For years, my skepticism that gluten-free flours could produce the “right” baked goods texture made me highly resistant to experimenting with gluten-free baking. But during a recent trip the to the Williams Sonoma outlet, a bag of Cup4Cup, a gluten-free flour developed by a chef, finally made its way into my shopping basket. My first experiment was with Nutella Sugar Cookie Bars, and what a perfect recipe to start off my foray into gluten-free baking. The cookie bars were soft but not crumbly or dry, and the Nutella made these even more over the top delicious. I can already hear the much rejoicing among my gluten-free friends.
Cup4Cup gluten-free flour is pretty amazing. It’s the only gluten-free flour I’ve tried so far, but I still think it’s amazing.
The Nutella Sugar Cookie Bars don’t look too impressive from above, but…
…the side view reveals all the delicious layers.
Nutella Sugar Cookie Bars (Gluten-Free)
Makes one 9″x9″ pan
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups Cup4Cup flour
½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
¾ cup Nutella
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a non-stick 9” x 9” pan with cooking spray.
- In a bowl mix together the Cup4Cup flour, baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar.
- In a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Add the egg and vanilla to the butter-sugar mixture, and mix on medium speed until combined.
- Add the dry ingredients to the mixture, and mix on low until a dough is formed.
- Place half of the dough into the bottom the baking dish, and use your fingers to spread it out into an even layer.
- Spread the Nutella evenly over the top.
- Take the remaining dough and scoop it by the tablespoon to cover most of the Nutella. Spaces of Nutella between the dough are ok.
- Bake for 30 minutes until baked through and light golden brown.
- Cool to room temperature, cut into squares and serve.
These Chocolate Chunk Heath cookies are made to be eaten Cookie Monster style. Even though they’re thin and delicate looking, the cookies pack a huge flavor punch with the addition of almond extract, big chunks of milk chocolate, and crunchy Heath toffee bits.
Chocolate Chunk & Heath Cookies
(Adapted from smitten kitchen)
Makes 3 dozen cookies
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
2 tablespoons (25 grams) turbinado sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (165 grams) packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 heaping teaspoon fine sea or table salt
1 3/4 cups (220 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 pound (225 grams) milk, semi-, bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 cup Heath toffee bits
- Heat oven to 360°F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.
- In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the egg and beat until incorporated,
- Scrape down the bowl, and add the vanilla and almond extracts, beating until thoroughly combined.
- In a separate large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and baking soda until well combined.
- On low speed, combine the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until until just mixed.
- With a spatula, fold/stir in the chocolate chunks and Heath toffee bits.
- Scoop the cookies into 1 1/2 tablespoon mounds, spacing them a few inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake for 11 to 12 minutes, until golden on the outside, and remove from oven.
- Let the cookies rest on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.
This is a story of of an incredibly forgiving and flexible recipe that helped avert a baking disaster. It’s a story about using less than ideal ingredients, cutting corners, ignoring instructions, being in denial, pushing forward even with barely a glimmer of hope, and emerging victorious with a fantastically delicious cookie.
These are all the ways that I deviated from the recipe and nearly ended up with a baking disaster.
- I didn’t have enough almonds so I used almond flour (from Trader Joes) and pecan pieces, about half of each.
- My cream of tartar was old (and apparently ineffective).
- I used egg whites from 4 large eggs, but I did not measure to see if they actually equaled 1/2 cup, and I didn’t bother waiting for them to reach room temperature.
- I barely achieved soft peaks when whipping my egg whites, and I didn’t get anywhere near stiff peaks, thus ending up with a severely runny meringue.
However, I did make a few good decisions that likely made a big difference in the outcome.
- I used Nielsen Massey almond extract.
- I lined my cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- I allowed for ample space between the cookies because they spread a lot during baking.
- I let the dough sit on the cookie sheets for 40 minutes before baking.
- And ultimately I did not throw away the batter before doing a test bake (even though I was really tempted to do so).
The results were more fantastic than I could have ever imagined. While my nut meringue cookies didn’t look anything like the high piled cookies in the cookbook, they did look a lot like big thin macarons. They turned out to have the most divine texture with a light, crispy top and chewy center. The almond extract really shone through packing a lot of flavor in a deceivingly light cookie.
