Dreamy Allergen-Free Double Chocolate Cookies

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With a thin sugar-crisped exterior, a moist interior, and deep milk-chocolate flavor, these cookies are a food allergic’s dream come true.

The story of this cookie: I needed to make a really good double chocolate cookie (I realize that “need” is a strong word, but hey a chocolate cookie craving is a need, am I right?). I was a bit disappointed in the gluten-free double chocolate cookie I had been making. It kinda satisfied the chocolate craving but the taste was still too dark and had a bitter tone. Also, as with most disappointing gluten-free treats, the texture was pretty grainy and dried out within a day. I needed a moist cookie that had a silkier texture, a more milk chocolate flavor, and with a good texture that would last for more than 15 minutes.

After much research and experimentation, I finally hit a winner. The secret to better texture and moisture retention is in a higher ratio of starch than is normally called for in gluten-free baking. A 50% flour and 50% starch mix. Yes! Good results!

I shared some finished cookies with family and friends and took some to networking events. I got a lot of rave reviews on this cookie. Due to such great response, I was tempted to keep this recipe a secret. I’ve been told that I shouldn’t publish this and that it should be the beginning of fantastic cookie sales, and a way to fame and fortune – perhaps a new line of dream cookies for all those who can’t wheat, dairy, eggs, corn, oats, peanuts, treenuts, or rice! (It’s very hard to find gluten-free treats without rice!) I’ve made these with both brown rice flour and sorghum flour, the results were good for both.

I don’t want to have you thinking these are some sort of extremely magical cookie, though. What gets us excited, however, is that this is like having a cookie made from wheat. They’re simply good. For those of us who haven’t had good cookies like that in a long while, it’s pretty magical.

What’s even better – these are pretty economical. Other than the palm oil shortening, the rest of the ingredients are sold for prices that won’t leave you breaking your wallet at $70 in the 7-items or less checkout line.

So, I suppose I could have kept this recipe to myself, but what of all those commercial kitchen start-up costs that I don’t have? And what of all the needs of the dedicated bakers all over the world that need to start their gluten-free baking with a really good cookie?

I’d rather inspire all of you to make these and share them with your friends and family. I’d like to see if your foodie friends who can eat anything even notice that these aren’t anything but fantastic. I’d like to see you delight your co-workers or family members or friends who are usually left out of the food part of celebrations and watch them smile and praise you for your thoughtfulness! It would be great to see these offered in your bake sales, your community events, school functions and fundraisers! The food allergy community will profusely thank you for thinking of them and for making their cookie dreams come true!

Without further adieu:

Dreamy Allergen-Free Double Chocolate Cookies

Set your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit,  or 175 degrees Celsius.

In a separate bowl, add these dry ingredients together and mix until thoroughly combined:

1 cup (152 grams) of either brown rice flour or sorghum flour (use sorghum for those that cannot tolerate rice)

1/2 cup (56 grams) cocoa powder

1 cup (152 grams) of cornstarch or arrowroot starch (If allergic to corn, use arrowroot starch. I have tried both. The cornstarch results in a slightly silkier texture on the inside of the cookie, but the arrowroot starch is still very nice).

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar

3/4 teaspoon of xanthan or guar gum

Set aside the bowl of dry ingredients.

In your stand mixer, or with hand-held mixer, cream together only these ingredients:

1 cup (180 grams) non-hydrogenated palm oil shortening (Note: do not use butter or coconut oil or any other shortening if making this for general public or school functions. Butter is dairy allergy trigger and coconut oil can trigger treenut allergic reactions, other shortening may contain soybean oil.) Spectrum organic palm-oil shortening can be found here: http://www.spectrumorganics.com/spectrum-naturals/organic-shortening/

1.5 cup (300 grams) light brown sugar (sticky sugar)

4 oz. (105 grams) applesauce (conveniently, this is the equivalent of a snack-sized cup that you can purchase and put in kids’ lunches)

Then add:

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

Once the shortening, sugar, applesauce, and vanilla extract ingredients are combined, gradually mix in the dry ingredients. The mixture will get very thick. You want this to resemble cookie dough. If appears too dry, add about 1-2 Tablespoons of water.

