February 04, 2015

Variations on chocolate chip cookie pie (GF) (And some thoughts on GF baking.)


We recently celebrated the second birthday of our little grandson, and as is usually the case at family events, I made a cake. I think I became the family cakemaker because no one else wants to make vegan cakes or gluten-free cakes, but I don't mind. Making cakes is kind of fun. My first plan was to make a two-layer chocolate cake, but I got sidetracked, and decided to make a family favorite instead — chocolate chip cookie pie. For some reason, this seems to be my family's favorite cake even though it contains an ingredient that I don't generally consider a cake ingredient — cannelini beans. Because it was a birthday cake, I added a chocolate frosting, but it's the same old cookie pie underneath. The pie-cake has a particularly appealing texture, a sweet chocolatey richness — and it really doesn't need frosting. Everyone seems to like it, and except for one time when I forgot to cool the beans and melted all the chocolate chips, it's never failed me.


I first wrote about the cake here. but I'm going to reprint the recipe so you don't have to go back and look it up if you don't want to. It's a gluten-free cake but you can make it with wheat flour if you want. Just substitute wheat flour for the sorghum flour and tapioca flour. I wish I could include the frosting recipe, made from a 70% Theo chocolate bar, but I didn't write down the exact proportions so it will have to wait for another time. If you scroll down the page you'll find my newest variation of the recipe, baked in a 9-inch square pan. I think it's my new favorite cake. After the recipe section, I'll share a few thoughts about gluten-free baking.


Gluten-free chocolate chip cookie pie 
(based on a recipe by Chocolate-Covered Katie)
(check labels to make sure you are using gluten-free ingredients, if you intend the cake to be gluten-free.)

Oil a 10-inch 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 (or your favorite GF flour)
  • 1/3 cup (GF) oat flour
  • 1/3 cup tapioca flour or arrowroot powder
  • 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, oat flour, and tapioca flour in a large bowl. Whisk the dry ingredients together until all  lumps are removed and the flours are combined.
  3. Scrape the wet ingredients into the dry and beat until completely combined (or at least one minute). Strictly speaking, you don't have to use an electric mixer. You can add the dry ingredients to the processor, mix them in, then stir in the chocolate chips as directed. Using a mixer seems to give GF baked goods a better rise.
  4. Stir in about 3/4 of the chocolate chips.
  5. Spread the batter (it will be fairly stiff) into the greased pan and smooth the top. Add the remaining chips and press in gently.
  6. Bake in a pre-heated 350˚ oven for 40 to 50 minutes or 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. 
After the cake has cooled about 20 minutes, place a plate over the top, flip it over, peel off the paper, place a serving plate over the cake and flip the cake right side up. It works much better than trying to remove the cake from the pan bottom.
When you slice the cake, use a very sharp knife and slice straight down — NO SAWING. Trust me. 


Playing around with the cookie pie recipe, I've changed the ingredients a bit to create a very appealing square cake that's a bit less sweet, and more cake-like than the cookie pie.

Chocolate chip square cake

Oil a 9-inch square dish fitted with parchment paper on the bottom. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seed plus 5 tablespoons cold water
  • 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 cup evaporated cane juice or organic sugar
  • 1/2 cup almond flour (I used Honeyville Blanched Almond Flour, but sometimes I use Bob's Red Mill)
  • 1/4 cup millet flour
  • 1/2 cup (GF) oat flour
  • 1/4 cup or arrowroot powder or tapioca flour( also known as tapioca starch)
  • 1 cup vegan chocolate chips (the larger amount is excessive but fun)
  1. Place the flax meal in a small dish or measuring cup and add the water. Allow it to sit for five minutes, or until needed for the recipe.
  2. Blend the beans, applesauce, oil, vanilla and lemon juice in a food processor until smooth.
  3. Place the baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, almond flour, millet flour, oat flour, and tapioca flour in a large bowl. Whisk the dry ingredients together until all  lumps are removed and the flours are combined.
  4. Whip the flax meal with a fork until it is gluey, then add to the dry ingredients.
  5. Scrape the wet ingredients into the dry and beat until completely combined (or at least one minute) with an electric hand mixer. Strictly speaking, you don't have to use an electric mixer. You can add the dry ingredients to the processor, mix them in, then stir in the chocolate chips as directed. Using a mixer seems to give GF baked goods a better rise.
  6. Stir in about 3/4 of the chocolate chips.
  7. Spread the batter (it will be fairly stiff) into the greased pan and smooth the top. Add the remaining chips and press in gently.
  8. Bake in a pre-heated 350˚ oven for 40 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out dry.
  9. Cool on a rack for about 20 minutes before removing from the pan.
After the cake has cooled about 20 minutes, place a plate over the top, flip it over, peel off the paper, place a serving plate over the cake and flip the cake right side up.

