Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gluten Free Chewy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Have I finally jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon?? Well, no- not really. I just wanted to see if I could make a gluten-free treat that doesn't fall apart or taste like cardboard.

Gluten, a protein found in wheat products, creates structure in baked goods. It makes bread awesomely chewy and cakes springy. Unfortunately, it makes some people sick. People with Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity need to avoid eating it. Recently, people have been using a gluten-free diet as a healthy weight loss tool (mistakenly!). You can read more about this issue here:

So, what can you use as a substitute for wheat flour? There are a lot of other flours out there, such as brown rice flour, tapioca flour, almond flour, etc- the list goes on. How can you improve the texture of a gluten-free baked good? One answer is to use a stabilizer/thickener.

I chose xanthan gum, because it was on the shelf at my grocery store. But it is interchangeable with guar gum, which serves the same function. Xanthan gum is a polysaccharide that comes from the interaction between xanthamonas campestris bacteria and corn sugar, and guar gum comes from the guar bean. At least, that is what the Google machine told me. The Google machine also told me that Alton Brown has a recipe for chewy gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, and no celebrity chef is more trustworthy, exacting and scientific with baked goods than Alton Brown. So I bet the farm on him and felt confident that my ingredients would behave themselves. You can find his recipe here:

The formula for all-purpose flour replacement in his chewy cookie recipe is:
  • 11 ounces brown rice flour, approximately 2 cups
  • 1 1/4 ounces cornstarch, approximately 1/4 cup
  • 1/2-ounce tapioca flour, approximately 2 tablespoons
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
Typically, you need to use 1/2 tsp guar gum or xanthan gum per 1 cup gluten free flour in every cookie or bar recipe. If you use too little, you will end up with a crumbly mess, and too much will yield heavy, gummy baked goods. The ratio Alton Brown uses looks about right. I made sure to double check this before beginning in the kitchen.

I had a ton of peanut butter and peanuts hanging around. I turned to the Google machine once more, and asked it for a gluten-free peanut butter cookie recipe. None of my hits included using alternative flours. All the recipes I found included only peanut butter, sugar, and egg. Boring! I was curious to see if I could just replace the same volume of AP flour with Alton's GF formula. As luck would have it, my FAVORITE peanut butter cookie recipe, from Baking Illustrated, has approximately the same weight of AP flour as Alton Brown's GF flour in his GF chocolate chip cookies. So I just substituted, and here is the recipe:

11 oz brown rice flour, approximately 2 cups
1 1/4 oz cornstarch, approximately 1/4 cup
1/2 ounce tapioca flour, approximately 2 TBS
1 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
7 oz (1 cup) light brown sugar
7 oz (1 cup) granulated sugar
1 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup peanuts, ground to bread crumb consistency in a food processor (or chopped finely- just do whatever is easier for you- I don't think it makes a huge difference in this recipe, they will still taste good)
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Cream the butter and sugars in a stand mixer. Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla. Add the peanut butter, beat on medium speed until blended smooth. Add the dry ingredients in low speed. Add the ground peanuts and the chocolate chips, stir to combine. Scoop into 1 inch balls onto parchment-lined cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake 15 mins.

The results- surprisingly good. You can't really tell that they are gluten free. Moist, chewy, peanut-y, chocolatey awesomeness. Let me know what you think!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Making Biscotti...

This is by far the best biscotti recipe I've ever tried. Known traditionally as "Biscotti di Prato" from Tuscany, they contain almonds. But you can use the same dough and add other ingredients, like hazelnuts, orange or lemon zest, toasted anise seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, dip them in chocolate, etc. This recipe makes a lot (about 4 doz) but they freeze well.

Biscotti di Prato

3 3/4 c flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 c sugar
4 eggs plus 2 yolks, plus additional 1-2 beaten eggs for egg wash
1 tsp vanilla
1 2/3 cups toasted almonds, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 and line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
Place flour on countertop and make a well. In the center of the well, place all the other ingredients, except for the almonds. Beat the ingredients in the well together with a fork. gradually bringing in the flour. Use your hands when the dough becomes workable. Knead in the almonds.
Form the dough into loaves as pictured and brush with beaten egg.

Bake until golden brown and set, 15-20 mins. Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly and arrange cut side up on baking sheets.

Lower oven temp to 325 and bake again for 10-15 mins.

Monday, January 10, 2011

How to Make Croissants (Part 2)...

After you have rolled the dough, folded it like a business letter and turned it so that the open seam faces to the right like a book, you have completed 1 turn. Repeat this process until you have made a total of 6 turns, wrapping the dough in plastic and chilling it after every 2 turns.
Roll it out into a rectangle approximately 1/4" thick and 16" lon 10" wide. With a bench scraper, cut lengthwise in strips and into triangles:

You can also make filled croissants by filling a rectangle shaped piece of dough with chocolate or grated cheese, etc:

Step 5: Shaping and Proofing Croissants...

To make the traditional shape, start with the wide side of the triangle facing toward you, and roll it upward. Curl the edges into a 'C':

Place the croissants on parchment lined baking sheets, cover with plastic, and proof until nearly tripled in bulk.

Step 6: Baking Croissants...
Brush with dorure (egg wash) and bake at 375 until golden brown, approximately 15 mins.

How to Make Croissants (Part 1)...

3/4 cup sifted flour
1 Tablespoon yeast
5-6 Tablespoons warm water (approx 110 degrees F)
2 Tablespoons sugar

1 3/4 cups sifted flour
2/3 cups whole milk, warm
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
dorure (egg yolk glaze) made from 1 egg yolk plus 1 Tablespoon whole milk

Step 1: Make the Starter...

To make the starter, stir together all the starter ingredients to form a small ball of soft dough, then submerge it in a tall container of warm water (110 degrees F). It will sit at the bottom for several minutes. When it pops up to the surface as shown in the second photo, it is ready to use.

Step 2: Continue making the Dough...

In a large bowl, stir together 1 cup of the flour, all of the warm milk and the salt. Scoop the starter dough out of the container of water and add to the bowl. Stir in the remaining 3/4 cup of flour. Crash on the counter top by with the aid of a bench scraper 30 times or so until the dough comes together and is smooth and soft, then flatten it into an 8 inch square, wrap in plastic and chill in refrigerator.

Step 3: Make the Butter Square...
Knead the butter with bare hands, smear it and scrape it with a bench scraper until uniform, shape it into a square, then wrap in plastic and chill.

Step 4: Rolling and Making Turns...

Place the butter square inside the dough diagonally as shown:

Wrap the dough around the butter square and pinch the edges to seal:

Roll the dough into a large rectangle 1/4 inch thick, occasionally lifting the dough with a bench scraper and sprinkling flour underneath to prevent sticking. In areas where butter bursts through, dust with flour. When finished rolling, fold as you would a business letter:
Turn the dough so that the open seam faces to the right just like a book: