Warning! Health-Nut-Aleeeert~! Now, I’m aware that this might not be an opening fitting these extraordinarily delicious cookies, but they were in fact the first result of a snippet of health-related enlightenment I picked up rather recently – In the beautiful online-world of Tyria, of all places. Who would have thought~!
Being very conscious about my diet myself, I’ve always had a close eye on the comings and goings in the grand arena of all things nutrition – serious scientific discoveries, silly trends, dangerous half-truth-driven marketing propaganda and all that jazz. Like with (mostly bizarre these days) fashion-trends, I usually sit and watch the situation for a while before doing anything about it – and in 90% of all cases, I’ve saved a lot of time, money and headaches by doing so. One “thing” that hasn’t left the building for a decade or so by now, is the ever-increasing number of “special dietary needs” people seem to accumulate and the food industry happily obliges to serve. Although I can’t help but think about that particular combination in a hen-and-egg-conundrum kind of way from time to time, of course I acknowledge that people suffer from food allergies and intolerances.
I’m very lucky in that department, apart from my allergy to an enzyme contained in a couple of exotic fruit and nut skins, I dodged that particularly nasty genetic curveball. Or so I thought. I always knew my system doesn’t really agree with grainy-related things like bread, couscous and pasta, least of all if any of those things appeared on my plate late in the day. A hot, leaden cannonball settling in for the night comes to mind… anyways, I cursed the “heavy”, starchy things and simply skipped any kind of grain after my breakfast-porridge whenever I could – not that I really enjoy eating any of them much anyways.
Otherwise, I never gave the issue much thought, until a tidbit of info came my way – while roaming the world of Guild Wars 2 of all things – that shed an entirely new light on the matter. A while back, I couldn’t help but follow a conversation held by two fellow Tyrians while waiting for a dragon to make it’s scheduled appearance. One of them, obviously also a fellow food enthusiast, was telling the other one about their dinner plans and the challenges of finding something to cook that everyone and their bag of special needs can enjoy. Apparently they had just settled on a truffle pasta dish as a starter to make both the carnivores and the vegetarians agree on one thing at least, when one of the guests came out of the woodwork with a gluten allergy – and as conversations like that go, held in a public chat with a large number of bored people around, the ranty mayhem commenced until the dragon in question, Tequatl, literally stomped the debate into the ground. One thing I picked up while resisting the urge to run and grab a bowl of popcorn for the dramatic showdown, was someone saying that the really, really mean, painful, burrowed-deep version of the nasties dotting your skin as a teenager, are actually a sign of gluten intolerance should they make their appearance later in life, when you would normally expect your skin to finally have grown out of that rowdy behavior. At that moment, I actually caught myself prodding the horn-lookalike trying to ruin my day by growing just below my hairline on my temple and causing me a massive headache in the process. Thinking back to the last couple of dinners… yep. Soy Sauce to go with a Sushi spread! And lots of it – and not the Gluten-Free one because I looked down on it, thinking “Really, another thing with a gluten-free tag to sell it for 5 bucks more?”! To make sure, I asked my doctor about it the next time I had an appointment, and he confirmed my growing suspicion. Not allergic, thank heavens, but definitely intolerant. Bah, there goes my 99%-omnivore certificate… But, if ever I had the urge to stick out my tongue at a new, unpleasant discovery before, this one took the crown. Since the whole issue was raised to my attention in Tyria, I decided to keep it there, browse the Chef’s Guild’s menu for the first delicious thing that usually screams “Gluten!” and twist, tweak and turn it around into something equally delicious – if not more delicious than the original~! – to use to conquer the”problem” on this side of the screen.
This was the first recipe to catch my attention:
And this is what I made of it – My personal favorite in the cookie-world (so far…!)
