September 25, 2013

Cherry Almond Oatmeal Cookies

So, I made a thing. And I guess people liked the thing? So I'm sharing the thing.

I always forget that there's something fundamentally weird about the way I develop recipes. Like how "develop" is a pretty generous word for what I do. And being in the foodie blog world, I forget that developing recipes isn't actually a thing that most people do. When most people go to bake cookies, they usually already have a recipe that they then follow. I don't always follow the recipe, even when I start with one. And, especially since starting this blog, I often don't even start with a recipe.
So when this weekend I used my patented recipe development process to bake cookies for my cousin's graduation party (I know it's September. I know normal people don't have graduation parties in September, but I never claimed we were normal people), I was a little blown away with the reaction these cookies got. I mean, they're pretty good cookies, and I guess they're not exactly a common sort of flavor, but like, whoa, these cookies were completely inhaled, and then raved about. And a lot of people kept asking me how I do it.

I'm glad that people usually ask me that after they try my recipes, because my usual answer of "throwing ingredients into the mixer until it looks like cookie dough and then praying to Betty Crocker it comes out edible" doesn't really inspire confidence.
So making these cookies was like making up any other cookie recipe, except I was a little more limited in terms of ingredients, since my cousin has a wheat allergy, and I was out of gluten free flour mix. I'm not one of those bakers with all the weirdy flours lying around the house, but I did have almond meal and oats. Those, I could work with. Now, you can buy oat flour, but it's easy enough (and probably cheaper) to just pulverize uncooked oats in a food processor. My food processor is small and inexpensive, so I didn't bother trying to get a fine grind. My cookies ended up having more of an oat-y texture, which no one seems to have a problem with, but if you have a fancy food processor, you could probably get a smoother texture.

I've recently become enamored of the cherry/almond flavor combination, so when I found half a jar of maraschino cherries in the fridge, that was happening.

I did have to add a little xanthan gum, since the dough was not binding the way I wanted it to, and I was so paranoid about the cookies coming out dense and dry, I didn't want to add more oats. Almond meal doesn't absorb liquid very well, but I originally thought the oat flour would balance that out. You might be able to get away with using corn starch instead, since oat flour's usually okay without the gum, and egg whites work well as binders. I haven't tested it though, so don't come crying if it doesn't work.

(Xanthan gum is often used to replace gluten as a binder/thickener. You can usually find it in health food stores or any store that has a large selection of gluten free baking supplies)

Then I just mixed in the diced cherries, and some vanilla chips (white chocolate also work). But they were kind of ugly when I took them out of the oven, so I mixed up some maraschino cherry juice and powdered sugar, with just a drop of almond extract, and made a pretty pink glaze that I then used to doodle on top of the cookies. (I don't drizzle; I doodle)
So that's how these cookies came to be. When I tasted them, I thought, "hmm, not too shabby." But my focus group was slightly more effusive. They have a great flavor, without having any weirdy gluten-free texture. They're best eaten day of baking, since they get a little soft afterwards, but if I hadn't kept some for myself at home, I wouldn't know that. Not even the crumbs were left behind.

Cherry Almond Oatmeal Cookies
Yield: 32 cookies

1¾ cups almond meal
1½ cups oat flour*
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. xanthan gum
¾ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
¾ cup sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 egg whites
2 tbsp. maraschino cherry juice
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. almond extract
¾ cup diced maraschino cherries (about half a jar)
¾ cup vanilla chips (or white chocolate chips)

For the glaze(optional):
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tbsp. maraschino cherry juice
Splash of almond extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, mix together the almond meal, oat flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, salt, and baking soda. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a separate bowl with electric beaters, cream the butter and sugar together at medium speed until fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add the egg whites, cherry juice, and extracts, beating well after each addition. With the mixer on low speed, gradually add in the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until a batter forms. Fold in the diced cherries and vanilla chips.

Drop the batter by rounded tablespoonful on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat mat, about 2 inches apart. Bake 10-12 minutes, until the edges are a golden brown. Let cool on the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

If desired, mix glaze ingredients together until smooth. Drizzle over the cooled cookies. Let dry before serving.

Tip: Make sure to use certified gluten free oats if making for someone with an allergy or intolerance.

*To make your own oat flour, pulse uncooked rolled oats in a food processor until it looks like flour

Recipe by Kim