Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Come to the dark side, we have cookies...

I made cookies. And they taste like (and more to the point feel like) real cookies. More about that later. Be patient. Alright, the recipe is at the bottom. 

The Child is still improving at writing, her reading is now awesome with lots of practise and she's finally discovered a true love of reading to herself.

Writing... not so much. She'll write if she has to, for instance if there's a reward involved like a Brownie Badge (in this case Cook : Advanced).

But even this took some serious coaxing. And even after that, all she did was the titles. I do think, however, that her choice to use Insanity Prawn Boy from Weebls-stuff's On The Moon series to explain "Crustaceans" was genius. nicely rendered too.

For this particular badge she not only had to produce a poster about allergies, but also to cook a two course meal from scratch (one course being hot). She made a slow baked lamb curry with help and supervision, and cupcakes with no help, but some "OMG HOT THINGS!!" supervision. She did all the reading of the recipe, weighing of ingredients etc all on her own. Let's just say, I've got competition in the kitchen.

Next the curry; economy lamb chops are much more frugal and delicious when curried. She likes to claim she "killed two birds with one curry" because one optional clause was "cook with an ingredient you've never used before" (i.e. spices) and another was "cook a dish from another country". 

Yes, ok so this was a somewhat bastardized, British curry but what the hell. It was STUNNING. I took photos of all processes, but here's the highlights. Oh, and you may notice Child wearing something that looks like a nightshirt throughout the process. It looks like one because it is one. Home Education FTW.

And finally I get to the point of the cookies. well, soon. One of the teaching tools I use most for maths, comprehension, reading (and generally not being a knob around things like knives and heat) is cooking. However, these babies (the cookies) were not made by her. They were made by me to cheer her up. Poor little thing has a cough and has been denied her favourite social and sporting groups this week because Mummy is a cowbag and doesn't think damp air or dust are a particularly good thing to be inhaling when you're asthmatic and have a chest infection.

Here we go, the purpose of this post. Peanut Butter Cookies. Ever since having to go gluten free myself; not for hipster or food fashion reasons, I am a genuinely diagnosed celiac, I've been searching and trying out gluten free recipes. Mostly, though, they're a disaster. UNTIL I stumbled on a blogger (Laura at http://petiteallergytreats.blogspot.co.uk/) who uses pectin as an aid to the gluten replacer, xanthen gum. Xanthen gum tends to make mixtures go... well.... a bit like snail mucous to be honest. And never seems to work properly on its own BUT when used in combination with dried pectin, you get a flour that so closely mimics wheat flour that breads, pastries and cookies feel and taste like "the real thing". Cakes I've found don't need the pectin. Joy, as pectin is not cheap. 

This revelation about pectin has, honestly, changed my life as I have a job lot I bought cheap from Approved Foods last year with a view to making my own jam. Yeah. That happened. NOT.
Anyway, Laura changed my life. Pizza bases WORK. Flatbreads WORK. Pastry is AMAZEBALLS and finally, I have COOKIES!!!!!

This recipe is modified from a wheat based peanut butter cookie recipe. It contains no dairy if you use the right margarine, but it does contain eggs and obviously it contains nuts. 

Here's my tasty photo again... 

oooohhhhhhh yeaaaaaahhhhh.

You'll need a set of US cups for making these, available from all decent cooking shops, most supermarkets and Poundland or the 99p store. 
If you're a martyr, one US cup is 8FlOz. That's Fluid Ounces, not weight ounces, so I suppose you could use a jug but... use the cups, mmmkay?

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup margarine or butter (butter will render these not dairy free, dont feed them to someone with a dairy allergy or lactose intolerance)

1/3 ish cup lightly packed granulated brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar (granulated, caster, whatever. just not icing/confectioner's sugar)

1 egg

2 cups Gluten Free Self Raising flour blend/ normal SR flour (obviously, don't feed normal flour ones to a gluten free person)

1.5tsp dried pectin powder; sorry but this is an actual essential in a gluten free version, with the xanthen gum in the SR flour, it makes something very much like gluten. Leave out if using normal flour. DO NOT use liquid pectin.

1tsp vanilla extract; (if making GF, be warned, most vanilla extracts are made using nondescript grain alcohol which may or may not be over the <20ppm limit for gluten content which most celiacs seem to react to, so you might be better off just buying and using a vanilla pod, using home made vanilla sugar instead of the white sugar OR planning two weeks ahead, buying two vanilla pods and 1/4 pint Red Square or Smirnoff vodka, or another molasses/potato/rice based vodka and making your own extract. It really is that simple. Use the middle paste of the seeds in something like a cake, stick a couple of the empty pods in a clean jar, pour on vodka and wait...).

1/4tsp salt optional; I like it. They're cookies. They're not meant to be healthy. They're meant to be an occasional treat. That's why they contain a lot of sugar and fat too.

mix peanut butter, butter, sugar, salt, vanilla and beat until fluffier and lighter in colour.
add eggs, beat again. 

in another bowl, mix flour (and pectin) and salt, sprinkle dry into wet and mix well. If it's too solid, add a little more peanut butter. If a little liquid, add a little more flour. It should be a soft yet malleable dough.

put in fridge for at least an hour, overnight apparently works best, but mine were lovely after just an hour.

preheat oven to 180 degrees C ish, you know your oven best. whatever YOU normally cook cakes and stuff on, that'll do.

Line a tray with greaseproof, place balls of the cookie dough about 1.5" diameter on a tray, preferably 1.5" space between them. They don't actually spread that much, but leave the pace just in case. This dough makes about 25 cookies. 

Press on top lightly, until they're a bit less than 7.5mm high. Don't bother measuring, but just know if they're too high, they stay kind of cakey in the middle even after cooling. I did the design on the top of mine using a fork.

Put them in the oven and Watch them. They're crafty little buggers. They go from lovely golden brown to burnt in no time at all. Get your bum off Facebook and sit by the oven for 15-20 mins, ok?!

Bake until golden, put on wire rack to cool and dry out, warm they will still be cakey in the middle but if cool, they should snap and be deliciously short.

Only keep a couple of days if making gluten free, gluten free flour blend products tend to taste a bit stale after about 2 days. If using wheat flour, they keep about a week in an airtight jar.

Would probably work equally as well with any nut butter, I reckon cashew would be delicious.
Would also be awesome with chocolate chips or chunks mixed in once everything else is combined. I can recommend MooFree for this kind of thing, it's pretty heat stable and tastes almost like the real thing. Would also work if you use half smooth and half chunky nut butter.  

Go. Make Cookies. Enjoy. 

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