An Adventure with Peanut Butter Cookies, Gluten Free

by Jenn on August 5, 2010

in Desserts,Gluten Free,Photography,Tastes

Peanut Butter Cookies

Flour-based cookies seem to be my gluten free nemesis.  I’ve never gotten sugar cookies right, and my chocolate chip ones just turn into a flat melty mess unless I bake them in a bowl to become a mini cookie cake – sometimes, one has to get creative and work with the failures 😉

But these I am determined to convert, and convert with resounding success.  I started working on the recepe development to adapt a family recipe for peanut butter cookies.  It’s been, well, let’s just say it’s been educational.

It took six.  Six batches.  Yes, it took six different trials of baking cookies – mixing together dough, carefully rolling out each rounded cookie, smashing them down with a fork oh so gently, slipping into the oven and saying a little prayer to the gluten free gods.  And with each new batch, the disappointment intensified.  I tried different flours, different ratios, different cooking times.  And I ended up with a giant bowl  full of all the crumbled memories of peanut butter cookie failures, each begging me not to end their fleeting existence with a trip to the rubbish bin (don’t worry, they didn’t, the ended up on top of ice cream instead).  But, by the time I got through to batch #6, I had cookies.  Rich, softish peanut buttery goodness, gluten free.  And the disappointments from all the previous failures turned into pure joy :)  They are not quite as awesome as my dad’s grandmother’s famous cookies (well, famous in our family), but they are close.  Oh they are so close.

The first batch was way too liquidy – the batter practically poured onto the silpat.  It turns out that the Crisco shortening this recipe was most assuredly historically used with is a bit different from the graisse végétale that I purchase here, which has a distinctly lower melting point than I was used to (yep, there’s that chemistry nerd-speak coming out!).  It had the consistency more akin to a very soft butter, which totally changed the wet/dry ingredient proportions.  The more I think about this fact the more I think I will have to reformulate this recipe again next time I am home in the States.  I ended up figuring out that I needed about 5/3 the flour that the original recipe called for.  I’m not sure if this is because of the gluten free alternates that I used or the difference in shortening, but I’m going to bet that it was the consistency of the shortening that required me to almost double the flour content.

The first batch taught me another valuable lesson – my silpat is bigger than my toaster oven.  Trying to fold/roll a silpat in a hot oven with melting cookie dough is not a good idea.  Just go grab the parchment paper instead.

I tested two types of flour – a pre-made mix I have in my cupboard and my own mix, which used several of the same flours.  Pre-made mixes don’t tell you the amounts, but I am pretty sure my version had a higher starch content (1/3 tapioca), and I think that benefited the cookies well.  I think the starch helped homogenize the ingredients a bit better than my other flour ingredients, and so a higher starch content meant an improved consistency.

I’m not quite done with the recipe, but I’m getting there.  The last batch I made was so successful.  They weren’t hard.  They didn’t fall apart.  They were soft, slightly chewy.  They definitely would pass as some pretty good peanut butter cookies.  Maybe even very good gluten free ones.  But they are not quite the same as the old family recipe makes.  Not yet.  I’ve still got some ideas, some ratios and proportions to tweak.  And if I can’t improve upon my current version, I know I at least have a result that everyone should enjoy :)


It’s coming along slowly, but it’s coming.  I’m trying to be somewhat methodical in my efforts.  But each tweak, even slight, has resulted in improvements, so I know I’m moving along the right direction.  Soon, I’ll have perfect peanut butter gluten free cookies to share!  Until then, while it may feel to me (and maybe also to you) like I’m moving at a snail’s pace with this, I wanted to assure you that I am making strides, and those strides are delicious.  Actually, the snail above moved quite quickly in the rain, it was hard to get a shot of him (or her?) in focus!  So maybe a snail’s pace is not a bad way to go :)

Have you adapted a flour containing cookie recipe to be gluten free before?  How did it come out?  Were there any other changes to the recipe that you needed to make?