March 22, 2011

Ugly but Good Chocolate Cookies

This is possibly the ugliest cookie I've ever made. They looked like cow poop with mold growing on it.

I am not trying to be rude here, just being honest with the first dismal thoughts that entered my head when I took the cookies out of the oven. Nevertheless, we let them cool, and tasted them and they were good. Chewy and fudgy, and the texture did not betray the presence of flaxseed meal. They are truly like bites of brownies. This is another cookie that I baked for my friend K. It is again from Elizabeth Gordon's "Allergy-free Desserts" and in her book she named them "Chocolate Crinkle Cookies." But as those of you on Facebook already know, these cookies did not look one bit like those shown in the photo in her book: even-sized, rather flat and perfectly round, with cracks on them that look like how a dry cracking ground does, during a drought.

Maybe it's because I did not use palm fruit oil shortening as Gordon did. That was her replacement of choice for butter, but K is thankfully not allergic to dairy, and since I do not have any palm fruit oil shortening and am terribly in favor of butter, I used glorious yellow butter. Another thing I did different was to reduce the sugar a tad. I did not pack the light brown sugar and took out about 3 tablespoons of the granulated sugar. (I still find this cookie a touch too sweet for my taste, but I tend to not like my baked goods too sweet.) I found that the dough did not form into balls as easily as I thought they would, so I used fingers dusted with powdered sugar to form them into balls, then coat them with the powdered sugar, shaking off excess before placing them on the cookie sheet.

The truth is, with familiarity (having looked at the cookies more than 24 hours now) and with repeated tasting, I have come to accept this cookie. I fondly call it "The Dark Horse," but here I shall call them "Ugly but Good Chocolate cookies." They are a great gluten-free, egg-free choice and I am glad they turned out delicious. I can imagine how hard it is to be on a restricted diet, and having something good and somewhat familiar to put into one's hungry belly is a blessing. It makes me grateful that we can eat almost anything in our household.

So my friend M wisely told me to post a picture of the ugly cookie, as it would be a great life lesson to learn not to judge by looks. How true! I remember once I made a salad dressing with minced tomatoes and when I first poured it onto the salad leaves it looked like vomit to me. Maybe I have visual issues. But in any case, I am sure this example is not isolated, I am sure others have looked upon visually replusive food, and then tasted it to realize the virtue of its good taste. What is good for you may not look good either (example: kefir grains. But I won't tell you how I describe them, for otherwise this post will be composed of too many off-putting descriptions!).

To play off the ugliness of the cookie, I chose a dainty plate with one of my favorites flowers -- the peony. I actually had fun photographing it. I hope this recipe gives some food for thought, and may come useful one day for someone yearning for some chocolate goodness with no allergens in it. Below is the original recipe, with my modifications in parenthesis.

"Beauty and the Beast"

Gordon's Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
(hereby affectionately known as Ugly but Good GF, egg-free chocolate cookies)
original recipe by Elizabeth Gordon, "Allergy-free desserts"
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed meal
  • 1½ cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All-Purpose Baking Flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 cup organic palm fruit oil shortening (I used one cup butter, at room temperature)
  • ¾ cup packed dark brown sugar (I did not pack it in)
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar (used a bit less, probably 3 tablespoons less)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup confectioners sugar, sifted
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the water and flaxseed meal and allow to thicken for 3 to 5 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and xanthan gum.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the shortening (butter), brown sugar, and granulated sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add in the vanilla and the flaxseed meal mixture, and beat until it is fluffy and the flaxseed is thoroughly mixed in. Add in the flour mixture and mix the batter until thoroughly combined.
  4. Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of the dough into the confectioners sugar, rolling the cookies around to form balls. (If this does not work, dust fingers with powdered sugar, lightly form dough into balls and then roll in sugar.
  5. Place the balls 2 inches apart, to allow for spreading, on the prepared baking sheets. 
  6. Bake for 14 minutes or until the tops of the cookies no longer look wet (I baked both sheets at the same time, rotating about halfway through.)
  7.  Transfer the baking sheets from the oven to cooling racks and cool for 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies directly onto the racks to cool completely. 
  8. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.


  1. Your description of this poor, vilified cookie made me laugh so hard, I snorted. Now, I'm just dying to hear how you describe kefir grains! Come on, please share? I'll share that I think your posts are a joy to read and your recipes are so varied and delicious and delightful! Hoping that your move goes smoothly and, somewhat selfishly, that you keep on blogging about food and about life for a long time.
    Dr. Cat

  2. oh, Cathy, thank you for your feedback! I am glad my post made you laugh! Truly, not all my recipes are NT-approved, but I try not to feel guilty, and provide a variety of food (as healthy as possible) that we can enjoy without feeling like every meal has to be healthy cardboard and tough chewy greens.
    ok, kefir grains: they are like snot. If I want my friend to try kefir, I will say , "Oh, they just look like mushy cauliflower!" And once they are familiar with it, I ask, "Don't they remind you of blobs of snot?!" :-)