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Archive for December, 2012

GF cookie recipes are way cool because they include a broad variety of ‘flours’ rather than (primarily) wheat. For bakers, playing with ingredients is fun, fun, fun. As I ‘convert’ gluten-full recipes into GF recipes I look to combine various types of flours with the other cookie ingredients to create a balanced and flavor packed taste treat. This is where you use your inquisitive and experimenter nature. Hmmm; what flour flavors would go best with a GF chocolate chip cookie? Would the mix of flours vary if nuts are added?
My flour selections are dependent three factors. The 1st factor is the type of cookie; scoop and drop; cookie sandwich, fruit or nut-filled, meringue base & holiday specific. The 2nd factor is the key non-flour ingredients such as fruit, nuts, chocolate, etc. The 3rd ingredient is other textural considerations such cultural or country themes (i.e. rustic ravioli cookies).
Experimenting with flour combinations never ends. Feel each type of flour; rub them between your fingers. Begin to chronicle the textural differences between the flours. Taste each type of flour, lightly dusting your tongue. With this experience and memory you can begin to combine GF flours for your favorite cookie recipes. As examples, here are some of the combinations that I use.
I have fashioned my ravioli cookies in an Italian rustic style so the ingredients are not overly fine. I am also partnering up the exterior shell of the cookie with an interior pocket of fresh handmade almond filling with a fruit (raspberry, strawberry & blueberry are three popular flavors). I create the rustic GF shell with millet flour, rice flour & tapioca starch.
For my cookie sandwiches I like a finer and more delicate taste and texture. My fillings vary depending on season holidays and weather, fruit availability, and personal taste of my friends, family and customers. Current filling favorites include Gravenstein apple molasses and Persimmon buttercreams, brown butter almond buttercream and hazelnut chocolate ganache. My go-to flour combination for cookie sandwiches is rice flour, sorghum flour, potato flour & tapioca starch. The portions for each type of flour depends bit on the other key ingredients such as nuts, fruit or chocolate.
Finally, my scoop and drop cookies include such favorites and chocolate chip (with all the variations), ginger molasses, peanut (almond) butter & oatmeal plum. I use a similar combination as used with sandwich cookies but change up the proportions of flours for each.

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THE OLD MAN FINDS HIS LOGO.

melinda art

Great friends, close family and great meals hold the old man’s favorite holiday moments. Those memorial moments stretched the old man’s smile and then another thought whiffed in . . . . that great ingredients make the difference between great and not-so-great friends, family and meals.

After his final deliveries of holiday cookie boxes & after digesting all the conversations and good will exchanged with his friends, he was more content with his life choices than ever.  Holidays, throughout the year, created more ‘touches’ among friends and family than any other calendared rituals he could think of. 

The old man’s wife was the first one to point this out to him.  She understood the power of holidays and their links to community. 

Like a thunderclap waking us as we lay nestled in between high sierra mountain ranges, an explosion jumped from under us; our minds sparked as lightning flashed against our closed eye lids.  In that kind of moment, in a much humbler version in reality, the old man’s wife found our logo for ZIX Cookies.  Hanging on the wall, a paper cut picture created by a close friend Melinda Levine, portrays many significant holidays for our part of the world. 

The essence of that picture, now the old man’s label, gives each box of the old man’s cookies the last great ingredient; the intension of community which gives his cookies a flavor and texture that’s difficult to replicate.

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GLUTEN-FREE

1 c Unsalted butter
1 c superfine sugar
1 egg, separated
1 c Rice Flour
1 c Tapioca Flour
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 c sliced almonds, raw
1 TBS granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp xanthan gum

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and continue beating until well blended. Add egg yolks, one at a time, blending well before adding the second egg yolk. Then add the almond extract. Beat until well blended.
3. Add the flour mixture and beat at low speed until well blended.
4. Pat dough into a jelly roll pan (¼ sheet).
5. Beat egg white until foamy. Brush over dough.
6. Spread sliced almonds over egg whites and press gently into dough.
7. Sprinkle with cinnamon & sugar mix.
8. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 325-350 degrees until lightly brown.
9. Let cool for a few minutes. The cut the ‘pan of cookie’ into diamonds. ADD HINTS.
10. Cool and remove from pan.

GLUTEN-FULL
1 c Unsalted butter
1 c superfine sugar
1 egg, separated
2 c AP Flour
1 tsp almond extract
1/2 c sliced almonds, raw
1 TBS granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

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GLUTEN-FREE
1 c unsalted butter
0.5 c powdered sugar
1 c Rice flour
0.75 c Tapioca Flour
0.5 c Potato flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 TBS. vanilla extract
0.75 c pecans, chopped
1 tsp. xanthan gum
More powdered sugar required to roll cooled, baked cookies.
DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Cream butter and powdered sugar well.
3. In a separate bowl combine dry ingredients.
4. Finely chop pecans any which way.
5. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture. Mix until flour is incorporated. Add pecans. Continue to mix until the pecans are ‘evenly’ distributed.
6. Mold into 1 inch balls.
7. Place on parchment paper covered cookie sheet.
8. Bake for 15 minutes. The bottom of the cookie should be light brown. The top portion of the cookie should show no baked brown color.
9. Cool the cookies and then roll in powdered sugar.

GLUTEN-FREE TIPS:

In Direction 3 cream the butter and powdered sugar until a bit fluffy.

To bring butter to room temperature, I take the butter straight from the refrigerator and put it in the microwave at 100% for 15 seconds (1 cup of butter takes 15-20 seconds, while a pound of butter takes about 25 seconds and ¼ cup takes about 10 seconds). Softening the butter lets the butter and sugar fluff up better when mixing.

