Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Swap This!


I feel like every magazine this time of year has a cover story on cookie swaps. These are parties where groups of people get together and bring several dozen of one kind of cookie, and a large container. Then they each take a few of the other people's cookies, resulting in a stunning array of goodies without doing all the work to make such a variety. People often try to show their personal best at these affairs, either by bringing elaborately decorated cookies or outrageously delectable ones. But once again, these parties are gluten fests for which the Celiac doesn't benefit.

As I peruse the the recipes the home magazines give, usually accompanied by a lush photo spread, I "tsk, tsk" to myself that they are train wrecks for the food sensitive--full of eggs, nuts, wheat flour and butter. But can you expect much more from the "non-sensitive world"? Then every so often, I will serendipitously come across a recipe that works well with gluten free flour subbed for "regular" all-purpose flour. Butter in these recipes is easily switched with non-dairy margarine, ditto for milk. Occasionally, I will even find a recipe that is egg less--then I'm dancing in the streets!

Below, I am presenting two sweet treats that no-one will even suspect are gluten and allergen free. They are stand outs on their own. If you are bringing them to a cookie swap, or putting them on a buffet or platter with gluten-ful goodies, I suggest wrapping them in cellophane bags with a ribbon bow. This will keep them uncontaminated while attractively presented. Holiday's are especially difficult times for the food sensitive, with all the celebrations and gatherings that include festive foods. But with a little creativity no one has to be left out!

This recipe was adapted from a cookie contest winner in the January 2011 Cook's Country Magazine. The nuts in the recipe are optional, and the cookie is totally fine without them. You may want to mix up the types of chips you use (i.e. white chocolate or cinnamon flavor), as long as the total equals 1 1/2 cups. Judging by the look on the faces of those that have eaten these bars, they are truly bliss!

Chocolate-Cherry Bliss Bars

1 1/4 cups all-purpose gluten free flour blend with xanthan gum* (such as Jules' brand)
1 1/2 sticks non-dairy margarine (such as Earth Balance Buttery Sticks), chilled, cut into cubes
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar (light brown works fine too)
1/4 granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut, toasted**
1/2 cup gluten-free old fashioned oats
1- 12 ounce jar cherry preserves
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted** (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 350F degrees. Line a 9x13 inch baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil, with 3 inches of foil hanging over the edge of the pan. Spray with non-stick cooking spray.

In a food processor, pulse together the flour, margarine, sugars, salt and cinnamon until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer mixture to a medium sized mixing bowl, and stir in coconut and oats. Reserve 3/4 cup of mixture, and press remaining mixture into prepared pan. Bake 15-18 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes.

Spread jam over warm crust. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and nuts (if using), top with remaining crumb mixture. Bake until bubbly and golden brown, 18-22 minutes. Cool on wire rack, about 1 hour. Lift cookies out of pan using foil sling or parchment paper. Place on flat surface, and cut into 24 bars. Store in airtight container.

Yield: 2 dozen bar cookies

*If your flour blend doesn't include xanthan gum, add 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum to dry ingredients

**To toast coconut or nuts: Spread coconut in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 350F degree oven for 8-10 minutes, or until light brown, turning occasionally. Coconut can go from
brown to burnt quickly, so keep checking it.

Anyone who has seen snow in New York City needs no explanation for the name of these cookies. This recipe was inspired by one in a Joanne Fluke mystery.

New York City Snowballs

1 cup (2 sticks) non-dairy margarine or butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond or mocha extract (optional)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups all-purpose gluten free flour blend with xanthan gum* (such as Jules' brand or
Better Batter)
1 1/2 cups sweetened coconut or finely chopped nuts (or half of each)
Confectioner's sugar

Pre-heat oven to 325F degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, or spray with non-stick cooking spray.
In a medium sized mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, cream together margarine and granulated sugar. Add the vanilla extract, cocoa and salt. Mix until well blended, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the flour in 3 additions, blended well after each addition. Stir in coconut or nuts.
Dampen fingers, and roll dough into walnut sized balls. Place on cookie sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes until firm. Switch cookie sheets halfway through baking time.
Allow cookies to cool a few minutes on the cookie sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely (at least 30 minutes).

Place confectioner's sugar in a small bowl. Roll cooled cookies in confectioner's sugar. Store in covered container.
Yield: 3 dozen cookies

*If your flour blend doesn't include xanthan gum, add 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum to dry ingredients

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