Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip CookiesA couple of months ago, my boss went on a weeklong health retreat. When she came back, she was totally crazy about some crisp-chewy gluten-free chocolate chip cookies she had while she was away, going so far as to bring a bag home with her. She insisted I try one before asking if I could replicate them. I agreed to try, but with some major reservations.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip CookiesMaking cookies without gluten meant I had to basically start from square one. You see, gluten-free baking is a lot different from standard baking. In recipe after recipe, I rely on the structural and textural qualities of regular all-purpose flour to keep my cookies soft and chewy. Gluten, a protein found in wheat (and a few other grains), is activated when the flour meets the wet ingredients. It develops as the dough mixes and allows cookies to bake up super chewy. Without it, I was lost.

I looked around online for the recipe from the retreat itself, but came up empty. I also checked a couple of well-regarded gluten-free baking blogs to see if they had anything that might be similar to those cookies, but I had no such luck. I finally went to the source, looking at the list of ingredients on the side of the bag and going from there. With that list and my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, I set out to recreate those cookies, figuring it would take two or three solid tries.

It took two months and ten batches. Oy.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip CookiesGluten-Free Chocolate Chip CookiesBut here they are, my Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies. They’re not exact replicas of the cookies my boss brought home (they’re definitely not crisp), but they are damn good. The base of these cookies is a combination of a gluten-free all-purpose flour blend, almond meal, a touch of ground chia seed, and a little bit of leavener. Together with the wet ingredients, this combination bakes up into soft, tender cookies.

Since these cookies don’t have any gluten, they are not as chewy or puffy as the others you see on this site. I tried adding different quantities of almond meal and adjusting the leaveners in an attempt to get a chewier texture and a puffy shape, but those attempts resulted in cookies that puffed but didn’t spread, and were so crumbly that they practically disintegrated after one bite! My Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies are a little on the thinner side, but the tender texture and hint of caramel-almond flavor more than make up for it.

I don’t know that I’ll ever fully understand gluten-free baking, but I am really happy with this recipe. My boss and her teenage son both loved these cookies, so I must be doing something right.
Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
makes about 30 cookies

1 3/4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour blend (I like Bob’s Red Mill)
3/4 cup almond meal
2 teaspoons ground chia (or ground flaxseed)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup turbinado sugar (or sucanat)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together gluten-free all-purpose flour, almond meal, ground chia, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add turbinado sugar and maple syrup, and mix to combine. Beat in egg and egg yolk, followed by vanilla extract. Add dry ingredients in two installments, mixing to combine completely. Mix in chocolate chips. Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for three hours, or up to three days.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Scoop dough in 2 tablespoon increments (I use a medium cookie scoop), roll them into balls, and set them at least three inches apart on prepared pans. Use the heel of your hand to flatten them slightly. Bake cookies 8-10 minutes, until golden at the edges. Let cool on baking sheets for five minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.

Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

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