Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Taste from Childhood

I believe every person with celiac disease has a certain food or dish they miss deeply. It's that one food that gives you a pang a jealousy to see someone else eat, the one that makes you secretly wonder how sick you'd really feel if you had just one bite. For some, it's a favorite meal at a restaurant you still frequent with friends. For others, it's a special holiday recipe of Mom's that just doesn't taste quite the same gluten-free. For me, it was something soft and chewy, warm and melty straight out of the oven; something that brought back childhood memories of cold, rainy days inside a toasty and comfortable kitchen; something that made my mouth water with yearning at the mere thought. For me, it was chocolate chip cookies.

No matter what I did, no matter what I tried, I could not find or make anything match that chewy, buttery consistency of a good chocolate chip cookie. Friends and family might try my flat, bottom-burned creations that crumbled in their hands and kindly say, "Well, it tastes like a chocolate chip cookie. The consistency is just a little different." So, while others baked their cookies, I would grumblingly satiate my appetite by gulping down handfuls of Nestle morsels.

Then, finally, a ray of hope for my cookie quandary. While visiting family for a weekend, a cry came from the living room. "Everyone, come quick! Alton Brown is making gluten-free chocolate chip cookies on the Food Network!" I dashed to the sofa, though cynicism quickly started to over-ride my hope. I had tried this so many times before. Who did Alton Brown think he was to figure this out, brilliant chef and food scientist aside? He's not even a celiac!

Yet the cookie in his hand didn't crumble. And he even called his recipe, "The Chewy Gluten-Free." Before I knew it, I had all of the ingredients assembled in my kitchen, recipe in-hand. I followed every direction, measured to the tiniest speck. I turned the cookie sheet in the oven after exactly seven minutes to ensure even cooking. I even let the cookies cool. The air was filled with the sweet of aroma of baked chocolate goodness. Here it was; the moment of truth. I lifted a cookie to my mouth and took a bite. Perfection; just like the rich, soft and chewy cookies we made growing up. I think tears of joy actually sprang to my eyes.

This recipe is slightly more complicated than the traditional chocolate chip cookie recipe, but it is worth every step. The most important step is to allow the dough enough time to chill thoroughly before baking. This helps the cookies stay set up while baking, and keeps them firm and chewy after cooling.

The Chewy Gluten-Free


8 ounces unsalted butter
2 cups brown rice flour
¼ cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup sugar
1 ¼ cups light brown sugar
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt the butter and pour into the bowl of a stand mixer.

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

Add both of the sugars to the bowl with the butter and using the paddle attachment, cream together on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the whole egg, egg yolk, milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Add the chocolate chips and stir to combine.

Chill the dough in the refrigerator until firm, approximately 1 hour. Shape the dough into 2-ounce balls and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet. 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 2 minutes. Move the cookies to a wire rack and cool completely. Store cooked cookies in an airtight container.

Recipe courtesy of

It truly is hard to even tell that these cookies are gluten-free. I baked them for several parties and no one knew they were gluten-free! They were gone in minutes. So do what I did when I made them the first time; bake a batch, pour a large glass of milk, and don't keep track of how many you eat!

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