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GLUTEN FREE: Cheryl’s Cookies

Cheryl's Gluten Free Cookies

Gluten Free Cookies

You can’t tell that these gluten-free cookies are gluten free! Photo courtesy Cheryl’s.

 

We have dear friends and readers with gluten sensitivity, so we keep an eye out for anything above the ordinary that they might enjoy.

When Cheryl’s offered us a taste test of their conventional versus gluten-free cookies in advance of National Gluten Free Day (January 13th), we didn’t hesitate to bite.

They said we wouldn’t be able to taste the difference, and they were correct.

No one could tell that the GF cookies were gluten free. The texture had no graininess or other telltale sign of most gluten free cookies.

The one difference is that the GF cookies are less sweet than the conventional ones. But this feature would only be noticed in a side-by-side tasting.

So if you want cookies for yourself, or are looking to Valentine’s Day gifts, head to Cheryl’s.

There are gift boxes of every description, filled with:

  • Brownie walnut cookies
  • Snickerdoodle cookies
  • Chocolate chip cookies
  • Buttercream-frosted sugar cookies
  • Fudge brownies
  •  
    (We tasted only the chocolate chip and snickerdoodle GF flavors.)

    The cookies are produced in a dedicated gluten-free facility, and are individually wrapped for grab-and-go as well as freshness.

    Check out the selection at Cheryls.com.

     

     
      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Mochidoki, Ice Cream-Stuffed Mochi

    Like ice cream? Get ready for a [relatively] new variation: ice cream mochi (MO-chee).

    Mochidoki is a delightful ice cream treat—a sophisticated re-envisioning of a classic Japanese sweet made from rice dough: a dough of pounded, glutinous (but gluten-free) sweet rice flour that is steamed and kneaded until it becomes delightfully chewy and supple, with a velvet—like texture.

    The resulting rice paste was often eaten plain and uncooked, pounded into a soft, chewy rice paste. There are still sweet and savory, uncooked and cooked versions.

    Mochi is all about the texture. Centuries later, it was turned into dumpling-like sweets, exquisite little mouthfuls to accompany tea.

    We love daifuku mochi, filled with sweetened red bean paste or other pastes, such as peanut and sesame. They can be served with tea (any kind) or coffee for an easy yet elegant snack (the different types of daifuku).

    [SIDE BAR: Daifuku mochi are an ideal food for celebrations: Daifuku means good luck!]

    The rice paste can be made into other forms, but today we focus on the sweet treat.

    Like cookies and brownies, they are finger food; but like brownies and other bar cookies, they can be garnished simply—with sauces and/or fruit—to elaborate preparations like spun sugar.
     
    THE HISTORY OF MOCHI

    Ice cream mochi are a new, fusion food. The original mochi are Japanese sweet snacks, served as Americans might enjoy a cookie or two. Like a smaller, flatter jelly donut, the inside is filled with red bean (azuki) paste or other fruit-flavored bean paste, peanut or sesame paste. The rice outside is white or pastel-colored.

    The exact origin of mochi is unknown, though it is said to have come from China. By the ninth century, it had become a New Year’s treat in Japan, and by the tenth century mochi were used as imperial offerings and in religious ceremonies (more).

    It also became used as an energy food: from the battlefield, where it was easy for Samurai to carry and prepare; to the farm, consumed by Japanese farmers to increase stamina on cold days.

    Our first experience with mochi was the classic daifuki mochi, a tea cake of rice dough filled with red bean paste. We live in a city with readily available Japanese confections; if you’re ever in Manhattan, head to Minamoto Kitchoan with branches in midtown and the World Trade Center, and 11 locations worldwide. They also sell the delightful pastries known as wagashi.
     
    ICE CREAM MOCHI

    Mochi Ice Cream is the best treat to serve at parties or events because they are delicious and convenient. Not only do they come in a variety of flavors so that your guests can discover their favorites, but they are also the perfect serving size! With the solid outer layer of rice-flour Mochi dough, they are easy to grab and carry around.

    And centuries later, they were filled with ice cream.

    Mochi ice cream has begun to expand nationwide in the U.S.