Nut Meringue Cookies
(From Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts: Quicker Smarter Recipes by Alice Medrich)
Makes about 90 1 1/2-inch cookies
1 2/3 cups (8 ounces) blanched whole almonds
2 cups (8 ounces) powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup egg whites (from about 4 large eggs), at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons pure almond extract
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar
- Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F. Line the cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Combine the almonds, powdered sugar, and salt in the food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground, scraping the sides as necessary.
- Using the electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar in a large clean, dry bowl at medium speed until the egg whites are creamy and white and soft peaks are formed when the beaters are lifted.
- Add the almond extract.
- Gradually add the granulated sugar, beating until the whites are fluffy and very stiff.
- Pour the almond mixture over the meringue and fold in with a large rubber spatula just until fully incorporated.
- Scoop tablespoons of batter 1 inch apart onto the lined cookie sheets. (While the first two sheets are baking, scoop the remaining batter onto a third lined sheet or onto a parchment liner to be baked when the first batch is done.)
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cookies are golden; rotate the sheets from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.
- Set the pans on racks to cool completely, or slide the parchment liners from the pans onto racks.
The cookies keep in an airtight container for weeks.
For those times when you just can’t decide if you’d rather have a regular cookie with semi-sweet chocolate chips or a chocolate cookie with white chocolate chips, I present to you a cookie that seamlessly melds both worlds. These perfectly balanced Yin Yang Chocolate Chip cookies consist of a regular chocolate chip cookie on one half and a chocolate cookie with white chocolate chips on the other. They’re thin, yet sturdy with a soft center and crispy edges. So no need to go to yoga to get centered; go get your Zen on by baking these cookies!
Yin Yang Chocolate Chip Cookies
(from King Arthur Flour)
Makes about 40 cookies.
2/3 cup (5 ounces) light brown sugar, firmly packed
2/3 cup (4 5/8 ounces) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons; 4 ounces) soft unsalted butter
1/2 cup (3 1/4 ounces) vegetable shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract, optional
1 teaspoon vinegar, cider or white
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 (3/4 ounces) cup Dutch-process cocoa
2 teaspoons milk
1 cup (6 ounces) white chocolate mini chips or regular chips
1 cup (6 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate mini chips or regular chips
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.
- In a large bowl, combine the sugars, butter, shortening, vanilla and almond extracts, and vinegar, beating until smooth and creamy.
- Add the egg, beating again until smooth. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl with a spatula to make sure everything is thoroughly combined.
- In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking soda. Then mix the flour mixture into the wet ingredients.
- Divide the dough in half (if you have a scale, each half will weigh about 14 ounces or 396g.)
- Mix the cocoa, milk, and white chocolate chips into one half of the dough.
- Mix the semi-sweet chocolate chips into the other half of the dough.
- Use a spoon (or a teaspoon cookie scoop) to scoop the chocolate dough onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving 2″ clearance on all sides.
- Rinse off your spoon or cookie scoop, then scoop balls of lighter dough right next to the balls of chocolate dough.
- Using your hands, press the two doughs together and roll them into a ball, being sure not to blend them. Press down lightly on the balls to flatten slightly. Note, in order to get the “yin yang” look to the cookies, make sure that half of the regular dough and half of the chocolate dough is visible when you place the dough ball on the cookie sheet.
- Bake the cookies for 9 to 11 minutes, until their edges are set and the middles are still slightly soft.
- Remove the cookies from the oven, and cool them on the pan until they’re set enough to move without breaking.
- Repeat with the remaining dough.
How can you look at these cookies and not smile? Rainbow nonpareils and sprinkles tend to have that effect on me. These Sour Cream Drop cookies are fluffy, airy, soft, and chewy sugar cookie that are easy to eat by the handful because they’re so light and mild. They don’t taste as rich or vanilla-y as traditional sugar cookies, but judging from the speed that they disappeared, they’re just as (or maybe even more) popular.
Sour Cream Drops
(from All the Good Cookies by Gretchen Holt-Witt)
Makes 5 dozen cookies
1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
Rainbow sprinkles or nonpareils
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Beat butter and sugar in a large mixer bowl until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes.
- Add eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with sour cream. Beat until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again, and beat to combine.
- Using a small (2-teaspoon size) cookie scoop, drop the dough about 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Sprinkle sprinkles over the top. The dough will be quite soft and wet, so the sprinkles should stick well.
