G8. Chocolate Chip Cookies

One: Food restrictions don't have to mean giving up favorite comfort foods.

Over the years my health symptoms have led to dietary restrictions which I've worked out on my own - if I feel worse after eating something I don't use it in my diet regularly. It's not quite that simple, is it consistently causing me discomfort every time I've tried to eat it whether raw or cooked or in smaller portions or larger? Some things can be handled on a sensitive stomach if they are sauteed or roasted or baked instead of eaten raw or gently steamed.

     Food restrictions can be easy to overdo though too, our instincts help protect us from food toxins. When we get severely nauseous there is a tendency by the subconscious to link whatever had been eaten recently to that queasy feeling and then the queasy feeling may return in the future when the food is offered or discussed.

     Keeping a food diary that includes exactly what and how much was eaten and any symptoms of physical or mental  health can help track what might be an underlying sensitivity. The negative symptoms tend to show up the day after the food was eaten so writing down foods and beverages and the symptoms can help to see any patterns over the week or month.

Two: Gluten and corn free substitutions in baking and the diet.

Some ingredients are more difficult to replace without affecting food texture because the chemical nature of the ingredient is part of what makes the food texture possible. Some types of baked goods are easier to make with gluten free flours and starches while others are difficult to make with substitutions. 

     As a college student I worked in several different bakeries making a wide range of hand formed yeast breads, croissant, rolls, and breakfast pastries. The delicacy of wheat products is actually hiding a strong fibrous network that helps form the delicious flakes of a croissant or puff pastry. Those strong fibers can also be difficult to digest. Problems with gluten don't have to be autoimmune in nature, people can suffer from sensitivities to it that are related to poor digestion or it leading to worse digestion in more susceptible people might be more accurate. Avoiding it for those who are more sensitive might help prevent worse sensitivities to other things - prevent a tendency to be over allergic and maybe even develop autoimmune symptoms. I noticed a problem with muscle cramps when I had gluten products. severe cramps similar to fibromyalgia but at the time the pattern of symptoms didn't match the insurance's definition for a "diagnosis" so I was never diagnosed, and I just learned to avoid gluten and got better instead of getting worse - simple solutions are the ones that I like. 

     A gluten free diet might not seem simple but the muscle cramps were limiting my range of motion and ability to walk as easily. I like to be able to walk easily and to be able to move my arms in a full circle above my head. Resolving an underlying inflammatory condition can make life much, much simpler  -  no need for the extra pillows or pain cream or the wincing when going downstairs - easy.

     Instead of trying to make a substitute bread sturdy enough for sandwiches I use rice cakes for my "open face sandwich" or "toast" and I make quick bread s and cookies with gluten free flours and starches. The gluten free grains and seeds don't form as strong of a fibrous network and makes a crumbly dough instead of "delicate flakes of puff pastry." Engineering synthetic or natural food products into a consistency that could form "flaky pastry" might also be making an indigestible fibrous network that the person with a sensitive digestive system still wouldn't be able to eat - my goal is good digestion, good nutrition, and a good flavor.


The chemistry of baking and a little history about baked goods around the world.

     When making substitutions in a recipe the chemistry involved needs to be considered. Baking is creating a new chemical compound , "the cookie molecule," for this example. The chocolate chips don't become part of the dough of the cookie so they aren't part of the chemical reaction going on during the heating of flour, water, an emulsifier (flaxmeal or egg), and a leavening agent (baking powder or baking soda plus apple cider vinegar), and don't forget the salt it is important. The sugar does add to the texture but less can be used, and less oil can be used or replaced with fruit or pumpkin puree.

     The most basic quick bread includes the flour, water, salt and a leavening agent and it shows up in diets around the world as some sort of flatbread made in a skillet or oven. Steam is part of the leavening agent in Pita Bread. The fiber structure of wheat flour  is maximized and a 500'F. oven and preheated pan turn internal steam into a force that lifts the circle of dough into a bubble of dough - a natural pocket. The Pita Bread can be cut into two half circles and the pockets can be filled with a variety of sandwich ingredients. Pita Bread are commonly used in the diet of people from areas around the Middle East and India.


