Lunchbreak: America’s Test Kitchen’s Jack Bishop makes gluten-free oatmeal cookies
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Makes about 24 cookies
9 ounces (3 cups) gluten-free old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup warm tap water
4 ounces (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) almond flour
3 ounces (2/3 cup) ATK Gluten-Free Flour Blend (page 13)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder (see page 20)
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
7 ounces (1 cup packed) brown sugar
3 1/2 ounces (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg, plus 1 large yolk
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup raisins
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Spread oats evenly on rimmed baking sheet and bake until fragrant and lightly browned, about 10 minutes, stirring halfway through baking; cool on wire rack. Transfer half of cooled oats to bowl and stir in water. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit until water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Whisk almond flour, flour blend, salt, baking powder, xanthan gum, and nutmeg together in medium bowl; set aside. Whisk brown sugar, granulated sugar, melted butter, egg and yolk, oil, and vanilla together in large bowl until well combined and smooth. Stir in flour mixture, oat-water mixture, and remaining toasted oats using rubber spatula until soft, homogeneous dough forms. Fold in raisins. Cover bowl with plastic and let dough rest for 30 minutes. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with 2 generous tablespoons of dough at a time, roll into balls and space 2 inches apart on prepared sheets. Press dough to 1/2 inch thickness using bottom of greased measuring cup. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until edges are set and beginning to brown but centers are still soft and puffy, 22 to 25 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking. Let cookies cool on sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Cookies are best eaten on day they are baked, but they can be cooled and placed immediately in airtight container and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.)
The Gluten-Free Fix
Great oatmeal-raisin cookies should be soft and chewy and have a lot of oat flavor, whether they’re made with wheat flour or gluten-free flour. Unfortunately, substituting our flour blend, which is lower in protein and higher in starch compared with all-purpose flour, coupled with the addition of plenty of moisture-absorbing rolled oats, created a dry, tough cookie. To achieve the right balance of tender crumb and slight chew, here’s what we did.
Use Butter and Oil:
A traditional oatmeal-raisin cookie uses butter, not oil. Butter provides good nutty flavor that complements oats, and it provides moisture. Butter (unlike oil) is not a pure fat: It contains about 18 percent water. During baking, that water turns to steam, which gives the cookie a little extra rise and also creates a more tender crumb. However, in our gluten-free version, we found that using only butter for the fat gave us a cookie that had a more cakelike than cookielike texture. Swapping in some oil for butter (we settled on a 4:1 ratio of butter to oil) helped make our cookies less cakey.
Add Almond Flour:
The oil helped to make our cookies less cakey, but they needed to be chewier still, plus they baked up flat. We looked to our flour blend as the next ingredient to tweak. Just as with all-purpose flour, the proteins in the blend form an elastic structure around the starches. But the low protein content in the blend translates to less structure in the cookie. To boost the protein–and thus give our cookies more substance and chew–we swapped in 4 ounces of high-protein almond flour for a portion of our blend. With about three times as much protein, this substitution made a huge improvement.
Skip the Soda, Add the Powder:
Many cookie recipes contain baking powder and baking soda. Baking soda interferes with proteins in the flour (in both gluten-free and -all-purpose flour) that create structure, causing the cookies to spread. We found baking soda didn’t do our cookies any favors; the dough spread out into a thin layer around a clump of oats. For even spread and distribution of oats, we were better off omitting the soda and simply pressing each portion of dough into a 1/2 inch-thick cookie before baking. Baking powder was a keeper, giving our cookies the proper rise and a tender crumb.
Soak the Oats:
The real key to making our cookies soft and tender lay in the amount of moisture in our dough and how it was incorporated. Starchy gluten-free flour blends soak up lots of moisture, as do oats, and the liquid from the eggs, butter, and sugar wasn’t enough for this cookie dough. For a dough that was moist but not overly loose, we found the key was adding water to some of the oats and letting them sit for 10 minutes. Once the liquid was absorbed, we stirred the oats into the dough. This gave us just the right soft, tender cookie.