Those of you that know me know of my One-Woman-Crusade In Defense Of Gluten, that much-maligned delectable protein that adds structure to all of my favorite baked goods. Celiac Disease sufferers aside, the recent surge in popularity of a gluten-free diet has me gnashing my teeth (and an extra hunk of gluten-y goodness torn from a Ken's Artisan Bakery baguette, because if you won't eat it, I will.) But, in the interest of not receiving hate mail from people who consider themselves gluten intolerant, I'll just say, "Look, I have a gluten-free friend!" So thanks to my token gluten-free friend, who also happens to want a tasty cookie from time to time....
I wanted to make a cookie that Sarah would eat when she comes to visit, besides macarons, of course, so I looked at the available gluten-free flours for sale. I picked up the Bob's Red Mill gluten-free all-purpose flour mix, but when I read the ingredients, the use of garbanzo bean flour made me go....ick. Don't get me wrong, chickpea flour and I are practically BFFs (don't tell Krishna) but bean-flavored cookies?! So not wanting to waste time nor money acquiring a bazillion different very-expensive flours to create my own gluten-free all-purpose flour, I discovered that Trader Joe's now makes an all-purpose mix that you can supposedly substitute cup-for-cup for regular flour. Done and done.
Next up, what cookie would I subject to this experiment? Since hazelnuts are an abundant local crop (99% of all hazelnuts produced in the US are grown in Oregon!) I quickly thought of my favorite hazelnut shortbread cookie. The use of ground hazelnuts in the dough could probably hide any weird flavor the gluten-free flour might add, so I went for it. The first time I made them, I thought the gluten-free flour added a noticeable gritty texture to the cookie. So the second time, I gave the gluten-free flour a few pulses in my food processor before mixing with the baking powder and salt. Victory! Other than still being a little more crumbly and thus more fragile than the regular gluten-y awesome version, the cookie retains it's original tastiness and scored serious friend points with Sarah. So will I now embark on a gluten-free-baking-binge? You probably already know the answer to that question....
1 cup Trader Joe's gluten-free all purpose flour mix
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup finely ground husked toasted hazelnuts (about 2 ounces)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces high-quality dark chocolate (I use Trader Joe's 55% or 72% dark), chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped husked toasted hazelnuts (I use Freddy Guy's hazelnut meal)
Preheat to 350°F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper. Whisk gluten-free flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Cream butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer until smooth. Beat in 1/2 cup finely ground hazelnut meal and the vanilla. Beat in flour mixture until just combined.
Shape tablespoonfuls into 2-inch-long logs (or if you're a perfectionist like me, weigh 0.65 oz of cookie dough per cookie to ensure identically-sized cookies- I know, it's a curse). Place the cookie logs on your baking sheet, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake cookies until light golden brown around edges, about 20-25 minutes (my oven took 25 minutes), switching the pans front to back and top to bottom so both sheets of cookies bake evenly. Cool on baking sheet before removing.
Heat a pan of water over medium-low heat until simmering. Place the finely chopped chocolate in a bowl that fits over, not in, the simmering pot of water. Stir the chocolate while it melts- I remove the bowl from over the water before completely melted and allow the residual heat to melt the rest. This way, the chocolate doesn't get too hot and end up with ugly, visible grey streaks. Place 1/3 cup finely chopped hazelnuts in small bowl. Dip about ½ of each cookie into the melted chocolate, then into the hazelnuts. Return to the parchment paper, then repeat with remaining cookies. Let stand until chocolate is set, about 1 hour.