I'm getting kind of fond of cookies. Maybe it's the time of year because Christmas cookies are everywhere. Maybe it's because they're usually quick to make and in a pinch, ice cream and some cookies make a really easy fast dessert. This is something I have to admit. Cookies are one thing, perhaps the only thing that I've usually been willing to buy pre-made. Not just any cookies mind you but really, really, cheapo cookies. In fact I've been known to buy something called Maria Biscuits and they were cheap. I'd gotten them at a little mom and pop store off the beaten track in town.
For a long time they were my secret unexpected company weapon.They were something I kept in my back cabinet and would kind of ease out on the plate with my back to everyone. It was a sneaky move. I thought they looked English and classy on the plate because they weren't cookies.. they were biscuits dammit! It said so right on the wrapper. Biscuits are classy! I figured if I whisked the wrapper out of sight quickly enough, people wouldn't notice the big 75 cent sticker on them. I mean these were even cheaper than a Dollar Tree special, but dressed up with my silver tea service and homemade ice cream, who'd notice. They were damn good too.
But, after a few years, I couldn't keep doing that thing with the biscuits. What might have seemed classy at first, finally got tired. Also the local Sonoma Market put a big table of them on sale right up near the front, 75 cents a package. I was busted. I knew I had to find some for real cookie recipes and fast. So for the last year I've been practicing my cookie skills. The way I've been looking at it, if I'm going to be baking my own cookies, they'd better be damn interesting cookies. Interesting ingredients, interesting flours, interesting tastes. So when I ordered Maria Specks new cookbook Ancient Grains For Modern Meals one of the first thing I looked at was the chapter on desserts.
Maria's book is pretty amazing, a great blend of healthy, nutritious dishes made with grains that so many of us don't get enough of: Kamut, Farro, Amaranth, Bulgar and Millet. Sounds like a law firm but it's actually an honor roll of whole grains, some familiar, some less so, all of them delicious. It's an easy helpful family cookbook that will put things on the table that you might never have eaten before, but are available at most markets. This is the book that says, "go ahead, give spelt a chance!" It also doesn't hurt that this book was just named by the New York Times as one of the years best cookbooks. I know Maria via Twitter, and after seeing what she was doing with grains, I was hooked. I went out and bought the book.
As I said earlier, what I really wanted to know was how to use these grains in desserts. I'm always interested in vegan cooking, and because one of my best friends has recently been diagnosed with celiac disease, I'm always looking for things that she can enjoy when we all get together. Boy did I find a killer recipe in this book. Orange Rosemary Cookies with Olive Oil. Right off the bat she had me. These cookies are about as healthy as cookies can get. No butter, no dairy, they're straight up vegan, and with a bit of juggling I tweaked them a bit to make a gluten free version. Both ways they're great.
Vegan Orange Rosemary Cookies
Here's What You Need:
1 cup of white whole wheat flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
1/2 cup of lightly packed almond flour
3/4 tsp of baking powder
1/8 tsp of sea salt
1/4 cup of virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of lightly packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 to 3 Tbs of turbinado sugar for topping
Here's What To Do:
Grate the zest of the orange until you have 1 tsp. (I used the zest of the entire orange because I love orange.) Set the zest aside.
Squeeze the orange until you have 1/4 cup of juice. (I used all the juice I got from the orange because as I said, I love orange.) Set the juice aside.
Whisk together the white, whole wheat flour, the almond meal flour, the salt, and the baking powder.
In another bowl mix together the olive oil and brown sugar for about 1 minute or until the sugar is dissolved and the color gets lighter.
Add in the orange juice, vanilla, orange zest and rosemary.
Whisk it together with the sugar and olive oil.
Pour the oil mixture into the flour mixture.
mix it all together with a wooden spoon or if you have one, a dough whisk. ( I don't have one.) The trick is to mix the dough together without over-mixing it.
Lay out a piece of parchment paper (12 x 18) and place the dough on one end of it.
Roll the dough in the parchment paper until you have a big dough bon bon.
Twist each end to seal it and pop it into the freezer for about 1 and 1/2 hours. It will not freeze solidly. It should still be soft to the touch when you take it out.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the oven racks one on the top third, one in the bottom third
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Unwrap the dough log and slice it with a sharp knife into pieces about 1/2 inch thick.
Put the pieces on the cookie sheet about an inch apart
Drizzle a bit of turbinado sugar onto the top of each cookie.
Bake both cookie sheets at the same time for about 18 minutes, swapping them at the half way point.
The cookies are done when they turn a golden brown color. They'll still be a bit soft if you press them with your finger.
Take the cookies out of the oven and slip the parchment paper with the cookies on it onto a wire rack to cool.
They'll crisp up as they cool.
We loved these cookies. We loved them so much that I wanted to try a gluten free version for my friend Terri. So the next day I set out to do just that. All I needed to do was make a small tweak with the part of the recipe that involved white, whole wheat flour, and substitute it with something that would be gluten-free. After cruising around the internet, I decided to give this combo a try. This is what I did.
Gluten Free Flour Substitute:
1 cup of Sorghum Flour
1 cup of tapioca flour (aka tapioca starch)
1/2 cup of almond meal flour
1 tsp of xanthin gum
Mix this combo together well and use it to replace the 1 cup of wheat flour. This mixture gives you enough wheat substitute for about 2 batches of cookies.
And how were those cookies done gluten free? Well, they turned out to be just as tasty as the non-GF cookies. My canary in the cookie mine Alan, who is not GF, thought he might have liked the GF ones more. Either way, I baked the cookies last night, 24 hours later.... they're gone.
Now, this little cookie party was not just about human goodies. That was only part of the evening. It was also a very special day around our house. Miss Patsy's Birthday. Of course there were presents. Special doggy treats and birthday cake from Three Dog Bakery.
There was the anticipation of yummy delights. What's cake it you can't run your nose over it first? Mmmmmmm cat flavor! My favorite.
We wanted Patsy to wait till we'd finished singing Happy Birthday to her but she couldn't control herself.
Johnny Depp the Cat was not amused. "So this dog gets a party and I don't?"
Patsy loved her cake, we loved our cookies. It was win win all around. Coming up next, in the spirit of great finger foods for the holiday table with an Indian Twist, I kick off crab season when Goan spicy crab goes to a cocktail party. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori.