These cookies may not look like much, but they are really quite wonderful.
They are also gone. Danny and Lu nibbled them during an afternoon snack, after my photo session, as they lay on our bed together reading an I-Spy book. Weak winter sunlight spilled into the room and on their toes. I had so much else to do, but I stopped to watch them and eat one of these cookies.
Oh my, they’re good.
I’m shifting things around on you again. I had planned to share only adapted recipes these weeks of December, to show you how easily you can convert any recipe you love to be gluten-free, gleefully.
However, after all this baking, I couldn’t resist the urge to create my own.
This morning, we ate waffles. Our jar of coconut oil was out on the counter and I reached for it to brush the waffle iron before it started to smoke. Those waffles were crisp and soft both, with a faint taste of something unexpected for breakfast. Hm.
I know how many of you reading have to avoid dairy as well as gluten. I thought perhaps I might try to make all these cookies dairy-free as well as gluten-free, at first. However, the pace at which we are baking and posting has left me a little exhausted. So I decided that gluten-free is enough. If you cannot eat dairy, I’m sure you can convert these cookies into something delicious for your kitchen.
However, late this morning, Danny and Lu were out playing, having their morning date. I was actively avoiding a deadline. Baking is still work in this house, work that doesn’t require me to sit in front of the computer. I turned up Ella Fitzgerald and started to bake.
I’ve been wanting to make a simple little sugar cookie, based only on the ratio for cookie dough that Michael Ruhlman explained in his book, Ratio.
He and I have talked on Twitter a bit, wondering if the ratios for gluten-free baked goods are the same as the ratios for baked goods with gluten. For the most part, I think they are! This makes your baking life so much easier, if you are willing to part with your recipes. All you need to know is the right ratio of fats to flours to liquids and you can start creating.
Here is the ratio for cookie dough:
1 part sugar
2 parts fat
3 parts flours
Now, here is what you must understand: this does not work in cups. As I have written before, cups are miserably inaccurate. The ratios only work in ounces or grams, in weight.
If you think in ounces, this seems simpler:
2 ounces sugar
4 ounces fat
6 ounces flours
However, if you do this in grams, the baking will be even more precise:
60 grams sugar
120 grams fat
180 grams flours
This is literally all you need to know to make cookies.
The sugars are up to you (brown sugar, palm sugar, organic cane sugar, powdered sugar), as are the fats (butter, leaf lard, bacon fat, shortening, coconut oil). We’ve talked about the combination of gluten-free flours that are working in this kitchen, and in all the recipes we have published so far.
Cookies need some baking powder or soda, depending on the texture you want. Salt is essential, since it heightens the taste of every ingredient in there. I like spices and zests and extracts, to play with flavors. And for gluten-free baking, you need some xanthan or guar gum.
Knowing this, I threw together a cookie dough in a few moments. Since the coconut oil was sitting on the counter, semi-soft for being at room temperature, I decided to use it to replace the butter that is the standard for cookies in this house. “What the hell,” I said to Danny. “The worst that can happen is these cookies will be awful and we’ll throw out the dough.
Oh, they were nothing close to awful.
These were light, like the pillows you are so happy to see at the end of a long day. The first bite was a soft crunch, then a bit crumbly (a little like shortbread), then melted away. The lemon zest and orange flower water was like sharp intake of breath, with the softening of a tiny taste of coconut, a welcome contrast to the chocolate and fruits and frostings of holiday cookies. They were, in short, quite wonderful.
They are also gluten-free and dairy-free, without bleached white sugar. These cookies certainly do not suffer for those lacks. They are themselves.
And now, they’re yours.
Please let us know what you think if you bake them.
Would you like to win a copy of our cookbook? We created every baked good recipe the same way I described here. You can trust them.
Also, we’re giving away a copy of Ratio. If you are serious about baking and cooking, you need this book.
GLUTEN-FREE COCONUT SUGAR COOKIES
One of my secret baking weapons is orange flower water. It’s the most potent flavor, smelling of clean-washed sheets on the line, the rinds left over from the juice you squeezed, and the puckery touch of perfume in the first sniff.
You only want a touch, no more than 1/4 teaspoon here. (That’s half a cap with the water we have.) With lemon zest, it makes cookies taste more awake than plain sugar and butter can do.
If you don’t have orange flower water, don’t worry. These cookies will still be good without it. Just start looking for it.
180 grams all-purpose flour mix
1/2 teaspoon guar gum
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
60 grams coconut palm sugar, plus another 10 grams set aside
120 grams coconut oil, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature
zest of 1 large lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon orange flower water
Combining the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, add the all-purpose flour, guar gum, baking powder, and kosher salt. Whisk them together to combine the dry ingredients and aerate them. Set aside.
Combining the wet ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the palm sugar and coconut oil. Mix until they are well combined, about 3 minutes. (They will not cream together or become as fluffy as butter and traditional sugar, so do not expect that.) Add the egg and mix until it is entirely combined in the dough. Add the lemon zest, vanilla extract, and orange flower water. Mix until they are just combined, about 1 minute.
Finishing the dough. With the mixer running on low, add the dry ingredients, 1/3 of it a time, allowing it to disappear into the dough before adding more. Stop when all the flour is incorporated and dough feels pliable. (It will be a bit wet. Don’t worry.)
Refrigerate the dough for at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
Preparing to bake. Pull the dough out of the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.
Grab a rounded teaspoonful of dough and roll it into a ball in your hands. Roll the ball of dough in the reserved coconut palm sugar, then put it on the baking sheet. Flatten it just a bit with the palm of your hand. Repeat, leaving 2 inches of space between cookies, until the baking sheet is done.
Slide the baking sheet into the oven and bake the cookies until they are firm to the touch, starting to brown on the bottom, and smell too good to let them stay in the oven, about 6 to 8 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack. Eat.
Makes 1 dozen cookies.