My Best Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

by Amanda Paa on October 9, 2014

Best Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies | heartbeet kitchenPlenty of really good gluten-free chocolate chip cookies have come out of my oven before, ones that nobody can guess are labeled with the “gf” word. But these are THE ones. My favorite, my best, gluten-free chocolate chip cookies – the result of dozens of batches and several years of experimenting. (I don’t like referring to them as “The Best” because I haven’t tried all the chocolate chip cookies in the world and everybody has their own set of characteristics that they measure against.)

It’s taken me a long time to nail down the cookies you see here partly because I always spot a new recipe that immediately has me reaching for the baking sheet. I do a little tweaking to make them gluten-free if needed and all is right in the world. I’ve made these classics from Sarah, walnut studded beauties from Joy, a honey laden version, and chewy, brown butter ones (already gf) from Alanna.

Best Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies | heartbeet kitchenI’ve learned that most regular cookie recipes can be a decent gluten-free success if you substitute a good gluten-free flour blend for the all-purpose flour by weight, NOT the cup measurement. But, if you want amazing gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, a little more attention to detail with process & ingredients is needed.

And I stand firmly behind putting a little more effort into it.

Think gloriously crisp & buttery edges, slightly sunken and chewy middles, and the perfect ratio of chocolate to batter. It makes me want to shriek every time I take my first bite, still warm and a little underbaked.

Best Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies | heartbeet kitchenAlthough this might be a little lengthy, I wanted to share with you the extra details I’ve learned over the course of gluten-free cookie baking. I want to set you up for success! So let’s get started.

The way to make sure a recipe turns out the same every single time, no matter if you’re baking gluten-free or not is to measure by weight. Since we all scoop, spoon, pack and pour differently, my 1 cup flour may be 120 grams and yours 145. With the science that happens when you cook, that can make a big difference. Invest in an affordable digital scale, it’s well worth it.

Gluten-Free Flour:
Cup4Cup Flour has proven time and time again to me that it is the best gluten-free flour blend on the market. There really isn’t anything that compares. It has no grittiness, a soft crumb, stability and consistency. It does contain cornstarch, xanthum gum and milk powder which some people can’t tolerate . In that case, I highly recommend the allergen friendly Bubble Girl Bakes Gluten-Free Flour. I’ve used it in this recipe and adjusted for the binding power of the other ingredients by adding 3 tablespoons of sweet rice flour and chilling the dough for an hour instead of 30 minutes. You’ll get great results, just a thinner, flatter cookie.

Temperature of Ingredients:
It’s important to bring your cold ingredients to room temperature before starting the cookie making process – the butter, egg and your gluten-free flour (which should always be stored in the refrigerator to keep it from going rancid). Why? Because at room temperature the eggs and butter form an emulsion that traps air. During baking, the air expands, producing light, airy, evenly baked treats.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chunk Cookies | heartbeet kitchenThe Chocolate:
Always chunks over chocolate chips. (I know the title says chips, but that’s just because that’s what most people call them.) Not the chunks that come pre-cut in a bag, but the type you chop up yourself using the best quality chocolate bars your sweet tooth can afford. Not only will the chunks distribute more evenly throughout the cookie, but the shards from chopping will disperse throughout the batter. And one more vote for chunks – chocolate chips hold their shape due to less cocoa butter, while the latter melt into gooey chocolate decadence.

Nuts or no Nuts?
I battled with this one a lot. I love chocolate and nuts together. I like the texture they bring to cookies and their toasted flavor. But I decided that chocolate chunks deserved to shine alone in this cookie. Plus, I wouldn’t have any noses turn up when I had to tell the people who hate nuts in brownies that these cookies contained them too. Instead I got the best of both worlds by using this toasty, pure walnut extract that my friend Vangie of Meso Nutso makes. She does it all herself and the quality & care is evident. She uses triple distilled vodka,  local Oregon walnuts and bourbon to make this particular extract. I know beautiful is not the right descriptor to describe aroma, but it’s true in this case. 

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Meso Nutso Walnut ExtractChilling Time:
I tested this recipe with several different chilling times, from none at all to 2 days. The winner? 30 minutes. With no chill time they spread too thin and don’t get that nice rippled effect. Bake them straight from the refrigerator after a night of resting and they don’t spread enough. Result: mini hockey pucks. Both still tasted great, but not quite the texture I desired.

Okay…… I think you’re ready. You’ve got all the details for gluten-free chocolate chip cookie success. Ones that you’ll eat too many of the first time you make them and ones that nobody will know they’ve got the “gf” word attached to them. Now all you need is a sweet tooth like mine and glass of milk for dunkin’. Go forth and bake!

