that post. Like last time, I made these as a special treat for my in-laws. Despite some mishaps, the cookies went over really well last time. So I thought I would try again and see if I could learn from my mistakes.

This time it was a Thanksgiving visit. I decided to make them at home and bring them with me so that while I was there, I could spend more time with them and less time baking. Since the recipe made so many cookies, and it took so long to make them, I decided to make a half recipe this time.

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Some ingredient notes: I used liquid egg whites for simplicity’s sake. I used 4 ounces of almond slivers which turned into 1 cup of ground almonds. I used Hershey’s Special Dark chocolate chips for the ganache. For the coating, the oil I used was grapeseed oil. And the chocolate in the coating was of two parts. First part was a big chunk of baking chocolate I still had. The second part was a piece of a Trader Joe’s chocolate bar. The two parts together equaled the total amount needed. Actually, I used a little more than they asked for because I ran out of chocolate last time. Some of the chocolate was old so I had to look up how long chocolate lasts. My go to for such food questions is StillTasty.

Ganache.

Ganache.

I also remembered to sift the powdered sugar this time. I don’t own a sifter, so at first I used a mesh strainer and shook it by hand. This worked, but was taking a while, so I then used a spoon to push it through a little quicker. I didn’t sift the powdered sugar last time. But doing so this time made a big difference in the texture of the sugar.

Ground almonds.

Ground almonds.

Sifting is a very particular thing. I don’t do it so often when baking, but I distinctly remember sifting when baking with my mom growing up. It seemed very specific to baking, more so than mixing or other activities. We had this awesome old-school metal sifter we used. I still remember the sound it would make. It was very distinctive. There was friction from the metal scraping against the mesh. And it was a lot of fun to do. I can’t remember what the recipes were that we sifted for, but I know that there was a lot of sifting.

Sifted sugar.

Sifted sugar.

For this recipe, I made the ganache first as before, so it could chill while I made the meringue. I accidentally added a little bit too much almond extract, but that didn’t turn out to be a problem.

The sugar halo after sifting.

The sugar halo after sifting.

As I was making the meringue, I remembered that I should double-check how to make it. I followed the directions more closely this time. I believe the key differences were that I put the KitchenAid on a higher speed and that I let it mix for 15 minutes. The batter was definitely a better consistency than last time. And I’m so glad I didn’t have to sit there and hold a mixer for 15 minutes while making it. Thank you KA!

Batter!

Batter!

After the issues I had last time, I had wanted to make them smaller this time. I wasn’t quite able to, but they still turned out okay. I was worried about the consistency after putting in the almonds and putting them on the baking sheet. They started getting goopy. (Goopy is another industry term.) But after baking they turned out well. They cracked a little bit, but they were meringue! I successfully made meringue! Woo hoo! They came right off the baking sheet. I did two batches which ended up being 34 cookies.

Meringue, about to be baked.

Meringue, about to be baked.

A few got a little overdone on the bottom. Just a couple were a tiny bit hard to get off the baking sheet and just a handful were crumbly, but even those were mostly salvageable. I tried one of the slightly overdone ones, and even it was okay. So I used them all.

Meringue!

Meringue!

The first round I cooked them for 10 minutes. I didn’t want them to overcook again, plus I made them a little bit smaller, so I did 9 minutes for the second round.

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I had pulled the ganache out of the fridge so it would be ready. It took a while to get to room temperature and be spreadable. They were mostly easy to cover, just a few were crumbly. Those I didn’t cover as much because if I did they would have completely crumbled. I covered everything else completely.

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I melted the chocolate for the coating. I did it all at once, not half and half as suggested. I let it cool and then dipped them in. It was actually pretty easy and fun. Messy as all get out, but easy and fun. They looked nice. I put them in the fridge to chill again.

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They took a while to make. Doing half the recipe, doing it at home, and having some experience with the recipe made making them easier. Having the meringue turn out right also helped. But last time my wife helped a lot with the cookie assembly, whereas this time I did it by myself which took a little longer. They took less time over all, but it was still a decent amount of work.

Meringue avec ganache.

Meringue avec ganache.

I carefully packaged them up for the trip. The meringue was delicate so this was a challenge. Plastic containers with wax paper in between layers of cookies seemed to do the trick though. I left some of the more cracked ones for us to enjoy.

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Once I got them there, the in-laws were very excited at having them again. My father-in-law made particular note of them and my baking ability. I demurred, saying it wasn’t even my recipe. In response, he told me a story.

Chocolate coating.

Chocolate coating.

It went like this: as you may recall, my mother in law Barbara has quite the reputation as a chef. However, there was a time when she didn’t know how to cook or bake anything. They had next door neighbors, a husband and wife, and the wife was a good cook. She offered to help Barbara learn how to cook. One day she showed her how to do a particular recipe. A little while later Barbara made it on her own.

Freshly coated.

