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~Crazy Good GF Chocolate Walnut & Craisin Cookies~

IMG_3861Dried cranberries, aka craisins, are one of my favorite dried fruits.  They are at the top of my list right next to dried sour cherries -- with craisins being more available and affordable.  So much so, there's always a bag on-hand in my kitchen for the sole purpose of snacking.  Craisins are not just tart and sweet, they're tart and sweet on steroids.  There's more.  They are fantastic incorporated into any raisin or sour cherry cookie recipe (in place of the raisins or sour cherries).  The recipe I'm sharing today is one of my favorite GF cookies to bake during the holidays -- with craisins, walnuts and Toll House chocolate chips being one of my favorite cookie combinations.  

IMG_3856For the record, I do not eat a gluten-free diet, nor do I recommend that anyone for any other reason than being a bona fide celiac adopt a gluten-free diet.  Simply stated, depriving the body of gluten, meaning wheat or by-products of wheat, for any long-term length of time, causes, not cures, health problems -- Google it you idiot.  That said, I do know two bona fide celiacs, and, when either pay a visit to my kitchen, I accommodate -- which isn't remarkably hard because lots of foods (meat, poultry, fish, seafood and vegetables), pantry ingredients and meals are gluten-free, and, for the record, there are some very good gluten-free pastas available, so know, a gluten-free pasta dish or three are helpful to keep in your back pocket.  I can count the number of gluten-free recipes in my repertoire on one hand, and, for my needs that's just fine.

My criteria:  GF cookies that taste as good as they look using readily-available ingredients, &, in the case of GF, cleanliness is next to godliness -- let's talk about cross-contamination:

While baking gluten-free cookies requires no special equipment, it is important the equipment you do use be spotless -- literally.  Why?  The answer is cross-contamination -- and it is very, very dangerous.  Celiac disease can be triggered by even the smallest spec of gluten. This means if you recently prepared foods using wheat flour, the first step (and it's a must) is to fully wipe down all baking surfaces, wash all hardware (mixing bowls, beater blades, baking pans, wire cooling racks, miscellaneous utensils, etc.), and, remove any products or gluten-containing ingredients that are nearby.  For an added layer of protection, I recommend placing a sheet of parchment on each baking pan that has been used previously to bake cookies/anything containing gluten.

My result:  A GF cookie no one will ever guess is GF:

IMG_3807For the dry ingredients:

2 1/4  cups gluten-free all-purpose flour

2  teaspoons baking powder

1  teaspoon baking soda

2  teaspoons xanthan gum

1 1/4  teaspoons sea salt

For the wet ingredients:

1  cup salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (2 sticks)

2  large eggs

2  teaspoons pure chocolate extract

2  teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1  cup very-lightly-packed dark brown sugar

1/2  cup granulated sugar

IMG_3822For the add-ins (feel free to eliminate or substitute add-ins, being sure to add 3 1/2 total cups) :

2  generous cups Nestlē Toll House semi-sweet chocolate morsels

1  very generous cup coarse-chopped walnuts, lightly-toasted in a 350° oven for 4-5 minutes

1  very generous cup craisins (dried cranberries)

IMG_3700~ Step 1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Line 5 large baking pans with parchment. In a medium bowl, place and thoroughly stir the dry ingredients: the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  When oven is preheated, place the walnuts on a small baking pan.  Roast on center rack of oven until lightly-toasted and fragrant, 5-6 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

IMG_3818 IMG_3818 IMG_3818 IMG_3818 IMG_3818~Step 2. In a small mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum and salt.  Set aside.  In a large bowl, place the butter, eggs, both extracts, brown sugar and granulated sugar.  On high-speed of hand-held mixer, beat until creamy, about 1-1 1/2 minutes.  Lower mixer speed and beat in the flour mixture until a smooth, sticky dough forms.

IMG_3832 IMG_3832 IMG_3832 IMG_3832~Step 3.  Using a large rubber spatula, fold in the chocolate chips, toasted walnuts and craisins -- adding them all at once is fine.  SET THE BOWL ASIDE AND ALLOW COOKIE DOUGH TO REST 45-60 MINUTES -- do not skip this step.  Using a 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop as a measure, drop cookies, slightly apart, by rounded tablespoonfuls onto each of 6, parchment-lined, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans.  Twelve balls of dough will fit nicely on each pan -- fifteen is ok too.

IMG_3845 IMG_3845~Step 4.  Bake, one-pan-at-a-time, on center rack of 350º oven, 10-11 minutes, until light-golden.  My cookies baked for exactly 11 minutes today. Remove from oven and use a small spatula to transfer to wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Simply perfect for the Thanksgiving & Christmas holidays too. 

IMG_3864Crazy Good GF Chocolate Walnut & Raisin Cookies:  Recipe yields 6 dozen, 2"-round cookies.

Special Equipment List: small shallow baking pan; 6, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pans; parchment paper; spoon; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop; thin spatula; wire cooling rack

6a0120a8551282970b026bdef3d0b2200cCook's Note:  Home-baked cookies.  They're one of life's simple pleasures, and perhaps, the quintessential sweet treat -- not to big, not to small, portable feel-good satisfaction.  While everyone has a favorite cookie, more often than not, folks will declare the chocolate chip to be their number-one favorite or a close second, and, everyone who bakes cookies has a favorite chocolate-chip cookie recipe (or three).  That said, if you're baking cookies for a celiac, you need a recipe you can rely on and mine is the one.  It's spot-on -- taste and texturally, there's no need to announce it's GF.  Be sure to try my ~ Keep-it-Simple Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preshutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2021)


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