    Mikawaya, a Japanese confectionary based in Los Angeles, started selling the product in Little Tokyo in the early 1990s. Building up a local following, it found its way to California-based Trader Joe’s, Albertsons, Ralphs and Safeway, and is now in their stores nationwide (you could buy pumpkin ice cream mochi for Thanksgiving).

    The invention in Los Angeles was the casual idea of the Jewish husband of the third-generation owner of Mikawaya, Frances Hashimoto. Joel Friedman created the fusion food for snacking, wrapping spoonfuls of ice cream in plain mochi cakes.

    Ms. Hashimoto developed her husband’s idea for retail. It took a decade of R&D to develop a rice dough that would remain chewy and tender after freezing. Commercial production began in 1993, with seven flavors: Chocolate, Green Tea, Kona Coffee, Mango, Red Bean, Strawberry and Vanilla.

    Mikawaya’s pioneering efforts engendered supermarket competition from Little Moons, Maeda-En and Mikawaya’s sister brand, My-Mo.

    But we prefer gourmet newcomer Mochidoki for its better-quality ice cream, broad variety of flavors and elegant, thinner mochi covering.
     
    MOCHIDOKI FLAVORS

    Flavors change seasonally. You can get a 10-pack of one flavor, or a four-piece gift box featuring four different flavors.

    The only problem is making a decision. We’re ready to place another order, and we don’t know where to start!

    All are so very delicious. The current best-seller is Salted Caramel; but we adored every flavor, with a “wow” to the hot-and-cold Spicy Chocolate.

    Fall-Winter flavors, available in 10-packs ($20), include:

  • Azuki Red Bean
  • Black Sesame
  • Frothy Chocolate
  • Ginger Zing
  • Lychee Colada
  • Mandarin Orange Cream
  • Matcha Green Tea Chocolate Chip
  • Matcha Green Tea Classic
  • Mochaccino Chip
  • Raspberry White Chocolate Crunch
  • Salted Caramel
  • Vanilla Chocolate Chip
  •    

    Mochi Presentations, From Simple To Fancy

    Matcha Mochi

    Chocolate Mochi

    Decorated Mochi

    Salted Caramel Mochi Doki

    Mochi Doki

    Mochi Doki Gift Boxes

    [1] Mochi are small balls of ice cream covered in a velvety, chewy rice paste. Two classic flavors: Matcha Green Tea and Vanilla Chocolate Chip. [2] Dress up the plate with dessert sauce (plus, with chocolate, some cacao nibs). [3] Garnish halves with whipped cream and fruit. [4] The best seller, Salted Caramel, garnished with spun sugar. [5] Four-flavor gift boxes let you try more flavors. [6] Three gift boxes, 12 great flavors (all photos courtesy Mochidoki).

     

    Daifuku Mochi

    Mochi Yogurt Pops

    [7] Before ice cream mochi, the popular sweet version was (and still is) daifu-mochi, a dumpling-like cookie stuffed with red bean paste, peanut or sesame paste (photo courtesy Morgaer | Deviantart). [8] Bits of mochi rice dough now appear in everything from brownies to ice pops (photo courtesy Kirbie’s Cravings).

     

    MORE GREAT FLAVORS

    Four-Piece Gift Boxes ($10)

  • Cinnamon Eggnog
  • Spicy Chocolate
  •  
    Four-Piece Collections ($10)

  • Americana Collection: Frothy Chocolate, Raspberry White Chocolate Crunch, Salted Caramel, Vanilla Chocolate Chip
  • Signature Chip Collection: Matcha Green Tea Chocolate Chip, Mochaccino Chip, Raspberry White Chocolate Crunch, Vanilla Chocolate Chip
  • East Meets West Collection: Black Sesame, Matcha Green Tea, Salted Caramel, Vanilla Chocolate Chip
  • Exotic Collection: Lychee Colada, Mandarin Orange Cream, Matcha Green Tea Chocolate Chip, Mochaccino Chip
  • Taste Of Thailand Collection: Ginger Zing, Mango Thai Basil, Thai Iced Tea, Toasted Coconut
  • Tropical Collection: Lychee Colada, Mandarin Orange Cream, Passion Fruit, Toasted Coconut
  • The Classics Collection: Azuki Red Bean, Black Sesame, Ginger Zing, Matcha Green Tea
  •  
    HEAD TO MOCHIDOKI.COM

    You can order as many boxes as you like for a flat rate of $15.00. They arrive frozen in dry ice and you can’t eat them immediately—they’re frozen solid.