Gluten free baking tips and wheat and gluten free flours.

Gluten free flours can use some additional help from shredded carrot or zucchini and work when baked as tiny muffins. Gluten free flours just aren't cut out for the lofty heights of Pita Bread. The baking tips on wheat-free.org also suggest caution with trying substitutions for the first time if it is a special occasion - stick to the previously gluten free recipe. The alternative flours don’t really work well on their own and work better for different types of recipes. The gluten free baker will likely have tried the recipe many times before settling on a particular combination of flours. (G8.1

     Gluten free flours tend to produce a baked good that is either too moist or too dry depending on which type of substitute you choose - so choosing a couple of each type is the solution that most gluten free bakers use. Commercially available gluten free mixes and products tend to use more pure starch than I prefer instead of whole grain flours. Whole grain products contain more fiber and more of the original nutrients. Coconut flour is not really a "flour" in the traditional sense of a "grain product." However coconut flour can help make  a moister texture in the baked good. It is a source of a healthy type of fat and would be increasing the fat content of the baked good somewhat compared to using a grain flour.  The website wheat-free.org provides a list of flours, alternative flours  and starches used in gluten free or close to gluten free baking (oat flour is used by some people with less sensitive digestive problems). (G8.1


The wheat-free.org site includes information about the following types of gluten free flours:

  • Amaranth Flour, Arrowroot Flour, Banana Flour (green, dried & powdered), Brown Rice Flour, Buckwheat Flour, Chia Flour, Chickpea Flour (garbanzo bean flour), Coconut Flour, Coffee Flour (made from the used grounds, dried and powdered), Corn Flour, Corn Meal, Hemp Flour, Lupin Flour ( a legume in the peanut family, dried and powdered), Maize Flour (corn), Millet Flour, Potato Flour, Potato Starch Flour, Quinoa Flour, Sorghum Flour, Soya Flour (soybean), Tapioca Flour, Teff Flour (a tiny grass like seed), White Rice Flour. (G8.1)

Flours that are wheat free but that are not gluten free are also included: 

  • Barley Flour, Oat Flour, and Rye Flour.  (G8.1)

Autoimmune antibodies can take six months to clear after starting a strict gluten free diet.

The body makes autoimmune antibodies against gluten in response to encountering gluten and it can take six months carefully following a gluten free diet before the autoimmune antibody levels decrease to normal on average, (G8.2), but levels can normalize within a month on a gluten free diet for some. (G8. 3) The person's negative symptoms may not start feeling better immediately after they start a gluten free diet because of the circulating levels of autoimmune antibodies. The symptoms get better as the antibody levels decrease. Eating small portions or even trace amounts may cause an increase in the antibody levels again and a flair up in symptoms again. The autoimmune reaction by the body over time can cause chronic degenerative damage to the body so avoiding gluten may be helping a person have fewer symptoms on a daily basis and avoid long term damage to their body.


Corn products may be difficult to digest due to Zonulin.

Corn flour may also be a digestive problem for people who are sensitive to gluten. I used it extensively at one point earlier in my transition to gluten free baking but I was still having negative health symptoms which I traced to the corn products.  Corn contains a chemical called gliadin that can act somewhat similarly to gluten within the intestines. The gliadin portion triggers increase in zonulin which increases intestinal permeability whether you have celiac disease or not. And increased intestinal permeability can leave susceptible people at risk of molecular mimicry antibodies being produced and increased risk of autoimmune disease. 

  • Changes in intestinal tight junction permeability associated with industrial food additives explain the rising incidence of autoimmune disease: (G8.4)
  • Zonulin, regulation of tight junctions, and autoimmune diseases: (G8.5)

Gliadin and gluten chemically are similar to the thyroid hormone and people with autoimmune hypothyroid or hyperthyroid autoimmune disease (G8.6, G8.7) may be at increased risk for sensitivity to gluten or gliadin because the thyroid hormone plays a role in helping the tight junctions remain tight:

  • "4) Thyroid hormone also strengthens the joints or tight junctions between cells that make up the intestine wall. If the thyroid is underactive, tight junctions may become loose and leaky compromising intestinal health." (G8.8

Glutamine is a free amino acid that may be involved in cancer & is found in wheat and eggs, and other protein foods.