Once your cookie dough is made, using a large metal spoon, fold in:

1/2 cup (90 grams) Enjoy Life Allergen-Free mini chocolate chips and

1/2 cup (90 grams) Enjoy Life Allergen-Free chocolate chunks. More information on Enjoy Life products can be found here: http://enjoylifefoods.com/

Scoop dough onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (or lightly coated with the palm oil shortening), and flatten to 1 inch disks.

Bake for 7-10 minutes or until cookies look puffy and cracked a little.

Remove cooks from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes on the baking pan before transferring to a plate or wire rack to cool completely. If you try to transfer them too soon, they will fall apart. Alternatively, you can pull the entire parchment sheet of cookies off of the pan and onto the counter to cool so you can quickly reuse the pan. Cookies will rest down and look more cracked as they cool.

Repeat the baking process for remaining dough.

Makes approximately 18-20 cookies.

Enjoy!

Sweet Treats Complete! Allergen-Free Campfire Chocolate Cake and Strawberry-Vanilla Cake

Campfire CakesI am really excited that these turned out!  I used to do regular baking before I started dealing with my son’s onset of Celiac and dairy allergy (about three years ago). But now I am getting back into baking – with a focus on the fully decorated cakes being free of the 8 common allergens. With these cakes, my client only wanted them to be vegan. But because I cannot work with wheat flour, these are also wheat- and gluten-free. So, in the end, these cakes ended up being without wheat/gluten, dairy, eggs, nuts and peanuts and partially without soy. The marshmallows have soy and the strawberry cake utilizing a gluten-free flour mix that used soy lecithin – I went ahead and used it because  the client was only focused on the cakes being vegan.
I did make myself available by phone, if for any reason, she had anyone with food allergies needing to ask questions. I kept the packaging of ingredients that I used so that they can be readily available for evaluation. I know how I am, and I want to make sure that others are absolutely 100% sure that it is okay.

There is a lot of trust in this business and I will take that trust as seriously as my own death. I will have ways of making sure that my clients know 100% what will be going into their cakes. I will use their requests and their experience as my guidance. My clients are my royalty, they deserve it.

That said, I have a lot of recipe to post here. And I will say that I did use one shortcut: a gluten-free flour mix. Specifically, King Arthur Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake Mix for the chocolate cakes and Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Mix for the strawberry cakes. Now, the reason I did this is simple: I do not have a kitchen scale. And as I have learned that in gluten-free baking, precise weighing (not volume measuring) is needed, I relied on the companies to do that for me. Secondly, every ingredient in those mixes is exactly what I would have used to prepare my own mix, the only exception being that the King Arthur Flour has some emulsifying agents to help the cakes retain moisture longer.

So, onward with the recipe dispensing!

Campfire Cake

For the Chocolate Cake Layers

2 boxes of King Arthur Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake Mix (note that the box indicates that one mix will make two 8 or 9 inch round cakes. I did not find this to be true – unless I wanted really thin layers).

3 teaspoons of Ener-G Egg Replacer mixed with 6 Tablespoons of warm water

1/2 cup mashed banana (from a small to medium banana)

1/2 cup vegetable oil (instead of the 2/3 cup that the package calls for since the banana provides moisture and binding)

1 cup of water (instead of the 1 and 1/3 that the package calls for due to the extra liquid from using the egg replacer)

Prepare the cake according to package directions except omit the part about the eggs and add the replacer at the end and increase baking time to about 35 to 45 minutes. Use the toothpick test to make sure it is done.

Repeat for the second cake layer. I do not recommend mixing both batters at once as it could change the chemistry of volumes and ratios and affect the outcome of your cake layers.

I recommend making the cakes a day in advance so that they have time to cool properly. Cakes that are not fully cooled will release more crumbs when you are trying to frost it (and you don’t want that).

Chocolate Mock-Buttercream Frosting

I recommend that you make this when you are ready to frost. Although, you can make it in advance and put it in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. But do set out the frosting to bring it to room temperature for about an hour so that it will be soft enough to work with.

1/2 cup organic non-hydrogenated shortening such as Spectrum brand

1/2 cup soy-free earth balance buttery-flavored margarine

1 teaspoon of gluten-free vanilla extract

1/2 cup cocoa

1 32oz bag of powdered sugar (make sure it is fresh and has not been opened as powdered sugar can take on a stale taste very soon after opened. If you have a corn allergy, look for powdered sugar made with tapioca starch instead of corn starch).

