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See that cookie? That chocolate-oozing, warm-in-the-hand cookie? The cookie I was mean enough to make Danny stop eating after only two bites so I could take this picture for you?
And, I’m assuming, if you are looking at the photo, the cookie you want to eat, right now?
Well, that’s one of David Leite’s famous 36-hour chocolate chip cookies. Gluten-free.
I love how recipes live on much longer than the time it takes to read them on a page. Someone has an idea — I know! How about refrigerating the dough before baking? — and the idea becomes cookie, becomes words, becomes other cookies. That piece of paper is spread from hand to hand (or these days, from screen to screen), becoming increasingly frayed and chocolate stained along the way. Recipes are one way of talking with each other. A particularly delicious way.
Back in July, just a few weeks before Little Bean was born, the New York Times published a compelling story by the inimitable David Leite. Why was it compelling? Well, of course, David’s research and scholarship were impeccable, his writing fluid and easy to read, and his recipe meticulously written. Who am I kidding? It was the photograph that grabbed the eye, a baking tray with warm chocolate chip cookies packed in like little kids waiting to be released for recess. One look at the melting chocolate, the caramel color, and the crisp edges of the cookies, and I wanted one.
Oh, I wanted one bad.
But of course, these were full of gluten. The original recipe calls for cake flour and bread flour. Nope. That wasn’t going to happen. More to the point, Little Bean was going to emerge into the world just 12 days later. I set the recipe aside.
(I did laugh when someone wrote to me, about 4 days before the little one was born, and asked, “Look, I know you’re about to have a baby, but could you just adapt these cookies first? I need one.” Um, no.)
Little Bean turns 9 months old next week. (How the hell did that happen?) I finally got around to it this week.
Oh, the wait was worth it.
Sometimes I meet folks who despair about having to bake gluten-free. They’re scared of it. They don’t want to do the work. I understand. It’s daunting, at first. But lately, I meet more people who — like me — revel in this. We get to be mad scientists in the kitchen, tossing flours together and waiting to see what happens.
Shauna, I can feel you saying. That’s all very well. But I can’t stand to hear you wax rhapsodic about the joys of baking right now. Please, just cut to the chase. How do I make these cookies?
No problem. Here you are.
Instead of cake flour and bread flour, I used sorghum, tapioca, potato, and amaranth. Equal parts of each. I tried another batch with teff, instead, but those puffed up and stayed in ball shape. Normally, that’s quite the achievement in gluten-free baking. But here, I wanted those flat cookies, crisp on the outside, increasingly chewier toward the middle, and a little flattened and soft in the center. This is the combination that worked for me.
The original recipe calls for large chocolate discs, either made by Jacques Torres or Valrhona. Well, I’m afraid I can’t afford Mr. Torres’ chocolates. And many bars of Valrhona I have seen say, in tiny letters, may contain gluten. So, neither one was an option. The tiny chocolate chips just won’t do for this recipe. You want giant oozing gooey chocolate places in the midst of the cookie. What to do?
Thank you, Dagoba Chocodrops. 73% cacao. Single origin. Fair trade. Organic. And gluten-free. Also, along with those superlatives? A lovely piece of dark, slightly bitter, redeemed-by-a-bit-of-sweetness chocolate. Oh yeah, baby.
A bit of xanthan gum. Make sure the butter is softened, not melted in a rush. Good sea salt to crunch on top.
And other than that? They’re cookies. They’re damned fine cookies.
Are these as good as David Leite’s originals, the ones with gluten? I’ll never know. I’ll never be able to eat those.
But I can tell you this. This weekend, when I finally made the cookies, Danny’s niece, Kelly, and her fiance, James, and their friend Tanya stayed with us for three days. (For those of you who have been reading for a bit, you might remember that Kelly and James came to visit in September, and we made fried green tomatoes. Well, they are engaged now, and we couldn’t be happier if we tried.) Three food-loving, discerning young people, all in their 20s. None of them is gluten-free. Before they met me, they probably couldn’t have told you what gluten was.
Just after they arrived, on Friday night, I made the dough in front of them. I watched James’s eyes go wide. Just the dough looked delightful. “Nope,” I said, shoving the dough in the back of the refrigerator. “We have to wait until Sunday morning.”