- Bake until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned, 11 to 14 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets on the oven racks halfway through the baking time.
- Cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute, and transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough on cool cookie sheets.
The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.
I’m just passing along a quick public service announcement about the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever. I blogged about this recipe a while ago but recently made a batch with M&M minis (sometimes called baking M&Ms) instead of chocolate chips. If you need a little reminder about the brilliance of these cookies, just know that the oatmeal provides a hearty, chewy texture, but the cookies are also balanced out by crispy edges. The recipe is really easy to make (without using any “fancy” equipment), and the cookies bake up quickly (and make a big batch). Using mini M&Ms (instead of chocolate chips) added the perfect amount of crunch and pop of fun color to these cookies. You should bake these…now… Here’s the link. No excuses… Don’t tell me that you can’t find the link to the recipe.
I’m slowly chipping away at the Nutella overstock in my pantry, and next up are these Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies. The cookies are thin and crispy on the far edges with increasing chewiness as you move toward the soft gooey, Nutella center. They’re utterly delicious and ridiculously addictive. BUT… and it’s a big but… they’re a bit high maintenance to make. They’re a little like the stereotype of LA – good looking on the outside, but a lot of time and effort goes into creating that image of looking effortlessly fabulous. This recipe is not a quick weeknight baking project as the cookie dough and Nutella need to be chilled. Also scooping the Nutella and wrapping it in cookie dough gets to be a bit messy. That said, if you’re willing to invest the time and effort, these cookies do live up to the hype.
From the outside, these Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies look like any other basic chocolate chip cookie. But if you look closely at the center of the cookie, you’ll see a hint of the dark shadow of Nutella hiding just beneath the surface.
The layer of Nutella in the middle of the cookie may not be that pronounced when you look at it, but you definitely get a blast of Nutella to your tastebuds when you bite into the center of the cookie.
Nutella Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies
(Adapted from Somewhat Simple)
1 cup softened butter (2 sticks)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
- Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Place Nutella in the freezer.
- Mix together the softened butter, white sugar, and brown sugar in a large bowl until creamy.
- Add vanilla extract.
- Add the eggs one at a time, mixing between each addition. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
- In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
- Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the sugar mixture.
- Stir in the chocolate chips.
- Place the dough in the freezer until it firms up a bit but is still pliable enough to be flattened. (I initially refrigerated my dough overnight, but it didn’t harden enough for me to work with easily. So, I transferred my dough to the freezer for about 30 minutes)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Measure 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of dough and flatten it onto your palm. Put 1 teaspoon of Nutella in the middle (this works best when the Nutella has hardened a bit. Don’t try adding the Nutella when it’s still soft, as it will get all over the place and leak out the sides of the dough. Also, it’s helpful to use a small cookie scoop to do this so it doesn’t get so messy.), and fold the cookie dough around it. Add dough as needed to make sure the Nutella is totally covered by dough.
- Roll the dough into a ball.
- Place the cookie balls on a lined cookie sheet about 2 inches apart and slightly flatten the tops.
- Bake cookies for about 10 minutes until the edges start to turn golden brown. Don’t worry if the centers look pale as they’ll continue to cook as the cookies cool on the baking sheet.
- Cool on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before removing to a baking sheet to cool completely.
Snickerdoodles are “fancy” sugar cookies, but they’re quick and easy to make. I whipped these up on a weeknight and still had time to catch up on several episodes Impractical Jokers. These cinnamon-sugar light and chewy cookies are the perfect TV-viewing snack.
(Adapted from King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion: The Essential Cookie Cookbook)
Makes 7 dozen cookies
1/2 cup (3.25 ounces) vegetable shortening (shortening helps keep the cookies from spreading too much and getting too thin while baking; if you substitute butter for shortening, the texture won’t be quite as chewy, and part of what makes these cookies so good is the texture)
1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (10.5 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 3/4 cups (11.5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line (or lightly grease) two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, cream together the shortening and butter.
- Add the sugar and vanilla, beating until smooth.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating until smooth, and stopping to scrape the bowl as needed.
- In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix well, scraping down the bowl as needed.
- To make the coating, mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a shallow bowl.
- Using a cookie scoop (a teaspoon cookie scoop) or spoon, scoop out 1 tablespoon of dough, and roll it into a ball.
- Place the dough ball into the bowl of cinnamon sugar. Gently coat the dough with the cinnamon sugar mixture.