Glutamine is an amino acid that may be part of the sensitivity problem for people sensitive to wheat products but who don't have the autoimmune condition Celiac disease/Celiac sprue. Glutamine is an amino acid that can cause actions to occur in the body, acting as a messenger chemical. Combined with excess glucose - sugar, glutamine and glucose in excess may be part of the underlying condition that promotes cancer cell growth. (G8.8)

     Eggs and egg white and wheat are considered good sources of the amino acid glutamine.  (G8.9) An egg contains: 0.559 grams glutamine and 1.014 grams glutamate. (G8.10) But flax meal also contains some of the amino acid, listed in a different form: 0.52 grams glutamic acid in 2 Tablespoons. (G8.11) The forms of amino acids are interchangeable but also may have different activities - it is complex and moderation is a good idea on National Cookie Day and any other day.  


National Cookie Day is right around the corner, freeze some now, enjoy later.

Plan ahead for National Cookie Day on December 4th and bake enough to have now and later. Cookies can be made ahead for the holidays and stored in the freezer after they are baked or as ready-to-bake cookie dough. Directions for freezing dough in ready to cut and bake logs similar to what can be purchased to bake at home is included at the end of the last recipe. Any of the cookie dough recipes could be frozen as baked cookies or as dough in a tub or in pre-rolled logs of dough, that can be sliced into discs and baked whenever desired.

     Gluten free recipes can usually be adapted from an quick bread wheat flour recipe by substituting an equivalent amount of regular flour. Yeast breads would be difficult with gluten free flours. They need a dough with a fibrous structure that can't be replicated with typical gluten free flours. Cookies are like a quick bread though in the leavening is baking powder or baking soda. Substituting white or whole wheat flour will work in either of the following recipes, 2 1/2 cups total flour for the first recipe and 3 to 3/14 cups for the second recipe - the corn flour is finely ground and dense compared to regular wheat flour.  

1. Spicy Chocolate Chip Cookies, without corn flour.

Makes 48-60 cookies, bake at 350'F for approximately 20 minutes.

  • 2 sticks Butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups Brown Sugar
  • --- mix the softened butter and sugar together and then mix in the eggs and vanilla
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • --- add the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix thoroughly
  • 1 1/2 cup Buckwheat Flour
  • 1/2 cup Brown Rice Flour
  • 1/2 cup Coconut Flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cardamom Powder - this spice works well with the flavor of buckwheat flour
  • ---- add the chocolate chips after the batter is mixed well
  • 1 ten or twelve ounce package of Dark Chocolate or Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips -the cookies also can be made without the chocolate chips

Form one inch balls of dough and roll them in white sugar if desired. Place about 24 per cookie sheet. Bake in the center of the oven and/or rotate the top and bottom pans after 15 minutes of baking. Bake for 20-25 minutes until slightly golden brown. These are not low calorie cookies but they do contain more fiber than regular white flour cookies. 

2. Spicy Chocolate Chip Cookies, with corn flour.

Makes 48-60 cookies, bake at 350'F for approximately 20 minutes.

  • 2 sticks Butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups Brown Sugar
  • --- mix the softened butter and sugar together and then mix in the eggs and vanilla
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • --- add the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix thoroughly
  • 1 cup Buckwheat Flour
  • 1 1/2 cups Corn Flour, (such as the Maseca brand)*
  • 1/2 cup Coconut Flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Cardamom Powder - this spice works well with the flavor of buckwheat flour
  • ---- add the chocolate chips after the batter is mixed well
  • 1 ten or twelve ounce package of Dark Chocolate or Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips -the cookies also can be made without the chocolate chips

Form one inch balls of dough and roll them in white sugar if desired. Place about 24 per cookie sheet. Bake in the center of the oven and/or rotate the top and bottom pans after 15 minutes of baking. Bake for 20-25 minutes until slightly golden brown. These are not low calorie cookies but they do contain more fiber than regular white flour cookies.


