Saturday, January 19, 2013

Amazing glutenless almond-based chocolate chip cookies

I love cookies. I do. Unfortunately, I now know that sugar is far too ubiquitous and far too deceitfully camouflaged in so many food items, for it to be harmless. There is sugar in soda, we know that. But if you try to get around it with diet soda, you open a whole can of worms with artificial sweeteners, most of which are far worse for you than sugar. If you're wondering why, read Kimberly's short article.

And yes, there's sugar in cakes, cookies and other sweets. We know this too. When I was young, these things were to be enjoyed occasionally, at someone's birthday or some special event. We certainly didn't have cookies every day. Now, it seems there isn't a day when there aren't cookies, donuts, cakes or some such seductive treat around the office. I thought to myself that if I have good self restraint and limit my portions, that there was nothing wrong with it. But as I became more aware of the range of sugar-containing food items out there, I became alarmed. I now cringe at how challenging it is to avoid sugar, and how miserable my life would be if I chose to avoid sugar completely. Not only would it turn me into a social outcast, but it would also make me a frustrated grocery shopper, because - are you reading those labels carefully? - pretty much everything contains sugar. Even things that make you scratch your head, like tomato soup!

How did we get to this? I was at Starbucks the other day and wanted to buy a snack to go with my coffee, as I've done so many times before. But this time, I had my sugar radar on. So I scanned the pastry window in search of a sugarless treat, perhaps even (is this wishful thinking?) some salty pastry of sorts. Tough luck. The only sugar-free snack at our Starbucks were the bagels (and even some of those might be sweetened, for all I know). Their bagels are quite good and I'm sold for the Multigrain kind in particular, but I would appreciate more choices nonetheless. Do we really have to add sugar to everything?

To limit my sugar intake, as well as to make a point that I think deserves to be made, I now use less processed and milder sweeteners, and in smaller amounts. One of these is Stevia, of which my favorite variety is the Vitamin Shoppe liquid form. It had the least amount of bitterness  from all I've tasted. Another sweeteners I use are coconut nectar and coconut crystals. These are unrefined sweeteners that are just as sweet as brown sugar. They don't have a coconutty taste at all. But they are quite expensive. The 'Coconut Secret' brand I buy from Whole Foods is about $8 for 14 oz. So you end up using less, because it's precious, and in the end that is a good thing - you know what I mean? We need to re-educate our palates, which are so ridiculously poisoned by sugar, salt and fat in excess, and remind them how to taste subtle flavors. So, to illustrate, these cookies are killer, and not a drop of sugar in them!

Amazing glutenless almond-based chocolate chip cookies
~ makes 16 cookies

1 1/2 cups almond meal (or almond flour)
1/2 cups coconut flour
3/4 cup coconut crystals (or brown sugar, if you must)
1 4-oz 100% cacao unsweetened chocolate baking bar (Ghirardelli works)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder (aluminum free!)
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup raw creamy almond butter (Trader Joe's works)
2/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup coconut milk (or almond milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a heavy mortar, start to smash the chocolate bar with the pestle into small chunks, square by square. In the end, you'll end up with about a cup of chunks (you can just buy chocolate chunks if you like, instead of going through this). Whatever you do, do not buy any chocolate with sugar in it - kind of defeats the purpose.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, including the chocolate chunks.

Take another bowl and add the almond butter, coconut oil, coconut or almond milk and vanilla extract in there. Use a fork to whip everything together so the oil and butter combine well.

Add this to the dry ingredients and mix everything into a dough. It's going to be an oily dough, but if you find that it's disgustingly oily you can correct that with a few sprinkles of coconut flour.

Now take a large tray and grease it with coconut oil or line it with parchment paper. Take the dough and mold it into approximately 16 delicate cookies, trying to push the chocolate chunks inside as much as possible, because otherwise they "bleed" chocolate everywhere during the baking process.

Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes. You know they're ready when they are lightly amber around the bottom. Let them cool completely before removing from the sheet. They'll be very fragile when you first pull them out. 

On a final note, these might be pretty expensive cookies to make, but they might just be the best I've ever had (and I've had a LOT). I think - and I'm not leading you astray here - everyone should make these at least once in their life.

Recipe adapted from Jenny @ the Clean Blog.

Any questions? Leave a comment!

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