*2-4 Tablespoons of hemp milk or rice milk (hemp milk has a creamier texture due to the fat content)

Mix together the fats and vanilla until blended. While the mixer is on, slowly add the cocoa and 1 Tablespoon of hemp milk. Gradually add powdered sugar and hemp milk, alternating so that it does not slow your mixer down.

*BE CAREFUL TO NOT ADD TOO MUCH LIQUID. You want the frosting to be very thick/stiff. If it is too wet, you will have a difficult time frosting your cake.

This should be enough for filling and frosting the outside of it. You may need to make more if you need more frosting for decorating.  Decorating tip: frost the sides first using a 16 inch icing bag and the icer tip. It helps to have a turning cake stand, too. Use a small frosting spatula to even out the sides. Then do the same with the top. Once it is frosted, refrigerate for 10 minutes to set and then use a piece of wax paper to smooth out the surface of the frosting.

Campfire Flames

Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

You will need about 4 large bags of dum-dum lollipops. These are the only hard candies that I could find that are made in a dedicated allergen-free facility and are free of the 8 common allergens.

Separate out the colors (strawberry, cherry, orange, peach-mango and cream soda flavors).

Put each color in its own ziplock bag and smash with a hammer (on a surface that is safe and will not cause any damage).

Arrange the crushed lollipops on a parchment paper with the dark colors being on the bottom and the lighter ones to the top.

Melt in the oven for about 10 minute or until all of the candies have melted and blended.

Take out of the oven and use a toothpick to blend (if you want).

Transfer the parchment to a cool table. Candy will quickly set in about 10-15 minutes.

Once cooled, break into triangles as best you can. Be careful not to hurt yourself and don’t let the kids help with this one. Once the flames have been put into the cake for the event, suggest breaking them back down again for kids to eat.

BE CAREFUL THAT NO ONE GETS HURT BY HARD SHARP CANDY FLAMES. 

For the Logs and Rocks

1 Bob’s Red Mill Shortbread Cookie Mix

1 package of Enjoy Life dairy-free, soy-free, nut-free chocolate chips

Prepare a package of Bob’s Red Mill Shortbread Cookie mix, except replace the egg with 1/4 cup of vegetable or allergen-safe oil.

Try not to eat all of this cookie dough at once because it is delicious!

Form the cookie dough into desired shapes and bake for 12-15 minutes. The color of the cookies will not change significantly.

Once cookies are cooled, brush with melted enjoylife chips.*

*Here is something that I learned the hard way:  if you add a tiny bit of liquid to the chocolate chips (like a bit of food color for the rock shaped cookies), the chips will harden back up into a clay mass while you’re trying to melt them. If this happens, add about 2-4 tablespoons of hemp milk to the chocolate and stir and blend. If you do this, you will have to put the cookies in the refrigerator to set the chocolate.

For the Strawberry Cake with Vanilla Frosting 

Strawberry Cake

Note: the pectin in the strawberries makes the chemistry especially tricky in this application. I have failed at several attempts at strawberry cake and finally found this version that was still a little dense but still cake-like in texture (rather than the ones that came out gummy or hard before) and finally had a balanced strawberry flavor that went well with the frosting. I had to use three mixes as these did not want to rise. Once I finally understand what is weighing this cake down, I will ammend this post with a slightly better version. But this recipe is still quite delicious, but do understand that it is about the same density as a pound cake.

3 packages of Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Mix (use a different kind if you need to avoid soy such as the King Arthur Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Mix)

For EACH cake layer (which you must prepare separately), you will need to add:

1 cup of sliced fresh strawberries ————- (3 cup total)

2 teaspoons of lemon zest ——————— (6 teaspoons total)

1 teaspoon of gluten-free vanilla extract —————– (3 teaspoons total)

1/2 cup earth balance buttery-flavored margarine (or Spectrum brand shortening if you don’t have EB) ———- (1 and 1/2 cups total)

1/2 cup rice milk ————– (1 and 1/2 cups total)

4 and 1/2 teaspoons of EnerG egg replacer mixed with 8 Tablespoons of warm water ————– (haven’t figured out the total, just have enough to do this three times)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease pan.

