Friday, April 20, 2012

Perfect Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Today, I made the most perfect chocolate chip cookies I've ever made.  They are browned JUST right.  They are crispy on the outside but chewy on the inside.  There is a fantastic balance of flavors.  And they are gluten free, which means I can eat them!  I am super proud of these cookies.

I must admit, I've had my fair share of baking failures since I've had to go gluten free.  These gluten free flours don't behave in the same way as wheat flour, so there are new rules to be learned... and a lot of old rules to be ignored.  It takes time, practice, and patience... something I don't always have in abundance LOL.  But it certainly has paid off with these cookies.

One thing I've learned is that gluten free flours soak up moisture.  In the past, I'd whip up a batch of cookie dough and I'd start baking the cookies as soon as the dough was done.  The first tray of cookies were all right, but the second ones were moister, lighter, and in general... better.  Many of the gluten free recipes for cookies, doughs, and so on that I've been trying call for the dough to rest for 15-60 minutes in order for the flour to hydrate.  This was my first a-ha moment.  I decided to let the dough rest for 15 minutes before I dished it out onto my cookie sheets.

The next a-ha moment comes from a universal rule in baking:  In the oven, cold dough spreads much less than room temperature dough.  When making gluten free breads, we're told to always work with room temperature ingredients, including eggs, butter, and milk.  It makes the texture of gluten free breads better.  However, in this case, I wanted my cookies to hold their shape while baking.  I decided to refrigerate the dough while it was resting.

One other thing I did.  Or actually, one thing I didn't do.  I didn't use any xanthan gum, guar gum, or any other things like that.  I've discovered, through trial and error, that denser items like cookies, cakes and brownies don't really need it.  You can use some when you make these cookies if you like... but it really isn't necessary.

OK, so this wasn't an a-ha moment, but I think it had a positive impact on the cookies as well.  Earlier this week I was watching an episode of Good Eats with Alton Brown.  I forget which episode it was, but in it he was admitting to using butter flavored shortening in whatever he was making because it makes the texture better and to him it tastes more buttery than butter.

I had just bought some Spectrum Organic Butter Flavored Shortening, so I decided to use that instead of butter.  To be honest, I'm hooked.  I believe that substitution had just as much to do as everything else in getting a fantastic texture and rise on my cookies.  I also prefer Spectrum to other brands because it is non-hydrogenated and so is healthier than the rest.

So, without further ado, here is the recipe I used and the steps I took to make these the best cookies I've made so far.  :)

Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 3½ dozen cookies.

* 2½ cups gluten free flour
* 1 cup brown sugar
* ½ cup granulated sugar
* 1 cup Spectrum Organic Butter Flavor Shortening
* 2 eggs
* 2 tsp vanilla extract
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 1 tsp kosher salt
* 12 oz chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Cream together the shortening and the sugars.  Add eggs and vanilla; mix well.

3. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.  Add to butter mixture in 2-3 batches, mixing well between additions.  Add chocolate chips and mix to distribute them evenly.

4. Place bowl in refrigerator for 15 minutes to let the dough hydrate and chill.

5. Using a spoon or a disher (I used #40 disher), portion out your dough onto cookie sheets prepared with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.

6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned.  If you're baking more than one sheet of cookies and have them on separate racks, after 5 minutes rotate the cookie sheets to promote even browning.  If your cookies aren't done after another 5 minutes, rotate one last time and bake for 2 more minutes.  Remove from oven and let rest on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.

And voila!  You have the best, tastiest cookies.  Enjoy!

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