Serving tip: I really like making square cakes but I never seemed to have the right plate on which to serve them. My plates either had too high a lip, were the wrong size, or were an oval shape and I had to awkwardly squeeze the cut pieces on. I wanted a flat square that I could just turn the cake onto, and cut it in place. If you have a Crate and Barrel near you, they have a set of dinnerware called, "Cyd" with a dinner plate that is the exact right size for a 9-inch square cake or brownies, and it's only $5.95. You can buy just one.


Some thoughts about gluten-free cake baking
I'm not a baking expert by any means, but I have learned a lot about baking gluten-free, and I have some ideas I'd like to share. First I'd like to say that I want my cakes to look good, taste good and not taste gluten-free, but I like all my recipes, even dessert, to contribute to rather than take away from, good health. When I first started baking GF, I followed all the rules about using xanthan gum and starches in the flour mix. I soon discovered that xanthan gum didn't sit well in my stomach, and starches are really just empty calories. The high proportion of starches commonly flound in GF baked goods can have a negative effect on health and weight.

I quickly found that adding flax meal like I used to use for wheat-based cakes and muffins, worked as well as xanthan gum, if I used two tablespoons instead of one. That was easy. Then I started thinking about the proportions of starch to flour, and what was really necessary for good results. I had to ask myself what definition I was using for "good results". When using whole grain flours without gluten (like sorghum, millet, rice, etc.) the addition of starch is necessary; without starch GF baked goods would be heavy and gluey. But some of the flour mixes I was using had as much as 50% starch or as little as 1/3 starch. What was I trying to accomplish? Was I after the Wonder Bread of cake? Even when I ate gluten, I wasn't drawn to lighter than air versions of baked goods. Before I was vegan or vegetarian, I was a 'health nut', so to speak. I ate a whole foods diet, and that included whole grain baked goods — I needed to get a grip, and figure out the flour/starch ratios. I wasn't trying to reproduce the Standard American Diet white cake, after all. In the square cake above, I've used 1-1/4 cups of flour to 1/4 cup of starch, and the texture was just as I like it. The amount of sugar still seems high to me, especially in light of the chocolate chips, but most people seem to prefer sweet cakes. Sometimes I use Bob's Red Mill GF baking mix and substitute 1/3 to 1/2 cup of GF flour like almond or oat for an equal amount of Bob's mix to reduce the starch ratio — almond flour and oat flour seem to produce the best cakes for me. It always seems to work fine.

I'm only talking about cakes, muffins, cookies, pancakes and waffles — yeast bread is entirely different, and I've barely tried to bake bread. I've successfully make pizza crust using a high-starch and xanthan gum recipe, but haven't tried many other recipes, and haven't tried changing flour/starch ratios. I used to bake great sourdough and whole grain breads, but GF breads scare me. I'd like to have one good bread recipe for the rare occasion when I'm really missing bread. Any suggestions?