Freshly coated.

When the husband of the couple came home that day, he smelled what Barbara was cooking next door and came over. He asked what smelled so delicious. She told him it was the recipe his wife had shown her. He said that hers never smelled that good. Barbara had managed to make the recipe even better than she had been taught. So, my father-in-law said, regardless of who created the recipe, you need a certain amount of skill to make it well. It matters who makes it and how.

The final product!

The final product!

It was a very sweet story. And it was very nice of him to tell me. I do have some things to learn about creating recipes, but execution matters.

Overall, I’m pleased with how this batch turned out. The meringue was not perfect, but it was miles ahead of the last batch. And it was definitely meringue. ūüôā The cookies were still delicious. And they were enjoyed by all. Have you ever revisited a recipe disaster? Were you able to learn from your mistakes? I’d love to hear your stories!

Recipe courtesy of The View from Great Island.

Gluten-Free Feta Scallion Drop Biscuits

Welcome back. This week finds us with the second installment of the buttermilk chronicles. If you recall from last week, I had made a lovely biscuit recipe requiring buttermilk. I don’t know about you, but I don’t normally keep buttermilk in the house, so I had to get some for that recipe. The carton I bought had four cups of buttermilk in it, but the recipe only needed one. It would be great if I could get buttermilk in smaller containers, but since I wasn’t able to, I decided I wasn’t going to let the buttermilk go to waste.

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I came up with a serious plan. I plotted out just how I was going to use the other cups of buttermilk. What I came up with was the following. Make one more version of the same biscuits from last week, make a different batch of biscuits for dinner that night, and make a dessert. All the recipes required buttermilk, and if I calculated correctly, I would be very close to using up all the buttermilk, which means I had a little bit extra, just in case. (By the way, when I was searching through recipes, I found several recipes which mentioned “using up extra buttermilk”. So I’m obviously not the only one with this issue.)

Mmm. Scallions.

Mmm. Scallions.

This recipe is based on the blue cheese scallion drop biscuits from my last post. Those went over so well, I thought I would make some more. I also wanted to use up the ingredients I had: lots of buttermilk (see above) and scallions.

Feta, are you ready for your close-up?

Feta, are you ready for your close-up?

I used five scallions (instead of the four in the recipe) in order to use what was left. I had run out of blue cheese, but I had a ton of feta, so I used feta. As with the blue cheese, it was conveniently one package for the 1 1/2 cups needed. The feta was much easier to crumble, however.

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The other change is that this time I used gluten-free flour. Since I had already made these without any issues, I thought if I did them again, I would want to do something different. Yes, I had already decided to use feta, but I wanted to do something more adventurous. I had a ton of gluten-free flour and I was running out of regular flour, so I thought I would give it a shot. (Running out because all of the recipes in the buttermilk chronicles were made within a few days of each other.) I didn’t use my regular Trader Joe’s Gluten Free All Purpose Flour as I had run out of that. I used what I had handy which was Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All-Purpose Baking Flour. They suggest using xanthan gum with it, but I couldn’t immediately find any, so I thought I would just give it a shot without it.

This was my ingenious method for splitting the dough into 12 equal parts, as mentioned last week.

This was my ingenious method for splitting the dough into 12 equal parts, as mentioned last week.

They came together alright, but they were maybe a little too dry. I added in some extra buttermilk, a tablespoon or two, which I had available due to my careful calculations. After that the dough looked better. They were a different consistency. I might have also flattened the dough out differently. (They also looked like they expanded a bit more when they baked.) It’s also possible that it was due to a difference with the gluten-free flour.

The first sheet.

The first sheet.

They were as easy to put together as last time. My wife helped by cutting the scallions and doing the clean-up. (Thanks hon!) I baked them for 16 minutes. Eight minutes, then I rotated them top to bottom and front to back, and then eight more.

The second sheet.

The second sheet.

As a side note, I listened to the soundtrack to Hamilton while making this batch of biscuits. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a Broadway rap-musical based on the life of Alexander Hamilton. Yes, that Alexander Hamilton. It’s absolutely amazing. My wife and I saw at as an anniversary present to ourselves a few weeks ago. (My wife had already seen it off-Broadway and insisted I see it as well.) It’s brilliantly crafted and brilliantly performed. For history junkies such as myself, it was an extra treat. If you haven’t seen it, I can’t encourage you enough to go see it. It’s well worth your time. Listening to the soundtrack made working on the biscuits extra fun.

Ready to bake biscuit close-up!

Ready to bake biscuit close-up!

So… back to the biscuits. After 16 minutes they weren’t quite ready. I baked them for another minute and a half. They seemed done at that point. They looked a little bit flatter and more like biscuit biscuits, instead of drop biscuits. (Some people had thought the previous ones were scones.)

Fresh from the oven!

Fresh from the oven!

