Thursday, March 3, 2011

Alice in Cookieland



Before Jacques Torres was wowing the American public with mousse filled chocolate desserts shaped like antique wood-stoves, Alice Medrich set up shop in Berkeley, California. Her goal was to educate the American Palate that there was more to chocolate than the milky bars that came in the ubiquitous brown and white wrapper (although I will take one of those any day still!). Her cookbooks further wooed the hearts of Americans unable to make the trip to her famed store, Cocolat. Alice's creations always contain high quality ingredients, and are also high in creativity, for instance using garam masala in a cookie! I flipped through her latest book, Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich, not expecting to find anything I could make for Lillie and Rosie, but find it I spades.

I experienced the joy of the unexpected discovery, when I found both gluten free, dairy-free and eggless selections (although not all free of everything) in the book, including: Cocoa Nib Wheat-Free Rugelach, Spicy Carrot Masala Macaroons and Wheat-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies. I especially liked that she incorporated oat flour into many of her wheat-free selections. I have been trying of late to re-incorporate whole grains into Lillie's diet. Before she went gluten-free, we ate largely whole wheat pasta and breads. Once she went gluten-free the only varieties of gluten-free breads and pastas she found palatable were the white flour ones. This distressed me somewhat, although I wanted to feed her what was appealing since she felt deprived of so much at that point. Alice Medrich's decision to include gluten-free and allergy friendly desserts in her book has given me hope that the culinary world is truly recognizing and accommodating special diets.

With Purim just around the cornier, I have been getting a lot of hits for hamantaschen. As an alternative to last year's recipe, you can also use these butter cookies from Alice Medrich. For a change from jam filling, Ms. Medrich includes a nice chocolate filling recipe for the hamantaschen, or use 1 cup chocolate chips melted with 1 Tbsp. margarine or shortening in the microwave for 1-2 minutes, stirred until smooth (as Lillie and Rosie did in picture above). These are also great for cut-out cookies.

Wheat-Free Butter Cookies
from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich, pp. 44-45

1/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon white rice flour, preferably superfine
1 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoon. oat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup sugar
2 oz. cream cheese, cut in chunks (Tofutti cream cheese or pureed soft or silken tofu may be substituted)
12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted, butter, softened, cut in chunks (or non-hydrogenated, non-dairy margarine such as Earth Balance)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, combine the flours, salt, and baking soda, and mix thoroughly with a whisk or fork. In a large bowl, using the back of a large spoon or an electric mixer, mix the sugar with the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla just until smooth and creamy. Add the flour mixture and mix just until it is incorporated. Do not over mix.

Divide the dough between two sheets of wax paper and form two- 8-inch logs about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap them tightly in the wax paper and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably longer or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325F degrees. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.

Use a sharp knife to cut eh cold dough log into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place the cookies at least 1 1/2 inches apart on the lined or greased baking sheets*. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown at the edges and well browned on the bottom. The tops will remain fairly pale. Rotate the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through baking time to ensure even baking. For lined pans, set the pans or just the liners on racks to cool; for unlined pans, use a metal spatula to transfer the cookies to racks. Cool completely before stacking or storing. May be kept in an airtight container for at least 2 weeks.

*For hamantaschen: At this point, dip the bottom of a glass in gluten free flour or granulated sugar, and flatten cookie dough rounds slightly. Fill with 1/2 tsp. jam, prune lekvar, ganache or date paste. Pinch to form 3 corners and continue as above. May need to bake a extra few minutes. Dough may also be rolled out to 1/4-inch thickness and cut with cookie cutters.

Yield: 3 dozen

I made this recipe with gluten-free flour, and it came out fine, except I had to bake it about 10-15 minutes longer than the time called for. I also omitted the nuts due to Rosie's allergies and the vegan caramels b/c I've yet to find vegan caramels--perhaps in Berkeley they are in every supermarket!

Dairy-Free Caramel Rocky Road Squares
from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich, pp. 210-11

1 2/3 cups unbleached all purpose gluten free flour blend with xanthan gum*
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon distilled vinegar
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6-oz. dairy-free semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped into shards or pieces or use store-bought chunks or chips
1 cup broken or very coarsely chopped walnut or pecan pieces
3 ounces purchased vegan caramels, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
12 marshmallows, quartered

*If using a flour blend without xanthan gum, add 1 teaspoon xanthan gum to the mixture.

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven.

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl and mix together thoroughly with a whisk or fork.

In a small bowl, mix the next four ingredients. Pour the liquid over the flour mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatulas just until smooth. Add half of the chocolate, half of the walnuts, and all the caramel, and stir to incorporate.

Scrape the batter into the pan and spread it evenly. Distribute the marshmallow quarters all over the brownies an poke them into the batter, leaving the tips exposed. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate and nurse around the marshmallows.

Bake for 20-25 minutes (I found I needed to bake about 35-40), or until the batter no longer sways or jiggles when you nudge the side of the pan. Cool on a rack. Lift the edges of the foil to transfer the squares to a cutting board. Slide a slim metal spatula under the cake to release it from the foil. Cut into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

May be kept in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Yield: 16 2 1/4-inch squares

1 comment:

  1. I have noticed, in many of well-known baking books, they had loads of gluten-free recipes and certainly, they all have the flourless chocolate cake.

    I make gluten-free cookies, using almond or cashew butter.