Monday, April 13, 2009

Brown Butter Chocolate Pecan Cookies, Gluten Free


Brown Butter Chocolate Nut Cookies, Gluten Free

I think there are as many variations of chocolate chip cookies as there are snowflakes. This one is courtesy of Cooks Illustrated with variations thrown in for amusement and to make sure they are gluten free.

The interesting deviation from this traditional recipe takes place by melting and browning the butter and letting the sugar rest in the warm butter to completely melt the crystals. I really enjoyed the brown butter flavor, but the process to whiz, wait, whiz, wait and whiz, wait with the sugar butter mixture might take a back seat next time.

As you can see, the vultures muses mistook my kitchen cookie making for their own treats. I make their cookies the same way, and of course, they had to check it out to see firsthand what I was doing. Phoebe looks disappointed and bored, but Lulu seems to be beaming her glowy evil eyes at me. I will be sleeping with my eyes open tonight - or making them some cookies.

I be watching you

These are worth making - the browned butter makes them taste like toffee chocolate chip cookies. One warning. Do not over bake them! You want the centers to be soft and chewy and the outside edge crisp. Over baking even by a minute or two will make the whole cookie crispy. These came out a bit crispy, but quite delicious anyway. However, I would watch the time more carefully next time.

a cookie or two, or more with a double espresso


  • a regular (not nonstick) saucepan or fry pan for browning butter
  • a scale for weighing ingredients (they say it is more accurate) but only if you want to use one, measuring will do fine
  • a mixer or a strong whisk and a spatula and wooden spoon
  • heat proof mixing bowl
  • baking sheets and parchment or silpats (2)
  • ice cream scoop for measuring dough

cookie cast of characters in the new kitchen


  • 1 3/4 cups gluten free flour (or 8 3/4 oz.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 14 tablespoons butter (unsalted)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar (or 3.5 oz)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, light or dark (or 5 1/4 oz)
  • 1 scant teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 large egg plus one yolk (and some white for gluten free)
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (get the best you can afford, it matters)
  • 3/4 cup toasted chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup heath bits are optional


Preheat oven to 350 degrees for gluten free cookies. Preheat to 375 for non gluten free cookies.

Measure out all the ingredients. Add the baking soda and xanthan gum to the flour and mix. Measure and mix the sugars together with the salt. Measure and mix together the nuts, chips and optional heath bits and set aside.

weighing the sugar, 3/4 is not quite 3/4!

Put 10 to 11 tablespoons of butter in the sauce or fry pan and melt on medium high heat. Keep swirling the pan around to keep the butter melting and moving. In about 2 minutes it will turn nutty brown. Immediately take it off the heat and pour into a metal or other heat proof mixing bowl. Get every little bit using a spatula. Add the remaining butter and stir until melted in.

melting the butter

butter, swirling and now a nutty brown

Dump the sugar mixture in and using the whisk, or the whisk on your stand mixer, whiz the sugar butter until blended. Add the vanilla, egg and yolk and whisk until incorporated.

mixing in the remaining butter

whisking in sugar, vanilla, salt and eggs

Let the mixture set for a few minutes. Whisk again. Do this three times so that almost 15 minutes has gone by. Your sugar butter mixture should look thick and shiny like a good ganache or frosting.

waiting and whisking again

Finally, add in the flour mixture and stir until no flour bits remain. Add in the fun stuff (chips, nuts etc.) and mix until incorporated.

adding the gluten free flour

stirring in the goodies

ready to scoop

Scoop out just 16 cookies. I used an ice cream scoop that measured about 3 tablespoons. Place 8 on each cookie sheet.

8 to a cookie sheet

For non gluten free cookies, don't press them down. For gluten free cookies, you have to help the batter a bit by pressing them somewhat flat with a fork.

Place one sheet at a time in the oven and rotate about halfway through is what was recommended. I would put both sheets in and rotate them next time. No need to do one at a time if you rotate the cookie sheets.