My Best Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

adapted from all recipes linked to in 2nd paragragh
makes 16-18 cookies

215 grams Cup4Cup gluten-free flour blend
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
100 grams (1/2 cup) lightly packed dark brown sugar
67 grams (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
140 grams unsalted butter, softened (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons)
1 large egg, room temperature (mine always weighs as close to 60 grams as possible)
1 teaspoon Meso Nutso pure walnut extract (vanilla is lovely too)
80 grams of 85% cacao chocolate, chopped into chunks
80 grams of 65% cacao chocolate, chopped into chunks

In a bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In another bowl, stir together sugars and maple syrup so that no lumps remain. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed until mayonnaise consistency, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add sugar mixture and beat for 1 1/2 minutes on medium speed, scrape down sides, then beat for another 1 1/2 minutes so the mixture is light and fluffy. Add egg and walnut extract, incorporate on low speed for 20 seconds.

Then incorporate flour mixture in  3 additions, until batter just comes together and no flour streaks are present. Stir in chocolate with spoon. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. After batter has chilled, make cookie dough balls that are a scant 2 tablespoons of batter. Bake 8 cookies per sheet for about 12 minutes. They should look a little underbaked in the middle, starting to brown on the outside.

crisp edges + chewy on the inside | gluten-free chocolate chip cookies

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Baked Stuffed Apples with Butternut Squash & Gingersnap Crumble {gluten-free}I’m so happy to be partnering with Annie’s Homegrown as a #teamannies member, sharing this special post with you today!

The way I see it, fall should really be called baking season. There’s no other time of the year that compares in terms of all the delicious, in-season eats that can be turned into comforting desserts. Warm apple crisp, creamy pumpkin pie, spice cookies ….. it’s hard to choose which to make first.

I said yes to all of them this year by making these caramelized baked apples, stuffed with silky, spiced butternut squash. To give them the crunch and spice that fall sweets deserve, Annie’s Gluten-Free Gingersnap Cookies were the perfect finishing touch. And could their bunny be any cuter?

Baked Apples Stuffed with Spiced Butternut Squash & Gingersnap CrumbleMost years, the apple tree in the backyard of my childhood house would be so full that we couldn’t even give them all away. Besides her famous apple pie, my mom would often bake them, stuffed with brown sugar and oats. I liked this treat, but like any child, I would have always voted for the more decadent pie. Now that I’m older, I appreciate these “mature” desserts much more. It satisfies a weeknight craving for something warm and sweet, and makes a very special breakfast too.

You’ll want to start with crisp apples like ones that you would use for pie or a cobbler. I used Sweet Sixteen’s, but Haroldson or Honeycrisp would be great too. Some recipes keep the apple whole and dig out the center core for your filling, but cutting them in half (with some of the inner apple removed) and adding them to a cast iron skillet is the secret to caramelized, cinnamon infused edges.

how to make stuffed apples

For the filling, I couldn’t turn my back on squash and for good reason. Not that you couldn’t make pumpkin work, but squash has less water content and therefore makes a stiffer puree, holding its shape perfectly when you pipe it into the apples. Plus the roasted squash (which you can do at the same time the apples are baking) has a sweeter, nuttier flavor that pumpkin from a can doesn’t have. If you were to use pumpkin, you would need to add a thickener like full fat greek  yogurt or cream cheese to ensure it doesn’t collapse.

Baked Apples Stuffed with Spiced Butternut Squash | heartbeet kitchenI love using Annie’s products beyond just snacking because they’re such an easy way to adapt recipes that may traditionally have gluten. The gluten-free gingersnaps are perfect for things like this crumble or what I often use in recipes to replace graham cracker crumbs. Most importantly I can feel good about eating their snacks because Annie’s is dedicated to using real ingredients. And that bunny? Their founder made him the official “rabbit of approval,” representing the simplicity, care, and goodness of the products. Love it.

Baked Apples with Spiced Butternut Squash FillingSo let’s celebrate fall and real food together! Annie’s is graciously giving away an awesome gift basket to one of you, just tell me “How do you incorporate Annie’s Homegrown ingredients into your meals or snacks?”  This giveaway is open to all US residents and will end on October 8, 2014 at 11:59 pm CST. Good luck and thanks for stopping by!
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Baked Apples Stuffed with Spiced Butternut Squash & a Gingersnap Crumble

serves 6

for squash:
3 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash (a medium sized squash)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 to 3 tablespoons water

for apples:
3 large apples, cut in half
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 whole cinnamon sticks
1 cup Annie’s gluten-free Gingersnap Bunny Cookies, crushed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss squash with olive oil, nutmeg and salt. Spread onto a large baking sheet. Roast for 25-30 minutes, stirring squash until it can be easily pierced with a fork and is soft.