*Corn flour that was pretreated with an alkali in the traditional method used for preparing corn makes some of the B vitamin content more available, nixtamil flour is the word for the traditional corn preparation method of some Native American tribal groups.

3. Spicy Chocolate Chip Cookies - without egg or butter - refrigerator free ingredients!

 Makes 48 cookies, bake at 350'F for approximately 20-25 minutes.

  • 3 Tablespoons Golden Flax meal, ground
  • 10 Tablespoons of Boiling Hot Water, 

Step 1: --- Combine the flax meal and boiling water and stir together for a few minutes until the mixture is thickened and looks a little like a watery porridge. Then add the melted coconut oil, brown sugar, vanilla and apple cider vinegar, stir and set aside until later.

  • 1 cup Coconut Oil, melted
  • 2 cups Brown Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Apple Cider Vinegar (This is needed in the corn free version of the recipe in order to make the Baking Soda work properly as a leavening agent. Baking Powder has cornstarch and it also has an acidic ingredient that Baking Soda doesn't have.)

Step 2: --- (actually step 1 combined several actions): --- add the dry ingredients to a different larger bowl and mix together thoroughly:

  • 3/4 cup Buckwheat Flour
  • 1 cup Brown Rice Flour
  • 3/4 cup Coconut Flour
  • 1/2 and 1/8 teaspoon Baking Soda (*Baking Powder has cornstarch)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cardamom Powder - this spice works well with the flavor of buckwheat flour. It tastes a little like cinnamon but is not quite the same.

Step 3: --- mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir thoroughly.

Step 4: --- add the chocolate chips after the batter is mixed well.

  • 1/2 to 3/4 of a ten or twelve ounce package of Dark Chocolate or Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. This batter is greasy seeming and the chips constantly pop out of the dough so I don't even try to add a full package. It is easiest to work with the dough when the mix is more wet than dry, more like muffin batter than a typical "cookie dough".

Step 5: --- Preheat oven to 350'F., and form cookies with a scoop or with a pair of metal spoons as the batter is sticky and might even work in a cookie press if there weren't chocolate chips. Form approximately one inch size balls of dough. Place about 24 on a pre-oiled or nonstick cookie sheet.

Step 6: --- Bake in the center of the oven and/or rotate the top and bottom pans after 15 minutes of baking. Bake for 20-25 minutes until slightly golden brown.

Step 7: --- Allow to cool slightly before eating and store in an airtight container once they are cool enough to no longer be emitting steam. The cookies keep for about a week or until they are all eaten, whichever happens first. They can also stored in the freezer once they are baked or as a cookie dough to be formed into cookies and baked at a later time for a treat fresh out of the oven with less work.

  • For freezer preparation --- To form cookie dough into ready to cut and bake tubes of dough for the freezer, roll out a sheet of waxed paper on a clean countertop. Spritz it with a cooking spray oil and sprinkle the waxed paper with some ground flaxmeal. With oily hands put the dough on the waxed paper and form it into a long tube like log of dough about two inches thick, and then roll it up into the wax paper. Store the paper wrapped tube in a larger plastic freezer bag or container.  A batch of cookie dough would make about two and half "tubes" of dough - the length of a square of wax paper.  Each would make approximately one cookie sheet of cookies.

-The cookies also can be made without the chocolate chips or with other additions such as chopped nuts or dried currants or raisins.

     These are not low calorie cookies but they do contain more fiber and antioxidant rich ingredients than regular white flour cookies, or gluten free cookies that are based on fiber free refined starches instead of whole grain flours.

Disclaimer

  • Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.
  • The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a service for locating a nutrition counselor near you at the website eatright.org: (eatright.org/find-an-expert)