March 09, 2012

Gluten-free chocolate chip cake

Remember when black bean brownies were sweeping the blogs, and every other type of bean was making it into one baked good or another? Well, you never saw beans in baked goods on this blog. Ever since a particularly unpleasant involvement with sweetened adzuki beans in a gelatinous Japanese sweet, just the thought of beans in a dessert was enough to cause me to experience a slight wave of nausea. I must have been especially desperate for a baked good of any kind when I came across a recipe for gluten-free deep dish cookie pie, made with a lot of white beans, and became obsessed with making my own version of it. (recipe below.)

You know, I haven't really been mentioning this, but I've been eating pretty much gluten-free since last August. It's been an experiment of sorts to see if eliminating gluten would affect the stomach pains I sometimes get after eating. And yes, it did — no gluten, no pains. Mostly, my cooking hasn't really changed much, since it turns out much of what we eat at home is already gluten-free. Even most (but not all) of the pasta we've eaten for years has been quinoa, corn, buckwheat or rice-based. We've always used wheat-free tamari, and even the miso in the fridge was wheat-free. But the seitan had to go. And the bread, as well as other things. And the rules for eating out had to change. I managed all that.

What I couldn't quite deal with was baking. I was scared off by the huge ingredient lists for gluten-free baked goods, and the multitude of odd flours and additives. Although I always have an assortment of interesting flours in my pantry, they don't all go into one dish! And I didn't want to eat things that seemed to have so little nutritive value (because they contained so much starch), even if they were desserts. Anyway, I tried to make gf brownies to take to a dinner party, and they were so awful my husband had to run out to Whole Foods to buy a bag of "normal" cookies to bring. The brownies were weirdly sandy, and they fell apart if I touched them. The taste, apart from the texture, wasn't horrible, but who, at a dinner party, wants to eat sandy brownies with a spoon? This failure was disconcerting, but I started reading everything I could find about gf baking, assembled a cupboard full of even more odd ingredients, and vowed to try again. I made a yeasted bread that wasn't awful. And then the cookie pie entered my dessert-starved brain, and I decided to give it a go, beans and all,  with a few changes based on knowledge I had gleaned from Carrie Forbes, who writes the blog, Ginger Lemon Girl. (This is not blog that espouses a vegan lifestyle, but there's lots of gf baking info, and some vegan recipes.)

Chocolate "swirl" cookies (hahaha)
A few weeks ago I cooked some cannelini beans overnight in the slow cooker (because I really am trying to use more home-cooked beans), and let them cool. Then I carefully measured my ingredients and got to work. And guess what? The pie, which I think is more like a cake, was delicious in every way. My husband enthusiastically ate it, and claimed there was no way he would guess it was gluten-free. Miss E., who is used to eating "normal" baked goods, gave her complete approval, and devoured her share. I couldn't stop eating it, and when it was gone, I made it again. (I even made it into cookies with the addition of gf oat flour, but because I sadly neglected to cool the beans, and the chocolate chips melted, I'll have to try again before I share the recipe.)

I'm going to post my recipe for chocolate chip cake because although some of the ingredients are the same as the original, it's really quite different. The original called for oats, and some people who follow a gluten-free diet can't handle oats, even gluten-free oats. (Not to mention the fact that I didn't happen to have any on hand.) I think I used less starch than is found in most gf recipes, but it seemed to work.

I baked my cake in a 10-inch spring-form pan (thrifted from Goodwill on a lucky day) that I first coated with Earth Balance. I want to mention that the cake was hard to remove from the pan bottom (the side just pops off), so next time I'll try baking it on a round of parchment paper. I left the cooled cake on a plate on the counter, loosely covered with plastic wrap, and much to my surprise, it held up very well for several days.

Gluten-free chocolate chip cake (based on a recipe from Chocolate-Covered Katie)
(check labels to make sure you are using gf ingredients)

