Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Sweet Cookie to Swap


It's that time of year, cookies for cookie swaps, cookies for school parties, cookies for neighborhood and family get togethers. But cookies, cookies everywhere yet for the food sensitive--none to eat! Not so fast. Although I am often disheartened when reading through gluten free cookbooks at seemingly great cookie recipes when I scroll down the list of ingredients and hit "eggs" on the ingredient list. Then flip the page, and another, and more of the same. Even though the recipe fits Lillie's diet, Rosie can't have as much as a crumb. But, I do have a number of recipes in my cookie arsenal that accommodate both girls, and have found shortbread style cookies to be an extremely good choice. Shortbread traditionally is not made with eggs, and many Scottish shortbread recipes even call for rice flour! I use a shortbread recipe for my basic cutout cookies, but it is adaptable for so much more. You can use it as a crust for single-crust pies, and is especially good for a chocolate or custard style pie. It can be used as a crust in a gem style cookie (made in mini-muffin tins), or you can add any flavor extract and roll the dough in coconut, crushed nuts, candy, etc., for almost any flavor profile you desire.

This year I decided to combine a chocolate shortbread crust with my very favorite ganache filling. Using either crushed candy canes or almonds, you have a delightful and eye-catching dessert. People who've tried it without being told it's gluten free even thought it was very good.

So as you flip through endless "holiday" themed magazines this month with great ideas for everyone but you, don't despair, bring this recipe to your next party and enjoy the "oohs" and "aahs" you receive. For another great holiday sweet idea check out my recipe on the Attune Foods (makers of Erewhon cereals) website.

This recipe is vegan provided you use margarine and coconut milk. The coconut milk here is the thick kind that comes in the can, NOT cream of coconut or the kind sold in the dairy case or aseptic boxes. The latter are mixed with water and sweetener and are similar to soy milk.

Crispy Choco-Mint Gems

non-stick cooking spray
2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour blend with xanthan gum*
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) non-hydrogenated margarine (such as Earth Balance), or unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon mint extract
2 Tablespoons water

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I prefer Trader Joe's brand)
1/2 cup canned coconut milk or heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon mint extract
1/4 cup finely crushed candy canes or peppermint candies

Garnish (optional):
3 Tablespoons coarsely crushed candy canes or peppermint candies

Pre-heat oven to 350F degrees. Lightly spray a 24 cup mini-muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray, set aside.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder and salt, set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together margarine and sugar until fluffy, about 2-3 minutes with mixer on medium speed. Add extracts and beat until combined. Gradually add flour mixture and beat until mixture forms a dough. Add water and beat until smooth.

Form dough into 24 walnut sized balls. Place one dough ball in each muffin cup. Press down on dough with your thumb to form a well; press dough into sides of muffin cup with fingers. Place in freezer for 15 minutes.

Remove muffin pan from freezer and bake in pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes until cookies feel firm when pressed with a finger, and no longer appear to have moist spots. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely, about 30 minutes. If dough has risen during baking, use the bottom of a wooden spoon to press down center of cookies to form a well.

In a medium sized microwave safe bowl, combine chocolate chips, coconut milk and mint extract. Microwave on high 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Stir until chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth and silky looking. If chocolate is not fully melted, return to microwave for 15 second intervals, stirring in between. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Stir in finely crushed candy canes.

Spoon a scant tablespoon of filling into center of each cookie. Sprinkle coarsely crushed candy canes over filling, if desired. Chill until center is firm, about 1 hour. Remove cookies from muffin tin and arrange on a serving platter, or store in an airtight container.

Yield: 2 dozen cookies

* If the flour blend you are using doesn't contain xanthan gum, add ½ teaspoon of xanthan gum

For Almond Cups:

Substitute almond extract for the mint extract called for in both the cookie crust and the filling.

Substitute 1/2 cup sliced, toasted almonds for the crushed peppermint candy called for in the filling and garnish. To toast almonds: Spread almonds out on a cookie sheet and bake in a 350F degree oven for 8-10 minutes, turning several times, until lightly brown. Remove from sheet immediately, as the tend to continue browning if left on hot cookie sheet.

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