Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Gluten Free Vanilla Wafers

This year I was dubbed with the dubious honor (or chore depending on how you look at it) of preparing the Thanksgiving feast minus the turkey. I can thank Whole Foods for taking that off of my "To Cook" list. Panda's parents are going to New Zealand for 3 weeks in the next couple of days and the last thing his mother wanted to do was cook a feast. So he volunteered me which I was okay with. I was concerned about this year's Thanksgiving considering that I have a wheat allergy and have been gluten free since August 2013. Pretty much all of the traditional dishes have some sort of wheat/gluten containing ingredients. I'm excited because I can make everything gluten free and be able to enjoy everything! Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

The family and I had a brain storming session about what to make for the dishes, and most importantly, dessert. Panda and his dad are diabetic so I had to make something that catered to their sugar free requirement and my gluten free lifestyle. We decided on pumpkin pie and a sugar free cheesecake that I used to make back in the day when I did the Suzanne Somer's "Eat Great, Lose Weight" diet (don't judge). Then we started talking about making a graham cracker crust to go with it. Traditionally, the Suzanne Somer's recipe didn't call for a crust so I had to come up with a crust that was not only gluten free, but sugar free. 

Do you know how hard it is to find recipes that are gluten AND sugar free?! Pretty freaking ridiculous! It's like the two don't even exist. I went on a Pinterest/Google online goose chase to find a recipe that would cater to both needs. Insert the Gluten Free Vanilla Wafers. At first I was a little skeptical as the recipe said it was "refined sugar free" but still used coconut palm sugar. What the heck was that and how was it any different than regular sugar?! So I had to do some research on how it affects the body and how it's different than refined sugar. Surprisingly enough, I found some great information. While coconut palm sugar isn't necessarily "sugar free" like Stevia or Splenda, it has a low glycemic index unlike its red-headed sister sugar and takes longer to metabolize into sugar which is good for a diabetic. It still has 4 grams of carbs per serving which should be taken into consideration when eating if you are a diabetic (1). I ran it by Panda and he was sold, so I decided to take a leap of faith by making these cookies for the cheesecake crust.

First of all, let me say this...gluten free baking is EXPENSIVE if you don't have the 50 flours the recipe calls for and all the other GF ingredients. I spent $50 at Whole Foods for these cookies! I almost fell over when the cashier told me my total. maybe I elaborated a little bit. I had other things in my cart that weren't for the cookies. I probably spent about $20 for the cookies. But still! That's expensive! Was it worth it? TOTALLY. Was I scared that they weren't going to turn out? Yup. But it was a risk I was willing to take especially since it was my first time baking gluten free. If you've never baked with gluten free ingredients, prepare yourself. The flours used to bake GF goodies are completely different than regular wheat flour and don't rise or fluff up like their counterpart. It's almost like you have to have a chemistry major to bake something out of the blue. Thank God for the pioneers before me that figured that ish out. Lord knows how many disasters I would've created in the kitchen had it not been for masterful GF cooks.

I digress...onward to what you've been patiently waiting for...the recipe for these delectable graham cracker tasting wafers. Yes I know that the title says Vanilla, but after it was all said and done these puppies taste like graham crackers which is perfect since that's the whole purpose of them anyway. So here we go!

There were a few modifications that I had to make since I was unable to find some of the ingredients. Refer to the original recipe for all of the specifics (the link is in the 3rd paragraph above). 

Wet Ingredients
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated butter flavored vegetable shortening
1 large egg (room temperature)
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dairy free milk (I used almond milk)
1 tsp. butter flavoring

Dry Ingredients
2 cups Erewhon Brown Rice Crisp Cereal
1 1/4 cups brown rice flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 1/2 cups "scant" powered coconut palm sugar + 1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch

1. Put the Erewhon cereal in a food processor and blend until all the chunks are gone.

2. Add in the brown rice flour, baking powder, sea salt and xanthan gum to the cereal mix. Process until the ingredients have mixed together. Put ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside.

3. Next you will make the "scant" coconut palm sugar. You will add the 1 1/2 cups coconut palm sugar and 1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch. You will process this until it's powdery. This will take 2-3 minutes and will be ridiculously dusty when you take the lid off so prepare yourself.

4. In another mixing bowl (I used Panda's mom's Kitchen Aide...yes I was that fancy), you will combine the shortening, butter flavoring, vanilla, egg and non-dairy milk thoroughly. Slowly add in the sugar, making sure that the ingredients are completely mixed.

5. Slowly start mixing in the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients. The mixture will look somewhat dry and you may have to start mixing by hand if you don't have a Kitchen Aide like mixer.

6. Once the dough forms, place plastic wrap on the bowl and stick in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour (I got distracted by making pies, so it was more or less that amount of time).

7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

8. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or those fancy silicone baking mats.

9. Take a small spoon (approximately tsp. size) of dough and roll it in between your hands into a circle and then flatten the dough as if you're making a miniature tortilla. Be careful not to make it too thin. Line the baking sheets with the cookies. You can put the cookies close together as they do not grow that much in the oven.

10. Place one cookie sheet on the top rack and the other one on the bottom rack of the oven. The cookies will bake for 15 minutes, however, halfway through, you will need to alternate which racks the cookies are on to bake evenly. They should be a golden brown.

This recipe makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies and can be stored at room temperature. They are firm and crunchy like a traditional ginger snap.

I firmly believe that this recipe can be adapted to a variety of different flavors like ginger snaps, snickerdoodles, or lemon drop cookies. I will definitely be trying the ginger snap variety soon and will let you know how they turn out.

Overall, the cookies turned out fantastic and I cannot wait to see how they turn out in my vanilla wafer crust for my sugar free cheesecake!