14 minutes later

Bake for about 13 minutes total time. You want them to look a bit puffy and cracked in the center, and crispy light brown on the edges. Gluten free cookies never look quite like regular cookies so better to under bake than over bake. They continue to bake/set as they cool.


a pile of warm cookies


I thought this batch was too crispy so I made another batch today. Here are the changes:

1) I used dark brown sugar
2) I reduced the flour by 1-2 tablespoons
3) I included the other egg white, or most of it
4) used dry roasted chopped macadamia nuts
5) baked in a 375 degree oven, but only for 10-11 minutes
6) removed from oven when the centers were not brown, but they were baked thoroughly, just soft in the center and crispy on the edge
7) I mixed the brown butter, sugars, vanilla and eggs and let it set for about 10 minutes then whisked again and let it set for a few minutes. Easier!

The dark brown sugar intensified the toffee flavor. The reduced baking time, increased oven temp made them bake faster. The other egg white, or part of it, and the reduced GF flour helped make them less cake-like. This batch is a keeper!
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Monday, April 6, 2009

Bread We Love! Gluten Free!

freshly baked gluten free bread

Our choices not that long ago were styrofoam, plastic, fiberboard, and sometimes sponge. Gluten free bread that tasted like bread was an almost impossible holy grail.

That is, until now.

We get to thank Pamela's gluten free baking mix and Karina's Gluten Free Kitchen, formerly Gluten Free Goddess for this achievement. On her website are volumes of tasty recipes, some vegan, some casein free, but others just simply gluten free. This bread mix turned out to be an enlightening forum of discussion. For some people it worked as is, for others not so much. After much tweaking, it finally works for most.

I bought this bread machine based on her review and it is exactly as promised. It has a gluten free bread making setting, yet none of the gluten free breads use that setting. I just like that it says that. It means that there are a lot of consumers out there who need that option and the manufacturer listened.

Nothing like warm fresh bread and butter. You have to let it completely cool to slice properly for sandwiches. I like to place wax paper or parchment sheets between the slices and double zip lock bag them for the freezer. That way I can extract a couple of slices easily and toast or thaw them for sandwiches.

The directions on the Pamela's bag for regular bread tell you to mix up the liquid ingredients together to measure two cups plus two tablespoons of water and place first in the bread bucket. Then pour the dry ingredients on top and make a tiny indent for the yeast and add that.

However - don't do that! Follow these directions instead and you will be guaranteed a pretty good loaf each time.

  1. Take the two eggs out of the refrigerator and warm them up in a small bowl of warm water for at least five minutes first.
  2. All the ingredients should be room temp or warmer, but not hot.
  3. Do not use the yeast that comes with the package. Buy some Rapid Rise dried yeast in the 1 oz. packets. Use two of those per loaf and make sure they are at room temp first if you store them in the refrigerator.
  4. Use vegetable oil, not olive oil.
  5. Mix the liquid ingredients together and the total should be slightly under 2 cups total. Never two cups and never more than that! Beat the eggs first, add the oil, then add the warm water totaling under 2 cups. Pour into baking bucket.
  6. Next add the dry ingredients to cover the wet stuff. Make a slight indent and add both packets of Rapid Rise yeast.

Place in machine and hit the menu to #6 for dough and close the lid. When it has mixed it for a little bit, peak and use a spatula to push all the dry ingredients from the corners and edges to the center to make sure they are incoprorated. It will be a very sticky dough. Then let it finish by itself.

edges clean (spatula!) and dough mixing

letting the dough rise, ready to bake

When the machine beeps, hit stop. Then using menu, go to #10, bake and add ten to twenty minutes. I like 20 - the loaf is less wet when finished. Medium dark is a good setting to use. Then just hit start and go away. Soon you will smell the bread baking.

Cool on a rack until you can slice it. The only pesky thing is the kneading tool that gets baked in the middle of the bottom. You can extract it while slicing or pull it out.

freshly bake loaf, cooling

I'm off to make a peanut butter sandwich. It has been a long time!

Bon appetit.

ready for sandwiches

Key items (following images from Amazon, all items on Amazon):

Pamela's Bread Mix

Some larger groceries will carry it, and if not you can order it from Amazon in a 6 pack which is tons cheaper anyway.


Bread machine

Breadman TR875 makes a 2 pound loaf. Notice #8 says gluten free! #6 and#10 are your best friends for making a gluten free loaf. It goes on sale periodically.