Baking is a science: percentages, ratios, quantities, etc. There is no way around it. You cannot become a great baker without understanding these properties. Think you’ve mastered this science? Well let me throw a fat old metal wrench at your head labeled “gluten free” and now try to tell me the rules of baking. Yeah, that’s what I thought. Not so easy now is it?
Well I figured I would do you all a huge favor and help you avoid some of those daunting flying wrenches that are sure to give you endless headaches, and pass along a few of my tips for baking gluten free cookies. These are a few standard rules I follow that have proven to be quite helpful when it comes to producing the perfect gluten free cookie. Please feel free to add your own comments below, as I am always learning new and helpful tips as well.
1. Extra eggs – The protein and the fat in the eggs help bind the cookies together, produce a moist crumb and help the cookies retain their shape while baking. When converting recipes I always add an extra egg.
2. Chilling the dough – Gluten free doughs tend to be more sticky. In order to avoid adding more flour (which results in a drier and more crumbly cookie) it helps to chill the dough until it is stiff enough to work with. This is extremely helpful in cookies that need to be shaped or rolled. If your flour is still too sticky even after chilling, add an additional tablespoon of a basic flour like white rice, brown rice, sorghum or oat flour.
3. Combination of flours – Not all flours are created equal! For every recipe that I create, I use a different combination of flours. To assume that a gluten free all purpose flour blend will work in every cookie is a long shot. It is worth the extra time to follow the exact ingredients and use the exact flours as called for in the recipe. Many all purpose blends use garbanzo bean flour which has a very unpleasant aftertaste. My recipes lend no unfavorable aftertastes because of the different combinations of flours that I choose. I also tend to use coconut flour in many of my cookies to absorb some of the extra liquid from the egg.
4. Shape the dough – I heave learned that gluten free cookies do not bake as pretty as regular cookies. To get that beautiful circular cookie shape, it is once again helpful to chill the dough (if needed) and shape it into a round ball even if the recipe does not call for that step. They will bake much prettier.
5. Xanthan gum – Xanthan gum is a necessary ingredient to give gluten free cookies that chew that is so desirable. It is an expensive ingredient but it goes a long way. I use anywhere from 3/4 to 1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum in my cookie recipes. Adding a little bit of ground flaxseed meal can also help give cookies some density and it adds some nutritional value to those otherwise sweet treats.
6. Beating the dough – In traditional baking you do not want to over beat bread dough, pie crust or cookie dough. It will produce a tough end product. This is because the beating overworks the gluten. Well, gluten free has…you got it…no gluten. Therefore you are able to beat your doughs without worrying about a tough result. The beating actually helps incorporate the flours and yields in a less gritty cookie. I beat my cookie doughs for an additional minute after all of the ingredients are combined.
7. Size matters – As in any recipe, the size of your cookies matters. To ensure that the cookies are cooked thoroughly yet do not over bake on the outsides, I keep my cookie scoops a little smaller to about 1′ in diameter. Plus that way you can eat more cookies without feeling so guilty, right?!
8. Time will tell – Have patience! Your days of eating cookies hot out of the oven are gone. Well, you still can if you want, but by allowing the baked cookies to sit until cooled, it allows the flours to really bind and you lose more of the grittiness that is so apparent in gluten free baked goods. Read a book, watch a show, do a little workout…and then indulge!
9. Parchment paper BFF – Parchment paper will be your best friend. It is important that you immediately remove the cookies from the cookie pan as soon as they come out of the oven. The extra time on a hot pan can cause the cookies to deflate. By using parchment paper and a cookie sheet with no lip on one side, you can easily slide the paper off the cookie sheet (with cookies still on) and onto a cooling rack.
10. PRAY – Haha! Seriously I say a little prayer before I put each batch in the oven. PLEASE work out! Sometimes in gluten free baking you just need a little extra help on your side.