    But 5-10 minutes at room temperature makes them just right.

    Order here.

    Hopefully, we’ll be seeing Mochidoki at retail soon. The brand was purchased by a private equity firm in 2015, with plans to bring mochi ice cream to a wider audience.

     
    WAYS TO SERVE MOCHI

    Mochi are neat to eat. You can snack on them as finger food, or add garnishes for an elegant dessert.

    You can eat them from the container or plate them, whole or halved, with garnish:

  • Berries or other fruit
  • Dessert sauces
  • Whipped cream
  • Anything from spun sugar to cookie crumbs
  •  
    Just let them sit for five minutes after you take them from the freezer.
     
    MAKE YOUR OWN MOCHI

    You can make daifuku mochi—the room temperature variety filled with bean paste. This recipe from The New York Times makes everything from scratch, including turning dry azuki beans into red bean paste.

    Note that the fresh dough will turn dry and stiff within a couple of days, so plan to eat your mochi in short order.

    If you want to make ice cream mochi, the shelf life is even shorter. Make them with this recipe, then freeze for two hours and eat. Otherwise, the homemade rice paste will freeze solid.

    Beyond the classic mochi, this article from Huffington Post shows how to use mochi (the dough) in conventional sweets: brownies, cakes, cookies, donuts, ice cream and ice pops.

    How trending is mochi? Check this website of baby names.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Food Gifts

    Cranberry Bark

    Cailler Chocolate Bar

    [1] Chocolate bark with holiday accents (photo courtesy Close Encounters Of The Cooking Kind). [2] Use a quality chocolate bar like Cailler for the best flavor (photo courtesy Cailler—pronounced kiy-YAY). The Swiss chocolate bars in their festive boxes also make great stocking stuffers.

     

    For those moments when unexpected guests arrive for Christmas, or when acquaintances give you an unexpected gift—we have a strategy:

    Make homemade bark or fudge in advance. They have a long shelf life; it’s easy to carry a small tin with you for chance encounters; and even people who don’t eat sweets will be pleased to have something nice to serve their own guests, or to regift.

    It’s also a sweet gift to take on casual visits over the holidays.

    Here, two holiday-accented options:

    RECIPE #1: CHOCOLATE ORANGE PISTACHIO BARK

    Using salted pistachios gives this bark the popular sweet-and-salty profile. We adapted this recipe from one by the Florida Orange Juice.

  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 16 ounces quality semi-sweet chocolate (Callebaut, Lindt, etc.)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup salted pistachios, chopped if desired
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the orange juice in small saucepan over medium heat. Reduce to ¼ cup and cool.

    2. MELT the chocolate over in boiler. While the chocolate melts, stir occasionally as you…

    3. LINE a small baking sheet with parchment paper. Pour the melted chocolate onto the parchment to a ¼-inch thickness. Swirl in the cooled orange juice with a spatula, creating thin channels in the chocolate.

    4. SPRINKLE the cranberries and pistachios over chocolate and lightly press. When the chocolate is completely hardened…

    5. BREAK into pieces and package. For home gifting, a simple box or gift bag with a ribbon is fine (wrap the pieces in wax paper for protection). For toting around, consider something more durable. For longer storage, keep in an airtight container.

     

     

    RECIPE #2: WHITE CHOCOLATE CRANBERRY FUDGE

    We adapted this snowy holiday fudge from Mom On Timeout (love that name!).

    It’s just the thing to take over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house…or to the neighbors next door.

    Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ¾ cup regular sour cream
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped white chocolate (we use Lindt* chocolate bars)
  • 1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow creme/cream†
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 5 ounces dried cranberries
  • Optional garnish: green sprinkles or candied mint leaves
  •  
    How To Measure Chopped Chocolate

    Six ounces of chocolate chips equals 1 cup. If you chop the chocolate the size of chips, this conversion will work.