Oil a 10" spring form pan fitted with a round of parchment paper on the bottom. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.
  • 1-1/2 cups of cooked, cooled and well-drained cannelini beans (or one can, rinsed and well-drained)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice or mild vinegar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt (your preference)
  • 3/4 to 1 cup evaporated cane juice or organic sugar
  • 1/2 cup almond flour (I used Bob's Red Mill)
  • 1/3 cup sorghum flour
  • 1/3 cup brown rice flour or (GF oat flour)
  • 1/3 cup tapioca flour (or arrowroot flour)
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups vegan chocolate chips (the larger amount is excessive but fun)
  1. Blend the beans, applesauce, oil, vanilla and lemon juice in a food processor until smooth.
  2. Place the baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, almond flour, sorghum flour, brown rice flour, and tapioca flour in a large bowl. Whisk the dry ingredients together until all  lumps are removed and the flours are combined.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the food processor and buzz until the two mixes are well-integrated.
  4. Stir in about 3/4 of the chocolate chips or, add to the processor and buzz carefully a few times until the chips are mixed in but not broken.
  5. Spread the batter (it will be fairly stiff) into the greased pan and smooth the top. Add the rest of the chips and press in gently.
  6. Bake in a pre-heated 350˚ oven for 40 to 50 minutes until a toothpick in the center comes out sort of dry. The edges of the cake will be drier than the center, which will stay a bit moist.
  7. Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes before removing from the pan. If you haven't used a spring-form pan with parchment paper on the bottom, good luck. 
When you slice the cake, use a very sharp knife and slice straight down — NO SAWING. Trust me.
UPDATE: After the cake had cooled about 20 minutes, I placed a plate over the top, flipped it over, peeled off the paper, placed a serving plate over the cake and flipped the cake right side up. It worked much better than trying to remove the cake from the pan bottom.
UPDATE II: You can find suggestions for turning the cake into cookies, here. 

UPDATE III: I now find I get a better rise and chip distribution if after mixing the wet ingredients in the processor, I add the wet ingredients to the dry (except for the chips) and beat with an electric mixer for about a minute. Then I mix the chips with a little flour and add half of them to the batter and swirl in gently. I scrape the batter into the baking pan and add the remaining chips, again pressing in gently.


I now have a copy of The Allergy-Free Cook Bakes Bread waiting to be reviewed, so maybe there will be another baking post coming up soon, if I can stop myself from making more chocolate chip cake!  Or these cookies!

35 comments:

  1. So funny - I had a bad experience, too. So hungry, driving around Oahu with my boyfriend and his brother, sister-in-law and mother (they all lived there) trying to find a good place for lunch. I hadn't had breakfast. The brother says he will stop and get me a snack - it was ice cream (I still ate dairy then). Took a big bite and hit sweetened beans. So disgusting. I have never been able to get over that, but I may have to now!

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  2. i wouldnt have guessed that there were beans in that cake.. i have been eyeing that deep dish cookie pie for a while too.. this gf version looks equally delicious!

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  3. Oh my goodness... I am going to make .. and eat this pie. Good thing I have he house to myself over the weekend... ;)

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  4. Annie,
    It's funny how an experience like that can color your opinion for a long, long time. It still makes me shudder a little to recall the aduki treat. I assure you though, the beans give no hint of their presence in this cake.

    Richa,
    You should try the original version to see how it is. I bet it's really good, though a bit sweeter than this version.

    Amber,
    I want to warn you that while I was alone with my cake, a large amount of it disappeared.

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  5. Haha! The image of people standing around at a dinner party spooning dry crumbs into their mouths, talking and having them fuff out is very amusing...
    Kudos for taking the jump into gf baking! I eat mostly gluten free too, minus the occasional crackers and baked goods but I love baking too much to stop, and am a bit wary of buying so many flours that may or may not even yield an edible treat. It looks like this cookie/pie came out really well, though. Cooking with beans is pretty intriguing but that's another baking method I have yet to conquer.

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  6. You says you can't eat chocolate chip cookies and still stay gluten free. Great recipe.

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  7. I have a nephew with several food allergies, so I've tried my hand at gf baking, with much of the same results as your brownies. Even vegan gf baking goods I bought at a vegan gf bakery - yes, we have one of those - did not taste light or hold together well. So, I turned to raw desserts, which are delicious and gf. The number of ingredients, and their costs, is also a bit of an obstacle for me, but my mom forges ahead for her grandson, which makes her the most awesome grandma ever! I mean, in Sacramento, of course. I'm sure you hold that title in Seattle. Anyhow, I know that gf baking keeps improving, so I'm totally open to it. I'm going to keep giving it a try because there are so many people that I would love to bake for that cannot eat gluten. I'm glad you've discovered relief for you stomach pain.

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  8. Oh, and one more thing: I have a cookbook Fabulous Beans by The Farm in TN - have you heard of it? Anyhow, there are some bean recipes in there for desserts, too. The only one that tasted super beany was the white bean pie. G and I mostly ate that because we don't like throwing food away, but the kids wouldn't come near it. But, the other bean desserts were great, so you never know. You just have to keep trying until you find some great combinations.