Meanwhile, prepare apples by removing the seeds and creating a hole about 1 inch deep in the middle of each half with a melon baller. Add butter to a 1o inch cast iron skillet (or heavy baking dish) and place it in the oven for about 1 minute to melt it. Remove and stir in cinnamon, brown sugar and cinnamon sticks. Place apples cut side down in the skillet so they are not touching. Move the squash if not quite cooked through to the bottom rack and put the skillet on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until apples are softened, but not completely mushy. (You want them to still be able to stand up when you flip them over.) Remove apples and squash from the oven when both are done. Using a spatula, flip apples up to stop them from cooking.

Add squash to a food processor or blender with the maple syrup and process until smooth, adding a few tablespoons of water if necessary. Pipe squash into holes of the apple with a decorating gun or just spooning it in. Finish with crushed gingersnap cookies and drizzle some of the juices left in the cast iron skillet over the top. Can be made one day ahead of time (without the crumble added to the top), just reheat it warm oven for 7 minutes, then add topping.

#spon: Thanks to Annie’s for sponsoring this post! I’m required to disclose a relationship between my blog and Annie’s Homegrown. This could include Annie’s providing me w/ content, product, access or other forms of payment.

33 comments   • • •   as featured in:   Breakfast, Fall, Featured Recipes, Seasonal, Sweets, Vegetarian, Winter

Cumin & Coriander Roasted Carrots with Hummus Sauce

by Amanda Paa on September 26, 2014

Cumin & Crushed Coriander Roasted Carrots with Hummus Sauce | heartbeet kitchenTomorrow marks one year that my dad’s fiance left us too soon. While nearly everything in my life is wonderful right now, my heart is heavy with thoughts of remembrance. I wonder why God took her so quickly…… why some of the most giving and kind souls end up fighting the battle against cancer, or any terminal disease.

It’s scary and humbling knowing that each of us are vulnerable and at the mercy of many factors in this big world. Each day is a blessing, and never guaranteed.

Roasted Carrots with Crushed Coriander & Hummus SauceAsk anybody and they’ll immediately mention her contagious smile that beamed from ear to ear, always. She saw the positive light in every soul that she interacted with. She was gracious and humble, someone who gave before she ever thought about receiving.

Julie proved the saying “You can’t change someone” wrong. My dad, whom I love dearly, would admit that he was very judgmental and skeptical of others choices. Julie’s open heart and mind slowly started to influence my dad. I could see it in his kindness, hear it in his voice and feel it in our relationship. He stopped worrying about what everyone else thought about his own actions too. He became more spontaneous and started seeing the glass half full instead of half empty. He was the dad I remembered from when I was younger, caring and gentle with lots of love to give.

Roasted Carrots with Crushed Coriander & Hummus SauceI know Julie is smiling down on us right now, saying “Don’t be sad. I enjoyed every minute of my 50 years and I’m waiting to dance with you when you get you here.” She would want us to be happy and celebratory of her life, not sad.

So tonight I decided to share these carrots with you because they’re full of life, spice and brightness, just like Julie. They’re young and tender at the farmers market right now, so grab a few bunches and shower them with cumin and crushed coriander to contrast their sweetness. I loved the creaminess of the semi-homemade hummus sauce against the crispy, roasted edges of the carrots too. It reminded me of the pomme frites and bearnaise sauce combination, but a little fresher and healthier.

Enjoy this beautiful weekend my friends, and hug those close to you a little tighter, for time together is precious.

Cumin & Crushed Coriander Roasted Carrots with Hummus Sauce

serves 4

1 1/2 pounds carrots, trimmed and lightly peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon curry powder
3/4 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup hummus (storebought or homemade)
2 tablespoons lime juice
1-2 tablespoons water
fresh cilantro for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut carrots in half horizontally, then each half lengthwise so you have spears. Put carrots in a large bowl, drizzle with olive oil then stir in curry powder, coriander seeds and salt. Make sure all are coated, then spread onto baking sheet. Try to keep them from touching to ensure crispiness.

Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring once. They should have crispy edges and be browned. While they are in the oven, stir together hummus, lime juice and water so that it is the consistency you like. Remove carrots from oven, then drizzle with sauce and serve warm or at room temperature.

