Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Gluten-Free Baking 101: Faux Cream Cheese Thumbprint Cookies (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Nut-Free, Soy-Free)

I haven't written a Gluten-Free Baking 101 post in a while, so I thought this would be the perfect recipe to give you some tips on making substitutions. I recently posted a Cream Cheese Cookie recipe that I absolutely love, but it uses dairy and I know many of you can't eat that. I also have a dairy-free version of the recipe that uses cashew cream cheese. Also delicious, but what about those of you who can't have nuts? There's always soy cream cheese, but I know many of you can't have soy, plus I think it's more fun to get creative with substitutions on my own.

So want to know how to go from dairy to dairy-free, bypassing nuts and soy? Here you go:

Substituting Cream Cheese:
  • I could make a sunflower based cream cheese, using the same basic recipe as cashew cream cheese. This would probably work for flavor and texture, but a) I wasn't in the mood, b) I was out of sunflower seeds, and c) sunflower seeds can react with baking soda and result in green cookies. Maybe for St. Patrick's Day?
  • The recipe calls for cream cheese. Cream cheese can sometimes be substituted for sour cream. Sour cream can sometimes be substituted for applesauce. Applesauce and pear sauce can often work interchangeably. (Side note: I was developing this recipe for someone who can't eat apples.) Therefore, pear sauce might work in place of the cream cheese. However, these cookies have a richness that comes from the fat in the cream cheese, so rather than doing a straight substitution, I subbed half pureed pear and half coconut oil. 1/2 cup cream cheese became 4 tablespoons of pureed pear and 4 tablespoons of coconut oil. 
But wait! The recipe only calls for 3 tablespoons each of pureed pear and coconut oil. What gives? To answer that, let's talk about sugar. 

Substituting Cane Sugar: 
  • I could replace the sugar called for in the original recipe with an equal amount of coconut palm sugar. But I was either out of coconut palm sugar or not feeling it that day. Can't remember which but either way, I decided to use a liquid sweetener instead.
  • To replace 1/2 cup of sugar, I used 6 tablespoons of liquid sweetener (3 tablespoons of honey, 3 tablespoons of maple syrup). I could have used all honey or all maple syrup; this was just a creative choice. In general, when replacing sugar with a liquid sweetener, you want to reduce the amount by about 25 percent. This is why I used 6 tablespoons of sweetener instead of 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) of sugar. You also want to reduce the other liquids in the recipe by a couple of tablespoons. Therefore, I reduced the pureed pear and coconut oil by 1 tablespoon each.  
Baking by Feel: 
  • When I mixed all the ingredients, I found that the batter was somewhat thinner than the original recipe. I was able to roll that batter out to make cut-out cookies. This batter seemed too runny for me, so I added a bit more flour. The recipe called for coconut flour, white rice flour, and tapioca starch, so I opted to add more white rice flour. However, I was out, so I added sorghum flour, which is an easy sub for white rice flour. I started with 1/3 cup, liked the texture and stuck with that.
Cream Cheese Cookies or Thumbprint Cookies? 
  • The cream cheese cookies have a slight tang from the flavor of cream cheese. In the cashew cream cheese version, I used apple cider vinegar to mimic this. In this version, I ignored that and just decided to make them thumbprint cookies and fill them with jam. I could have played around with the flavor a bit more to try to make them "cream cheesy" but was happy with them as is.

Thumbprint Cookies Print-Me 
Delicate and chewy, this is an easy recipe to adapt. Read the notes above to see how I adapted this from a dairy version and for ideas on how you might further adapt it to meet your needs.


3 tablespoons pureed pear
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 cup palm shortening (Spectrum Organic is soy free)
3 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons whole psyllium husks
1/3 cup coconut flour
1/3 cup sorghum flour
1/3 cup white rice flour
1/3 cup tapioca starch
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Your favorite jam

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Set aside two cookie sheets.
  2. Cream together the pear, coconut oil, shortening, maple syrup, honey, vanilla, and psyllium with an electric mixer or in a food processor.
  3. Whisk together the flours, salt and baking soda. Blend into the wet mixture until completely mixed.
  4. Shape into small balls and place on the cookie sheets. Use your thumb to make an indent in each cookie. Fill with about 1/4 teaspoon of jam.
  5. Bake for 12 minutes. Let cool completely.

Notes: If you can't find a sugar-free jam, you could make a fruit puree by blending your favorite dried fruit with a little liquid (water or non-dairy milk) and adding liquid sweetener (honey, maple syrup) to taste.


SprueStory said...

I love that string of substitutions! It's nice to see inside the brain of someone who doesn't have to Google every time they want to replace an ingredient in a recipe. (Because if it'd been me, the process would've been more like, "google cream cheese substitute, find that sour cream can be substituted, get depressed that that is still not dairy-free, quit." Ha!) Oh, and cream cheese and jelly sandwiches were my fav in elementary school. These remind me of those!

-Molly said...

Those look divine! You make GF baking seem so flawless and easy :-) I'm not saying I have disasters in the kitchen (well, regularly I guess), but I would have never guessed Pureed Pear was my missing ingredient!

mel m. m. mccarthy said...

What a brilliant post. Great recipe. I can't eat apples either and always use honey/syrup whenever I can. I have so much to learn about gluten-dairy-egg-soy-free baking that I was hanging on your every word. Thanks!


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