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  9. I haven't had much success with brownies, cookies, and cakes that use beans as their foundation, but this chocolate chip cake looks too good not to try. :)

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  10. foodfeud,
    Thanks for enhancing the brownie image. I love beans and eat them all the time, but the thought of putting them into dessert was (and still is a little) gross. This has sort of changed my mind — at least for this one particular dessert. I'm telling the truth that it was really good.

    jb,
    I recently bought vegan gf chocolate chip cookies at a bake sale and they were excellent. I believe they came from a recipe in the Babycakes cookbook.

    Blessedmama,
    We have a raw vegan bakery here and you can buy a slice of pie for $7, which makes sense considering the cost of ingredients. Specialty ingredients are pricy. The problem I have with so many raw desserts is they are way too rich for me. Sometimes I feel like I'm eating coconut oil. Ewww. I have made a few I liked from the cookbook "Raw for Dessert."

    I have the original Farm Cookbook but not the bean one. The Book Publishing Co. is a business based at The Farm, and they send me books to review! I have one right now.

    And just so you know, we don't like to waste food here either, I froze the "brownies" and we gradually ate them. Ick.

    Tiffany,
    This is my first try since the long-ago, but powerful, aduki incident, and I was more than pleased with the result. Now I'm afraid to try gf recipes without beans. But I plan to keep trying until I have a few trusty recipes I can depend on.

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  11. Very impressive! I happen to love sweetened aduki beans, but baking with beans can still lead to very hit-or-miss results. This one definitely looks like a hit!

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  12. That's wonderful that going gluten free has helped! I've only tried baking brownies with beans once and was extremely disappointed, but that cookie cake looks great!

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  13. Hannah,
    Sweetened aduki beans are a very popular treat — but not for me, though I love a savory aduki dish. The whole idea of beans in baked goods is still a little hard for me to accept, but the chocolate chip cake was a real hit!

    Molly,
    I usually try things twice before I give up, but I have a feeling if the cake hadn't worked out, it would have been the end of beans in my baked goods. And who knows, this might be the only recipe I try. :)

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  14. I have been eying that cake and seen it around the blogger world in various forms. You know I've been GF vegan for ages so I get it. Not all the baked goods work out so well. I have found you can't modify recipes as much with GF flour. I've tried making some vegan baked goods GF and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I never try a new recipe before I have to bring it somewhere important. For GF vegan eating, Seattle is really the best though, cafe flora, araya's, flying apron, so many good choices. skydottir cookies...you are in the right place!

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  15. This really looks fantastic (and oh my dear, I do hope those brownies weren't my recipe!!) ;) And I actually love the look of those swirl cookies--I think they might be even better than non-melty!

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  16. Bitt,
    I usually follow the no-new-recipe for-other-people rule, too, but since I'd never attempted a GF baked dessert, EVERYTHING was new. I should have brought a fruit salad, I know. I made a GF flour mix from a blog I happened to be reading, and followed the advice that I could sub it into any recipe with good results. I'm sure my inexperience caused the problems, since as you rightly point out, GF flours can be tricky to work with. I'll keep at it.

    When the brownies failed, I sent Ken to Sidecar for Skydottr cookies but they were all sold out.

    Ricki,
    If I'd used one of your recipes, the brownies probably would have turned out! They were one of my recipes, with a GF flour mix instead of wheat flour.

    The other problem with using too warm beans was I think they thinned the batter a lot, causing me to have to add GF oat flour to get a useable cookie dough. It worked, though. A GF miracle.

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  17. Gluten free baking IS confusing and hard sometimes! Have you ever tried using teff flour? I love it. I find I can usually use it straight up without having to mix in a zillion other flours/starches. But it has been so long since I have had a "normal" baked good that I may have a slightly skewed sense of taste at this point :-)

    Your cake looks like something I will have to try very soon!

    Courtney

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  18. Sounds like you're on the up and up regarding the GF baking curve. I've never ventured much into gluten free baking...I haven't been baking much at all over the past several years, but I should try getting back into it once in a while. I really like the idea of using beans. Your cc cake looks good...just made to go along with a glass of almond milk or the like.

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  19. Courtney,
    I do have teff flour but I've only used it to make injera. My GF baking so far has been confined to the brownie failure, and what you see in this post. I'll give it a try, though maybe as part of a mix to start, so I can see how it tastes. :)

    I, too, have a skewed sense of taste, and as long as I'm baking for me, that's OK. I'm trying to find things I can bake for anyone — or almost anyone.

