Our kitchen has been gluten free for nearly two years. Back in February of 2010, our daughter Charlie was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. She was just over one and a half years old at the time. As a result of her diagnosis, all gluten, save the occasional flour tortilla and Justin’s beer, has been banished from the kitchen and pantry. After all the testing was over and her doctor finally gave me the green light to change her diet, I jumped right into the gluten free world and haven’t looked back.
While she is absolutely one of the greatest things in my life, I have also come to realize that she is lucky to have a mom who’s skill set revolves around the kitchen. I can’t imagine what her childhood and adult life would be like if I didn’t like being in the kitchen, willing to learn how to bake and cook, from scratch, gluten free. The number of G-Free products in the grocery stores are only increasing and tasting better and better, which is great. But store bought items don’t compare to something freshly baked or made in your own kitchen.
Prior to our G-Free life, if I was “famous” for anything, other than talking too much and maybe being an over-sharer, it was probably for my cookies. Specifically my Reese’s Peanut Butter Chip and chocolate chip cookies. Cookies are wonderful things, of course, but I love the dough more then the baked form; as a result I always try to under bake cookies. I like to describe these cookies as cookie dough with a little integrity. I pull them out of the oven when the middle is still shiny and they threaten to break apart if taken off the cookie sheet too quickly. They are sturdy enough and hold together after they are cooled. They are uber moist and have a great bite—they’re just really good. I haven’t figured out why, but for some reason I can only make them a certain size; which is pretty big. Some people have asked me to make them smaller, but everyone seems to be very happy when the regular size shows up.
One of the first thoughts I had when we received Charlie’s diagnosis was, “she won’t ever be able to eat my cookies.” I have to admit that I did mourn that loss for her; and still do from time to time. It may seem silly to mourn for a one and a half year-old (now three and a half) over a cookie, but the Celiac diagnosis meant a fundamental shift in the day-to-day goings on in our kitchen and mealtime. Many of my favorite memories revolve around the kitchen and I assumed my kid’s memories would too. In a way, my mourning for her over the cookie (and the crepes I had planned to eat with her on our future mother and daughter trips to Paris) was an easier way to wrap my head around the fact that I needed to immediately stop doing what I knew so well and was good at, and start doing something new and foreign. Baking is baking and I get the process, but I wanted and needed to be able to create yummy things that were kind to Charlie’s belly and also yummy to eat, for her, our family and friends. Who would be excited over a bland or a dense-as-a-brick cookie or birthday cake? Not me, and the last thing I want is for her or Auggie's future friends is to think that our house only has funny or things that aren't good to eat. (Doesn't everyone remember the friend's house that smelled weird or only had not yummy things to eat? I don't want to be that house.) Since her diagnosis, I have been trying and trying and trying to re-create that cookie. I completely understand that I will never be able to replicate that cookie exactly in G-Free form and it is probably futile to even try, but I'm stubborn. I love that cookie so much and it has brought so many smiles to so many people, that I can’t not try to get as close as possible.
I will post the “in the works” G-Free recipe in Chocolate Chip Cookie Part 2, but I am going to give you the original recipe first. Even though this blog will mainly include Gluten Free recipes, a great recipe is a great recipe, G-Free or not. It seems important to include the recipe that has evolved over time and has been part of a few of the biggest events, and a lot of the little events, in my life. This cookie and I go way back. I do still make them, just not as often as I used to, and now I bake them in my mom’s new kitchen. It is kind of nice to make a mess in someone else’s kitchen—maybe it even makes my mom feel like I’m in high school again.
Reese’s Peanut Butter Chip and Chocolate Chip Cookie
2 sticks of butter at room temperature (I use salted butter)
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup light brown sugar
2 eggs (ideally closer to room temperature as well)
2 ¾ cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
½ bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips
½ bag of semisweet chocolate chips
A note on chocolate chips: I have yet to meet two people who like the same amount of chocolate chips in their cookie. So feel free to add more or less of either chip. I love more chips and my husband does not (he will actually watch me pour the chips in the bowl to make sure I don’t add too many).
In a medium bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (flour, salt, and baking soda) and set aside.
Add butter and both sugars into the bowl of a standing mixer. Using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together on medium speed until the butter and sugars lighten a bit in color. Of course you don't need a standing mixer to make cookies. These cookies can be made by hand or with a hand mixer. Please note that the dough will be much easier to make if all the ingredients are brought fully to room temperature, yes, even the eggs.
Scrape the sides and on medium/low speed beat in each egg one at a time.
Scrape sides, and add the vanilla, mixing until well combined.
Add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl, one third at a time, mixing on low after each addition until the dry ingredients are almost completely incorporated. The trick is to not over mix, as any additional mixing will just encourage the gluten in the flour to toughen. (Gluten, is a fabulous stabilizer, and is the "frame-work" and structure in baked goods. When handled appropriately, gluten helps create wonderfully chewy and elastic characteristics--picture a perfect baguette. But if over worked dough will toughen and lose its delicate and light texture.) Keeping the mixing of the flour to a bare minimum helps maintain the silkiness of the cookie. The addition of extra flour in this recipe (compared to other chocolate chip cookie recipes) helps create the bulk of the cookie while also helping hide the graininess of the sugars.
Next add the chips, gently mixing them with the mixer. The chips can also be folded in by hand. I tend to do a short mix with the mixer and then finish incorporating the chips into the dough by hand.
Scoop the dough with a spoon, and drop, evenly distanced apart, on a cookie sheet.
Bake on the middle rack in a 375 degree oven until the edges just start to turn golden but the middle is still a bit shiny, about 9 to 12 min depending on the size of the cookie. I tend to make bigger cookies because the middle of the cookie is my favorite part, a bigger cookie = more middle.
Let the baked cookies rest on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before moving to a cooling rack.
This cookie dough freezes really well (as do the cookies). I usually double the recipe and freeze either portioned dough balls or the baked cookies. Doubling the recipe also makes it easier with the bags of chips because you don’t need to measure out ½ of each bag, just dump them both in the bowl.