Saturday, December 8, 2012

Gluten-Free Ginger Molasses Cookies


Let's just get one thing straight: these are not gingersnaps. Not that there's anything wrong with gingersnaps. They're light, crispy, crunchy; just the thing for dunking in a mug of tea, or grinding with butter to make into a crust for pumpkin cheesecake squares, say. These just aren't them.


These cookies are incredibly moist, and chewy, and tender in a way that glutenous cookies can only wish for. A generous pour of dark molasses keeps them that way for days, while adding deep, rich coffee notes that play off cinnamon, ginger and black pepper. They are little pillows of spicy love.


I went through a serious ginger molasses phase several years ago, inspired by the Thick and Chewy Molasses Spice Cookies from Baking Illustrated, and I learned a valuable lesson.


Jay and I went up to Sebastopol in Northern California to see our idols, Väsen, a Swedish band that makes traditional music sound like rock and roll. We stayed with a friend, where I decided to bake my favorite spice cookies to leave at the feet of these very tall Norse gods. I had made these cookies many times, and knew the recipe to be foolproof.


But the only flour to be found in the house was spelt flour. I measured out the ingredients anyway, rolled the cookies in sugar, and stuck them in the oven. But when I checked the cookies 10 minutes later, they had splooshed into thin, flat pancakes that kissed at the edges and stuck together, and were prone to bending and falling apart on the way to one's mouth.

Before the show, I offered them up to our Swedish idols, mainly because I didn't want to be stuck eating them all myself. Olov asked in his impeccable English, "Are these, like, your favorite cookies?" I nodded mutely, then scurried back to my seat.


When I told Jay the story, he said, "So basically, you lied?" Well they had been my favorites, until improper substitutions spoiled their thick chewiness.


Back in San Francisco, I went straight to Sur La Table and shelled out forty bucks for the electronic scale recommended by Cook's Illustrated. Though I have yet to bake cookies for any more Norse gods, I find my scale indispensable especially when substituting flours in recipes, which can vary drastically in weight.

Cookies are particularly sensitive to small variations in ingredient amounts, as well as dough and oven temperature. When this dough is first mixed, it is gooey and soft, more like a quick bread batter. If you can wrestle it into a ball, roll it in sugar, and get it onto a baking sheet, it will spread generously in the heat of the oven; not quite flat as a pancake, but close. The texture will also have a vaguely gluten-free quality.


If you can bear it, cover the dough and chill it for at least an hour or two, or, preferably, one to two days. The starches in the flours will absorb moisture from the dough and swell, making for a smoother, sturdier dough. Now when you form the firm dough into balls, they will spread and puff into thick and chewy, crinkled pillows. Their mouthfeel will be smooth, almost creamy on the inside.


I adapted this recipe from three different sources: Alice Medrich's wheat-free Ginger Cookies from Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies, my own tests with gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, and the aforementioned favorite Baking Illustrated version, which I played with three years ago (and you can certainly make any variation posted there: dredged in orange sugar, flecked with gooey chocolate chunks, or gingered up with candied and freshly grated ginger).


I love that this recipe uses melted butter that gets simply stirred together with the other ingredients rather than creamed in a stand mixer. These cookies keep beautifully when properly under-baked; I like them even better on days 2 and 3 when the flavors have melded even more. And they make tasty, if messy, impromptu ice cream sandwiches, too.


If you lack a kitchen scale, you might consider putting one on your wish list this holiday season.


Cookie Monsters:

One year ago:
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Three years ago:

Gluten-Free Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies

With inspiration from Alice Medrich and Baking Illustrated

If you can, start these cookies a day (or even two) ahead; the dough benefits from a day of chilling, resulting in thicker, chewier, smoother cookies. If you must have cookies straight away, go ahead and bake some off; they will spread more, and will have a thinner and more brittle texture, but they will still be good. Err on the side of underbaking, removing the cookies when they are puffed and cracked, with the dough between the cracks looks underbaked. For the craggiest cookies, bake the trays one at a time in the upper third of the oven. 

I recommend weighing the ingredients for these (and all) cookies as slight variations in amounts can cause the cookies to spread too little or not enough. (Besides, measuring molasses into a cup and then trying to get it back out again is no fun.)  I used a dark, unsulphured molasses here, but I'm guessing that blackstrap or light molasses will work, too, though blackstrap will have a more assertive molasses flavor, whereas the light stuff will yield a more mild, kid-friendly cookie. Sweet rice flour is stickier than regular, and recommended here; if you only have regular rice flour, try increasing the xanthan gum to 1/2 teaspoon.