5 comments   • • •   as featured in:   Appetizer, Fall, Recipe Box, Seasonal, Spring, Summer, Vegetarian, Winter

Slow Roasted Cherry Tomatoes Preserved in Olive Oil

by Amanda Paa on September 20, 2014

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes Preserved in Olive Oil | heartbeet kitchenI’ve been pushing off fall since I flipped the calendar to September, hanging on to summer as long as I possibly be can, but there’s a point where there’s no denying that it’s here. In Minnesota, September is perfection. This week I pulled out a light sweater and wore leggings every day, much to my heart’s content. I felt like snuggling, baking and braising. Our internal clocks just know.

Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes Preserved in Olive Oil | heartbeet kitchenI usually take one whole weekend to embark on a canning fest that always includes this spicy roasted salsa and this milder, punchy Salsa Verde (made from tomatillos). This year I wanted to add these tiny heirloom cherry tomatoes to the extravaganza, their colors and flavors so vibrant, something I wanted to savor for longer than their regular “fresh life”.

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes Preserved in Olive Oil | heartbeet kitchenI can’t even express the sweetness of the older woman who sold these to me at the market. I knew she was a gem from the moment I saw her standing in front of her station wagon, wide brimmed hat, collared shirt and bright red lipstick.

roasted cherry tomatoes preserved with olive oil and herbsShe had a very select offering; pints of these rainbow-esque cherry tomatoes, a few larger heirloom tomatoes, fresh herbs (some dried and made into beautiful bouquets) and unique decorative gourds. I jumped at the chance to buy from her, $2 a pint for these beauties. I almost felt like I was stealing.

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes Preserved in Olive Oil | heartbeet kitchenRoasted Cherry Tomatoes Preserved in Olive Oil | heartbeet kitchenAs one tumbled out of the teal blue container, she muttered, “oh, that darn Mighty Mato, trying to escape again.” And you see this one? This here’s my favorite, the Thai Pink Egg. That baby girl pink gets me every time, and it doesn’t get too soft even when very ripe. Plus you never have to worry about it splintering. She went on to name 7 more varieties in the two little baskets. They were like her children, and she was sending them off to flourish.

preserved cherry tomatoes & soft cheese on toast | heartbeet kitchenWhen I got home I tasted through the different colors and shapes, each different and intriguing – some sweet, some tart. Some fruiter than others, and some as juicy as a Colorado peach. It was an easy choice to decide to preserve them. It was not only to savor their deliciousness a little longer, but also the memorable interaction with “tomato lady”.

roasted heirloom tomatoes preserved in olive oil | heartbeet kitchenPreserving doesn’t get much easier than this. All it takes is a slow roast at low heat, with the tomatoes smattered with fresh herbs and garlic. They’ll transform into little nuggets of deep, concentrated flavor without having to lift a thumb. I recommend going all out to finish them, covering them when with the best olive oil you can afford. I used what was left of a special bottle that I had bought from a small, organic farm that we visited last year near Healdsburg, as fruity and smooth as I’d ever tasted.

The time is now to pick up a few extra pints of tomatoes. I can guarantee you won’t regret this little experiment. Your soups, pastas, toasts and risottos will have you savoring summer a little longer. Thank goodness.

Slow Roasted Cherry Tomatoes Preserved in Olive Oil

2 pints cherry tomatoes, I use heirlooms of all colors
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
6-8 basil leaves, torn
3 cloves of garlic, smashed with the side of a knife
½ teaspoon salt
A few cracks of black pepper
3/4 cup of the best olive oil you can afford

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Rinse and dry the tomatoes, then spread onto a large baking sheet. Add the thyme, basil and garlic to the pan, then drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then give a good stir to coat everything. Roast for 2 1/2 hours, stirring a few times throughout, or until tomatoes are blistered and shrunken as shown above. Taste one and sprinkle with a little more salt if needed. Remove garlic and herbs, as they can spoil and are not safe for preserving, then add the tomatoes to a sterilized jar. Cover completely with olive oil and store in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 months, just makes sure they stay completely subemerged in the oil. The olive oil will harden in the refrigerator, which is fine, just let sit out before serving and it will return to liquid.

