Aaron’s mom is (and has been) under doctor’s orders to avoid gluten. It’s an order she often breaks. The woman’s got a serious sweet tooth, and hasn’t found gluten-free desserts she likes. Packaged gluten-free desserts tend to be weirdly gritty and either bland or with a funky aftertaste. And they’re expensive. Because of this, I’ve been trying to stockpile gluten-free desserts recipes. The best results have been with desserts that are naturally gluten-free. But there are only so many times one can serve meringue cookies. And adapting recipes that generally use copious amounts of all-purpose flour is a little more than a little intimidating.
That’s why I was so happy to find Alternative Baker by Alanna Taylor-Tobin. Alanna uses gluten-free flours joyfully, paying close attention to texture and taste. Alanna’s recipes are the sort I want to make regardless of my relationship to gluten. I’ve already bookmarked two desserts for Thanksgiving with Aaron’s parents- an elegant chestnut and caramel apple tart, and a comforting pumpkin pie spiked with ginger. There’s also apricot clafoutis with honey and cardamom, raspberry swirl biscuits, chocolate pear tea cakes … among others.
Alanna was a pastry chef before becoming a blogger/cookbook writer, and I love her unfussy but uncompromising eye for detail. Like these cookies, for instance. Alanna uses chocolate in three ways- she has you melt together chocolate and butter with citrus zest (she calls for bergamot, I used orange), fold in chocolate chunks to the batter, and then top the cookie with more chocolate and flaked salt. The layers of texture make for a satisfying cookie. The cookie manages to be both soft and chewy. It’s nutty and deep, with a heady does of orange. They remind me of brownie cookies, except better, because the buckwheat brings out the toasted, rich notes of the chocolate. It’s a subtle addition, but one that enriches the whole thing.
I’m certainly going to make these for my gluten-free loved ones. I’ll also be making these regularly for my glutinous self. And I already know what Aaron’s mom is getting for Christmas- perhaps even with a box of cookies.
Chocolate Buckwheat Cookies with Orange
Alanna suggests portioning the cookies by the heaping tablespoon. I went a bit more generous (about 2 tablespoons) and ended up with a slightly smaller amount of healthy sized cookies. I like them so much I’ll do the same next time.
adapted from Alternative Baker by Alanna Taylor-Tobin
Makes about 20 cookies
6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter
12 ounces (345 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped, plus extra for topping
1 tablespoon orange zest (1 medium)
1/2 cup (65 g) buckwheat flour
2 tablespoons (15 g) tapioca flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (130 g) cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Flaked salt for topping
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a heavy bottom pan over very low heat melt together the butter, 8 ounces of chocolate, and the orange zest. Stir often, making sure the bottom doesn’t scorch. When the chocolate and butter are warm and melted together remove from heat and set aside.
In a small bowl sift together the buckwheat flour, tapioca flour, and baking powder. Set aside.
In a medium bowl combine the eggs, sugar, and salt. Mix on high using a hand mixer (or do as Alanna suggests, and use the paddle attachment for a stand mixer) for 5 minutes, until the eggs are fluffy and light in texture. Reduce the speed to low, and add the vanilla extract and chocolate butter mixture. Once that’s well combined mix in the reserved flour. Turn off the mixer, and use a flexible rubber spatula to fold in the remaining 4 ounces of chopped chocolate.
The batter should resemble thick brownie batter at this point. If it doesn’t, pop it in the fridge for a bit. I had to let my batter sit in the fridge for 5 minutes before it was ready to scoop.
Using an ice cream scoop or two spoons, drop the batter onto the prepared cookie sheets. Make sure to leave about 2 inches between the cookies. Top the cookies with chopped chocolate and a pinch of flaked salt.
Bake the cookies for 8-12 minutes, rotating the trays halfway, until the edges are set and the tops are cracked. Allow the cookies to cool on the tray before eating. They will keep at room temperature for a few days. Alanna says to store them in an airtight container, but mine have been sitting quite happily in the open- all the better for snacking.