Makes 2 dozen thick and chewy 2" cookies

1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) oat flour
3/4 cup (4 ounces) sweet rice flour (such as Mochiko brand)
1/4 cup (1 ounce) tapioca flour
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and kept warm
1/3 cup (3 1/2 ounces) molasses (see headnote)
1/3 cup (2 1/4 ounces) light or dark brown sugar
1/3 cup (2 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar (preferably organic cane sugar), plus another 1/3 cup for rolling the cookies
1 large egg (2 ounces out of shell)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, xanthan gum, baking soda, spices and salt. 

In a large bowl, stir together the butter, molasses, brown sugar, and 1/3 cup of the granulated sugar. Whisk in the egg and vanilla extract. Stir in the flour mixture with a sturdy wooden spoon. Once the flour is incorporated, stir vigorously for 40 strokes - this activates the xanthan gum and makes for chewy cookies. 

Cover the dough and chill until firm, 1-2  hours or preferably 1-2 days. 

When you're ready to bake, position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 350ºF. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Place the remaining 1/3 cup of granulated sugar in a shallow bowl.

Scoop the cookies into 1" balls (a spring-loaded #40 ice cream scoop works wonders) and roll each ball in the sugar. Place the balls at least 2" apart on the cookie sheet.

Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, until they are puffed and cracked, and the dough between the cracks looks underbaked, 7-10 minutes, rotating the pan after 5 minutes to ensure even baking. Repeat with the second sheet.

Let the cookies cool slightly on the sheet (or if they've been overcooked, whisk the parchment and cookies straight off the sheet and onto a cooling rack), then use a thin, metal spatula to remove the cookies to a cooling rack. Cool completely (the cookies will still be baking from residual heat), then store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

 

41 comments:

  1. These cookies look like they have the perfect amount of fluffy and chewiness. Yum!

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  2. Oh My, these look absolutely amazing! Just want to bite into them, I can absolutely see they are chewy and thick. Thank you, I will definitely try it!

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  3. Hi, I saw these on Pinterest and had to rush over for the recipe. Wow they look so good! I love what you said...little pillows of spicy love.. Would the recipe still be okay without the xanthan gum? I can't get it find it locally. Thanks for sharing!

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  4. Thanks, all, for the kind words!

    Spicie- I think you could probably get away without the xanthan gum, as there are so many other sticky things in the recipe; they may be more delicate. Please let me know how they come out!

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  5. Love this recipe! Will be linking back to this in my upcoming post :)

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    1. Awesome! Feel free to post the link here when it's ready. :)

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  6. Do you think these would be good as thumbprint cookies with jam?

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    1. I love the idea, but think the dough is probably too soft, and the cookies too spready, to hold a thumbprint.

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  7. These look DIVINE! Alanna, can you recommend a substitute for the oat flour? I hate to alter them at all (they look so perfect!), but my son has Celiac Disease--and although some Celiac sufferers don't seem to have trouble tolerating oats, he does :-(
    Thank you so much for the recipe, either way.

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    1. Thanks, Augusta! I'm assuming you've tried certified GF oat flour. I would probably try either an all-purpose GF blend, sweet rice flour, or sorghum flour in place of the oat. I'm no expert, though, so they might take a bit of experimentation. If you can weigh the flour (use 4 1/2 ounces instead of going by the volumetric 1 cup measure), you'll have a good advantage. I'm guessing that these are fairly forgiving, since they have other sticky ingredients (egg, molasses, xanthan gum and tapioca flour) so hopefully substituting the oat flour won't be a problem. Please let us all know how they come out when you try them!

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    2. Thank you so much for the advice, Alanna. I'll be sure to weigh the ingredients, and I'll let you know which flour I use-- and how it works out.
      (We've only ever given him certified GF oats, but whenever we've tried it's always caused him trouble. Apparently that's not uncommon for people with Celiac, so if you post the results of my test, it might be useful to other admirers of your blog :-) )

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    3. You're welcome! I do hope the cookies work out.

      So sorry that your son has trouble with oats. Thank you for mentioning it, and I'll pass along this information to my readers. Cheers : )

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  8. I have guar gum on hand do you know if I would just add the same amount as the Xamthum gum? Do the two gums add a taste and do they taste different? I am new to GF and this will be my first attempt.

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  9. Another question: What does the pepper do for the recipe? Have you made it with and without? Is it the secret ingredient that makes these cookies POP in your mouth? And will it go with candied ginger?

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    1. I've tried swapping guar gum for xanthan gum in other recipes with poor results. However in this recipe you might get away with it since there are other sticky ingredients. They are both flavorless.

