seven days of fiestas /// chocolate chip cookies (vegan + gluten free)

December 6th is el día de Quito, the anniversary of Quito’s founding in 1534 by Spanish conquistadors (although native tribes were here centuries before that). This whole week it’s been one constant party.

Last Saturday we decorated our Christmas tree and the rest of the house. This is the first time I’ve ever had a fake tree- Christmas tree farms aren’t so common (i.e. they don’t exist) in Ecuador. Technically the house is all decorated for Christmas now, but when your actual mother is obsessed with all things Christmas and has five million Santa figurines along with a host of other decorations, anything not as elaborate tends to appear under done.

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Sunday the German girl that my Ecuadorian family hosted five years ago came to lunch. (She’s back in Ecuador for the semester to do research for her university thesis). It was definitely interesting to hear about some common experiences we’ve shared as well as what she’s doing now. Despite the fact that my German is fluent and my Spanish is…not, we spoke the entire time en español. Cause I can do that now, something that still kind of shocks me.

Wednesday there was a free Sting concert in a park near my friends house- paid for by the city because fiestas de Quito means its okay to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to bring in foreign rock stars. You needed tickets to get in and there weren’t any left, but we listened from her bedroom.

Thursday I went with some friends to a celebration of Quito at one of their schools, and Friday my school decided to celebrate instead of have classes. Apparently we have a band, and they were actually pretty good. Each class from kindergarten to seniors selected a Quiteña bonita (aka, pretty girl from Quito). After that there was presentation of one of Quito’s legends from third graders- for some reason I’m confused about it was in English. And then I may have left early to make cookies. No judging.

So about cookies…

At the age of eleven I developed an affinity for chocolate chip cookies. Baking them, that is. At that time I got home from school before my parents got home from work, and I would call my mom about 3 times a week asking to bake. Usually the answer was yes, even though I never did the dishes and was always threatened that I wouldn’t be allowed to bake again if I left them in the sink for the millionth time. I also may have forgotten to turn the oven off a time or two, but…. I never burned the house down, so that counts for something, right?

My early cookies were definitely not gluten free, and not even vegan. I followed the recipe off the back of Nestle’s bag of chocolate chips (which I ate more than I baked with). When I went vegan, I began adapting the recipe and making it my own, first with solid vegetable crisco in place of butter (gag); I wasn’t particularly concerned with health back then.

This recipe changed again when I went to Germany and instead of cooking with measuring cups learned to cook with grams; which in all honesty is a hell of a lot less cleanup and therefore my preferred method. But back in the states I didn’t have a modern kitchen scale, just an antique that is more for show than anything but works if you need to weigh pounds of potatoes.

Then, I went gluten free. And became more health conscious. So the recipe evolved. After that I came to Ecuador, where I haven’t been able to get my hands on all of those ingredients (dying for coconut oil to cook with), so it’s become something different yet again.

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Ingredients

  • 1 flax egg (1 tbsp ground flaxseed, 3 tbsp water)
  • 1/2 cup vegan butter
  • 1/2 cup vegan cane sugar (fine crystals)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar OR coconut sugar
  • rather large splash of vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup rice flour + 2 tbsp
  • 1/2 cup quinoa flour
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2/3 cup vegan chocolate chips
    Optional extras: few dashes of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, dried cranberries, raisins, shredded coconut, oats

Line a tray with parchment paper (NOT aluminum foil, here’s why) and preheat oven to 350 F / 175 C. First make the flax egg by combining the flaxseed and water in a small bowl and set to the side. Cream the vegan butter and sugar together. If you don’t have a stand mixer, hand mixer, or even a whisk, a fork will work. Add the flax egg, vanilla, and salt, and mix some more. Then add the rice flour, quinoa flour, cornstarch, and baking powder and thoroughly combine until you’ve got dough. Finally add the chocolate chips and mix. I used 2/3 c, but really, just pour some in until you’ve got your desired ratio of chocolate to dough. In the U.S. I generally use half a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Spoon onto the pan and bake for about 18 minutes. These will spread while they’re baking. They might not look done after the time is up, but if you take them out and let them cool they’ll be fine. Makes 20 cookies.

Notes: If you can get your hands on coconut oil, I’m almost certain that using it in place of the vegan butter would work just fine. Likewise, if you’d like to decrease the amount of calories, try replacing half of the vegan butter (or coconut oil) with applesauce. If you do that, you could probably get away with decreasing the amount of granulated sugar by 1/4 cup. These cookies are already very sweet, so if you’d like to decrease it by 1/4 cup anyway, go for it (although I haven’t tried this and can’t attest to the results). If you don’t have flaxseed, use chia seeds instead. Grind the chia seeds in a coffee grinder and use the same measurements. If you don’t have rice or quinoa flour, replace them with gluten free all purpose flour (NOT a bean based one though, because that will alter the taste). If you use an all purpose flour you can eliminate the tablespoon of cornstarch. If you don’t have a gf all purpose flour either, try using other mild tasting gf flours (I’ve only made this particular recipe with rice and quinoa, but I’ve had success with other flours in other cookie recipes). These cookies are very flat, so if you want them to rise a bit more try chilling the dough for 30 minutes before baking.

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