Gluten-free, flavor-ful

Gluten-free Cookie Dough Brownies

[with bonus GF Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe!]

First of all, I don’t think gluten is the root of all evil or anything like that.  Beautiful strands of lovingly-developed glutens are such stuff as breadmakers’ dreams are made on (sorry for ending in a preposition…nobody told Shakespeare he shouldn’t do that).  However, for those with a true wheat allergy or Celiac’s Disease, this otherwise-innocuous protein can wreak havoc on the digestive system.  As such, since I have made it a habit of sharing my baked-goods with classmates and friends with no desire to poison them, I have diversified my recipe inventory to include a variety of gluten-free desserts so as not to alienate my wheat-sensitive compatriots.
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The world of gluten-free baking has really exploded over the past few years, in terms of ready-to-go baking mixes, general availability of gluten-free ingredients, and clear labeling practices.  Those whose GI systems used to do backflips at the mere site of a cake or pie can now comfortably enjoy such decadent treats, as long as proper considerations are made in preparation.

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My foray into GF baking initially relied heavily on gluten-free baking mixes, but, as I got more comfortable reading labels and identifying gluten-free ingredients, I started to branch out.  As you’ll see below, my GF chocolate chip cookie dough uses a GF yellow cake mix, but the brownies are just a gluten-free version of my staple pudding-mix-brownie recipe.  National brands are more likely to have stringent allergen-reporting requirements, so, though I’m usually a pretty generic girl, I recommend buying the big-label brand to be sure to prevent gastrointestinal duress amongst your diners.  I’m certainly opposed to segregation (because I am a human), but I do keep a separate set of baking powder and baking soda for my gluten-free baking to prevent inadvertent wheat contamination from my usual baking expenditures.
One word of caution regarding store-bought GF baking mixes:  I have noticed that quite a few brands tend to increase the salt and sugar contents of the mixes to try to mask odd aftertastes inherent in some gluten-free flours used.  Personally, I would rather use spices, espresso powder, extracts, etc. to achieve this purpose…I’m a salt-o-phobe.
Either the brownies or the cookies make for a tasty gluten-free treat alone, but, something magical happens when the two synergize!  The visual and textural variety yields harmony to both eye and palate!  If you are as taken with this combo as I am, you may actually be driven to prose upon ingestion.  Feel free to leave your rapturous limericks and haikus in the “Comments” section 😉

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Gluten-free Cookie Dough Brownies

1 box instant chocolate pudding mix (make sure package says “Gluten-free” or that “Wheat” is not listed as an allergen)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temp
2/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup rice flour
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 batch of Gluten-free Cookie Dough
, removed from fridge 60 minutes prior to baking
Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit, and spray a 9″ x 13″ glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray, then line with parchment paper.  In a mixing bowl, whisk together pudding mix, sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla, until smooth.  In a large measuring cup, use a fork to combine and aerate flour, espresso powder, baking powder, and salt.  Use a rubber spatula to fold dry ingredients into wet.  Transfer to prepared baking dish, and smooth the top of the batter.  Break up cookie dough into chunks and press into the surface of the brownie batter.  Bake 35-45 minutes, until brownie edges have started to crack and center no longer appears wet.  Let cool 20 minutes in pan, then use parchment overhang to lift brownies from pan and transfer to a wire rack.  Let cool completely prior to cutting, ~2 hours.  Store cut brownies in airtight container, at room temp, for up to 5 days.  They won’t last that long.

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Gluten-free Cookie Dough

*Note:  This cookie dough contains raw egg and should not be consumed uncooked!
1 box Gluten-free yellow cake mix (Hodgson Mill makes a nice, affordable one)
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 stick UNSALTED butter, softened to room temperature
1 egg, room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup dark chocolate chips/chunks
In a medium bowl, combine cake mix and espresso powder.  Use a pastry cutter or stand mixer to incorporate butter, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  [Note:  there is some variation in GF cake mixes, so if your dough looks crumbly at this point, beat in a teaspoon or two of milk – regular or chocolate – to achieve desired consistency]  Use a rubber spatula to fold in chocolate chips.  Chill dough 4-24 hours.
Storing extra dough:  Dough blobs can be frozen in zip-top freezer bags for up to 6 months for use as needed (we all need some prn cookie dough on-hand for sure!), just make sure you burp the bags completely as you seal them so the dough doesn’t get freezer-burned.  To use, transfer from freezer to fridge the night before intended use.
If using dough to make traditional cookies:  Remove dough from fridge 90 minutes prior to baking.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit, and line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Roll ~tablespoonfuls of dough into balls, top with a few extra chocolate chips (+/- gluten-free sprinkles, for added prettiness), and bake 8-10 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through bake time.  Cool on sheets 2-3 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.  Store in airtight container, at room temperature, for up to 5 days.
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