Sunday, November 15, 2015

Coffee Oat Chocolate Chunk Cookies (gluten-free)

When dealing with gluten-free baking we need to look beyond the almighty all-purpose wheat flour. Scary. All-purpose flour is so perfect because it is just that - it's multi-purpose, one size fits all, life is easy. 

Shopping for gluten-free flours is intimidating because there are actually many many options. We have white rice flour, brown rice flour, coconut flour, amaranth, soy flour, potato flour.... The problem is that all of these alternative flours have different properties and they will all function in their own way in your recipe. 

No other single wheat-free flour can be as multi-functional or as glorious as gluten-filled wheat. GF recipes almost always require a blend of flours in order to provide all of the functional benefits of wheat flour. That is, starch for water retention and structure, protein for water binding and batter thickening, gums for thickening and water retention. 

You can expect gluten free recipes to have a longer ingredient list. Hey, there's a lot to live up to the power of wheat. BUT, it can be done.

A very important aspect of wheat flour is the obvious presence of gluten proteins. Aside from their many structural properties they play another very important role that determines the quality of your cakes before you even bake them. I'm talking about the batter.

Batter volume and thickness is very important and can be the difference between a tender crumb cake and a stodgy flop. Gluten proteins bind water instantly and thicken cake batters at room temperature, or even cold! That's the basic principle of bread making - water and flour makes a sticky dough.

Pure starch, on the other hand, like corn, tapioca or potato, will not thicken at room temperature and its water absorption only begins to happen as the batter is heated in the oven. That can leave you with a runny batter. Thick batters are typically better because they trap air bubbles more effectively, they provide better pan fill and even rising.

Rice flour has some thickening properties and is often my flour of choice when making GF cakes. The downside is that it can lend a gritty texture in low moisture recipes like cookies. For moist, chewy cookies my choice goes to oat flour. The bonus is that most of us have oats on hand. Easy! I like this.

Oats are cool because they contain a natural thickener - a soluble fiber called beta-glucan. Aside from its many health benefits, it has excellent water binding properties that make GF baking pretty appealing. Consider this your ultimate oatmeal cookie. They are thick, moist, soft and chewy. Let's get on with it!

There is nothing new about the method. It is the same story as your classic oatmeal cookie or chocolate chip cookie recipe. The tricks are in the ingredients and resting time. This dough needs to chill out.

First get your oats ready - you'll need a food processor for this, or even a coffee grinder will work wonders. Pulverize the oats to a fine powdery meal and then mix in the baking soda and salt. That becomes your dry ingredients.

Then go on with the norm - cream butter and sugar until quite fluffy. Next we go in with an egg and then coffee. Why coffee? Two reasons: 1) coffee and oats taste really delicious paired together, and 2) we need some additional moisture to hydrate the oats and if we are going to add liquid, we might as well add flavour. Without this liquid, these cookies would be dry and hard. That beta-glucan I spoke about is desparate for some H2O to hang on to, and if it can't it from an inside source then the baked cookies will be brittle. They will also try to pull moisture from the air and that's what we call staling.

Pulverized oats go in followed by as many dark chocolate chunks as you can handle. Now, we rest. The oats need this time to soak up the moisture in the dough - think Bircher muesli style. Don't skip this step! 2 hours is just about right and you will be treated with thick moist cookies.

Oats, brown sugar, coffee and chocolate... I'm so addicted. It's the kind of addiction you need to apologize for. Sorry (not sorry).

 Please dunk these in coffee.

 It goes like this:


Gluten Free Coffee Oat Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Makes about 18 cookies

2 ¼ cups (225g) quick oats
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ cup (113g) unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup (110g) packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup (65g) sugar
1 large egg
1 tbsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water
150g bittersweet chocolate chunks

In a large bowl cream together butter, vanilla and both sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg until combined. Beat in cooled coffee.

Pulverize oats until very fine in a food processor. Add baking soda and salt and pulse to blend. Add this to the creamed mixture and stir to combine. Stir through chocolate chunks. Wrap dough well in plastic wrap or cover your bowl with the dough in it and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and line two large baking trays with parchment paper. Roll heaped tablespoons of dough into balls and place on prepared baking trays, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until they are lightly brown around the edges. They will feel a bit soft but will set up on cooling. Transfer trays to a wire rack to cool and enjoy with a cup of strong hot coffee.
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