      As for the pepper, I like the extra spice, which does go with candied ginger, but you can certainly leave it out if you prefer.

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    2. Alana please add this into the appropriate place in my previous comment that is awaiting approval before it posts.

      I used Black Strap Molasses.

      Robynn

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    3. Hi Robynn, Blogger doesn't seem to let me edit other peoples' comments - my apologies. Thank you again for all your questions and comments! :)

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  10. I made this recipe with a few changes and OMGosh I have made the perfect cookie. Thank YOU Thank YOU Thank you!!
    I have been researching gluten free baking and what things can be substituted in recipes and how to do it. I can't stand wasting ingredients and I wanted the cookies to be extra healthy, chewy, and out of this world yummy. This recipe was my first attempt at gluten free baking. I substituted too many items the first time and the cookies spread out like crazy. They were still very chewy and delicious. I learned that when substituting chia seeds in the form of a gel that can add too much liquid to a recipe. It is better to grind chia and add it to the liquid ingredients or to the dry ingredients.

    My second batch which turned out wonderful. Baked for 14 minutes because when you add chia seed it increases baking time.

    (I ground all my own flours from the whole grain in order to get the maximum nutrition and freshness. I have a Vitamix to grind with.)

    My changes:

    Replaced the moochie rice--I used Aborio white rice which is high in protein and iron. It is also a gutenous rice like the moochy rice but with a lot more nutrient value.

    Replaced the Xanthan gum-- with 3 teaspoons of dry ground chia seed. I chose this amount unscientifically based on the fact that I was going to add honey increasing the wet ingredients in the recipe. (It worked perfectly whew!) I had read that you can usually leave the gums out of a recipe and they tend to be what make a recipe behave difficultly. And because many people have problems digesting the gums. So I really want to learn how to cook with out the gums all together.

    I added 1/4 teaspoon of cloves to butter mixture.

    I also added 2 TABLESPOONS of FOOD GRADE Diatamacious Earth added to the oat flour for it's health benefits. (DO NOT USE POOL GRADE, THAT IS NOT EDIBLE(Check out the health benefits)---http://wolfcreekranch1.tripod.com/diatomaceous_human_use.html

    I rounded most of my spice measurements. I added the spice measurements to my heated butter (in a double boiler to release the full potency of spices into the sugars and molasses.

    I measured my molasses 1/3 cup then I added 2 big spoonfuls of honey to the molasses in the glass measuring cup bring the gooey ingredients up to the 1/2 cup mark.
    I stirred the molasses, the warm butter, and the spices together. It was really easy to get all the sticky following the molasses next into the sticky cup. All the sticky ingredients stuck in the sugar and scooped easily into the bowl.

    I was afraid to add the pepper at first (till I researched and saw that it was a normal ingredient.) It is the ingredient that made the flavors 'POP'. Next time I will round that spoon too.

    I added two teaspoons of GRATED (not chopped) ginger,(big difference in results)into my butter mixture.

    I added 1/2 cup of finely chopped sugared jelly ginger candy just before refrigerating.

    The cookies came out absolutely PERFECT. I will experiment with this recipe minus the spices for choc chip cookies. The chewy texture of these cookies is wonderful!!!!

    And the flavor gets richer and stronger as they sit. Oh so yummy.
    Robynn

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  11. Wow, you did a lot of research and experimentation - right on! I'm so glad you liked the final product. Thank you for sharing all your tips and adaptations. Let us all know how the chocolate chip version comes out. Happy baking!

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  12. I found your recipe last night for your non GF 'Tripple Ginger Chocolate Cookies' and laughed, oh maybe I should just stir the chocolate chips into this recipe and it will be 'GF Tripple Ginger Honey Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies' How does that name roll off your tongue?

    Robynn

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  13. These are delicious! I omitted the xantham gum because I didn't have any and I used Splenda instead of sugar - they were amazing! Nice & soft.

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    1. So glad you liked them! Thanks, Jade.

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  14. Ridiculously awesome cookies. I think we used a combination of tapioca flour, regular rice flour, and all-purpose gluten free baking flour, substituting by volume rather than weight, and they turned out great. We currently have baker's sugar instead of granulated sugar in the house (I know, weird), so that got substituted in all cases. The only intentional change we made was to add a bunch of ginger chips to the recipe, which gave them awesome little spicy nuggets. Soft and chewy, not too sweet, but way too easy to eat by the handful. Thanks Alana!

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    1. Yay! So glad to hear it. The ginger chips sound fantastic - I will definitely give that a try next time.