18 comments:

  1. Both versions look really delicious. I like Chocolate Covered Katie's recipes, but she doesn't really seem to use sugar anymore, which weirds me out a little. But the beans baked into desserts trick is a fantastic one.
    I'm always to scared to try gf recipes with gluten flour since I'd hate to ruin it and have it go to waste. but I might risk it for this.

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    Replies
    1. My family, including the kids, love the cookie pie though I find it a little sweet. I always make it with the full load of sugar and chips. The cake was more to my liking. I'll have to take a look at Katie's blog to see what she's doing these days instead of sugar. As for the beans, you can't tell at all, thank heavens!

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  2. Happy birthday to your grandson! I once made a test recipe for Celine, it was a brownie that called for canellini beans. It weirded me out but then I tried it and it was so good! So although I cannot get behind black beans in desserts I can definitely get behind canellini beans.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The beans always weird me out, too, but I have to say the results are great and I always feel a little better about the sweets knowing they're there, silly as that may be.

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  3. This looks heavenly!! Happy birthday to the little guy!

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    Replies
    1. He may not have understood exactly what a birthday is, but he was down with the presents and the cake! :)

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  4. The cakes look delicious! I like making square cakes too, maybe because they are easier to slice evenly... I have only attempted a few gluten-free cakes, some were complete failures, eek, and I hate wasting ingredients. So, thanks for your explanation and experimentation, I'll try to observe my starch to flour proportion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gluten-free baking is tricky at first — I've had some unfortunate failures, too. The easiest and most certain path to success is to use Bob's GF baking mix. More starch makes the cake lighter and makes cutting it easier, but I'm happy with my results (usually) when I use less. The cookie pie has never failed me, so when I want to be sure my dessert will work, that's what I make!

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  5. A belated happy birthday to the little guy! Time sure flies by, I remember when you first shared pics of your grandson, and now he's already two! Awesome b-day cake! I'm all for less sweet but still have it taste great. And cannelini beans in cake? I would love to give that a try. :-)

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    Replies
    1. Hard to believe, isn't it? Time seems to go faster when you watch little children grow. The cookie pie is definitely sweet, but the cake less so. Both delicious, though!

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  6. Happy Belated to your beloved grandson!! The cake looks utterly adorable - I love the Ducky and Elmo decorations, they are so cute! Have you tried these products before - http://www.hopefoods.com/products/spreads/chocolate/? A family friend introduced me these dips and the dark chocolate dip tastes amazing. It has garbanzo beans, coconut sugar, coconut oil and cocoa powder/butter, etc - more like a sweet fudge or ganache dip. I was pretty impressed with the use of garbanzo beans…. GF Baking is very tricky, I'm trying Cara's new vegan/gf baking cookbook at the moment - she listed a variety of GF all-purpose and other type of flour mixes, I can't wait to try some of her desserts!

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    Replies
    1. The little one is very fond of Elmo so I was excited to find the candle. I haven't tried those products, but they look very interesting. It's taken me a while to get used to the idea of beans in sweets, but it really does work. Baking GF takes a little practice, but amazing results are definitely possible.

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  7. I'm a recent convert to adding beans and veggies to cakes, and now I can't think why it took me so long to start cooking with them. That cake is so sweet, your grandson is lucky to have such a great baker for a granny!

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    Replies
    1. I can understand perfectly well why it took you so long (:D) but it does work very well, doesn't it?

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  8. I love everything about this! A giant cookie/cake/pie sounds like the most perfect dessert that I would request repeatedly. What a lucky grandson!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your comment just made me want a cookie pie RIGHT NOW! Of course, it helps that I use the full amount of chocolate chips. :)

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  9. I'm going to be exploring gluten-free baking more and more and just general gluten-free foods. I'm not planning on "going gluten-free", but I am aware of the pitfalls of eating too much gluten. I've been eating about 90% gluten-free for the past month and have felt a difference in how rested I feel. Is that common? Happy birthday to the little guy!

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    Replies
    1. I don't know. I don't feel more rested, but if I don't eat gluten I don't have horrible stomach pains or constipation.

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