Has anyone else noticed that 9 recipes out of 10 use far too much sugar? I mean sure it makes for a chewier cookie but it also contributes hugely to the fact that coeliacs have less than perfect teeth. Years of calcium and vitamin D deficiency contributing to spots on your teeth, weak enamel and well, generally your mouth turning into a graveyard. Lovely. Whilst this seems, tragically, to be something of an inevitable process, I’d like to keep those crowns, bridges and big gaping holes at bay a while longer, thus the anti-sugar march at the moment. I mean, I realise it’s in everything we eat, we can’t get away from it if we want to continue to enjoy fruit, and yoghurt and beautiful carbohydrates, but is there really a need to consume such a large amount of refined sugars? And yes, I am aware that one way to cut down would be to eat fewer biscuits and cakes, something I am genuinely striving to do, but frankly I’d rather have a life with the odd under-sweetened biscuit than one without them at all. So, as a courtesy to my dentist, or indeed, my bank balance, I cut the sugar in these cookies to a third. Yes, I cut two-thirds of the sugar out. Result? Well, they tasted of, chocolate. And biscuit. I’m sure they weren’t quite as chewy as they could have been. Instead they were a little closer to shortbread, crispy and a little crumbly on the outside, but inside, fudgy and deeply, intensely chocolatey, enhanced by the little flecks of sea salt. They were rich, because of the dark chocolate, but not bitter; still, rich enough that one was enough. Tell me, where is the bad here?
I used 55g of sugar; I forgot to weigh the dough at the end, but totting up the ingredients that means these were roughly 15% sugar (and yes I know that doesn’t include the sugar in the chocolate, so it is cheating a bit – fine, let’s say 20% sugar). As compared to at least 35% sugar with the original recipe. Obviously, this isn’t going to work with every recipe; in some, sugar is a much more integral part of the recipe. A low-sugar meringue has very different properties to a high-sugar meringue. Trying to cut sugar in bread-making will lead to a rather flat loaf. But where the focus is on the chocolate, good quality, dark, intense, bitter chocolate, sugar should be a minor addition, just enough to mute the bitterness of the cocoa powder. Now fret not, this blog is not going to become all do-gooder, vegan, raw, natural, no-sugar healthy food. I’m merely pointing out that for me, all this excess sugar makes me uncomfortable. It should be a treat, a flavour enhancer (like salt), good quality and thus used sparingly for effect. So I guess this is more of a warning than anything else. Most of the recipes on here have fairly sensible sugar levels anyway, so if you, like me, automatically cut the sugar in a new recipe, you might have a shock if you try that with something on here. Bake these just the way they are first, eat as many as you like, almost guilt-free, then you can start playing around with them.
50g dark chocolate (70% cocoa), broken into large pieces
50g dark chocolate (70% cocoa), chopped into irregular chunks and slivers
95g (1/2 cup) gluten-free flour blend
30g (1/4 cup) cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Tiny pinch (about 1/16 teaspoon) cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
55g (1/4 cup) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon finishing salt
1. Preheat the oven to 160 C. Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl melt the first 50g chocolate and butter. Stir together and set aside briefly to cool. Chop the second lot of dark chocolate into chunks and slivers. Irregular is better.
3. In a small bowl stir together the gluten-free flour blend, cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and first lot of salt. Set aside.
4. Into the chocolate and butter mix, beat the sugar, egg and vanilla until well combined. Stir in the flour mixture a bit at a time until it’s all been added. Finally stir in the chocolate chunks.
5. Using a tablespoon scoop up the dough and roll into roughly 1-inch balls. Arrange about 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet and squash slightly with your palm. Lightly sprinkle, or press, the finishing salt into the top of the cookies; use sparingly.
6. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, or until spread out, slightly crispy-looking at the edges and smelling divine. Remove from the oven, leave to cool completely on the baking sheet, then devour.