And as far as the most important question: they were yummy! We ate them while they were still warm, but we did let them cool on the rack a little bit first. The feta was not nearly as strong as the blue cheese as far as smell or taste, but the biscuits were still delicious. They had a nice crunchy outside and a nice squishy inside. They seemed a little bit more savory somehow. They tasted like something else, and I couldn’t put my finger on it until I was almost done with one. They reminded me of spanakopita (spinach pie) because of the feta. They were yummy, yummy, yummy.

Just chillin'.

Just chillin’.

I didn’t get any thank you haikus this time, but everyone enjoyed them nonetheless. I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but there seemed to be a little difference between this gluten-free flour, and the one I normally use. I’ll have to try it in a few more recipes to see if I can put my finger on it. In the meantime, I’ll say this is one more recipe successfully adapted. And one more recipe successfully gluten-freeified. (Yes, that’s another industry term.) If you have any other biscuit recipes you love, gluten-free recipes I should know about, or great recipes for using up buttermilk, just let me know!

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Recipe lightly adapted from smitten kitchen.

Sarah Bernhardt Cookies

This week I bring you a very special edition of Needs Baked. Normally, I bake things from my kitchen in Brooklyn. However, these were made for my in-laws, in their kitchen, when I visited them in sunny Boca Raton, FL.

I wanted to do something nice for them while visiting. On previous trips we had talked about different desserts that they liked. One was a Charlotte Russe, which I had originally intended to make this time. This recipe was another one they mentioned. Another dessert we discussed, Gateau St. Honoré, seemed a little ambitious.

When I mentioned that I wanted to make something for them and asked what they would like they said it didn’t matter, and that I didn’t need to make anything. Undeterred, I decided to¬†pick something anyway. I almost didn’t ask them as I didn’t want to ruin the surprise, but I wanted their opinion. Also, since I was going to be poking around in their kitchen for a while, I wanted to run it by them, and at that point there wouldn’t be much surprise anyway.

The Charlotte Russe would have been good, but the recipe makes a lot, and it would have been challenging to deal with the leftovers. This recipe made a lot as well, but they freeze well and transport easily (so my wife and I could take some with us), so I decided on this one.

I had never even heard of this cookie before, but my in-laws and my wife love it. It’s named after¬†the famous French actress.¬†My wife has fond memories of it from her childhood. And while¬†I’m not a big almond fan generally, I figured I would give it a shot.

Of course I did some research on the recipe. There are lots of different ones out there. I had to narrow it down. I avoided the¬†ones with shortening. I don’t normally use it, and I knew they would have no use for the leftover. I also avoided the ones with almond paste, as that could have been hard to find.¬†Since I was baking in someone else’s kitchen, I had to assume they didn’t have anything (always a safe assumption). So when¬†I went grocery shopping,¬†I got everything.

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When I¬†started on the prep for the recipe, I realized I couldn’t find any measuring spoons or cups. I saw that they had a KitchenAid and a Cuisinart so I thought they would have more basic kitchen bits and bobs.¬†I had not¬†counted on this. Guessing can be fun, but for a new recipe with lots of different parts,¬†I knew I¬†needed them. I enlisted my wife who helped me find one cup. (Progress!) She then enlisted her parents who, after some searching of their own, pointed me to the measuring cups and spoons. Phew! Crisis averted.

Ganache!

Ganache!

Reading through the recipe, it said the ganache would have to sit for a bit. So instead of starting with the meringues, I made the ganache first so it could sit while I was doing the rest. I melted it in the microwave for about a minute and a half. Then I let it sit in the fridge while I made the meringues.

I prepped the ingredients for the meringues. (Mise en place, ftw.) I measured the sugar. I ground the almonds using a vintage Cuisinart mini chopper/grinder. I assumed I needed 2 cups after being ground, not before. I wasn’t sure quite how ground the almonds should be. Most of it ended up being like almond meal, some not so much.¬†I used liquid egg whites. Since I didn’t use the right measuring cup, it was only an estimate, and might have been a little off.

Mini Cuisinart, ready for some almond grinding.

Mini Cuisinart, ready for some almond grinding.

Ground almonds!

Ground almonds!

I should note that during this whole process, my wife helped by doing a lot of the¬†cleaning up. Thanks hon! She was instrumental and a huge help. It would’ve taken¬†a lot longer without her help.

Vintage KitchenAid. Check it out!

Vintage KitchenAid.

KitchenAid in action!

KitchenAid in action!

I used their amazing, vintage KitchenAid stand mixer to make the meringue. It took a few moments to figure out how it worked. I had done it on a slow speed as I didn’t want to¬†overwhelm it.¬†It was probably¬†too slow, as it took a long time. Eventually I turned up the speed. In retrospect, I probably should have beat them a little bit longer as they didn’t turn out exactly right. They were okay, but I think they were too liquidy, so they spread out thinner, instead of staying smaller or thicker.

