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January 10, 2010

Gluten-free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Life without gluten shouldn’t mean life without warm, chewy chocolate chip cookies. Unfortunately, many gluten-free baked goods are hard, dry, and flavorless. On their own, none of the many bean, nut, and gluten-free grain flours provide the cohesion and structure of all-purpose flour, but by combining flours and special binding agents, you can create satisfying, decadent desserts.

I arrived at this recipe after weeks of sampling and testing. Obtaining many of the ingredients will require a trip to the natural foods store, a home away from home for anyone eating a gluten-free diet. Whole grain brown rice flour provides fiber, while ground flax and peanut butter make the cookies soft and moist.

Though it sounds like something produced in a Martian food science laboratory, xanthan gum is a carbohydrate produced naturally by sugar-fermenting bacteria. It is used as thickener in everything from salad dressing to ice cream to toothpaste, and it does the job of gluten in gluten-free baking, making dough sticky and cohesive. Without xantham gum, this dough flattens and burns in the oven.

Because these cookies are vegan, they are also safe for people sensitive to eggs and dairy. Whether baking for yourself or friends with sensitive stomachs, enjoy these delicious, melt-in-your-mouth cookies worry-free and in good health.

Gluten-free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/4 cup almond flour (or finely ground almond meal)
1 tablespoon ground flax
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 cup (1 stick) nonhydrogenated margarine (such as Earth Balance)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup rice or other nondairy milk
1 cup smooth peanut butter (natural and unsalted)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Combine flours, flax, baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum in medium bowl. Beat margarine, sugars, vanilla extract, rice milk, and peanut butter in large bowl until creamy. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes before transferring to wire cooling racks.

Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies.

Mary Lake is a writer, teacher, columnist for MF&L, and vegetarian blogger: Mitten Machen.

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