slow roasted cherry tomatoes preserved in olive oil | heartbeet kitchen

21 comments   • • •   as featured in:   Appetizer, Canning and Preserving, Cooking Techniques, Fall, Featured Recipes, Seasonal, Summer, Vegetarian

a day in the life, Valerie & Puerto Rico Sparkling waves, salty breeze, a serenade by the Coquí every night, delicious fresh fruit, tasty spices (sazón) and much more are part of our everyday life on the enchanted Caribbean Island of Puerto Rico. I am Valerie and I am the author of Nuance and Bubbles Blog and for the past year and a half I have been living in San Juan, Puerto Rico with my husband, the person I describe as the one who is better than the man of my dreams. The way we ended up here is an interesting story but we are glad Providence led us this way. Something we felt was a detour led us to what has been a caribbean newlywed bliss, full of exploring (see pictures here), self-discovery and the acquiring of many new skills that I never imagined I’d have the time to learn.

Amanda and I are still not sure how we started our social media interactions, all we know is that it has quickly turned into a great online friendship. You more than anyone know how wonderful her blog is with all those delicious yet easy to follow recipes. She is one of the few bloggers that has really inspired me to actually try her tasty recipes. I love her simplistic approach to food and how she can make a classic staple look exceptional. She has really encouraged a food blog lover like me to not only limit my food love to the pages of the internet, but to also bring it to life in our kitchen.

Today I am thrilled to be sharing with all of you on Heartbeet Kitchen some of our food and life in Puerto Rico through the “lens” of our taste buds.

Nuance and Bubbles blog  a walk in the city-1What is your favorite Puerto Rican food?

I was glad that Amanda’s first question when setting up this post was about my favorite Puerto Rican dish. My favorite “criollo” dish is “Mofongo relleno de Churrasco” which is basically a little (or big depending where you go) mountain of mashed, fried green plantain seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic, stuffed with tender pieces of skirt steak and chimichurri sauce. The best mofongo is not too dry but a bit moist. It’s not the best food choice when it comes to my aspirations of an all plant-based diet but it is heavenly. I would also have to add that Puerto Rican food is full of flavor (sazón). For example my husband makes the best beans I have ever tried and the secret to them is his homemade “sofrito” (think lots of cilantro, onions, garlic cloves, green peppers, all blended into a powerful concentrate of flavorful goodness that packs a punch with just one spoon), combined with his mother’s techniques which is all some sort of family secret.

My second favorite thing is a desert, obviously. It’s called “quesito”, which is a cheese (think cheese danish type cheese) stuffed pastry with a flaky crust and coated with a thin layer of sugar glaze. I do not know what could be a better compliment to a wonderful cup of Puerto Rican joe other than one of these freshly made pastries from a nearby panadería/repostería (bakery).

san juan, puerto rico

How does food differ from season to season?

Living on an island has great advantages, one of them being that fresh produce is basically available all year long with some minor exceptions. Some fruits like mangoes and quenepas (Spanish lime) are seasonal.

ClementinesDo you normally go to farmer’s market, stores or how is the accessibility to food in general?

When we first moved here we would only buy produce from an ambulant produce seller that would pass by our home every day selling stuff out of his truck. Later, we discovered a fresh market, a small farm food coop and a fresh Mart (which is basically like a Whole Foods in the USA). Those are our options when wanting to eat more organically while living in the city. Though, in a small island such as this one we are never too far from the country. These options seem to really satisfy our needs in terms of fresh produce. For everything else we have regular supermarkets.

Do you garden?

Unfortunately, I presently don’t garden, I only have some cacti and succulents because they are the easiest to care for. I am, however, in the process of cleaning out our terrace because soon I would love to start a small urban vegetable garden. Wish me luck!

fall fashion | hat & ring

What is the norm for eating in vs. restaurants?

I don’t think I can speak for everyone but from what I’ve experienced, eating organically is a growing phenomenon here but certainly not yet the norm. Because of Puerto Rico’s history and status as part of the US, it has a lot of American influences and restaurants are one of them. They seem to be very popular and are always full. Eating habits certainly vary from one family to the next and I believe that is very tied to each individual’s lifestyle. My husband and I like to cook most days of the week not only because we enjoy catching up on our favorite shows over a meal that we prepared together, but it also helps us to eat more cleanly and adhere to a more plant based diet. That being said, there are some great places around the island to sample amazing food; a fact we do take advantage of from time to time.

Nuance & Bubbles - life in Puerto Rico

Thanks so much to Valerie for sharing her experiences and beautiful photos about food and life in Puerto Rico. I hope you’ll hop on over to her blog (or Facebook, Twitter) to be further inspired by all of her insight from lifestyle, love, good eats and feel-good tips. Have a great Thursday everyone! -Amanda


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