Batter, pre-almonds.

Batter, pre-almonds.

Batter, with almonds.

Batter, with almonds.

When I went to bake them, I realized there were no baking sheets. So, I used an aluminum roasting pan. I baked them for 10 minutes.¬†It took a couple of batches to figure out the right size for the cookies. Then I started doing two batches at a time. I ended up with 37 (+24 others which I’ll explain below.).

The first batch about to be cooked.

The first batch, ready to be baked.

First batch pre-bake close-up.

First batch pre-bake close-up.

Some of them were too big and squished into each other while baking. I could have put fewer on a sheet, but I wanted to get them done quickly. I could have made them smaller, but it was hard to do so because the batter was too liquidy, and I had to hold the parchment paper down with one hand and pour with the other.

First batch, fresh from the oven.

First batch, fresh from the oven.

Yum!

Yum!

After baking them, it was hard to get them off the parchment paper without them falling apart. The smaller ones were better, but I also probably should have let them sit and cool a bit longer. I found a rack and cooled them first on there and then on the dining room table as I ran out of room in the kitchen.

Second batch.

Second batch.

All the cookies.

All the cookies.

With the cookies baked, I grabbed¬†the ganache to frost them. I should have pulled it out of the fridge earlier. It was still pretty solid and considering that the meringue was on the weaker side, it was a little bit of a mess.¬†Eventually I figured out to just place the ganache on a bunch of them, and then by the time I came back to the first ones, the ganache had warmed up enough to spread properly.¬†I had more cookies than they had said, so I had to use less ganache, and I couldn’t do mounds as suggested. I just put some on and spread it a bit to cover the surface.

Ganache, fresh from the fridge.

Ganache, fresh from the fridge.

"Bad" cookies.

“Bad” cookies.

More "bad" cookies.

More “bad” cookies.

While putting on the ganache, I found a bunch of them to be unusable. They were either broken or too thin. I put those aside. There ended up being 24 of those. I didn’t want to waste them. My wife came up with the idea of taking the unusable ones and rolling them up around a piece of ganache into little balls. It was a great idea and totally worked. Interestingly, these actually better fit the shape and size that she remembered.

Putting on the ganache.

Putting on the ganache.

It look a while. There were a lot of them.

It look a while. There were a lot of them.

Cookie balls.

Cookie balls. It was a great way to rescue some otherwise unusable cookies.

Mmm. Ganache.

Mmm. Ganache.

Okay, last one of these. Yum!

Okay, last one of these. Yum!

So after finishing with the ganache, I moved on to the chocolate coating. (I didn’t put the cookies in the fridge as suggested.) For the pound(!) of chocolate, I used a bag of chips (12 oz) and a box of baking squares (4 oz). I melted the chocolate with the vegetable oil. It took about a minute and a half. At the time, it seemed like a lot of chocolate.

Chocolate coating.

Chocolate coating.

We dipped the balls first. Those were easy. We were pretty generous with the chocolate, so some got it most of the way around. I figured there was a lot of chocolate, so it would be fine. We generously coated the remaining cookies, by spreading the coating with a spoon. Dipping them would not have worked, as they were too delicate. For the first couple batches, we were pretty generous. Then as we realized that we were running out of chocolate, we started to be e less generous with the last ones. Some just barely had enough to cover them. We had to borrow some from the previous batches, and we had to really scrape out the bowl. (I learned how to do it well.) In the end, we covered them all. Yay!

Freshly coated.

Freshly coated.

As we finished a sheet worth we had put them in the fridge to firm up. This made more space on the table and meant we could stack on top of them without chocolate sticking to the wax paper. We used the same aluminum roasting pans. They stayed in the fridge overnight.

These too!

These too!

(BTW, I said “we” through a lot of this, because I couldn’t have done it without my wife. She helped with a lot of the cookie assembly and came up with the idea to save a whole bunch of the broken cookies. I cannot thank her enough.)

The next day. All finished!

The next day. All finished!

Because of having a late start, we had to wait till the next day to try them. The next day we had to run a bunch of errands. So we didn’t get to try the cookies till the late afternoon. My in-laws were very excited.

Delicious!

Delicious!

“Very professional,” said my father in law. “You could open up your own shop.” They really liked them. As did we. These cookies have three different layers so there’s a nice mix of textures and tastes. I’m not a big almond fan, but the almond was really nice in these. And all the different bits go well together.

Super yum!

Omnomnomnomnomnom.

The night before I had said to my wife that I had wanted to impress her parents, and I was unhappy that the cookies didn’t turn out like they were supposed to. Well the cookies might not have turned out like they were supposed to, but they were still delicious, and my in-laws were still impressed. I think I know how I messed up the meringue, so if I made them again, I think I could get it right. That was the only problematic part, everything else was okay. (It was my first time making meringue.)

