07 August 2010

Gluten-Free Goodies - Chocolate Chip Cookies

For a girl who has wanted to be a pastry chef her entire life, I haven't been doing much baking lately. The heat of summer combined with a bit of resentment toward my new gluten-free lifestyle has kept me out of the kitchen much more. But something in me clicked yesterday and my usual constant desire to cook and bake up a storm resurfaced full force (as you can see from the pictures below, I love any excuse to use my Cooknook Cookbook Holder, one of my best purchases ever).

Perhaps it had something to do with finally being able to check the BabyCakes cookbook out of the library after weeks of waiting. BabyCakes: Vegan, (Mostly) Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York's Most Talked-About Bakery is the cookbook of a (you guessed it) hip allergen and special diets friendly bakery in Manhattan. Everyone absolutely raves about their insanely delicious baked goods, even those without dietary restrictions; celebrities and civilians alike flock to BabyCakes to appease their sweet tooth. Top Chef head judge and James Beard Award winning chef Tom Colicchio (who I creepily dream about sometimes and therefore often feel is my friend in real life) wrote the forward; Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel and Jason Schwartzman all profess their love of BabyCakes in print! Unfortunately, I've never had the pleasure of eating at BabyCakes (despite being a Yankees fan, I don't get to Manhattan very often) but thankfully with the publication of their cookbook I can at least attempt to replicate their gluten-free goodies at home.

Deciding exactly which recipe to try first from the cookbook was no easy task -- Ginger Peach Corn Muffins, Chocolate Shortbread Scones with Carmelized Bananas, Red Velvet Cupcakes and even Almond Palmer recipes are included in this gorgeous book, which also features an extensive glossary of ingredients and tools, list of resources and purveyors and helpful guides on technique. Eventually I determined my first real foray into gluten-free baking should be simple. Chocolate Chip Cookies immediately came to mind, and the gorgeous image accompanying the recipe solidified my choice.

Despite knowing I am a talented aspiring pastry chef, baking something not only gluten-free but also vegan made me a bit nervous; baking without eggs, butter or wheat flour can go oh so very wrong. Some of my fears were quieted when after mixing coconut oil, applesauce, salt, vanilla and evaporated cane juice together, the mixture looked (and tasted) nearly exactly like mixing butter, eggs, sugar and vanilla. It was quite amazing actually! Combined with flour, flax meal, baking soda and xanthan gum, the resulting batter looked normal and tasted just as delicious as any other cookie dough (without worrying about salmonella poisoning as a plus).

After approximately 15 minutes in the oven, my apartment was filled with the glorious smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, which looked divine. I patiently waited for them to cool down a bit, then took my first bite. A thin cookie with crispy edges and a chewy center, as well as a subtle hint of coconut. I was in love - and so proud of myself! I truly could not believe the end result of mixing such seemingly random ingredients together to achieve such fantastic results.

The cookies have since been approved by my roommates and my dear friend/aspiring vegan Jessica, and have also been continuously taste-tested by the baker herself. I'm so in love with these cookies! Next time I am going to experiment with adding a touch of cinnamon and also some crystallized ginger, or perhaps some walnuts.

In this recipe, I was most intrigued by the use of coconut oil in place of butter. As the author, Erin McKenna, states in the cookbook "Coconut oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, is packed with lauric acid, stores in your body as energy and not fat, and supports the proper function of the thyroid, thus stimulating the metabolism" - wow! I remember my mother, who did an amazing job raising her four children on healthy foods, having a list of the Top 10 Foods You Should Avoid posted on our refrigerator when I was growing up. Coconut oil was on this list, so I've been surprised to learn how good it really is for you, and intrigued by changes in nutrition research (can you tell I am getting really excited to start school this fall?). I also love how applesauce and flax seed meal, both highly nutritious foods, combine to seamlessly replicate eggs.

So after all this hype, I am sure you are all dying for the recipe! Please note that I have acquired the ingredients for these cookies over several weeks; if one does not already have gluten-free, vegan products on hand already, these could very well end up being a $50+ batch of cookies. Enjoy and if you do bake them, please let me know what you think!

I also started a Tumblr page to keep my Facebook and Twitter pages less cluttered, so definitely check it out to see news stories, videos, quotes and other randomness I find worthy of sharing.

BabyCakes Gluten-Free, Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
(modified from BabyCakes cookbook)

1 cup coconut oil (you can also use canola oil)
6 tablespoons unsweetened/natural applesauce
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups cane sugar (not white granulated sugar)
2 cups Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Baking Flour
1/4 cup flax meal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 cup vegan chocolate chips (note: I used regular chocolate chips so my cookies were not truly vegan - and I also used about 1 1/4 cups!)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, mix together coconut oil, applesauce salt, vanilla and cane sugar. In another medium bowl, whisk together flour, flax meal, baking soda, and xanthan gum. Using a rubber spatula, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture until evenly combined. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.

Scoop the resulting dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing portions at least one inch apart. Gently press with the heel of each hand to help them spread. Bake cookies on center rack for 15 minutes, rotating pan 180 degrees about halfway through baking. Cookies are ready to be removed from the oven when the edges are crispy and center is still soft.

Let the cookies stand on the sheets for 10 minutes before removing to cool on wire racks. Allow cookies to cool completely before covering. They will store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to three days (if they last that long!). I also froze some right away (3 cookies per sandwich bag) to save for friends and rainy days.


  1. i have to ask, where were you able to snag that great under the counter book holder? i cant afford to keep one on the counter because of my lack of space and so im always trying to find something else and yours looks exactly like what I need :)

  2. I got it at The Container Store (http://www.containerstore.com/shop/kitchen/foodPrep/recipes?productId=10023098) and I love it!