Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Gluten Free Chocolate Chunk Cookies

If I had to eliminate gluten from my diet, I think I would miss my mom’s famous chocolate cake the most out of everything.  It’s intensely chocolatey and is brushed with amaretto for three days before serving, and it’s easily one of my favorite desserts of all time. Second on my list would be these brown butter chocolate chip cookies. They’re everything a chocolate chip cookie should be: crisp around the edges, thick and chewy in the center, loaded with chocolate chips, and rough and craggy on top.  While one of those cookies should be enough to satisfy me, they’re so good that I can never help but break off small pieces of cookie whenever I walk past the kitchen, and the next thing I know, I’ve ended up eating something around three entire cookies by myself…or more. They’re dangerously delicious. 

I wanted to make a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie that exactly matched my favorite traditional cookies.  They had to be thick and chewy and deliciously crisp along the outside- I was not going to compromise on any of those requirements. While browsing through recipes I was disappointed by most of the photos I saw.  The recipes may have been just fine, but none had that old-fashioned bakery look that I think is essential to a really good chocolate chip cookies. It was frustrating, but after a little more Google-ing, I found Alton Brown’s recipe.  The photo for his cookies was the closest in matching the perfect cookie vision I had in my head, so I figured this would be the best way to go. 

Alton has a pretty famous recipe for chewy chocolate chip cookies, and while I haven’t actually made it myself, I figured that he wouldn’t come up with a gluten-free version that was any less tasty than his traditional cookie. I set about making them with a few minor changes, namely browning the butter (because why not?), changing up the chocolate, and shaping the cookies differently.  Just a few tiny changes to a basic cookie recipe that really made them shine. 

I love adding browned butter to any recipe that normally calls for melted butter.  It’s a simple substitution that enhances everything to which it’s added. The trick to successfully browning butter is to remove it from the heat before it actually turns brown.  To properly brown butter, simply add the butter to a hot saucepan (I like to cut it into rough tablespoon slices, to ensure that it melts evenly) and allow it to melt.  Once melted, I like to swirl the butter with a rubber spatula.  You'll notice that the butter will begin to foam up as it gets hotter; if you swirl the butter with a spatula, you'll be able to push away the foam for a second to take a glance at the color of the butter. Once you see it just beginning to turn a light brown and give off a wonderfully nutty aroma, remove the saucepan from the heat immediately.  Leave it alone, and you'll see that the butter will continue to deepen in color and develop little brown bits along the bottom.  Those brown bits are crucial, so make sure they get scraped into your mixing bowl.  As for the chocolate, you know I'm partial to baking with whatever is in my kitchen at the moment.  I didn't have the 12 ounces of semisweet chips the original recipe called for, so I subbed in 6 ounces of white chocolate chips and 6 ounces of chopped dark chocolate. I love using hand-chopped chocolate chunks because of all the uneven pieces of chocolate that you get, along with the thin shards that end up giving you different amounts of chocolate flavor in every bite.  

These cookies mix up just like any other traditional cookie recipe, the exception being that these must rest for an hour before baking.  While it's pretty much becoming standard to chill chocolate chip cookie dough for several hours before baking in order to intensify the flavors, in the gluten-free version, an hour's rest is essential to ensuring that the dough will simply hold together, so do not skip this step. I decided to shape the cookies using the method from Cook's Illustrated, in which round balls of dough are split in half and joined at the bases, so that the rough edges are on top.  With this method the cookies bake in a rough, uneven way so they look just like classic bakery-style cookies, and that's exactly how they'll taste.  I really couldn't detect a hint of "gluten-freeness" or anything that would suggest these weren't traditional cookies, and I was over the moon excited. Who knew that gluten-free chocolate chip cookies could be so wonderful, or even make me consider them to be my new "favorite" cookie recipe? Trust me, these gluten-free cookies will change the mind of even the biggest skeptic, they're just that delectable!

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
slightly adapted from Alton Brown 


8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter
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
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 ounces sugar, approximately 1/4 cup
10 ounces light brown sugar, approximately 1 1/4 cups
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
10-11 ounces chocolate (chips, chunks, whatever you like)


Brown the butter in a skillet, removing it from the heat just before it begins to brown (the butter can go from brown to burnt in a second, and will continue to brown once removed from the heat).  Set aside to cool slightly. 

In a medium bowl, sift together the rice flour, cornstarch, tapioca flour, xantham gum, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standard electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the brown butter and both sugars for 1 minute at medium speed. Add the whole egg, egg yolk, milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. With the mixer running on low, slowly add the flour mixture, mixing until thoroughly combined. Add the chocolate and stir to combine.

Chill the dough in the refrigerator until firm, approximately 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Divide the dough into 2 ounce portions and roll into balls. Holding the ball of dough with both hands, break the ball of dough in half, to create two halves with jagged ends. Turn the halves so that the jagged ends are facing up, and join the halves at their bases, taking care not to smooth out the uneven surfaces of the dough.  Place the newly formed dough balls back on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 14 minutes, rotating the pans after 7 minutes for even baking. Remove from the oven and cool the cookies on the pans for 5 minutes. Move the cookies to a wire rack and cool completely. 

Makes about 2 dozen cookies


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