I’m glad they liked them. We left them a whole bunch in the freezer (they keep well in freezer), and took just a few with us. And every few days for the next couple weeks, until they ran out of them, my father in law would give us updates. How great they were, how they ran out, etc. It was very sweet.

It was quite an adventure making these, especially in someone else’s kitchen. But I learned some things, and I’m glad I was able to make the cookies for them. How about you? Have you ever made something in someone else’s kitchen? How did that turn out? I’d love to hear your stories!

Recipe courtesy of The View from Great Island.

Flourless Zucchini Brownies

I’ve made a lot of challenging desserts in the past, not knowing how they would turn out. But this one had me concerned. These brownies are gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, sugar-free, and vegan. Could I make such a dessert that was still good?

I made these brownies for a new friend who was coming over for a game day. I often like to make something when people come over. I found out that she had some dietary restrictions, so I was trying to accommodate those restrictions with this recipe. I didn’t have a full list of what she could and couldn’t eat, but I had a pretty good idea.

I found this recipe, which looked pretty good. I used the recipe exactly as is, except I substituted applesauce for the eggs. (I found the egg substitution here.) The recipe looked pretty straightforward, and I went to work on it. It turned out to be very easy to make.

It takes a village to make a brownie.

It takes a village to make a brownie.

Since I couldn’t find dark chocolate chips that didn’t have sugar (one of my friend’s¬†restrictions), I got a dark chocolate bar. It was from Dagoba. (No, Yoda did not show up.) The bar was a little expensive, but I figured it was worth it, because without a lot of other “desserty” ingredients, the chocolate was going to be the star of the show. I melted it as suggested.

I wasn’t sure what kinds of oils would be okay to use given the food restrictions. So,¬†I didn’t grease the baking dish. I just used parchment paper.

Before baking.

Before baking.

I used an 8 x 8 dish instead of a 9 x 9. Plus I didn’t measure the zucchini exactly. I just used 3 zucchini as they suggested. Between those two things, I think the batter was too thick. So the brownies didn’t cook quite right. After 45 minutes they weren’t done. After 55 they were¬†still a little mushy in the middle, but sometimes brownies are like that. So I took them out at that point.

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After baking.

We were having so much fun hanging out and playing games that I almost forgot about the brownies. When I finally cut into them, it was obvious that they weren’t done. The insides were a light brown compared to the dark brown outside. They still tasted pretty good. And considering what they were, they were actually really¬†good. Nice and chocolatey. No one had any idea what was in them until I told them after the fact.

They weren't quite cooked all the way through. After microwaving them, they were much better. Like the picture up top.

They weren’t quite cooked all the way through. After microwaving them, they were much better. Like the picture up top.

Well, not exactly no idea. When my friend arrived, I had told her that I had made something for her. She asked a couple of questions about what was in them, and it turns out I almost made them work for her. They were good except for the chocolate and the almond butter. She couldn’t have them, but she was appreciative that I tried. And the rest of us ate them.¬†So while they turned out okay, they weren’t exactly a success.

Later on, I took a couple brownies and microwaved them a little bit. That seemed to cook them enough and they ended up much better, like you would expect brownies to be.

If I made them again, I would measure the zucchini properly, and I would try it in a 9 x 9 dish. I run into enough recipes calling for a 9 x 9 dish these days that I might have to get one.

All in all, I’m glad I tried the recipe. It wasn’t perfect, but I learned a few things. And I definitely expanded my cooking “vocabulary” as far as what you can use to make something. How about you? What’s the most daring dish you’ve tried? What are the most unusual ingredients you’ve used? I’d love to learn more and have more tricks up my sleeve.

Recipe courtesy of Delighted Momma via The Waking E-Zine.

Vegan Gluten-Free Millionaire’s Shortbread

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So, if you’ve been following this blog, you might have guessed that millionaire’s shortbread is one of my favorite recipes. (Thank you again Doug for suggesting I make them in the first place.) I’m writing about them again, but not out of some desire to drive you into a coma (boredom or sugar induced). Rather, I learned how to make them available to a whole new range of people, and got to do something nice for someone all at the same time. If you like yummy desserts, if you like yummy vegan and/or gluten-free¬†desserts, or if you just like fun stories,¬†read on!

When we last left our intrepid baker¬†(me), I made some millionaire’s shortbread and brought them along on a wedding road trip. Everyone in the car really enjoyed them. Everyone but one. One of our trip mates was vegan and sadly could not partake. For those not familiar with the recipe, there’s some a decent amount of a lot of butter. And when I say a lot, I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if the recipe was originally secretly conceived by a dairy association to promote sales. There’s also some sweetened condensed milk. And, at least in the version I normally make, milk chocolate.

