I am one of the lucky souls with whom gluten agrees wholeheartedly, and that is just fine with me, because some of my favorite foods (bread! made from wheat flour!) are glutenous.
Increasingly, I find myself surrounded by friends who cannot or don’t want to eat gluten for one reason or another. I have a lot to say about gluten-free diets, in a pedantic, know-it-all-y, I-work-in-public-health sort of way, which we could talk about another time, if, you know, you’re into pedantry. But whatever the reason someone avoids gluten, I do for them what I do for my vegetarian or paleo or whatever-diet-you-adhere-to friends: I cook for them.
Accommodating people’s chosen diets feels natural and bizarrely satisfying for me, and most people who come to dinner at my house for the first time will get a phone call asking if they have any dietary restrictions (or even dislikes! I’m a glutton for punishment). I don’t want anything to stand between you and enjoying food and company and conversation, and if you’re concerned about gluten in your food, some part of you is ignoring all that good stuff. The challenge of crafting something that I would like to eat, out of items I normally keep in the kitchen, that fits your low-FODMAP or South Beach Diet is…fun.
This is what Nicole’s book Flourless is all about: baked goods that are “naturally” gluten-free. In other words, foods that weren’t adjusted to be gluten-free with special flour mixes or gums: rather, they just happen to be so. The recipes are something you would eat even if you, like cantankerous old me, won’t touch (and would certainly never attempt to make) vegan-gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, because I really like butter and wheat in my chocolate chip cookies, thankyouverymuch.
A note about the author Nicole: I have never met her. (In fact, we seem pretty bent on inhabiting opposite geographic spheres—Nicole is based on the West Coast and in North Africa; I’m more likely to be found on the East Coast and in sub-Saharan Africa.) She has read this site pretty much since its inception and occasionally stops by to leave a kind comment. I read, for a long time, her (sadly discontinued) contributions to NPR’s Kitchen Window series, including this one, in which Spiridakis tells the story that plants the unique seeds of her outlook on the world of gluten-free desserts.
My friend Sara recently had a baby and I wanted to bring them a meal, but also a treat for making it through three and a half weeks of infanthood—but her Meal Train website specified that she wanted dairy-free and gluten-free foods only. I considered copping out and just bringing some nice dark chocolate, but got home to find that Flourless had arrived.
There’s a lot in this cookbook I would like to make (bourbon arborio rice pudding, anyone?) but these macaroons caught my eye for their simplicity: they only have five ingredients. Six if you dip (or awkwardly drizzle, in my case) bittersweet chocolate on top. They come together quickly in one bowl, are out of the oven in 15 minutes, and are unusual—the lemon/coconut/honey combo is really lovely. But don’t take my word for it: my new mama friend texted me a picture the day after I dropped off the treats—-of the last cookie left on the plate.
You can purchase the book, which, FYI, includes weight measures as well as standard U.S. baking measures and is beautiful to boot, here,
read Nicole’s blog here,
and get a few more of Nicole’s “naturally” gluten-free recipes (salted caramel pots de creme, tra la) on that same Kitchen Window column I mentioned, here.
[Full disclosure: Chronicle sent me a copy of this book for free. I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever reviewed a free copy of a book here…it just happened to be in the right place at the right time.]
Nearly exactly the version from Nicole Spiridakis’s book, Flourless, with permission from the author
Makes 24 cookies
- 2 egg whites
- Grated zest from 1 lemon, best if unsprayed/organic
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. / 130 g honey
- 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups / 180 grams shredded, unsweetened coconut (I had coconut flakes, which make for a looser cookie but still work)
- Optional: Bittersweet chocolate chips
- Position the rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees F / 150 degrees C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the egg whites for about 30 seconds to lighten them up a bit. Whisk in the lemon zest, honey, and vanilla. Add the shredded coconut and stir well to combine. (Note from Sarah: You really do need to stir this very well to coat all of the coconut.)
- Scoop out 1 tablespoon portions of the coconut mixture. Using your hands, squeeze to compress the mixture and roll each portion into a small ball. (From Sarah: I actually preferred to scoop out the mixture, press it into the tablespoon with my hand, and then thwack it onto the parchment-lined baking sheet so that a little tablespoon mound came out.) Place them on the prepared baking sheet about 1 inch/2.5 cm apart.
- Bake until the bottoms and edges of the cookies are just starting to brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on the baking sheet. When fully cooled, peel the cookies from the paper before serving. (If using, drizzle or dip into melted bittersweet chocolate and allow to cool again.)
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.