In the pantheon of cookies, chocolate chip cookies are just about everyone’s favorite. But gluten-free versions are all too often overly cakey or gritty - a far cry from the classic.
Here’s how to make gluten-free chocolate chip cookies with a rich, buttery flavor, a crisp exterior and a tender (but not too cakey) interior. Even I had trouble tasting the difference between a traditional chocolate chip cookie Like Toll House and this gluten-free version.
It was discovered during various baked goods testing that gluten-free flour blends simply can’t absorb as much fat as all-purpose flour can, so cutting back on the butter helped to minimize greasiness. Less butter, along with some xanthan gum, also helped alleviate the spread issue, so the cookies didn’t bake up so flat.
The starches in the gluten-free all-purpose blend needed more liquid as well as more time to hydrate and soften, so a couple tablespoons of milk was added and the dough let to rest for 30 minutes. This resting time also had a secondary benefit: It gave the sugar time to dissolve, which led to faster caramelization in the oven. And that meant a cookie not just with deeper flavor, but also with a chewier center and crisper edges. Finally, I want cookies to be less cakey and more chewy.
Creaming the butter, as the original Toll House recipe directs, was aerating the butter too much. Melting the butter instead, and changing the ratio of brown sugar to granulated sugar, gave the cookies the right chewy texture. The extra brown sugar also gave the cookies a more complex, toffee-like flavor. Bite for bite, this was a chocolate chip cookie that could rival the best versions of the classic.
Here were the key kitchen discoveries when it comes to making the ultimate batch of gluten-free chocolate chip cookies:
Add xanthan gum:
Because starches are liquid when hot and don’t set up until cool, and because the bonds between the proteins in gluten-free flour blends are weak and few in number, gluten-free cookies don’t have the ability to hold their shape like traditional cookies, which have the power of gluten to provide structure, even when hot. To prevent the cookies from spreading all over the baking sheet, it was necessary to add something to reinforce the weak structure of gluten-free flour. Just a small amount of xanthan gum does the trick.
Get the sugar ratio right:
I want a cookie that is chewy in the center and slightly crisp on the outside. The Toll House cookie recipe calls for equal amounts of granulated sugar and brown sugar. Granulated sugar contributes to a caramelized, crisp texture and provides structure, while brown sugar adds moisture and rich caramel notes. Going up on brown sugar and down on granulated sugar achieves a perfectly chewy center with crisp edges. Using more brown sugar than white also enhanced the butterscotch flavor notes in this classic cookie.
Use less butter and make sure to melt it, too:
A traditional chocolate chip cookie recipe has about 12 tablespoons of butter, but this gluten-free version couldn’t handle this much fat. That’s because the flour blend has more starch and less protein than regular all-purpose flour has, and it’s the proteins that are compatible with fat. Eight tablespoons of butter were the most the cookies could handle; any additional butter couldn’t be absorbed and so made the cookies greasy. Creaming aerated the butter, which made the cookies too cakey; melting the butter got closer to the texture I was after.
Hydrate the dough:
Because the amount of butter had to be decreased in the cookies, the dough had very little liquid to hydrate the flour (remember, butter is about 18% water) and you can be left with gritty cookies. To solve this problem, add a small amount of liquid to the dough in the form of milk or nutmilk, and then let the dough rest to give the starches enough time to absorb the liquid. Two tablespoons of milk and a 30-minute rest hydrats the dough just enough to eliminate grittiness. Resting the dough also helped stiffen it, which improved structure and prevented spread.
Portion them out for freezing:
Given the fact gluten-free cookies don’t store all that well - and that a fresh chocolate chip cookie, gluten-free or traditional, is better than an old one - it was found that freezing the cookie dough is a good option in some recipes. Portion and shape the dough according to the recipe, arrange the unbaked cookies on a baking sheet, then put the sheet in the freezer.
Save them for up to two weeks:
Freeze the dough until it’s completely firm (for between two to three hours) then transfer them to a zipper-lock freezer bag and freeze them for up to two weeks.