Clara Gluten Free

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

I threatened health-food for lunch, well actually, scarier than that- tofu and brussel sprouts, to which my sister responded "And chocolate chip cookies too??". Well, we were flat out of eggs, so I said that wasn't happening. And then I remembered that egg-free people eat cookies too! So, making good on a promise I made in my head to surprise my sister (a promise which I then excitedly told her about), I inundated the house with chocolate chip cookies. As of press time, there have been no complaints and the cookie count has been rapidly dwindling.

In my research for egg-free chocolate chip cookies, I found a whole bunch with oat flour and wheat flour and other non-GF nonsense until I found again the lovely blog Elena's Pantry, whose recipe, inspired my own. The difficult thing about vegan and egg-free cooking is it's hard to get the baked good to hold together. Ever had remarkably crumbly vegan cake? It can be a bit like sand without the eggs, just like GF food can be a bit like cardboard without the elasticity of the gluten. To address this problem, I used a flour combination built with the intent to give the cookies mass (something has to hold the chocolate chips!), xanthum gum (it can be a great binder, because it is extraordinarily sticky), and agave nectar, per the original recipe idea, (because liquid sweeteners stick everything together as well). The "dough" or "batter" or whatever a very sticky, very liquid bowl of non-cooked cookie is called, was a bit strange but cooked up extremely well. Like all cookie recipes, chilling the dough before forming dough balls will keep the cookies from spreading, as the outside of the cookie quickly comes to temperature to prevent spreading, while the colder inside cooks slower. Leaving the dough at room-temperature will mean wide cookies. I like to do a combination of both wide and dense cookies as a chill the dough between batches in the oven. Plus, it keeps the dough off the kitchen counter...which means fewer hands grabbing a taste and a higher final cookie count!

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies- makes 45

*Note: I mixed white and semisweet chocolate chips for this batch, but all semisweet, all white, or another type of baking chips will also work. It it best to use a fairly neutral vegetable oil for the oil called for in this recipe- safflower, canola, grapeseed all work well- or if you like coconuts, coconut oil will give the cookies a slightly coconut flavor. For the non-vegans among us, browned butter is very good- use 1/2 cup butter, browned in a skillet over medium heat, and 1/2 cup oil. Also, an all-purpose flour such as King Arthur can be used in place of the brown rice and tapioca flours.

2 1/2 cups almond flour
3/4 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup tapioca flour
1 tsp xanthum gum
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup oil
1 cup agave nectar
18 oz chocolate chips

1- Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

2- Whisk dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl, combine the wet ingredients. Stir into the dry ingredients until partially combined.

3- Stir in the chocolate chips in a few batches, until they are well distributed throughout the dough and all the flour mixture has been incorporated. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes, if desired.

4- Working fairly quickly, drop 1 - 1 1/2 inch balls of cookie dough onto the baking sheets, leaving 2-3 inches of space between each dough ball. Refrigerate the remaining dough for the next batch.

5- Bake for about 10-13 minutes, or until the cookies are golden and the centers have set. Remove from oven, allow to set on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes. Once the cookies can be moved without melting apart, transfer to a wire cooling rack. Repeat the process for the remaining dough. Serve warm for a soft cookie, or allow to chill in the refrigerator for a chewy one.

Chocolate Crème Brûlée

After making a stack of egg white omelettes, I had a stack little tupperware containers in my fridge filled with egg yolks. And after floating some ideas at the dinner table about what to do with aforementioned yolks, I received a rousing chorus of "crème brûlée", which quickly and ecstatically evolved into "chocolate crème brûlée!!"...only without the accents (shout out to Wikipedia for telling me what those are).

So, the chocolate-crème-brûlée-making commenced. Crème brûlée is basically a thick custard with bruleed (I think that's the past tense, in English, of  "brûlée"), i.e. burnt sugar on top. The name literally translates from French to "burnt cream". Like all custards, the egg yolks form the base- the same proteins that make egg yolks work as good emulsifiers are the ones that hold all the cream and sugar in place in a smooth and cohesive semi-solid structure such that in general, the more yolks, the more solid the custard. However, in order to work, the eggs need to be tempered, which is a slow process of combining warm liquid (cream) with the yolks in such a way as to combine the two in order to work the cream into the egg proteins slowly to keep the proteins from clumping- i.e. curdling, which basically means turning to scrambled egg yolks. It takes some care to heat everything up, mix properly and then cook the custard in a water-bath (water retains heat well, so it keeps the temperature around the ramekins very stable). But it's, like, um, totally worth it. 

Chocolate Crème Brûlée
makes: 4 7-oz ramekins, or 8 4-oz ramekins
Adapted from My Recipes

*Note: Any combination of baking chocolate will work for this recipe, but I used 6 oz 60% cacao/semisweet, 2 oz bittersweet. Also, serving suggestion: a dash of whipped cream and some grated dark chocolate. And- caution: this recipe is very rich and dark!

1 vanilla bean
1 cup whipping or heavy cream
1 cup milk
6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
8 oz of baking chocolate 
1 tsp vanilla extract
few extra tbs of sugar

1-  Prepare a pan for the water bath by making sure all of the ramekins fit. Bring a couple of quarts of water to boil to use in the water bath. Be sure it is at or very near boiling temperature when the recipe is complete. Preheat the oven to 300 F. 

2- Combine whipping cream and milk in to a medium sauce pan.  Halve the vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape the seeds into the sauce pan with the cream and then drop the pod into the mixture. Bring to a boil over medium heat (about 15 minutes), whisking frequently.

3- Meanwhile in a medium mixing bowl (it will need to hold two cups of cream in addition to the egg yolks) whisk egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla extract until homogeneous. In a separate container, melt the chocolate in the microwave. 

4- When the cream has boiled, begin tempering the yolks. Pour about 1/3 of the cream into the yolk mixture and whisk until completely combined. Repeat until all of the cream has been added to the yolks. Return the yolk mixture into the sauce pan. Stir in the chocolate. Return to heat and bring the chocolate custard to a boil (about 10 minutes). Whisk constantly, pausing occasionally to check if it is boiling. 

5- When the custard is boiling (large bubbles will jet steam into the air), immediately remove from heat. Divide into the ramekins in equal portions and bake until set, around 25-35 min, depending on your oven, and the quantity of each portion of crème brûlée (smaller quantities will cook quicker). 

6- Allow to cook to room temperature (about 1 hour) and then refrigerate until cold. Dust the top of each ramekin with a light coating of sugar by spooning about 1/2 tablespoon sugar onto the top of a portion and swirling it around. Turn the ramekin on its side, and tap the extra sugar off (onto another portion). Torch the tops of all portions, until the sugar is bubbling readily, but does not look burnt- it may be difficult to tell against the dark chocolate.

7- Return to the fridge until the sugar has cooled down. Garnish with whipped cream and shaved dark chocolate and serve.