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Gums be gone - gum free, gluten free chocolate chip cookies

Posted Jan 13 2011 10:32pm
I began this gluten-free life very wary of any ingredients I didn’t recognize as food.  This wasn’t anything particularly new for me, although playing investigator each time I picked up a product at the grocery store, looking for ‘hidden’ gluten, did make my disdain for unpronounceable ingredient lists even more pronounced.  

My motto has always been something along the lines of “real is always better than manufactured, even if it is higher in fat, sugar, cholesterol, or whatever is the current media’s ‘evil’ food.” 

Next time you are in the grocery store, flip over a container of low calorie, low fat ice cream .  Then flip over a container of real ice cream, something like Haagen Dazs ‘five.'   Compare the nutritional value and the ingredient list.  Pound for pound, I’ll take the full-fat variety.

You can imagine my reluctance, then, when I began this gluten-free life and I discovered words like “xanthan gum” and “guar gum” were common in many gluten free recipes.  Not only would I be eating these non-foods, I would have to stock them in my kitchen!  

The horrors
Eventually I gave in, thinking, not unlike a teenage girl, “Everybody else is using them, I guess they must be okay.”  But, I've continued to somewhat cringe each time I use the xanthan gum, and I have always used less in my own baking than typical recipes. "Just enough to keep it all from crumbling," is how I think of it.
Then, Shauna (a.k.a., the Gluten Free Girl ) brings up this topic on Facebook – do others suffer from stomach issues when eating xanthan or guar gums?  The response was overwhelmingly, “yes!!”  As I read through the responses, the light-bulb that turned on in my brain was so bright you could have seen it from space
This might be why I can’t tolerate the majority of gluten-free prepackaged products and mixes.  I could never figure out why I developed stomach upset from eating these products, when the ingredient lists contained all things I would use in my own kitchen.  I had previously determined the company must use more sugar or yeast or something that I don’t do at home.  Now I wonder if it is because the company uses more xanthan gum than I would at home.
Shauna claims we don’t need gums at all to hold our baked goods together and that the notion of using gums is antiquated, coming from a time when rice flour and potato starch were THE options for gluten free baking.  Now that we have other wonderful flours, such as teff, millet, quinoa, and amaranth, we can better bind our batter without gums (say that three times fast!).  
Do I feel some experimenting coming on?  

I'm not sure if these gums are the real culprit, but I'm excited nonetheless to try to rid my kitchen of them.  So, of course, I've started to test the idea that gluten free baked goods could be successful without them.  I had been tweaking my chocolate chip cookie recipe and decided to add a xanthan gum bake-off.  In one weekend, I created two exact batches of gluten free chocolate chip cookies, one with xanthan gum and one without. 
They looked, felt, and tasted exactly the same!  Even Ben couldn’t tell the difference (though he did want to try more cookies, just to make sure…).
Of course the real test will be breads and muffins, but I have already had some success with these in the past , sans gums, and I’m looking forward to some more experimenting! A big high-five to Shauna for bringing this to our attention!
Gluten free chocolate chip cookies This recipe is the result of some variation testing on flours and baking agents. The resulting cookie is buttery, crunchy on the edges, and soft inside.  I removed the xanthan gum completely with perfect success.  As always with chocolate chip cookies, use butter that is just soft enough to cream with the sugar (not melted at all).  Also, I use raw sugar in all of my baking and it gives the finished product a lot more flavor than refined sugar.
3/4 cup quinoa flour
1 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup salted butter
1 cup raw sugar (turbinado)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
8 oz chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F.
Mix flours and baking soda in a medium bowl to create one homogeneous flour mixture.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until well blended.  Stir in eggs and vanilla. Add flour, about a third at a time, stirring until just incorporated.  Add chocolate chips.  The mixture will be quite tough at this point, and you might want to use your hands.

Roll dough into golf-ball sized balls and place on a plate so they are all ready to go.  

Place the balls about an inch or so apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet and flatten with your hand or the back of a spatula to about 1/2-inch thick (see below).  Bake at 350F for about 15 minutes. 

Place remaining balls of dough in the refrigerator in between batches.

Allow to cool baked cookies on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.
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