    Unless dry ingredients are finely ground, like flour and sugar, so they completely fill the cup measure, it’s difficult to get a precise measurement (e.g., one cup of blueberries). This is why professional recipes give measure in ounces, not cups.
     
    ________________
    *You can use white chocolate chips, but you’ll get better chocolate flavor from a premium chocolate bar.
    ________________
     
    Preparation
    1. LINE a 9″ x13″ baking dish with parchment or foil; lightly spray with cooking spray.

    2. COMBINE the sugar, sour cream, butter and salt in a heavy 2-quart saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, to the soft ball stage (238°F on a food thermometer).

    3. REMOVE from the heat, add the chocolate and stir until completely melted. Stir in the marshmallow cream and vanilla extract until completely blended. Next, blend in the dried cranberries. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and cool to room temperature. If you want a green accent, add it now. Then…

    4. PLACE the pan in the fridge for several hours or overnight, before cutting into squares.

    5. STORE in an airtight container. For home gifting, a simple box or gift bag with a ribbon is fine (wrap the pieces in wax paper for protection). For toting around, consider something more durable. For longer storage, keep in an airtight container.

     

    Cranberry Fudge

    Craisins

    Candied Mint Leaves

    [3] Snowy Christmas fudge from Mom On Time Out. [4] Dried cranberries from Ocean Spray. Their Craisins are simply branded dried cranberries. [3] Want a garnish? Make candied mint leaves—the smaller the better. You can chop them after they’re candied. Press them into the fudge when it has cooled (photo and recipe from Emjay’s Imagination).

     

    †CREAM VS. CREME

    What’s the difference between creme and cream? Why do you see “creme pie” and “cream pie” for the same thing? The answer: error which evolved into common usage.

    Crème, pronounced KREHM, is the French word for cream. In America, French recipes were served at the tables of the wealthy, most of whom knew how to write and pronounce French properly.

    As these recipes entered the mainstream, people who did not know French began to pronounce crème (KREHM) as (KREEM), and dispensed with the accent mark: hence, creme. This mashup of French and English became acceptable, and over time, “creme” was used for American dishes like cream pie, because “creme” looked fancier (i.e., French-associated was better).

    To display your erudition when discussing a French dish, e.g. Crème Brûlée, use crème; when discussing an American dish, e.g. Chocolate Cream Pie, use cream.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Red Licorice For Chocolate-Covered Anything Day

    Christmas Twizzlers

    Chocolate Covered Licorice

    Christmas Candy Cake

    [1] These Christmas Twizzlers are available at Target and elsewhere (photo courtesy Candy Warehouse). [2] You can buy the artisan version from confectioners. These are sold on Etsy by Nicole’s Treats. [3] Wowsa: a kid’s fantasy Christmas Cake from Cake Whiz. Underneath: a chocolate cake with buttercream frosting.

     

    December 16th is Chocolate-Covered Anything Day.

    We love chocolate-covered apples-on-a-stick, bacon strips, berries, citrus peel, cookies, dried fruit (apricots and figs are our favorites [sorry, raisins]), graham crackers, gummies, ice cream pops, maraschino cherries, marshmallows, nuts, orange segments, popcorn, pretzels and potato chips. You can buy them or make them.

    What we haven’t tried:

    Chocolate-covered baby octopus, calamari, carrots, insects, Cheetos, corn dogs, edamame, garlic, jalapeños, jerky, kimchi and seaweed (from Korea), mashed potatoes (a Paula Deen recipe), onions, pickles, roses (real roses on their stems!), Slim Jims and wasabi peas.

    One source even recommended dipping these latter items in chocolate fondue!

    So today’s proposal, chocolate-covered licorice, should not sound far out. For licorice lovers, it’s quite a tasty variation.

    While it’s the week before Christmas and we propose a red-and-green theme, you can use this easy recipe for any holiday where the licorice stick colors work (black, brown, green, orange, purple, red, yellow-green, etc. (Check out the colors at Candy Warehouse.)
     
