Over the last month, I embarked upon an allergen free baking course with recipe developer Jeffrey Larsen, James Beard-award winning author of Gluten-Free Baking at Home. He let us in on a little secret – surprise, the class was really a guise for sharpening our recipe development skills. The challenge was issued that to become a better baker and chef, one must be skillful at adapting a recipe to allergen free.
In addition to a pie crust (a post for another time), my main focus was adapting my standby chocolate chip cookie recipe to be vegan (or at least casein and lactose free) as well as gluten free. I ended up crafting slightly different combinations of the following for my flour blend: millet flour, sorghum flour, mochiko, potato starch, and tapioca starch. For three of the four trials, I used coconut oil for the fat and subbed homemade ube halaya for the egg.
From the beginning, the direction I felt like taking was to create a new and unique recipe, not a copycat. Because..that would feel boring, to me.
#1: ube + 4 oz coconut oil
Extreme lacing, as if the flour could not and would not absorb the quantity of oil. Shaping and spreading problems even when baking from frozen. Very oily. Crisp lace cookie when cool.
#2: ube + 2 oz coconut oil + ^tapioca starch
With guidance from Jeff, I cut the fat back by half and increased the tapioca starch by half (an exception to the general recipe development ratio he taught us). A little bit of chew but the results were otherwise dry. Puck-shaped with little spread unless I manually and gently pressed down on the cookies after baking. Color was oxidized a bit from chill time in the fridge (also not surprising given the natural purple color of the ube).
#3: flax + 2 oz clarified butter + ^tapioca starch + baking soda only
This batch was really just a fun run for taste’s sake. Dry and sandy dough, barely coming together even after chilling. The results ended up being, no surprise, super dry, and sandy. Puck-shaped and little spread, unless, again, I gently pressed on the cookies after baking. However, great golden coloring with the combination of flax and clarified butter. Would make a decent cookie crumble crust with adjustments.
#4: ube + 3 oz coconut oil + ^tapioca starch + baking soda only + coconut milk
Winner, winner! The dough for this one felt *right* out of the gate, right after mixing. Cohesive dough, though a little oily. Minor lacing in the spread (Maybe a tablespoon more tapioca starch needed? Maybe that coconut milk wasn’t needed after all?), but otherwise the amount of oil and starch were overall a winning combination. A more appetizing color since I replaced the vanilla extract with ube extract, to emphasize the ube’s purple. Chewy, a little fudgy, a little crispy.
Recipe Development: A Non-Recipe
chocolate chips, of course
pencil and eraser
Cream room temperature enthusiasm and patience on speed 3. Hm, it’s not quite creaming together like butter and sugar normally would.
Add imagination. Hey, how about that big batch of ube halaya last week. How about that as an egg replacer? Or a flax seed “egg”? Okay, we’re starting to get real creative here.
Incorporate flexibility, in three additions, until just combined. You don’t want to produce gluten should you overwork the dough – oh wait, flexibility doesn’t have gluten, but still.
Fold in trust and chocolate chips. The mix ins are really the best part.
Chill, scoop, then freeze. Bake directly from frozen.
Sample your work. Whoa, it’s too oily, or dry, or overbaked. Get frustrated. Take out your pencil and eraser. Adjust your starch, liquid, and fat amounts on your worksheets. Indicate when you’ll pull the trays from the oven next time. Repeat process.
- Do your research on different recipes.
- Lest you end up with an endless supply of possibly undesirable cookies in your freezer, do the math and bake only a half batch when testing. Because, yes, it’s possible to have undesirable cookies (ahem, batch 1).
- Chill the dough for 30 minutes or until just barely cohesive and solid, and then scoop. Don’t chill overnight as one would for most conventional wheat flour cookies. Fat absorbency is different without the gluten.
- Freeze the dough balls after scooping and bake from frozen to control spread.
- Recipe development really engages both the artist and scientist, pastry and culinary sides of my brain.
- And, I need to find a way to make it part of my culinary career.
- Now I want to convert any and all recipes in my path.
- My goal was never to create a copycat of my standby recipe. Instead, I came up with something really unique and still very much a cookie.
- Don’t vie for perfection. It’s not possible. It’s just a cookie.
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