The Gluten-Free Cherry-Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies
85g Almond Flour
85g Rolled Oats
30g Chocolate Drops
30g Soft-Dried Cherries, roughly chopped
Alt: 30g Cranberries or Raisins work nicely as well
¾ Tsp Baking Powder
½ Tsp Sea Salt
1 Tsp Cinnamon or Gingerbread Spices – I personally go with the gingerbread, but I know it’s not everyones cup of tea
½ Tsp Vanilla Extract
Opt: 1/8 Tsp Tonka Bean
70g Light Muscovado Sugar
60ml Aquafaba – That’s actually the liquid canned chickpeas live in… intrigued or repelled? I’ll give you the scoop in a few blinks
Opt: Cream of Tartar
Alt: 1 large Egg White
30g Almond Butter, at slightly above room-temperature so it’s on the runny side of all things nut-butter
3 Tbsp Almond or Liquid Coconut Oil
Any amount of Chocolate Drops for decorative purposes~
As promised, here’s a bit of info on Aquafaba – there’s a lot going on about this these days, so I suppose if you’re not as ignorant as I was in that regard, you probably know all about it – or at least have a better source of info on it – already… Still, here’s my two cents on the matter~
Of course, I’ve never had reason to look into the whole “Gluten-Free” baking thing before this revelation came my way, so you can probably imagine the avalanche of new things I’ve discovered during my first walk in that particular park. Using something called “Aquafaba” was one of the re-occuring news in basically every baking recipe I skimmed over, so at one point I read up on it – just to panic and close all my open tabs with “interesting” recipes at once. A “Vegan” replacement for eggs. How did I end up looking at vegan stuff while looking for gluten-free baked goods? Seems when it comes to baking, those two are in cahoots, so after digesting the first spook I proceeded very carefully and gathered some more info. It really is – despite the (at least to me) unpleasant smell that wafts up after opening a tin of chickpeas, the liquid they are preserved in. And both the people living on grains and the ones avoiding them altogether use it in their baked goods in three different ways:
1) in its liquid state: just like a raw egg white, as a binding agent
2) whipped to soft peaks: for the same purposes you’d use soft-whipped cream or egg whites
3) whipped stiff: for the same purposes cream or egg whites would serve at the same stage – even meringues!
Options 1 and 2 work like a charm and I actually use them regularly by now – mostly for the kind of recipe that only needs egg whites simply because I never know what to do with egg yolks on their own. Chickpeas on the other hand are a frequent guest on our table, so…
Whipping up the Aquafaba takes way longer than whipping up an egg, so make sure to use an electrical whisk and, if you’re short on time or your particular brand of chickpea brine just doesn’t want to change its consistency, use a pinch of Cream of Tartar to pick up the pace. 4-5 mins later, the liquid will start to foam up – a surprisingly odorless foam, by the way. I half-expected to end up with cookies with a slightly-dog-foody aroma to them the first time I played around with this, but luckily I couldn’t have been more wrong~!
On to the recipe!
1) Sift the almond flour into a large mixing bowl and add the baking powder, salt, gingerbread spice, sugar and salt along with the oats, chocolate drops and cherries.
2) Lightly stir the mixture to combine the lot, then set the bowl aside.
3) Pick up a second bowl, pour in the Aquafaba and go to town with your handheld whisk-o-matic set to full speed – don’t forget to add some cream of tartar if things aren’t going your way.
4) Keep at it until the liquid turns into a pale and fluffy foam with soft peaks standing at attention at the removal of the whisks.
5) Slowly add the butter, oil and the vanilla extract as you go.
6) Keep whisking until the foam has turned back to the soft-peak stage after the new additions.
7) Transfer the foam to the bowl holding your dry ingredients with the help of a rubber spatula.
8) Fold the two components into eachother with the spatula until everything is well combined.
9) You should be looking at a dark, dotty and slightly sticky yet dense dough once you’re done.
10) Cover the bowl with a sheet of clingfilm and pop the dough into the fridge to chill through and set for 2-3 hours – if you’re prepping this dough for a special-occasion batch of cookies, chilling the dough over night works wonderfully well!
11) Once that’s done, preheat your oven to 170°C and line a tray with a sheet of baking parchment.
12) Grab a tablespoon or ice cream scoop and drop the dough onto the lined tray in 12-14 heaps, each one set about 2cm apart – unlike most cookies I’ve made so far, these don’t spread a lot, so this is just a fail-safe precaution. Pat the blobs down a bit to create thick, dense disks of cookie dough.
13) Slide the tray onto the middle rack and bake the cookies for 10 mins. They will simply “cook through” in this stage, so don’t worry if their exterior doesn’t seem to develop a cookie’esque crisp.
14) Instead, turn up the heat to 190°C after the first 10 mins and continue to bake them for another 3-5 mins until the aforementioned golden-brown crisp makes an appearance around the edges.
15) Make sure to keep an eye on them during this phase – they might have taken their time getting here, but once in the high-temperature stage, they can go from slightly-golden to burned within the blink of an eye.
16) Once out of the oven, transfer them onto a cooling rack and allow them to cool off completely before moving them into a cookie jar… or wait until they’re just cool enough not to burn off your face while you’re chowing down~ The delicious smell of them is reeeeally hard to resist…
17) Stored in an airtight container or cookie jar in a cool spot of your pantry, they stay crisp and delicious for 3-4 days. You could also freeze them and give them a quick blast in the oven whenever the need arises as well – frozen after they’re freshly made, and popped into the oven like that they actually have the crispiest shell around their delicious interior I’ve ever encountered on a cookie…
So, how’s that for an Online Game causing Real Life trouble and providing an edible, very healthy and nutritious solution (and a metric ton of new information to boot!) at the same time?