I wondered aloud with my vegan friend if there was a way to make them vegan. Not right there on the spot, obviously, because I don’t have superpowers, but in the future. She quickly thought of a vegan butter substitute, and I copied down the name. Dark chocolate could easily be substituted for milk chocolate, as I’ve seen them made with both. Harder to deal with, I thought, would be the sweetened condensed milk. Coconut milk, she quickly mentioned. Perfect, I thought. But will it work?

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I mentioned I could try to make it work. She seemed interested, but I don’t think she took me all that seriously seeing as how she didn’t really know me at all. (She’s a work colleague of my wife’s and we had just met an hour or two before.) But it sounded like a fun challenge. And the version of me that does nice things for people is the version of me that I like the best.

The next week I had to go grocery shopping anyway, and I was pleasantly surprised to not have to make an extra trip anywhere special to get the ingredients I needed. (It is Brooklyn after all.) Through a confluence of events I also had an abundance of gluten-free flour, so I figured as long as I was eliminating¬†dairy from the recipe, why not eliminate¬†gluten as well. That would make them accessible to even more people. (If you don’t want to make them gluten-free, you can¬†just use regular flour.)

In searching for how the substitutions might work, I came across a vegan millionaire’s shortbread recipe. It looked good, but I thought I would go with my original recipe and just modify it as necessary. My reasoning was this: it would be fun to make a millionaire’s shortbread vegan, but I wanted to make my millionaire’s shortbread vegan. The recipes were close anyway.

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The recipe I normally use is here. The changes I made were as follows: I used a vegan butter substitute (Earth Balance) instead of the butter, coconut milk instead of the sweetened condensed milk, and dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. And since I figured coconut milk would behave differently than sweetened condensed milk, I decided to follow the instructions for making the caramel that I found in the vegan recipe. They were pretty similar anyway.

Going into it, I only had a couple concerns. The shortbread I wasn’t worried about, because it’s always pretty easy to make. I also wasn’t worried about the chocolate, because, well, it’s just chocolate. But I was concerned about the caramel, because that’s the most delicate part of the recipe. In this instance, I wasn’t sure if the coconut milk would make the caramel taste or smell like coconut. I also didn’t know if the caramel would end up being any good at all, because I had never done it this way before.

So now you’re probably wondering: how did they turn out? Well, I was right to be concerned. But it turns out that I¬†wasn’t concerned about the right things.

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At this point, I want to interject and reiterate how much I love having a scale. If you’re using sticks of butter, it’s easy to measure. But if you’re dealing with a tub of butter (or margarine or spread), a scale is your best friend.

So is reading the fine print. (I imagine that living in world where your best friends are a scale and reading the fine print would be kinda weird. I mean, what would your dinner parties look like? But I digress.)

The shortbread was too buttery. It looked okay coming out of the oven. But it ended up being mushy and crumbly and kinda fell apart a bit once all was said and done. I should have realized that it was too buttery when I was putting it together. I’ve made it enough times. I guess I just thought that the consistency was different because it wasn’t actually butter. Once I saw how the cookies¬†turned out, I guessed it was because the spread is¬†less dense and I ended up with more than I needed based on measuring by mass. But measuring by volume (using measuring cups) would likely not have worked either.

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Only after the fact (much, much after the fact) did I decide to do some reasearch¬†on Earth Balance’s website. Their FAQ clearly states that “because the whipping process adds volume [it] will not measure precisely”. They make other products¬†that are better for baking. It’s just the one I happened to pick up isn’t a one-to-one replacement for butter. Reading that ahead of time would have made a big difference.

So, shortbread done, I moved onto the caramel. While I followed “my” directions for making everything else, I followed the vegan recipe for cooking the caramel. I substituted coconut milk from the vegan recipe for the sweetened condensed milk, but otherwise used “my” recipe. They were pretty close in any case. By volume there was a lot more coconut milk, but my guess is that’s because it had to boil down a bit. (Although I have seen recipes that use a lot more sweetened condensed milk to begin with.)

With my usual recipe, making the caramel takes just a few minutes.¬†This time it¬†took forever. Not literally forever, or else I would still be making it, but it felt like forever. The vegan recipe was not very specific about how long it would take, so I didn’t really know what to expect. It ended up taking about 50 minutes mostly around medium heat. I tried cooking it a little hotter, but it kept foaming up a lot so I had to turn the heat back down. I’m not sure it should have taken quite that long. But I won’t know unless I try it again.¬†Even though it took a while to make, the caramel turned out nice. It had a good texture. And it didn’t taste like coconut.

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Step three: the chocolate. I used dark chocolate, and I specifically checked to make sure it was vegan.¬†It¬†turned out well. But it seemed to melt more easily, perhaps too easily, especially as I was cutting it. Maybe it’s because it was hot out. (For those of you also in the northeast US who are experiencing cold weather right now and¬†are wondering what the heck I’m talking about, I made this recipe a few months¬†ago.) Maybe it’s because it just took longer to cut. (See below.)