In a mixer, combine all of the ingredients except the strawberries. Once everything is combined, add the strawberries and let the mixer run until the strawberries are all smashed up and the batter is pink.

Bake in one 8 or 9 inch pan until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (about 35-40 minutes).

Vanilla Mock-Buttercream Frosting

SAME AS CHOCOLATE MOCK-BUTTERCREAM ABOVE, JUST OMIT THE COCOA.

It Can No Longer Be Denied: Allergen-Free Baking MUST Be Precise Kitchen Chemistry

Baking Chemistry BWAfter a solid 13 months of attempting various types of allergen-free baking, I can no longer deny that allergen-free baking must be approached as chemistry. I can no longer hold onto the notion that there can be any flexibility in baking that eliminates the three most essential chemical elements: wheat gluten (reaction base), eggs (leavening/binding) and dairy (liquid and/or fat).

After wasting hours of kitchen time (and precious dollars), I have come to the very disappointing realization that this is – in no way – anything like wheat baking.  I have officially been forced to accept that my 15+ years of experience in wheat/dairy/egg baking has given me a sense of over-confidence with which I have scoffed at allergen-free baking authors that have warned me to either weigh correctly and/or use the exact ingredients listed. I have had a cavalier attitude about my ability to achieve great success with my recipes while saving both time and money by bypassing measurements and substituting ingredients. The results of these baking endeavors have laughed in the face of my over-confidence. That biscuit above does seem to have an under-bitten smug laugh, doesn’t it? Yeah, I’m not as brilliant in my baking as my wheat experience has led me to believe!

The only thing I can endeavor to do at this point is to no longer deny my un-brilliance in baking and that the science of it must be absolutely understood in order for this to work effectively and consistently. I must accept that the comprehensive information on gluten-free baking just does not exist, especially not in the common areas of the Internets or in the popular cooking and baking consortiums, societies and schools.

After reading about gluten-free baking in every resource I have been able to get my eyes or hands on, I STILL do not understand the reasons that there must be potato starch AND tapioca starch in nearly every basic gluten-free flour mix. Why potato starch if tapioca starch can do everything that potato starch can do? I admit that I have not googled this question. Or, if I have, I did not get a satisfactory answer. I do not understand why sweet white rice flour should be added to a mix or not, other than that I noticed that my banana bread came out a little more tender when I added it, but that sadly, it has also made my pancakes a little gummier (an effect I did not desire). Said sweet white rice flour could also be making the elusive tender biscuit too dense or heavy. I don’t know exactly why my biscuits have sometimes come out too dense/heavy or too light and crumbly. I do not know if it is the switch to a superfine brown rice flour (which could be taking up more airspace than the more grittier Bob’s Red Mill version) is to blame, or if the new aluminum-free baking powder is affecting performance.

As of this writing, I have attempted an allergen-free biscuit at least five times with varying results. All attempts have been adapted from the basic Fannie Farmer baking powder biscuit recipe. The first two attempts were a somewhat stunning success using only sorghum flour with the addition of the appropriate amount of xanthan gum. The only problem is, the biscuits were freakishly filling and did some very strange things to our digestive systems (I’ll leave out the details of those effects). Another attempt was made with the standard gluten free flour mix that I made with Bob’s Red Mill products. Then I made the biscuits and didn’t notice that I had forgotten the xanthan gum until the results were extremely crumbly. I made the biscuits again with the same mix and they were nearly perfect, with the exception of the “gritty” texture.

So, after a year of reading in various allergen-free baking books and blogs, and upon the insistence of many gluten-free recipe authors, I finally ordered some superfine brown rice flour with the goal to eliminate as much as possible, the grit texture. I waited this long because I really didn’t want to have to order a flour. All along, I have wanted all of my recipes to be accessible to everyone but I thought, if it’s really worth it to do it, it would justify the insistence from many other gluten-free recipe authors. And really, most people can order online now and it isn’t that cumbersome. It is just a matter of waiting.

