My daughter was home last month for Winter break and that is when these cookies first got done. She bought me two small packs of lemon flavoured cookies and chocolate flavoured cookies, the vegan and gluten free kind. I fell in love with the lemony cookies and finished them off the same day (10 in a pack). They were quite expensive and I realised we needed to come up with a homemade version to keep up with the appetite. The shop bought ones could not be sustained in the long run.
H also brought 2 packs of vegan butter and I decided to put it to good use. Vegan butter is a rare thing to come by in India. It took me three batches to perfect the recipe. You can flavour it with spices of your choice. I like cardamom, lemon, five spice and star anise in my cookies – separately of course.
The cookies are extremely light, crisp and ‘melt-in-mouth’. H says ‘such stuff’ should be had with hot chocolate. Hmm… sound suggestion, no?
The cookie dough should be soft and supple, capable of being piped out of an icing bag (like ‘murukku’ or ‘chakli’ dough). If not, I suggest that you add a tbsp. of butter or coconut cream, beat the mix again till it is pipe-able. You can see that I have some typical round cookies as well as the traditional piped ones. I was just curious to see whether they roll out well. They do. But you have to be just a wee bit careful. If you want to roll them let the dough rest for 10-15 minutes, place it on your work surface and make smooth balls of small sizes. Flatten the dough between cling film, wrap and refrigerate for 15-20 minutes before rolling.
Please stick to the recipe if making for the first time. I often have readers who modify recipes and later ask me why their results varied.
I packed some of the cookies in a self-sealing paper bag that earlier held star anise. H says these cookies tasted the best of the lot. So, if you want to infuse them with flavours of your favourite spices you know what to do.
The piped cookies were piped to about 5 cm each with a large star nozzle fitted to an icing bag in which I placed the cookie dough. The round cookies were about an inch and half in diameter and about 3 – 4 mm thick.
Back then I used almonds, refined flour (maida) and butter. This time I used hazelnuts, sweet superfine rice flour and vegan olive oil based butter to make the cookies. We were pleasantly surprised as these cookies are even better than any store bought cookies – gluten free or otherwise.
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Recipe: Hazelnut cookies – piped, gluten free
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Baking Time: 12-15 minutes per batch
Yield: 80-90 cookies
Dairy free, vegan butter, at room temperature – 200g
Caster sugar or powdered sugar – 150g
1 vanilla bean
A dash of pink salt
Thick coconut cream (I used canned) – About 4 tbsp / 50g
Hazelnut meal or homemade hazelnut flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill once and homemade on another occasion) – 100g
Superfine rice flour (I used ‘Nerapara idiyappam flour’) – 200g
Cornstarch / Cornflour – 200g
Oven temperature – 180 deg. Celsius.
A round 1.5″ cookie cutter for the round cookies and a large star nozzle for the piped cookies
A piping bag, silicone mat or parchment paper
Preheat oven to 180 deg. Celsius.
Whisk butter, salt, vanilla and sugar together using a hand blender till light and creamy. Add coconut cream and fold. Add the hazelnut meal into the mix and whisk again for a minute.
Sift cornflour and superfine rice flour together twice to blend. Add the mixture a cup at a time to the butter mixture and fold evenly with a wooden or silicone spatula. Continue adding the flour and mix until the dough is firm enough to be pressed out of an icing bag. It should be soft and sticky at this stage. The dough will firm up more as it rests.
To make piped cookies:
Fit an icing bag with a large size nozzle of your choice and fill some of the batter into it. Pipe out 2-3 inch long cookies onto a silicone mat or parchment paper, leaving some space in between. They do not spread much. If they spread, it indicates excess fat. You can counter by incorporating a little flour – try a tablespoon at a time. Refrigerate for 10 minutes while the oven is being pre-heated.
Pre-heat oven at 180 deg. Celsius with fan. Bake each batch for 10-12 minutes. Depending on the the size of the cookies they may bake within 8 minutes if the nozzle is small, and 12 minutes if it is a large one. Start checking after 8 minutes and if needed rotate the tray to ensure even baking.
The cookies are done if they start to brown around the edges.
Let cool for a minute on the tray before transferring to a cooling rack as these are fragile and break easily.
I made about 60-70 piped cookies.
To make circular cookies:
Divide the dough into manageable sizes. Form a supple sphere on your work space. Spread a cling film and keep the dough over the film in the center. Place another cling over the dough. Flatten the dough first and then roll into a thick circle. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for 15-20 minutes to let the dough firm up. Remove and roll the dough upto 3-4mm thick. Remove the cling film that covers the dough and cut out 1.5 inch cookies with a cutter. Carefully transfer the cookies to a silicone mat or baking parchment with a flat spatula. Refrigerate the cookies with tray for 15 minutes and then bake at 180 deg. C. for 12-15 minutes. These cookies take longer to bake as compared to the piped cookies.
I made about 20-25 round cookies.
These last for at least a fortnight if preserved in air tight containers. That was the longest we could make them last.
The time taken varies in different ovens. Please check after 8 minutes to see if browned round the edges. Underdone cookies can be baked again but overdone cookies turn hard upon cooling. Overdone cookies may taste good sometimes (if not burnt) but the texture suffers.
Refrigerating the cookie dough after piping or formation works well if you have time. I have noticed that the cookies do not spread as much as they do when baked immediately. That translates as – the cookies hold their shape well when refrigerated, and that is important when baking gluten free. I also feel that this method results in crunchy and flavourful cookies.
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