It chilled¬†in the fridge, without any fuss, as one might expect it to do. I didn’t time it exactly, but it didn’t seem to take any longer than normal. It was, however, a little hard to cut. I wish I could blame someone else for that, like a cookie gremlin or something, but there’s no one else¬†to blame but me.

The bottom layer was mushy, crumbly shortbread, which was very easy to cut through, but hard to keep together. On top of that was the caramel, which just coming out of the fridge was solid and much stronger than the shortbread it was on top of. The caramel¬†was topped by the chocolate which was easy to cut through but melted a little too easily, while I was trying to cut through the stronger caramel and at the same time make sure the shortbread underneath it didn’t fall apart. So the bottom would pull away, the middle would stay put, and the top would melt a little and slide away. Fun!

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Eventually I got it all cut. After trying a few pieces I put it back in the fridge, hoping it would stick together better. It was worth a shot, but I don’t think it really helped.

So now¬†the important part: how did they taste? They tasted great! I thought they were on par with any other ones I’ve made. Had I not known, I would have had no idea that they were vegan or gluten-free. I would say the caramel was good (and in fact better than in the previous¬†batch I made), the chocolate was good, and the shortbread was okay, just crumbly as previously mentioned.

How did they go over with others? Well, everyone seemed to enjoy them, flaws and all. (I guess when¬†cookies¬†taste good, people can be¬†forgiving of crumbly shortbread.)¬†I’ll also note here that while I didn’t really notice it, others mentioned that with all the “butter”, they had a slightly salty taste which went well with the caramel and the overall sweetness.

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And what did my new vegan friend think? She was kinda blown away. My wife said that I made quite the impression on her. Sure, they were good cookies, but I think it was more the fact that I experimented with making cookies specially for her, after researching and buying special ingredients. And the fact that she was effectively a complete stranger.

Honestly, it wasn’t a big deal to me. In fact, it was a fun challenge. And it makes me happy to do nice things for others.

So, things to keep in mind if I make it again: less (or different) butter substitute to make sure the consistency of the shortbread is better. Seeing if I can cook the caramel a little quicker by cooking it a little hotter. I think I would also try omitting the corn syrup to see if that makes any difference with the caramel. If you try it, please let me know how it goes for you, especially how long the caramel took to make and what you used to substitute for the butter.

Normally, this is the part where I’d link to the original recipe and instructions, but I made enough changes that I think I need to spell it all out here. The recipe is kind of a frankenstein between this recipe from Allrecipes.com which is the basis for my regular millionaire’s shortbread and this recipe from The Every Day Veggie.

Ingredients:

For the shortbread:

2/3 cup butter substitute (I used Earth Balance.)

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/4 cup gluten-free flour (I used Trader Joe’s.)

For the caramel:

1/2 cup butter substitute (Earth Balance again)

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons corn syrup

2 cups coconut milk

For the chocolate topping:

190 grams dark chocolate

Instructions:

To make the shortbread, mix together butter substitute, sugar, and gluten-free flour. Line an 8 x 8 square baking dish with parchment paper. Spread evenly into the bottom of the¬†dish. Bake at 350¬į for 20 minutes.

To make the caramel, add¬†the butter substitute, brown sugar, corn syrup, and coconut milk into a saucepan. Cook until it’s¬†boiling. Then reduce heat to medium and stir. Keep stirring till it thickens into caramel. (For me that was about 50 minutes. YMMV.) Pour over the shortbread and spread evenly.

To make the chocolate topping, break the chocolate into small pieces and put into a microwave safe dish. Microwave for 1 minute and stir. If it’s not a smooth consistency yet, you might have to microwave it a little bit longer (15-20 seconds more should do it). Once it’s smooth, pour over the caramel, and spread evenly.

Chill until firm. Remove from dish, peel away parchment paper, and cut into squares. Enjoy!

Deep Dish Cookie Pie

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When is a cookie not a cookie? When it’s a pie. That’s not supposed to be a riddle, but rather a description of this interesting recipe. This deep dish cookie pie does double duty as both. Plus, it’s relatively healthy-ish, at least in comparison to your average dessert.

I stumbled across this recipe one day, and I was intrigued by its creativity, audacity, and claims. The creativity involves using beans as the base of the recipe instead of something more traditional like flour. Its audacity is in making something both a cookie and a pie, and in making it sorta healthy. And the claim, that no one could tell that it’s made with healthier ingredients, that would have to be tested.

So I did. I tested it to see if it would work as described, and to see what people thought of it. The recipe is very simple to make. As for ingredients, I used 1 can each of garbanzos and great northern white beans. I used quick cook steel-cut oats. I used vegetable oil. My brown sugar wasn’t in the best of shape, so I had to do the brown sugar trick. (Read here for more details.) And for chocolate chips, I used up what I happened to have lying around, which was a mix of semi sweet and milk chocolate chips. It only took a half hour to make.

