February 03, 2008

Buckwheat Molasses Cookies - Gluten Free!

I wanted to make a good, gluten-free cookie, something that I could give as a birthday gift to friends with wheat allergies, or celiac or, for other reasons, are living gluten-free. I wanted it to be something that I would be proud to serve to anyone, something that didn't have that settling for less quality about it.

Alton Brown has published a gluten-free chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe that looks pretty good, but I don't usually have brown rice flour or xantham gum lying about the kitchen. I do have buckwheat flour, though, and arrowroot powder. I wanted something that I wouldn't have to run to the specialty store to buy (although your pantry mileage may vary).

Buckwheat flour has a more drying effect than whole wheat flour, so I decreased the amount from my usual recipe. Without gluten to stabilize the cookie shape, I added a little arrowroot powder to help control the spread and height.

Buckwheat flour has a pretty strong flavour, and not everyone grooves on it. I decided that it's best bet was a cookie that had a lot of aggressive flavours of its own. Enter the Ginger Snap, one of my favourite stir-up-and-bake recipes. With molasses and ginger and cinnamon competing for tongue-time, the buckwheat taste would be more muted, more sedate, right? Well, as it turns out, almost. It should be noted that I increased the amount of ginger and cinnamon to double the usual amount (and, heck, it should even be noted that this was an accident), but it stands as the way to go, to stand up to the strong scent and character of the buckwheat.

Texturally, they got the lovely crackled tops that I was hoping for, but the interior of the cookie is tenderer than a classic Ginger Snap. Almost fudgy, while they're still warm, and I confess I have yet to try them completely cooled.

I didn't get a perfectly interchangeable version of my Ginger Snaps, the never tell the difference kind, but I got a very, very good cookie.

Buckwheat Molasses Cookies


Makes 3 - 4 dozen

1 3/4 cups buckwheat flour
1/4 cup arrowroot powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup molasses
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Extra sugar for dusting

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the oil and sugar together. You don't need a mixer here, a wooden spoon is fine. Add the egg, and beat until smooth. Add the molasses and beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buckwheat flour, arrowroot powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Whisk until thoroughly combined, and then dump it into the molasses mixture. Stir slowly as the dough stiffens up into a thick paste, being sure to incorporate all of the flour. You don't want any white streaks in the dough, it should be completely dark brown.

Use a teaspoon to scoop up a walnut-sized lump of dough, and roll it between your palms until it is nice and round. Dip the top of it in white granulated sugar and place it on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Leave a little room between each cookie, as they will expand.

Bake at 350 F for about 10 minutes - they should be a little underdone when you pull them out. Remove to cooling racks immediately, and get the next batch in the oven. Try not to eat them all at once.

They smell a little bit like pancakes, while they're baking.

February 02, 2008

Hash in the Morning Light

Getting back to my love of all things breakfast, I have to put in a good word for hash. It is necessarily potato-intensive, so I don't have it terribly often, but I do enjoy it. The Cajun Chicken Hash at the now-closed VineYard Restaurant (RIP) is the inspiration for this version, which omits the hollandaise of the original, but features a home-blended Cajun spice mixture. As I am usually too unco-ordinated (and possibly too lazy) first thing in the morning to actually poach eggs properly, these have merely been steamed in little cups. I tend to only make one egg for myself, but the original dish had two, of course.

A close-up of the early stages of cooking illustrates the ingredients fairly well:

The chicken was leftover roasted chicken, skinned and trimmed and tossed with the aforementioned Cajun seasoning. The onions are still raw here, and look pretty fierce, but had mellowed considerably by the time it was served. The potatoes were leftover from some other dinner, where I had deliberately cooked a little more than necessary, just so I could have some sort of hash-y affair on the weekend. The rest - the bacon was diced and cooked up in the frying pan, a little of its rendered fat used to lubricate the whole dish, and then everything else was added and sauteed until just the right amount of tenderness or crunch, depending. A little extra Cajun seasoning was sprinkled over the whole as it cooked, before portioning it out and sliding the steamed eggs atop. Add a little hot sauce of your choice...

This is a pretty hearty breakfast, even without any sort of toast weighing in. I certainly didn't feel like moving for a while after - even with only one egg! Still, perfect for those lazy weekend days when you've got a whole lot of lying around on your schedule.

Hash is a useful way to use up the bits and ends in the fridge (as is frittata, or quesadilla, for that matter) - a sort of "kitchen velcro"- to borrow a term from Alton Brown. You can sneak a few more veggies in than your traditional bacon-and-egg breakfast, too. Highly customizable.