A few days later, my order of Authentic Foods superfine brown rice flour came in from Amazon. When I opened the bag, I had every member of the family come into the kitchen to feel the texture. We were almost breathless with awe. It felt powdery the way a wheat flour does. And although, you’ll get down to the smallest possible grit (that is how you know that it is STILL not exactly like wheat), it was not nearly as much gritty as with the Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice Flour. With Bob’s Red Mill (BRM), you can feel the grit between your fingers almost immediately and it is a larger grit.

Superfine Flour
Superfine brown rice flour feels just like wheat flour.

I was so impressed and happy with the texture, and the potential for all of my baked items to have that wheat-like tender crumb without the grit, that I really could not wait to start working with it. I wasted no time in preparing my basic gluten-free flour mix and then went right to work on biscuit recipe, which, up to this point, has been ALMOST PERFECT.

I did another thing, too (mostly because a cake I made the other day came out tasting metallic), I also used aluminum-free baking powder instead of the alum kind because, sheesh, who needs to eat alum and taste any tone of tin to their baked products? So, make I did. Then I baked. Then we ate.

The results were abysmal.

:-/ No rise. Not tender. Dense. Kinda hard.
:-/ No rise. Not tender. Dense. Kinda hard.

It’s was like taking ten steps backward in all of my biscuit making weekends. How frustrating is it to get SO CLOSE with the sorghum and BRM mix and then this, with the flour that is supposed to make every gluten-free endeavor that much more perfect, come out so hard, so dense, and with so little rise? Ugh!

A similar disaster has been going on behind the scenes with a Boston Cream Pie (which is really cake) and I’ve been so anxious to develop really good recipes for that as well.

I’m SO VERY CLOSE to having recipes that are worth posting but I refuse to post recipes that have not been tested, or do not taste good. I tend to hate untested and untasted published recipes and won’t do that to my readers.

In the end, my fiance is right, I can’t just embark on this like the wild wheat baker I once was. I need to get out some books, do some research and know precisely how each ingredient is going to work and how it will affect the others.  The good part about this is that by the end of  THIS year, I will have compiled some comprehensive information on the function and purpose of the various flours that is hopefully more comprehensive than what is currently available. And yes, the Culinary Institute of America has not even divulged the science behind the performance of each gluten-free flour. I’ve gone to the library and searched every single gluten-free baking book for this information. The most I’ve been given is that yeast breads require higher protein flours. But why garfava flour in some recipes and garbanzo flour in others? I don’t know! And neither does anyone else except that it “seems to work.” Oh so vague! Exactly how much higher is the protein content in each of these flours? I will have to do a lot more reading and determine this myself. Unless there is a comprehensive resource out there on the science of gluten-free baking that I don’t know about.

I will say that the one place that I found some somewhat more comprehensive information on baking with gluten-free flour is from a blog called Gluten Free on a Shoestring and she has even authored a few books. While I can’t defer to this site much for totally allergen-free baking (we have to avoid dairy around here), she goes into a great explanation on the reasons for weighing flours and the ratios of flours-starches-gums that work best for her. Click Here for What You Need to Know About Gluten-Free Flour and you will find some good information. I have not tried any of the recipes yet. They look gorgeous. And if you are not allergic to diary and eggs, then these gorgeous recipes are worth a shot. (And let me know what you think of them).

As for allergen-free baking, I still defer to Cybele Pascal’s book. The recipes are great. But, unless you know about the secret of weighing flours instead of measuring them by cup, you will still end up with inconsistent results. And there is still the economy issue. I really don’t want to have to purchase egg replacer, agave nectar, and expensive organic palm oil for every recipe. Is there a way that more of those items can be made with more economical ingredients such as oil instead of shortening? I’m hoping. So far, I’ve had luck with both the banana bread, chocolate cake and pancakes using oil and applesauce instead of shortening and egg replacer.

Still more recipes to play with. Many more – with a mission for the recipes to taste good and be of good texture while be as economical and accessible as possible. With that, I want to include information on how and why each flour-starch-leavener-binder works and how to make it work consistently.  After all, everyone does not have an unlimited food budget. And everyone deserves a consistently successful Sunday biscuit breakfast, or sandwich for lunch or to have an occasional slice of their favorite Boston Cream Pie.

We will get there, young dairy-free and egg-free Glutanawans. Soon.

Now, it’s time to get that kitchen scale I’ve been meaning to pick up and get seriously scientific about this.