Where I ran into trouble was with the pan. The recipe calls for a 10-inch springform pan, which I do not have. (It was only after this recipe, and several others, called for a springform pan, that I actually went out and bought one.) So I looked up what the volume of a 10-inch springform pan is so that I could approximate it with some other baking dishes. I used this handy-dandy resource. A 10-inch springform pan is 12 cups. So I used a 9-inch round cake pan (6 cups) plus an 11 x 17 baking dish (also 6 cups) to equal the volume that I needed.

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I split the batter into the two dishes. It didn’t fill them up that much, but I assumed that it would rise to fill them up more. Since I was using two smaller dishes instead of one bigger one, I started with a much shorter baking time, to make sure I didn’t overcook them. I baked them for about 20 minutes at first, but they weren’t quite done. I ended up cooking them for another 5 minutes, for a total of 25 minutes.

As it turned out, I could have probably left all the batter in one dish. They didn’t really rise at all. So instead of making a pie, they ended up more like cookie bars. Still good, but not as intended.

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And how does the recipe taste? Really good. I knew what was in there, and I could taste it a little bit, but that didn’t detract from it being yummy. And¬†no one else who tried it had any idea. They thought it was delicious cookie-ness. They had no idea it was somewhat healthy-ish delicious cookie-ness. I told people it was cookie bars instead of cookie pie, both to cover up my mistake, and to stem the tide of any confusion that would have arisen from what is obviously not a pie. And while I would have told people what was in it had they asked, no one ever did.

If I make it again, I’ll have to try it in one deeper dish, instead of two smaller ones. That way I can see how it functions as a pie. Also, if I make it without any milk chocolate, it’ll be vegan, too.

I wanted to add one more thing about this recipe and the fact that it’s gluten-free. I thought oats were¬†gluten-free, but I wanted to be sure, so I did some research. Technically, oats are gluten-free. However, given how our agriculture system works, they are often contaminated by being grown or processed with or near wheat or other gluten-containing grains. To avoid those issues, you can get oats that are certified gluten-free.¬†However, it is also true that some people who have an issue with gluten also have an issue with oats, so make sure to check with your audience before you assume oats are okay. (You can read more about these issues here and here.)

I ask you now to take up the challenge. Go forth and make this recipe. I’ll bet you it’s delicious and that no one knows the secret ingredients. Am I right? Am I wrong? Let me know in the comments below.

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Recipe courtesy of Chocolate Covered Katie.

Peanut Butter Chip Chocolate Cookies – Gluten-Free

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If you’ve been following this blog, you know that I like to make some recipes gluten-free. One of my chief baking cheerleaders/taste testers/inspirations (my wife) does better when she eats less wheat, so I make gluten-free recipes specifically for her. I know there’s a difference between gluten-free and wheat-free, but since any gluten-free recipe will have to be wheat-free, and since I’ve found many¬†more¬†gluten-free resources than wheat-free resources, I find it easier to make things gluten-free.

This particular batch of cookies was made as a surprise for her. She’s a big fan of peanut butter and chocolate. Truth be told, I am, too. Growing up we used to scoop out peanut butter right from the jar and sprinkle chocolate chips on it. It was simple, it was a little bit of guerilla dessert making (we didn’t really have much in the way of sweets in the house), and it was delicious. I don’t know if I was a fan of peanut butter and chocolate because of that experience, or I undertook that experience because I was already a fan, but in either case enjoying peanut butter and chocolate together has stuck with me.

So, while these were for her, I knew they would be enjoyed all around. And I had just happened to pick up some peanut butter chips recently, so this recipe was perfect. Well, almost perfect. The original recipe is not gluten-free, but that was easy enough to remedy. I simply substituted gluten-free flour for the regular flour.

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It¬†is a super easy and quick recipe. In my methodical way, I often take a little bit longer to make recipes than the recipes indicate they will take. But this one only took an hour from start to finish. This includes the baking time, which included having to bake a few different batches because there were so many cookies. How many? I ended up with 47 cookies. Some were bigger and some were smaller, because I wasn’t being an exacting chef about it. The exacting chef in me would have tried to get an even 48 (4 dozen) out of them, but that didn’t happen either. The original recipe also only made 2 dozen cookies, so I can only imagine how big those were.

I cooked them for 8 minutes. They were a little crumbly when warm, which means I had to be careful sliding them off the cookie sheet so they didn’t break apart. They are a little grainy due to the texture of the gluten-free flour, but not any more so than anything else made with this flour. They are soft and have a good texture. They also have a “good cookie to chip ratio”, according to my wife. She knows about such things, so I take her word for it.

Overall, I would say these are a quick, simple, yummy peanut butter and chocolate dessert. But don’t take my word for it, try them yourselves. Let me know how they turn out in either original¬†or gluten-free versions.

Recipe courtesy of Allrecipes.com.