    Rose,
    This is my first stab at gluten-free baking, other than a few raw desserts where I didn't care that they were GF. Now that I care, it's harder. GF baking is interesting, to say the least. Next time I bake something, you should come over and taste it!

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  20. I've never got into the beans in baked goods thing but that chocolate chip cake looks so awesome! I'm already a novice baker with regular ingredients, I can't even imagine getting and using all the GF stuff. Luckily, there's a GF bakery nearby that I can get a yummy vegan cookie from time to time. :-)

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  21. Ooooooh! I've always wanted to make one of these. I'm making chocolate chip cookies with the little lady I nanny, today - so I think I'll throw in a little extra milk and make a small cake :) Looks delicious, Andrea!

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  22. There's a theory going around these days that basically says the type of wheat we're growing now has been changed genetically so much from the original grain our species is adapted to that it's no longer very healthy in various ways (not even to mention environmentally). I'm not a food scientist, of course, but there sure do seem to be a lot of people who can't properly digest wheat. I've been eating pretty low grain for months now and hardly any wheat and though I can't say I feel particularly better, you do get used to its absence quite quickly, at least I found I did.

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  23. Chow vegan,
    The GF baking process is a little too weird for comfort, but I'm going to give it a try. The bean thing is weird, too, but I never thought about the beans as I was devouring the cake. :)

    Ashlae,
    I hope your cake is delicious, and with your baking skills, I'm sure it will be!

    Zoa,
    I've read about that. There are some that say the old genetic version of wheat (einkorn) might be OK for those with gluten-intolerance to eat. Others say no. I read somewhere that Whole Foods had einkorn flour, and I considered trying it, but couldn't find any. I haven't been diagnosed with celiac, but if I had, I probably wouldn't take a chance with any glutenous grain. The structure of gluten in einkorn is apparently very different from the gluten in modern day wheat. Thanks for mentioning this, as others might be interested in finding out more about it.
    http://www.einkorn.com/

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  24. That cake looks really wonderful, Andrea! I have to admit I never joined the beans in baked goods craze. Maybe I have to change my opinion now!

    P.S. Maybe it's not the gluten, but the wheat? I know you didn't get tested and I am not a doctor but a friend of mine has a wheat intolerance but he can tolerate spelt very well.

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  25. Oh. My. Gosh. This is brilliant and looks so yummy! I've never tried adding beans in my gluten-free cooking (I'm not a huge baker), but I've nothing but good things about the addition. I'm going to have to try this one!

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  26. Mihl,
    I have to be honest. I'm still leery of beans in baked goods except for this one recipe, though it doesn't seem as horrible as it once did. :)

    Thanks for your suggestion, but that was one of the first things I tried. Maybe I will give it another go in the future.

    Callie,
    I can't take any credit for the idea, only the courage to try it. I need to learn more about it so I can experiment further.

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  27. I too am in a conundrum. I love seeing what you cook & I trust your knowledge and taste buds, but beans in baked goods? I'm so not there yet.

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  28. Abby,
    I can certainly understand your reluctance — beans in baked goods doesn't sound like a good idea. I probably wouldn't have tried it if I weren't trying to bake a GF dessert, but at the time it seemed I had nothing to lose. And really, it was good!

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  29. The look so moist - how wonderful! I find so much gluten free food that I purchase tastes like chalk, it's better to make it at home!

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  30. My daughter will love this. Thanks

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  31. American bite,
    This definitely did not taste like chalk, but I know what you mean. I think it's because some commercial bakers depend too heavily on starch. I find a lot of baked goods taste like sand, which can also be a turn-off.

    Mikeh,
    I hope she likes it as much as we do!

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  32. Congrats on your successful baking experience! Gluten free baking intimidates me too. I tried to make gluten-free whoopie pies for a GF baking contest last month, bought a whole bunch of expensive ingredients, and totally flopped. I think the issue was the gum that I used. It gave the cookie a weird, gummy, squishy texture. No matter how long I cooked them, they just never seemed done. After reading about your success, I'll have to pull out my flours again when I get a hankering for something sweet! :)

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  33. Cadry,
    GF baking is a challenge — so different from regular baking. After making this recipe multiple times, I may be getting the courage to try another one. :) I think I'm getting a feel for what the batter is like and how to handle the ingredients. Maybe.

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  34. I made this today but as blondies - fabulous! Thank you for sharing the recipe!

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome. Thank you for trying it!

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