As David explained in his original article, the refrigeration wait allows the dough to soak up all the liquids, which makes the final cookies more fully flavored. And the drier dough produces a firm, crunchy cookie. So, we had to wait.
For a moment, James looked wounded. Luckily, we had plenty of other food to feed them.
Sunday finally arrived. We ate smoked salmon that an island family catches in Neah Bay and sells out of ice coolers on the side of the road. (It was good.) Scrambled eggs. Danny’s roasted potatoes. No one was going hungry.
But still, just after breakfast, James called out: “Time to make the cookies. It has been 36 hours now.” He was right. I started working.
We all stopped talking when the warm chocolate cookie baking smell emerged from the oven.
They came out perfect. I jumped up and down, a bit. James wanted to grab one, right away. So did Danny. (The girls were more polite.) Nope. We had to wait, just like the recipe said. All in the name of science, and this blog.
Finally, they had cooled sufficiently that the center had fallen, like a sleeping baby against the shoulder of someone she trusts. The outer edges were crisp. Okay kids. Eat.
Everyone took a bite. Silence. More silence.
In the past, I would have worried, tried to fill the space with words. But Danny has taught me. If no one talks, it just means they don’t need words. They only want to eat.
Everyone loved them. Everyone ate two that morning — these are big cookies — and the kids took another six home for the car ride home.
I don’t care if these are as good as, or better than, or an adequate substitute for the originals. These were warm, gobbled quickly, and inspired companionable silence. Everyone in the room agreed: these cookies, these gluten-free cookies, are the best chocolate chip cookies that each one of us has ever eaten. Ever.
These will be my chocolate chip cookie recipe now, the one I bake with my daughter when she grows older, the one I’ll pass on to her, the edges of the paper frayed and stained with chocolate.
These are my chocolate chip cookies.
36-hour chocolate chip cookies, gluten-free
adapted from David Leite’s chocolate chip cookie recipe
1 cup sorghum flour
1 cup tapioca starch
1 cup potato starch
1 cup amaranth flour
1 tablespoon xanthan gum
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (we used bakers’ sugar, which is extra fine)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
16 ounces Dagoba chocodrops
Sifting the dry ingredients. Sift each of the four flours, individually, into a medium-sized bowl. Add the xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir well (I like to use a whisk, to sift again, in a way). Set aside.
Mixing the wet ingredients. Put the soft butter and the sugars into a stand mixer. Using a paddle attachment, mix them well, until they are just combined, and then 1 minute more. (Do not over-cream, however, because this could lead to spreading in the baking stage.) Add the eggs, 1 at a time, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next. Pour in the vanilla extract and mix for a beat.
Finishing the cookie dough. Sift the dry ingredients into the batter, about 1/2 cup at a time, and then mixing. When the all the dry ingredients have been incorporated, add the chocolate pieces and mix for just a moment. You don’t want broken chocolate here.
Refrigerating. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and put it in your refrigerator. You might want to shove it to the back and arrange even more enticing foods in front of it, because you shouldn’t touch the dough for 36 hours. Really.
Preparing to bake. 36 hours later (or as long as you could stand it), pull the dough from the refrigerator. Uncover it. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat.
Baking the cookies. Scoop generous balls of dough from the bowl. (You can determine the size for yourself. David suggested they be the size of large golf balls. Or you can weigh them at 3 1/2 ounces each. Mine were the size of the indentation of the palm of my hand, but I could still lightly wrap my fingers around the ball.) Place 6 of them onto the baking sheet. Poke any errant chocolate pieces into the dough. Sprinkle the top of each cookie with the sea salt.
Bake the cookies about 18 minutes, or until the tops have turned golden brown. The middles should still be somewhat soft, however. Take the baking sheet out of the oven. Allow the baking sheet to sit on the counter for 10 minutes. Transfer the cooling cookies onto a cooling rack and allow them to cool for a few more moments.
Eat warm chocolate chip cookies and feel grateful. Why not?
Makes 1 to 2 dozen chocolate chip cookies, depending on the size you make.