- Put dough balls on the prepared cookie sheets, spacing them about and 1 1/2 inches apart. Using the bottom of a glass, flatten each cookie to about 1/2 inch thick.
- Bake the cookies for 8 minutes, or until they’re golden brown around the edges (Be careful not to overbake the cookies as the bottoms will darken a bit due to the cinnamon sugar coating.). Remove the cookies from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool.
I baked and cooked a lot before I started blogging. So, I’ll be using Thursdays (aka TBT or Throwback Thursday) and Fridays (aka Flashback Friday or FBF) to share some of my favorite baking and cooking projects from the past.
First up for TBT is a DIY Thin Mints recipes. One unfortunate side effect of moving from a suburban area to the middle of a developing urban, downtown area is that I no longer had visual reminders of Girl Scout cookie season. For the past three years, I kept missing my chance to buy Thin Mints during Girl Scout cookie season, but this year, I finally had a Girl Scout sighting and bought enough boxes to make up for all the lost years. During the previous years as I was experiencing my Thin Mints cookie drought, I eventually took matters in my own hands and decided to make a DIY version. The Girl Scouts’ version of Thin Mints (at least the kind sold in the Los Angeles area, although there has been talk about different versions of Thin Mints being sold) has a thin, crunchy, dry, and crumbly chocolate cookie covered in a thin layer of slightly waxy, minty chocolate. I found a variety of recipes online (even some involving Ritz crackers which puzzled me a bit), and after much research, decided that the recipe below would most closely resemble the original. Good news! No need anymore to carefully ration out your Thin Mints supply until the next Girl Scouts cookie season. You can just make your own Thin Mints.
DIY Thin Mints
(Adapted from All the Good Cookies by Gretchen Holt-Witt)
Makes about 8 dozen cookies
2 sticks (1/2 lb) unsalted butter, at room temp
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon peppermint extract (1 1/4 teaspoons if you want it extra minty)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (12 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
- Beat butter and granulated sugar in a mixer bowl until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes.
- Mix flour, confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a bowl, then add it to butter mixture. Beat until well incorporated. Add peppermint and vanilla extracts. Scrape down the sides of bowl and mix again.
- Form the dough into two 12-inch logs (I wrap the dough in plastic wrap and then form it into logs while wrapped.). Make sure to pack the dough well to remove all air pockets in the dough. Refrigerate the dough logs for at least 1 hour (or long enough so that the dough logs will be firm enough to hold their shape when sliced) and up to 3 days.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Slice the chilled logs of dough into 1/4-inch thick slices (don’t slice them too thin), and place the dough 1 inch apart on the cookie sheets.
- Bake until the cookies are just firm at the edges, approximately 12-14 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets on the oven racks halfway through the baking time.
- Cool the cookies on the cookie sheets for 3 minutes. Then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough on cool cookie sheets.
For Chocolate Coating
- Line cold cookie sheets with parchment/wax paper.
- Combine chocolate and shortening in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high, stirring every 45-60 secs until the chocolate is melted and the mixture has the consistency of thick heavy cream.
- Using a fork, dip cooled cookies, one at a time, in the melted chocolate. Drain well and transfer to parchment/wax paper to firm up.
Store the cookies in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze them for up to 3 months.
In an attempt to whip up a batch of cookies in about an hour, I turned to this recipe for Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies. Not only were these these cookies really quick and easy to make, but they’re amazingly delicious. They’re crispy on the edges, chewy in the middle, and butterscotchy all over.
Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies
(from Nestle – https://www.verybestbaking.com/recipes/18478/oatmeal-scotchies/. My notes are in italics between [ ]).
Makes 48 cookies
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar [I used light brown sugar]
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or grated peel of 1 orange [I used vanilla extract; the orange zest doesn’t sound appealing to me]
3 cups quick or old-fashioned oats [I used old-fashioned oats]
1 2/3 cups (11-oz. pkg.) Butterscotch Flavored Morsels
- Preheat oven to 375° F.
- Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in small bowl.
- Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl [I added and mixed each ingredient individually to ensure everything was mixed well].
- Gradually beat in flour mixture.
- Stir in oats and butterscotch morsels.
- Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
- Bake for 7 to 8 minutes for chewy cookies or 9 to 10 minutes for crisp cookies. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.