When my sisters and I were kids, my parents used to play Poker every Saturday evening with their group of friends. They’d play from around 7:00 to 9:00 PM, stop for coffee, snacks, and a gabfest, then continue with the cards for another hour or so before everyone headed home.
The group would rotate hosts, so that our abode was Poker Central once every month or so. I always secretly dreaded when my mom’s best friend hosted (since we kids had to tag along–babysitters were too expensive) because she always served “salmon salad,” consisting of one can of salmon that had been hastily mashed with some Miracle Whip–skin, bones, and all–and it grossed me out completely (my mom, you see, would gingerly scrape the skin off the flesh and then carefully extract the soft needle-like bones and vertebrae before mashing up her salmon salad–with real mayonnaise, I’ll have you know. It wasn’t until years later, living on my own, that I discovered my mother, and not her friend, was the anomaly.)
Canned salmon aside, the hosts also always served a generous assortment of desserts, and we kids took full advantage of our parents’ reluctance to berate us in front of friends, helping ourselves to at least one of each sweet when they hit the table. And in the realm of baked treats, my mother reigned supreme.
Despite what my teenaged self perceived as a sappiness and lack of self-confidence in my mum (which, as it turned out, was actually sappiness and lack of self-confidence), I always admired her ability to whip up a Farmer’s Cheesecake (one of my father’s favorite treats), cinnamon coffee cake or her (legendary, among her friends and our family) Chiffon Cake.
Almost a foot high and with an airy, spongy crumb, speckled throughout with shards of grated chocolate, the chiffon cake became Mom’s signature dish, highly anticipated at those weekend card games, expected at every holiday dinner, even transported across borders when we visited our American cousins, loosely swathed in aluminum foil and packed between multiple pillowy layers of paper toweling within not one, but two cardboard boxes, as if she were transporting blood samples, or a bomb.
The other staple in my mother’s baking repertoire was the classic chocolate chip cookie. Every year during the holidays our kitchen turned into a cookie lab where my sisters and I would help Mom try out a dozen or so new cookies from the pages she’d torn out of women’s magazines or from her cookbooks. But Chocolate Chip Cookies were the regular Joe throughout the rest of the year, consumed on Sundays when we ate dinner with my aunt’s family, who lived upstairs; when we got home from school on weekday afternoons; or during those weekly Poker games.
Ironically, it was my dad’s Great Aunt Yetta, and not my mother, who taught me to bake my first batch of my favorite cookie. Great Aunt Yetta (about whom I wrote here), took over our kitchen the summer she lived with us (her planned two-week visit mysteriously morphed into a month, then six weeks; of course I thought my mum was rather sappy to let her stay, but for some unknown reason, her husband didn’t seem to miss her).
I floated through that summer in Chocolate Chip Cookie nervana, baking them at least ten times during those six weeks. I’d savor the raw dough, of course, even before placing it in mounds on the cookie sheets (still the best part of the procedure, in my opinion). Then I’d relish the just-baked treats, barely cool enough to handle, their edges crisping up even as the centers remained soft, dense and moist inside, with chips barely holding their shape, yet still warm enough to ooze onto your fingertips when you bit them.
Classically sweet and chewy, with a buttery perfume of brown sugar–what could be better than chocolate chip cookies?
Of course, there was no question that I’d include a healthier version of the childhood classic when I decided to write my cookbook, Sweet Freedom, a couple of years ago. Lacking the original refined sugar, fat and eggs of the prototype, the cookbook version is nonetheless dense inside and slightly crispy at the edges, boasting a combination of dates, Sucanat and maple syrup to stand in for the original eggs and butter. After many trials, I was finally pleased with the recipe–and the cookies regularly sold out in the health food stores at which they were sold.
A few weeks ago, I taught a cooking class called “Gluten Free Classics” at a local Loblaws store. The “classic” recipes I included were Two-Bite Brownies, Hearty Olive-Onion Bread, Lemon Blueberry Muffins, and–yep, you guessed it–Chocolate Chip Cookies.
I planned to demonstrate how easy it is to adapt conventional recipes to gluten-free versions by taking the original Sweet Freedom recipe and simply swapping gluten free all-purpose flour for the spelt. As often happens, I found that a one-for-one swap (despite the instructions on the bag) doesn’t always work out as planned. Accordingly, I added just a bit of brown rice flour, for heft–and, what do you know–it worked perfectly! I couldn’t have been more pleased with the result.
I’m happy to say these cookies are as good as the ones I used to bake, all those years ago. The HH loved these, as did the cooking class participants. Indeed, these are chocolate chip cookies you’d be proud to serve to family and friends.
Just please, promise not to serve them with canned salmon.
This is my submission this week to Amy’s wonderful Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays event. Why not submit something healthy of your own?
And a little reminder. . . Sweet Freedom is still on sale for one more week, at 30% off retail price (including taxes and shipping)! Check this page to learn more or to order. 🙂
from Diet, Dessert and Dogs (https://www.rickiheller.com)
3/4 cup (120 g) dry, unsweetened (cooking) dates
1/2 cup (120 ml) boiling water
1/2 cup (90 g) Sucanat or unrefined evaporated cane juice
1/4 cup (60 ml) pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp (30 ml) finely ground flax seeds
1 Tbsp (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup (80 ml) coconut oil at room temperature
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) all purpose GF flour (Bob’s Red Mill)
1/2 cup (75 g) brown rice flour
1 tsp (5 ml) baking powder
1/4 tsp (1 ml) baking soda
1/4 tsp (1 ml) xanthan gum
1/4 tsp (1 ml) fine sea salt
1/4 tsp (1 ml) cinnamon
2/3 cup (140 g) chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
Pour 1/2 cup boiling water over dates in a small bowl or glass measuring cup so that all dates are covered. Let sit for 8-10 minutes, until dates are soft. Do not drain.
Place dates with any leftover water, Sucanat, maple syrup, flax seeds, vanilla and coconut oil in a the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Allow to cool while you prepare the dry ingredients.
In a large bowl, sift together the all purpose flour, rice flour, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt and cinnamon. Whisk to blend well. Add the wet mixture (be sure it’s at room temperature) and chocolate chips and mix well. You should have a very stiff but slightly sticky dough.
Using a small ice cream scoop or teaspoon, scoop dough onto cookie sheets. Wet your palms and flatten the cookies to about 1/4 inch thick.
Bake in preheated oven for 8-11 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through, until tops are dry and begin to puff (the cookies should still be soft). Allow to cool completely before removing from sheets. Makes 24-28 cookies. May be frozen.
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© 2010 Ricki Heller