Friday, 19 June 2015

Gluten Free Espresso Chocolate Almond Cookies

One of my best friends developed Celiac Disease a few years ago, so I have a bit of an interest in gluten free baking. Not to mention that there is also an increased demand for it from the customers at work. I am by no means an expert; there is a lot more to gluten free baking than using gluten free flour instead of regular all purpose flour. I can make some fairly basic, but very tasty cookies and bars, by making use of some of the gluten free all purpose flour blends that are now available  in most grocery stores. The trick is in the addition of xantham gum, which helps the batter or dough keep it's structure and elasticity, which is what gluten does.

Have a look at this link for some basic information, and then do some of your own research and reading, and experimenting...that's the best way to learn.

This cookie recipe was not initially a gluten free recipe,  but as it calls for a minimal amount of flour, I tried it using gluten free flour, and it was a success. I used another opportunity to use some of the ground almonds leftover from my macaroon baking; why not? Almonds, espresso and chocolate are a great combination!

Heat the oven to 350F, and line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a double boiler, over simmering water, melt:

8 ounces good quality dark chocolate
4 ounces butter

Stir the melting chocolate and butter often; remove it from the heat when it is completely melted and set it aside to cool slightly.

Measure the dry ingredients:

6 tablespoons gluten free all purpose flour blend
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

In a separate bowl, combine:

1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup coarsely ground almonds

In the bowl of a stand mixer, place:

3/4 cup white sugar

Using the whisk attachment, whip the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.


2 teaspoons finely ground espresso
2 teaspoons vanilla

Continue to whip until the mixture is very light and fluffy, and holds a 2 second ribbon.

Add in the melted and cooled chocolate and butter and whisk until it is almost completely combined. You may need to stop and scrape the bowl.

Add the dry ingredients and mix on low until just incorporated. Again, stop and scrape the bottom of the bowl halfway through.

Up until this point the batter is fairly liquid, but it will now start to firm up.

Add the almonds and chocolate chips to the batter, and fold in by hand.

The batter will start to firm up even more. If it is too soft to scoop then leave it for a few minutes.

Place rounded spoonfuls of cookie batter evenly onto the two baking sheets. I made 24 cookies in total.

They do spread very slightly, so don't place them too close together.

Bake until the cookies are slightly puffed, start to crack and feel set but still soft in the centre.

This takes between 12 - 14 minutes.

                          Remove from the oven and allow them to cool before serving.

  • As I mentioned earlier, there are a few gluten free flour blends available in most grocery stores. Most do not contain xantham gum, which you would need to buy separately. It is quite expensive, but as a little goes a long way, it is worth the investment if you are going to be doing a lot of gluten free baking.
  • I was lucky enough to find a gluten free flour blend that contains xantham gum. Most of the flours available are a blend of various types of flour, such as tapioca, potato flour, rice flour, bean flour to name a few. Do not buy a single type (that will be labelled gluten free, which it is) and substitute that. Most of these do not adequately replace wheat flour alone; each one contributes its own characteristic.
  • If you are going to be doing a lot of gluten free baking, you might want to look into making your own flour blend, which is what my friend does. It takes research and experimentation to find the blend that works for you, but it keeps well in an airtight container.
  • A xantham gum : gluten free flour is approximately 1 tsp : 1 cup. You need less xantham gum for things like cookies or bar crusts, as there is less structure to maintain than in a cake or muffin. Most commercial blends, or recipes, let you know how much xantham gum to add.
  • This cookie can be made with regular all purpose flour.
  • I used a bittersweet dark chocolate, with 72% cocoa.  Buy the best quality chocolate you can find, and afford. If you are in dire need of a chocolate cookie fix, and all you have are chocolate chips...go ahead.
  • I used milk chocolate chips to fold in; use dark or white. Flavoured chips such as butterscotch or mint can also be used.
  • Any ground or chopped nuts can be used...hazelnuts, macadamia nuts or peanuts are all good choices.
  • The espresso can be omitted; add cinnamon and/or chili powder. Grated orange zest can also be used. Vanilla extract can be changed to almond or mint if you choose.
  • Gluten free baked goods do not keep as well as regular baked goods do; they tend to dry out faster. So either freeze them right away, or make sure they are stored in an airtight container. They will keep for about 2 days...if they aren't eaten before then.
  • If you wish to turn this into a bar cookie, make a crust by combining the following in a food processor:
          3 cups + 6 tablespoons gluten free flour blend
          1/2 teaspoon xantham gum (if your flour blend does not contain any)
          1 cup + 2 tablespoons icing sugar
          12 ounces cold  butter

          Process until fine and crumbly and then press onto the bottom of a baking sheet that has
          been lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350F until set and lightly coloured.

          Double the cookie recipe and spread the  batter evenly over the cooled crust. Bake until the
          filling is set, but still slightly soft. Cool completely before cutting.
  • If you are more of a tea person than a coffee person, use a spice grinder to finely grind Earl Grey or Chai tea, and use that to replace the espresso. As both are fairly strong flavoured, you might want to cut the amount down a bit.    

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