    CHOCOLATE-COVERED CHRISTMAS LICORICE

    Twizzlers makes red, green and white twist (photo #1), which you can find at Target, Candy Warehouse and elsewhere.
     
    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE COVERED LICORICE
    (OR OTHER CONFECTION)

    Ingredients

  • Red licorice sticks (soft, not stale)
  • White chocolate chips or chopped white chocolate bar
  • Green food color
  • Optional: red and green sprinkles, confetti or other decorations (we had gold and white dragées at hand)
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUT the licorice sticks in half. You can skip this step, but the half-sticks are easier to eat, and more size-appropriate when covered in chocolate.

    2. MELT the white chocolate in the microwave. We used a pie plate, which makes it easy to dip the licorice.

    3. TINT the white chocolate green. If you like, you can keep some of the batch white for drizzling over the green chocolate.

    4. DIP the licorice and set on wax paper to dry.

     
    TIP #1: We used sugar tongs. Ours have a serrated gripping edge.

    TIP #2: If you plan to store the licorice for a few days or longer, cut the wax paper in sizes that fit into the container. Then, just lift the wax paper and pop the sheet(s) into the storage container.

    5. DRIZZLE the optional white chocolate or add the sprinkles promptly, before the chocolate sets. If not using the same day…

    6. STORE in an airtight containe. We used our Le Creuset red rectangular baking dish, which makes a beautiful presentation; but you can use any baking pan and plastic wrap. Store at room temperature.
     
    WHY IS LICORICE PRONOUNCED LICORISH?

    The Scots pronounce it “licoriss,” from the Old French “licoresse.” In England and the U.S., it is “licorish.” Here are two theories as to why:

  • The phoneme may have shifted from /s/ to /sh/, as happened with the words “pressure” and “sugar.”
  • A 1685 spelling of “licorish” in England leads to speculation is that this pronunciation originated in a regional dialect of English, which changed many final “s” sounds to “sh.”
  •  
    The history of licorice.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Cookie Spread, a.k.a. Cookie Butter

    Biscoff Spread Jar

    Speculoos Spread

    Cookie Butter

    Tumbador Cookie Butter

    Nuts & More Cookie Butter

    [1] The original Biscoff Spread, used for filling cookie sandwiches at Picky Palate. [2] The European name for Biscoff Spread is Speculoos (photo courtesy Dutch Shop). [3] Trader Joe’s three private label versions include original, crunchy and cocoa swirl (photo courtesy Baking Bites). [4] A favorite flavor, from Tumbador Chocolate. [5] Even health food stores sell cookie butter—as a protein boost (photo courtesy Nuts & More).

     

    Where did the cookie butter craze originate? In Belgium!

    THE HISTORY OF SPECULOOS SPREAD (CALLED BISCOFF SPREAD IN THE U.S.)

    Cookie spread or cookie butter began as an entry in a contest sponsored by Belgium-based Lotus Bakeries.

    Lotus is the maker of Speculoos (spice) brand cookies, known the world over (and called Biscoff in some countries). Els Scheppers, a contestant on the reality show The Inventors (De Bedenker), pulverized the cookies and mixed them into “the original speculoos pasta*.”

    It wasn’t that far-fetched an idea, but it was a great one. Belgian parents (including Scheppers) were already making sandwichs of buttered bread, the butter topped with crushed Biscoff cookies.

    She didn’t win the contest, but Lotus Bakeries approached her to obtain the exclusive rights to sell the Biscoff spread.

    They are actually called speculoos (spice) cookies in Europe, but the name was deemed too hard for Americans to pronounce. Because the biscuits were so popular with coffee, the cookies were rebranded as Biscoff for the U.S. market. (It may look like peanut butter, but it’s nut-free.)

    After its arrival on these shores, companies large and small jumped on the bandwagon. Home cooked created Biscoff cupcakes with Biscoff frosting (here’s the recipe).

    Hershey’s and other large companies made cookie spreads. They were made in conventional cookie flavors, plus Chocolate Macaroon and Pumpkin Spice.

