Gluten-Free Cookies : A Review, Some Vanilla Bean Cookies And A Giveaway!
There are a lot of things I have learned food-wise since I started blogging about food. I never knew that there were so many people allergic to nuts and lactose intolerance was something I came across in my reading, simply because no one that I knew had any of these conditions.
Similarly, the term “gluten-free diet” was something I came across when I saw so many food bloggers talking about family members or friends who had Celiac Disease and had to necessarily adopt such a diet.
This would seem really funny because the South Indian community I belong to and whose style of cooking is what I follow in 90% of my daily cooking is actually gluten-free! We eat a rice based vegetarian diet and almost all our regular cooking as well as festive cooking and sweets/ desserts (except the ingredient called asafoetida) do not use any wheat or gluten. Now this was food we grew up with but I never recognised it as a gluten-free diet.
Of course, our traditional cooking does not involve baking being an avid baker, I have come to realise that it is not easy to bake without the very basic of the ingredients like flour, butter, sugar or eggs. Also having done a lot of baking without eggs, I know that while it can be difficult to substitute for these ingredients, it is not impossible.
So when Sellers Publishing sent me a review copy of Gluten-Free Cookies by Luane Kohnke, I was quite interested to see what the book would reveal. I know of a lot of fellow food bloggers who are excellent bakers, and who bake gluten-free on a regular basis but I have never consciously baked gluten-free. The only reason for this has been because the staples of this style of baking like gluten-free flour blends or binders like xanthan/ guar gum are not available where I live.
All the same I went through the book and found several recipes I could make with the ingredients I had on hand. Everyone who has teenagers at home can vouch for how hungry they can get. My daughter has started her summer vacation from school, and that means she has more time to think about food and get hungrier. Her two favourite flavours in ice-creams and bakes are vanilla and butterscotch/ caramel and as far as she’s concerned one just cannot have too much of it or go wrong with it.
That decided that I was going to try out the Vanilla Bean Cookies from the book. These cookies are very butter rich and use corn starch as the flour of choice. I expected to find some taste of corn starch in the baked cookie but am happy to report in the negative. The recipe says the chocolate chips are optional, but I would say go ahead and use it if you have it on hand. It definitely improves these cookies.
I made half the recipe in the book and used only 100gm of butter (my butter comes in easy to use 100gm slabs) instead of 1 stick (about 113gm) stated but my dough seemed too sticky to be defined as “dough”. I added a couple of tbsps of corn starch and that helped some.
Otherwise the cookies were good – like a flatter and slightly crunchy chocolate chip cookie. And no one will ever believe they’re gluten-free, unless you tell them so! My resident cookie expert pronounced them “quite good” which is heaping praises on it, if you know her. Her usual responses to my questions about something I’ve baked or cooked for the first time tend to range from “yuck!” or “this is awful”, when something hasn’t quite made the grade to ““there’s something not quite right about this” when its passable whereas “it’s okay” usually translates as good.
The recipe below is the full recipe as in the book. I used a half recipe and made 30 cookies (about 2 1/2” in diameter each).
- In a food processor, pulse together the sugar and vanilla beans pieces till they’re pulverised. Sieve the mixture to remove any seeds. (I didn’t sieve the mixture).
- In a medium bowl, sift together the vanilla sugar, cornstarch and sea salt. Add the butter. With a pastry cutter, cut in the butter till the dough resembles coarse meal. Mix in the vanilla extract, egg and chocolate chips, combining thoroughly. Chill for 30 to 40 minutes.
- Using a small scoop (I used a melon baller), shape the dough into 1/2" or 3/4” balls and drop onto parchment lined baking sheets, spacing them about 2 1/2" apart. These cookies are full of butter and will spread a lot!
- Bake at 190C (375F) for 8 to 10 minutes, until the edges of the cookies are golden brown. Cool on cookie sheets for one minute, and then transfer the cookies with the parchment sheets to wire racks and cool them completely.
- Store the cookies in an airtight container for upto 1 week. This recipe makes 60 to 72 cookies.
- Baker’s Note : You can buy pre-made vanilla sugar in gourmet food stores and online merchants. Make sure they’re gluten-free.
The introduction to this books starts with the sentence, “Cookies are one of life’s greatest pleasures” and Luane Kohnke sets out to make this true with her book on gluten-free cookies. Her book has a selection of 50 cookie recipes covering a variety of cookies.
The book opens with a detailed introduction to the world of gluten-free baking. She explains well and very concisely what grains/ flours are gluten-free and how to ensure that ingredients for baking are truly gluten-free. She also details the ingredients and equipment used in gluten-free baking, the various possible flour blends that can be used, as well as stores and online vendors from whom these can be sourced.
Recipes are short and concise but easy to follow, and each one is accompanied by a photograph making it visually pleasing as well. The cookies in the book include –
Classic Cookies including Chocolate Pecan Cookies, Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies, Ginger Molasses Cookies and Oatmeal Almond Cookies With Dates;
Favourites With Children like Jam Thumbprints, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups and Sweet Cinnamon Snickerdoodles;
Fruit Cookies including Banana Bites, Lemon Drops, Date WALNUT Logs and Coconut Surprises;
Bars And Squares such as Macadamia Nut Blondies, Fruit and Nut Granola Bars and Rocky Road S’Mores; And a whole lot of Meringues with names like Lavender Clouds and Fudge-Filled Drops! She also includes a chapter on special cookies for celebrations and special days.
Luane Kohnke, a gourmet cookie baker for more than 20 years, studied baking techniques and restaurant management at the Institute for Culinary Education in New York City. She also writes a blog featuring a lot of cookies, both regular and gluten-free. She developed an interest in gluten-free baking when a friend’s son was diagnosed with Celiac Disease.
The Giveaway : Going by the Vanilla Cookies I just made, I don’t think you need to have to be on a gluten-free diet to bake or enjoy the cookies in this book. Don’t think of these gluten-free cookies as “substitutes” for the real thing, but as a new experience in themselves. If you bake cookies, then you should be looking at these and here’s just the opportunity to make that happen.
Mediterranean food is considered one of the healthiest diets in the world and there are probably very few who do not enjoy this style of cooking. The essence of this cuisine is in the use of fresh, unprocessed and locally produced ingredients.
One of the latest publications in their 500 Series of Cookbooks, this particular edition stays true to the hall mark of well-presented and colour coded recipes with variations on each recipe, accompanied by beautiful photographs. The book covers antipastos, tapas, mezethes; soups, salads, breads; whole grain and light pasta, cous-cous and rice; recipes incorporating eggs, cheese and other proteins; fruits and desserts too.
So I’m giving away two books this time, one each to two lucky commenters here.
If you would like to have a chance at winning this book, please leave a comment at this post and I will enter your name in a random drawing. You do not need to do anything else, but please you ensure you leave a link to your blog or an e-mail id or someway I can contact you in the event you win.
This giveaway is open till the midnight of the 30th of April, 2011. The giveaway is open to everyone, and non-bloggers are most welcome too. I will ship worldwide. Good luck!
THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED!