Sunday, September 8, 2013

Ani's Cookies

Ani's gluten-free cookies
Ani's cookies, with (vegan) chocolate chips

Analisa Raya-Flores (otherwise known as Ani) and I are kind of like soul-sisters. We're both teeny-tiny (although I have a whopping 2 inches on her five-foot frame), we both love the outdoors, and all kinds of other good things that I will not expand upon here.

When I first met Ani, she won me over with her stories of cooking big, ridiculous vegan feasts for her friends. Having just moved from North Carolina, where that was also one of my primary pastimes, I couldn't wait to share some meals with Ani.

Ani (above) and me (below) hiking in Topanga Canyon

Despite living in the same city for over a year, Ani and I never quite got around to making a big feast together. We were both on opposite sides of the vast city that is Los Angeles, and I was super-swamped with grad school. That didn't stop us, however, from getting together for a fairly regular vegan brunch (traditionally at Real Food Daily) and/or hike. And the few times that I did host some type of dinner event, Ani would bring along some devastatingly delicious baked goods to accompany everything.

Ani was the first person I met who really tackled veganism like I did--excited and happy to take up the challenge of making good food for yourself and others. In fact, she made it seem effortless!

Aside from being a talented writer, Ani also nannies for some really great kids. One of the children has some very acute food allergies, however, so Ani quickly set to work learning how to make things he could eat. She told me tales of experimentation and innovation, trying to utilize ingredients that this child could not just eat, but enjoy, baking with ingredients that I'd never even heard of before. In the end, Ani could throw together a batch of cookies with no trouble at all, easily choosing from all of the options laid out before her (of course it helped that the family she was working for had a well-stocked kitchen!).

When I started writing this blog, Ani was one of the first people I thought of. At some point we'd jokingly discussed making a cookbook together--Ani, as I've mentioned, is not just a talented writer, but also an hilarious one. I still believe that her witticism and creativity in the kitchen, combined with my own skills and interests would make for a pretty great book! But, in the meanwhile...I asked her for a recipe.

Here I have a confession to make. I asked Ani for this recipe ages ago (as in, last February). So Ani sent me this recipe. And as I stared at the list of ingredients, I felt very intimidated. Flax meal? Coconut oil? Just a few months ago these ingredients seemed quite foreign to me, but they've since become a well-integrated part of my kitchen (see my "Vegan Pantry" page). But also, I can tell you now with some confidence: don't be afraid! As it turned out, because of some more adventuresome recipes I'd tried out in recent months, I had all the ingredients I needed except the flour, so that was easy enough.

I decided to make the gluten-free version, since many people I know have recently switched over to a gluten-free diet. In fact, we have some family visiting this weekend that will definitely appreciate some gluten-free cookies!

So, here it is, straight from Ani's fingers to your eyes (or something like that). Be sure to check below for different variations and suggestions.
Ani's gluten-free cookies
Ani's Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen cookies
What You'll Need
1.5 cups gluten-free oat flour
1 cup Bob's all-purpose baking flour
1/2 cup white sugar*
1/2 cup maple sugar (or brown..but maple is a fun twist)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup tapioca or arrowroot flour (or corn starch, which is cheaper!)
1/4 cup flax meal or almond meal (gives it a great nutty flavor)
1 tbsp vanilla extract (yes, 1tablespoon)
splash (tiny splash!) of almond extract
6 tbsp apple sauce
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp coconut oil (melted)
1-1.5 tsp xantham gum**

For mix-ins, I alternate between pecans and chocolate chunks or chips (vegan of course!)

What You'll Need to Do
Mix up the dry, then add in the wet...

Place 1-inch balls about 2-inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 350F for approximately 12 minutes (until starting to turn golden brown around the edges).

Ani's Tips and Tricks
Instead of the flours listed above, you can also use 1 cup gluten-free oat flour, and 1/2 cup each millet flour, sorghum flour, and potato starch.

This recipe works with safflower or veggie oil as well, but I prefer the flavor profile of the coconut).

*Not all granulated sugar is considered equal...some is not considered strictly vegan. See my "Vegan Pantry" page for more on this.

**These cookies do better with a touch of xantham gum, but it can be really expensive. It seems some companies recognize this, and have started selling it in smaller quantities (because a little goes a looong way!). When I tried making these cookies, I used only a teeny-tiny amount (1/4 tsp), and they turned out very tasty. The issue is that the gum helps with binding, so when my boyfriend took some cookies to work and back, they came back a bit crumbled (but still delicious!). Many gluten-free recipes do call for xantham gum, but its use is definitely up for discussion on some blogs. I think ground up chia seeds may be an alternative option. Ani and I will do some experimenting, and get back to you with an update on this.

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