Sunday, 13 January 2008

Challenging Cashew Choc Chip Cookies

Baking gluten free cookies is a challenge I am enjoying embracing. Before Christmas there was a huge list of GF cookie recipes on Ginger Lemon Girl. A few days ago, I finally made a batch of cookies from the list - Ricki’s cashew choc chip cookies which were both gluten free and vegan. When I saw these on Diet, Dessert and Dogs, I was immediately intrigued by the unusual combination of ingredients. Cashews are probably my favourite nuts and I love cashew nut butter, although I don't buy it often.

Having just made an impulse purchase of cashew nut butter, I was pleased to find that I had almost all the ingredients in my kitchen. The only one I lacked was coconut butter which I am yet to embrace. The recipe was fairly easy and appealed because it only made 10 cookies. (My last batch of choc chip cookies made dozens and, over a month later, I am still nibbling my way through the swag of them in my freezer!).

These cookies smelt wonderfully sweet and spicy as they came out of the oven. The texture was so creamy when warm that I thought maybe it was just warm cookie dough. But as they cooled they become more crumb-like inside. Hot or cold they were very crumbly to touch (I think they would have collapsed if I had tried to take them off the tray before they cooled) but they held together well enough when cool – I did wonder if the coconut butter would have made a difference. The cardamom was quite strong and I thought maybe just a pinch next time and perhaps some orange zest might get the taste right for me. Overall I was really pleased with this recipe.

This sort of recipe makes me stop and think how much I have changed in my baking habits. When I was a child making chocolate crackles, grubs, anzac biscuits and honey joys, the idea of such biscuits would have seemed so fanciful. We never even made choc chip cookies. Now I feel I have such weird and wonderful ingredients that recipes like Ricki’s don’t scare me.

Since gluten free food has become an issue for my family last year, I have been determined to cook gluten free food that anyone can make without having to run to the nearest health food store and arm themselves with a box of unpronounceable ingredients that seem more like alien foods in sci fi movies. When I became vegetarian I wanted to prove anyone could (and often did) eat yummy vegetarian food. It was both a challenge and a voyage of wonderful discoveries. Gluten free cooking appeals to me in a similar way. But I am finding that, just as I don’t flinch at cooking with tofu, tempeh, and tahini these days, that gluten free cooking is revealing to me a whole host of exciting new tastes and textures.

So, it seems that one person’s comfort zone is another’s worst nightmare. I think what I am trying to say is that these cookies may seem overwhelmingly foreign in ingredients and taste for some people. It saddens me to think that I can’t please everyone. But fortunately our comfort zones can be a place of change. I love learning just how many different styles, ingredients and tastes are available for my enjoyment in the world of cooking. And I know that I wouldn’t be exposed to so many of them without the wonderful world of blogging. Roll on the next challenge!

Cashew Chocolate Chip Cookies
(from Diet Dessert and Dogs)
Makes 8-10

⅔ cup (scant) cashew butter (at room temperature)
1 Tbsp organic coconut butter, melted (I used margarine)
1 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ cup ground flax seeds
⅛ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp baking soda
pinch sea salt
¼ cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a medium bowl, mix the cashew butter, coconut butter, and tahini until smooth. Add the maple syrup and vanilla and mix well. Add remaining ingredients. It makes quite a stiff but soft batter.

Place spoonfuls of batter on a greased or lined baking tray. Wet your palms to smooth and slightly flatten each cookie - this is Ricki’s advice – I didn’t do it and found that, once baked, mine looked exactly the shape they were when I dropped them on the baking tray, so next time I will follow her advice. Ricki also says they will spread slightly but mine didn’t.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden. Allow to cool completely before removing from baking tray. They will be too crumbly and soft to remove when hot but will firm up as they cool.

On the stereo:
Everything Must Go: Manic Street Preachers


  1. I think you do a wonderful job creating so many tasty gluten free treats. I have never heard of coconut butter before, do you have to get it from health shops? The cookies sound delicous.

  2. Thanks for giving these a go. I'm sorry they were so challenging for you!! They are definitely a more delicate cookie than non-GF varieties, but they usually hold together well enough.

    I can think of a few points you might consider (if you ever dare to make them again!):

    1) I don't know how other fats would react, but the coconut butter is quite solid and sturdy at room temp, so it probably does add more body to the cookies, as you suggest. (I'm going to post about why I favor coconut butter in a future post).
    2) As I'm sure you know, your spoon and cup measurements are a bit larger than ours over here, so that might have made a difference. (I'm attempting to include all metric measurements as well these days when I put up a recipe to compensate).
    3) I really would flatten them before putting into the oven. This would help keep the temperature across the cookie consistent and bake the middle to the same extent as the edges.
    4) They absolutely must be cooled completely before removing them from the cookie tray. In my zeal to eat one, I've also occasionally taken them off earlier, and they do tend to fall apart into pretty little crumbles!

    I love your suggestion for orange zest, and will try it out next time.

    I think GF baking takes some getting used to, which is why so many people use GF flour mixes and xanthan gum to reproduce a conventional texture. But since I can eat gluten or not, I like to experiment with the grain-free types of GF recipes.

    I'm glad you were still pleased with the end result anyway!

  3. What a healthy cookie recipe. I would love to try these!

  4. They look and sound wonderful, Johanna. It's fascinating to see your gluten-free baking experiments.

    Chocolate crackles! That takes me back...

  5. thanks Katie - I haven't come across coconut butter yet, but from ricki's advice sounds like I might need to look out for it

    thanks Ricki - that information is so helpful - please don't apologise for presenting me with a challenge which interests and enthuses me - esp one with cashew nut butter. Like you, I have the luxury of being able to eat gluten foods and avoid GF flour which hasn't been that great the few times I have used it. And luckily I am not a perfectionist so I am happy for my food to have a rough-edged rustic charm if the measurements and ingredients aren't quite right, as long as the food tastes good!

    thanks Lisa - these cookies are both healthy and taste great!

    Thanks Lucy - glad you enjoy the GF experiments too - makes the chocolate crackles days seem so innocent and simple :-)

  6. Jo,
    I think what is called 'coconut butter' is what is marketed as 'copha' in Australia (you know, the stuff that gets put in chocolate crackles).
    As healthy fats go, I don't think it is great, but it should certainly improve the consistency of the cookies.

  7. thanks Yaz - I never realised it was the same - now I know I think I will probably stick to butter or margarine!


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