At direction 4 I use a food processor. For the first 20 seconds I hit the on bottom. Then I use the pulse bottom to finish off the chopping. I chop my pecans very fine, which creates a better gluten-free cookie.

GLUTEN-FULL
1 c unsalted butter
0.5 c powdered sugar
2.25 c AP flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 TBS. vanilla extract
0.75 c pecans, chopped


GLUTEN-FULL TIPS:

At direction 5 the key is to get the chopped pecans well incorporated into the dough without over mixing the all-purpose flour.
Here’s what works for me. After the butter mixture is fluffy add the flour and mix, just for a minute or so. Use the pulse function if you have one on your mixer. The mix will still look slightly ‘flourery’. Add the pecans and then continue mixing. The flour will finish getting incorporated as the pecans are being evenly distributed.
I tried adding the pecans to the butter mixture before adding the flour. I didn’t like the cookie as much.

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Cancer moves through many societies and cultures. Many successful non-profit cooking companies prepare and deliver excellent meals to cancer patients in need. Many individuals, like me, prepare meals for our friends and neighbors who are working with or suffering from various forms and stages of cancer. I was asked to try a couple cookie recipes from a cookbook specifically designed to appeal to the dietary constraints of cancer patients. I looked the recipes over, a ginger cookie and a coconut macaroon, and decided to follow them . . . to the ‘letter’.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGLUTEN-FREE
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
0.5 cup unsalted butter
2 cup superfine sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup Rice flour
0.5 cup tapioca flour
0.5 cup sorghum flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 cup chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Melt the SIFTED unsweetened dutch cocoa powder with the unsalted butter in the microwave.
3. Transfer to a mixer and add the superfine sugar. After stirring the mixture will be thick and grainy.
4. Add the vanilla; then add the eggs, one at time. Mix each egg in well before adding the next egg.
5. In a separate bowl combine the flour(s), baking powder and kosher salt.
6. When the chocolate, butter, sugar, vanilla and egg mixture looks light and fluffy (could take a few minutes of mixer beating) add the flour mixture. See TIPS for my experience with adding flour(s)
7. Add chocolate chips.
8. Transfer the gooey dough to a bowl and chill for at least several hours; overnight (or a day or two) is fine. The dough needs to firm up before baking.
9. Make 1” balls and roll, liberally, in powdered sugar. Place on parchment covered cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes; no longer. Over-baking does not compliment these cookies.

GLUTEN-FREE TIPS:
At direction 6, two noteworthy items
1. Some gluten-free recipes include xanthan gum. I find that eggs add the stability and ‘glue’ for this cookie. No xanthan gum required.
2. While over mixing gluten-full flour makes a tough dough, the same is not true for gluten-free flours. When mixing in the gluten-free flours give them a few more turns with the mixer paddle.

GLUTEN-FULL
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
0.5 cup unsalted butter
2 cup superfine sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs
2 cup All-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 cup chocolate chips

GLUTEN-FULL TIPS:
At direction 6, two actions are important.
1) After the chocolate, butter, egg mixture is well blended crank up the speed to high. Let it beat for several minutes. The mixture will take on a like chocolate color and the dough will have a silky, fluffy texture. Do all the beating here because once you add the flour, beating is minimal. Remember over beating gluten flour creates a tough cookie.
2) When adding the gluten flour ingredients only mix the flour enough to ‘hide the white’. Then add the chocolate chips and mix until the chips are pretty evenly distributed. Don’t over mix. It’s key, key, key, to a great cookie.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The old man relaxes his back into a well-worn oak armed chair; his hands feel warm.  A few hours earlier, just after sunrise during this winter season of holidays, the air in his kitchen floated in cold stillness.  Knobs turned, ovens kicked on heaters and the old man’s spirit rose with the oven thermometers.

Rising spirits welcomed the old man to a childhood memory, one that had him standing next to his mother. Together they rolled out dough and picked favorite cookie cutters and stamped shapes, counting to ensure equality among all shapes (bells, trees and stars came to mind).  Of course, before the fun of rolling and stamping, came the nuts, chopping the nuts. In a few short years we changed our chopping regiment from knife on counter (no cutting boards in our house) to a ‘nut chopper’ which was a jar with a twist-on-the jar lid with a hand turning chopper.  Either method was painfully slow. Not only was he assigned this job, but he was also assigned the job of cracking nuts. Cracking walnuts wasn’t so bad, except that the old man’s family decided to use the walnut shells to make Christmas tree ornaments. So he had to crack the shells to preserve two perfect half shells. The old man was good for an 80% success rate, year after year.   The old man was patient, his whole life. 

These experiences of cookie production during the holiday season stuck with the old man.  He knows how to produce cookies in quantity, but he doesn’t know much about what his mother thought about life or cookies.  She gave good instructions (critical direction), but never launched off into stories of her youth or prior cookie experiences.

The old man eased back in his chair, now reflecting on the importance of baking cookies, with family and friends.  He’s alone today, but yesterday his wife helped him fill thumbprint cookies, cut Jan Hagels into diamond shapes and powder up the chocolate crinkles.  His daughters have called in to reserve a day for cookie production.  The old man tingles with these thoughts.

The infectious smell of baked cookies fills the old man’s kitchen.  After a good morning’s ‘work’ he’s finished off 8 boxes of cookies for family and friends.  The cookie selection for the year was Chocolate Crinkles, Jam Thumbprints, Pecan Puffs, Jan Hagels and Rugelach.  See recipes in Winter section of Recipe tab.

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