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?


Rosa August 5, 2010 at 11:49 pm

Those are my favorite! A cute snail pic!



Jenn August 6, 2010 at 8:01 am

Thanks! There were so many of them out yesterday in the rain!

Sara Lynn August 6, 2010 at 7:57 am

Awwwww. I was hoping to see the peanut butter cookie recipe somewhere. They look mouthwatering.

Jenn August 6, 2010 at 8:00 am

Thanks! I’m almost ready to share the recipe, just a few more tweaks!

MaryMoh August 6, 2010 at 1:46 pm

The cookies look very delicious. Wonderful to know you did not give up 😀 Would love to see the recipe. Thanks very much for sharing.

Jenn August 6, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Thank you! I’m not done yet!! :)

Deanna August 6, 2010 at 1:47 pm

I’m glad you’re having success! I can’t wait to see the final recipe. Of course, since I’m not in Europe I won’t be able to get your shortening. :(

I adapted another of our favorites this week. I’ve found that sorghum flour is really your friend in cookie adaptations. I’m hoping to get the recipe posted this weekend. I meant to do it on Wednesday, but time slipped away and then somehow (don’t ask me how) all the cookies got eaten before any pictures were taken. Harumph. How’d that happen?!?

Jenn August 6, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Oh that’s great to know! I am really a big fan of sorghum flavor, it just has a really great texture for baking and a mild flavor that blends well with just about everything. Can’t wait to see the recipe! Haha and glad to know you enjoyed them!

Next time I am in the US I will rework it – you may have to wait a few months, but I promise my father in law will be wanting me to make a batch… :)

Lisa August 6, 2010 at 1:51 pm

Trial and error, never give up! Thanks for sharing you’re baking adventures and I’m glad they finally turned out. Its amazing how science plays into baking and cooking. Cheers to a successful cookie (=

Jenn August 6, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Thanks!! Yes it is quite ironic how much I think about science when I cook… considering cooking is what I do to relax after a long week at work! Ha now would be a great time for my high school chemistry teacher to say one of his famous lines about “chemistry is everywhere”…. lol I always thought back then that he was just trying to be funny until 8 years of college later I can say it’s 100% true.

Heather @CeliacFamily August 7, 2010 at 8:12 pm

They look good to me. I’ll be waiting patiently for the perfected recipe. :)

Jenn August 12, 2010 at 9:20 am

Thanks! Soon I promise!

Kim - Cook It Allergy Free August 10, 2010 at 12:08 am

This sounds very reminiscent of my almond flour version of chocolate chip cookies. My first batch was like liquid, my second was a crumbly disaster, my third and fourth were edible (but looked sort of like lace cookies0, and finally got it right on the fifth time around. I should have just been smart and tried Elana’s (Elanas Pantry) recipe from the start. LOL!
Anyway, now I do not dare deviate in the slightest from my recipe for fear I will have another expensive batch of unedible cookies!
Your final experiment looks like it was the winner though! Great determination!
Btw, that is an adorable little snail! ;0)

Jenn August 12, 2010 at 9:21 am

haha, I know that feeling as well! my pie crust is the same – I have one that works well, and deviations from my recipe are rare indeed :)

bake in paris August 10, 2010 at 6:55 am

Don’t worry, we will be patiently waiting here…

For now, this is just wonderful enough to enjoy :-)

Sawadee from bangkok,

Jenn August 12, 2010 at 9:21 am

Thank you!

Janice August 10, 2010 at 8:37 am

Keep up with the chocolate chip cookies. I’ve found a few things help minimize the spread factor. Sorghum flour works as a really good binder. When I omit it, there are considerably more problems. I sometimes amp up the baking powder slightly, and when converting cookie recipes to gluten-free, lower the baking temp by 25 degrees. Mixing by hand seems to help, and I also let the cookie dough sit overnight in the fridge. Finally, vegetable shortening vs. butter also helps.

Jenn August 12, 2010 at 9:22 am

I usually always mix by hand, I find that GF dough doesn’t like to be handled much. Yeah these are with shortening as well. I like your idea of lowering the baking temp a bit, I will try that next time!

Jodie August 12, 2010 at 2:54 am

I found the recipe on my jar of Kraft peanut butter cookies really easy to make: 1 cup of peanut butter, 1 egg, 1/2 cup of sugar, roll into 24 balls, flatten with a fork, and bake at 325 for 15 minutes.

Jenn August 12, 2010 at 9:24 am

Yep, that’s a great standard flourless pb cookie recipe! And they are great and yummy naturally GF cookies, but they are not the old family recipe :)

fragolina August 31, 2010 at 7:18 am

Beautiful snail picture!! This snail looks cute and pretty. I wonder how people can eat such creatures!!

Jenn August 31, 2010 at 9:21 am

Thanks! Yes, I thought this one looked cute and pretty too :) But I have no problem eating some delicious Burgundian snails either….

Sally JPA September 2, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Hey, Jenn. I just found your blog from your comment on another blog. :) Enjoying reading through your posts. And envious of your photo from Switzerland! sigh.

There’s a number of recipes for the stiff, Christmas-decoration-style gluten-free sugar cookies out there. I have recently developed chewy sugar cookies successfully both gluten-free and egg-free. (I kept thinking they’d be easier with eggs, but perhaps not since you’re having a time with it.) I included the recipe in my September newsletter that just went out, so if you want to subscribe to my newsletter, I’ll send it out to you. :)

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