The joys of going gluten-free—it even comes with cookies!
I do not recall having a childhood affinity for creativity in the kitchen. While I had my beloved Easy Bake Oven, and I especially enjoyed helping my mom and grandma with their baking, it wasn’t until early adulthood that I started feeling like the kitchen was my own creative space.
In the summer of 2003, I was diagnosed with celiac disease, and my whole relationship with food changed. Celiac is an autoimmune disease, where consuming gluten—the protein in wheat, rye, and barley—triggers an autoimmune reaction that damages your small intestine and keeps you from absorbing nutrients. The symptoms include everything from stomach pain to a foggy mind. The long-term effects are all the more dire, creating the potential for other autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, thyroid disease, and cancer. Rather than requiring daily doses of expensive medicines, the solution to celiac is comparatively simple—a gluten-free diet. Simple, that is, until I craved a soft, chewy, homemade cookie or a moist piece of cake.
Going gluten-free had its traumatic and painful moments. I didn’t realize how attached I was to my food until I had to leave it behind. I used to have dreams about chocolate chip muffins and Oreos. To make matters worse, my early forays into gluten-free baking included grainy cookies, dense cakes, and dry, sometimes tough breads.
Thankfully, the world of gluten-free food and our awareness of celiac have grown immensely. An especially liberating development has been the expanded understanding of gluten-free flours and how to use them. I can now make something for friends that I don’t have to apologize for. I have also landed on a gluten-free flour blend that I can generally use to replace wheat flour on a cup-for-cup basis (recipe below).
Celiac disease forced me to get involved with my food, learn about ingredients, and think carefully about what I put into my body. It also meant I had to get to work in the kitchen, and those efforts have been pleasantly rewarded. It feels liberating to bring my own range of desserts to gatherings and to adapt traditional family recipes to my gluten-free ways—recipes that I look forward to sharing on this blog. Food has become an unexpected creative outlet—something I might never have explored had celiac not forced me to.
Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 4½ dozen
2 cups All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Blend (recipe follows)
1/4 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 (12-ounce) package chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350º.
In a medium bowl, combine All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Blend, almond flour, and baking soda, and set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla. Beat until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Stir in flour mixture until well combined.
Stir in chocolate chips until evenly distributed throughout.
Drop cookies by tablespoons onto baking sheet. (Use slightly damp fingers to even out dough for a rounder, prettier cookie.)
Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown.
Let cool on baking sheet 2 minutes before transferring to rack.
Note: I add the almond flour to give the cookies an added bit of texture. You can replace it with only the gluten-free flour blend, or if you enjoy a little more texture, (something closer to an oatmeal cookie) add an additional 1/4 cup of almond flour.
All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour Blend
Gluten-free baking requires the combination of multiple flours in order to arrive at a texture that mimics wheat. I use a kitchen scale when compiling mine, so that it’s easier to create it in bulk. The recipes that I post in the future will use this all-purpose mix unless otherwise noted. Happy baking!
45% brown rice flour
15% sweet sorghum flour
15% tapioca starch*
5% potato flour (not starch)
3% xanthan gum
*Note: You can replace the tapioca starch with cornstarch. You can also do the reverse, although tapioca can result in a gummier texture.