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  15. I'm hooked on these now, not sure whether to thank you or not (haha)
    I double the recipe except only 1.5 times the spices, so I have enough for a few days. Whether they spread or poof, the next day it is heaven on a plate waiting for me on the counter. I just ate another one. Truly, after becoming intolerant of one food item after another, I am overjoyed to have these at hand. Many thanks.

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    1. I'm so happy to hear that!! Thank you for the sweet comment. :)

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  16. Now I can succumb to a Gluten-free diet without feeling abused, because this recipe allows me to continue eating my favorite cookies! They are delicious and every bit as good as the real thing! I didn't use the melted butter because I also have a milk allergy. Instead, I substituted butter with Spectrum's Organic Butter-flavored Vegetable Shortening and didn't melt it, but creamed it with the sugary ingredients. Thank you, Alanna, for the time you took to do the experimenting with this old-fashioned favorite cookie recipe and for posting it! Smiles and blessings to you!

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    1. Oh, I'm so happy to hear that! So good to know that you can use a healthy vegetable shortening in place of the butter. Thank you for the super lovely comment! Smiles and blessings back atcha. :)

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  17. OK did I do something wrong? I followed recipe, although I did need to use regular rice flour, let the dough refrigerate for a whole day, and made sure my oven was the correct temp. It was almost too sticky to handle at all. I used a #40 scoop with the scoop flattened at top. My cookies spread big time! They don't look anything like the picture...they look like pancakes. However, they are still chewy and delicious! I omitted the black pepper to make them more tasty for the little ones.

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    1. I will definitely make this recipe again, but will probably increase the flour by 1/4 cup. The kids are raving about them!

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    2. Hi! Thank you for the comment and the feedback. I'm sorry to hear about the sticky dough and super spreading. Did you weigh your ingredients or measure them by volume? Cookies can be fussy about little differences in ingredients, so it can help to weigh them if you have a little kitchen scale. The regular rice flour could be the culprit, too. I would think that your plan to add a bit more flour should do the trick either way. I'm so glad you and your kiddos are liking them regardless! Happy baking. :)

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  18. Wow these are beautiful cookies and great tips for making them turn out perfect. Now to head over to Whole Foods to locate all these ingredients. Nice blog - Angie from Angie's Recipes sent us over here.

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    1. Hi Vicki! Thanks for the sweet note, and I hope you love the cookies! Come back and let me know how they come out. :)

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  19. Your recipes are amazing! You truly have a gift and I thank you so much for sharing it with everyone! These cookies are hands down my favorite. I think they are better and any cookie with gluten too! I just love them, and so does my family!

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    1. Wow! Thanks for the really sweet comment! I'm so glad you like the cookies. :D

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  20. I made them yesterday and, since there were none on hand, swapped out the egg with some soaked flax, coconut oil for the butter and it worked beautifully! for the record, i've been baking with duck eggs - so decadent - and can't wait to throw one at this recipe.
    i too topped them with some chopped candied ginger because i have this undiagnosed ginger obsession...
    thanks much for great recipe (all of them!!) - your little corner of the internet is my most visited when it comes to food, and i'm always sending people links to your posts.

    so happy to have found you!

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    1. Hi! Thanks for the really kind words! I'm so glad to know that these cookies can be made with flax and coconut oil instead of butter and eggs - I'll have to try that! Duck eggs sound like a fun addition, too. Thanks for reading and sharing, and for the sweet note! :D

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  21. Wow! This is the most AMAZING GF recipe for cookies I have ever made or tasted! I followed the recipe and did everything EXCEPT follow your advice about baking only one sheet at a time. I should have listened! The top sheet turned out exactly as shown, while the sheet underneath spread but did not crack. Those cookies turned out crunchy, so I have halve a batch of crackled and halve a batch that are crunchy! I left the dough out after it had cooled for about an hour; it was so stiff I wasn't sure I could form balls. The hour let the dough get just pliable enough to work. I did push down the balls with a wet hand, thinking they may not spread into thin-enough cookies. They did turn out fine, so I will keep doing that. Thanks for this amazing recipe, and this entire site! I can't wait to try some of the other GF recipes!

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    1. Hi Mike, Thanks for the great comment - I'm so glad you like the cookies and the rest of the blog! Thanks for reading. :)

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  22. Some sort of soluble fiber taken out through seed products of the Guar Gum powder plant, While proof it's durability, it's got seven times the actual thickening prowess as cornstarch.

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  23. I went up to Sebastopol in Northern California to see our idols, Väsen, a Swedish band that makes traditional music sound like rock and roll
    BARBELLS.

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Nice comments make me warm and fuzzy!