    Even health-oriented stores sell it, manufactured from Nuts & More, a company that got Shark Tank funding. Their “High Protein + Peanut Spreads” include Toffee Crunch and White Chocolate, among other flavors.
    ________________
    *Pasta is derived from the Latin word for paste. In Europe it is used to describe foods from spaghetti (a paste of flour and water) to meat loaf (a paste of ground meat and fat to the fruit squares (pâte de fruit) that we call fruit gels.

     
    COOKIE SPREAD/BUTTER VERSUS NUT BUTTER

    Before we go further, let us emphasize that cookie butter is not a substitute for peanut [or other nut/seed] butter.

    They may be touted as alternatives to nut butters, but that’s only in spreadability, not in nutrition. They are better compared to chocolate spreads. To avoid confusing consumers, all of the cookie-based spreads should be called cookie spreads, not cookie butters.

  • Natural nut butters are simply ground nuts and a bit of salt. Supermarket brands often add caloric sweetener, vegetable oils and stabilizers (mono and diglicerides
  • Nut butters have protein and fiber. Cookie butters do not—unless they so specify.
  • Large brands of nut butters have been headed in the direction of cookie butter (actually, it’s vice versa), with chocolate swirl and other flavors.
  • Nutella, a hazelnut and chocolate spread, is not much more nutritious than cookie butter. It has some protein fiber from the hazelnuts but lots of sugar. On their website, sugar is listed as the first ingredient, followed by palm oil. The two “good” ingredients, hazelnuts and cocoa powder, are third and fourth.
  •  
    MAKE YOUR OWN COOKIE SPREAD

    You can use any cookie that can be ground into a powder. This leaves out oatmeal raisin (but plain oatmeal is OK), chocolate chip, anything with nuts or a filling. Don’t despair if this eliminates your favorite: You can add these “textured” ingredients as mix-ins after the butter/spread is blended.

    Some options:

  • Biscoff or other spice cookies
  • Famous Chocolate Wafers or bake your own
  • Ginger snaps
  • Graham crackers
  • Oatmeal cookies
  • Peanut butter cookies
  • Sugar cookies, snickerdoodles
  • Swedish thin cookies (Annas Swedish Thins, Cookie Thins, Moravian Cookies, etc.)
  • Vanilla wafers
  •  
    You can add in anything else that can be smoothly blended or ground:

  • Cocoa powder
  • Flavored extracts
  • Nuts (chopped is better)
  • Purées (e.g. pumpkin for the holidays)
  • Small candies and baking products, e.g. mini chips, mini M&Ms
  • Spices
  •  

    RECIPE: COOKIE SPREAD OR COOKIE BUTTER

    You can keep the spread in the fridge for 14 days, maybe more. If you’re giving it as a gift, note the expiration date on the label.

    If you want to make a homemade version of Biscoff Spread, here’s a recipe.
     
    Ingredients Per 14-Ounce Batch
     
    For The Spread

  • 2 cups (8 ounces) cookie crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons white granulated or light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream, plus more if desired
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • Optional: 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla or other extract
  •  
    For The Mix-Ins

  • 1/2 to 1 cup of whatever you like
  •  
    For Serving

  • Assorted cookies, biscuits, toasts, whatever
  •  
    You can serve just one type of cookie; but a selection is more fun.
     
    For Gift-Giving

  • Mason jar or other tightly-lidded container
  •  
    Preparation

    1. GRIND the cookies in a food processor until very fine. Measure out 2 cups.

    2. ADD the crumbs back into the food processor along with the cream, butter and sugar; process until well combined. If the dip is too thick for you, add cream a bit at a time to thin it.

     

    Oreo Cookie Butter

    Biscoff Cupcake & Frosting

    [6] Make cookie spread gifts and party favors (photo courtesy The Cottage Market). [7] Consider double-cookie-spread cupcakes. Sweet As A Cookie went all the way and created this recipe with Biscoff spread in both.

     
    3. BLEND in your choice of mix-ins. Put in a jar in the fridge. To serve, bring to room temperature spreadability.

    We couldn’t sign off without showing you this Biscoff Cheesecake.

      

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