Coconut pecan oatmeal cookies (gluten free)

In my household, we love cocoa -- but my coconut pecan oatmeal cookies are nothing to mess with

Published February 17, 2010 1:20AM (EST)

A version of this story first appeared on Luluandphoebe's Open Salon blog.

While it has been said that "Shokolad" might be my Hebrew name, it is not. To the best of my knowledge.

Opening the cupboard, you might think that someone here has an obsession with chocolate (shokolad). Jumbles of bars, bittersweet, dark, unsweetened, semisweet, all Scharffen Berger are stacked mile high. Tucked next to that is a pound (at least) of Valrhona unsweetened cocoa -- just in case the supplier runs dry. And keeping it company would be Green & Black's organic cocoa and more Scharffen Berger cocoa. You can't miss the shiny bags of chocolate chips, Ghirardelli bittersweet and more Scharffen Berger stuffed into the back seat behind the tower.

Some women love shoes. Some women love chocolate more.

But this time, Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Rolled Oats gets squeezed through the narrow chocolate passage. The perfume of chocolate confectionary goodness lingers long after the cupboard is shuttered. After all, while chocolate passes for a food group and the star of entire tomes, oats ought to have at least a chapter rather than just a footnote.

Oats deserve a day in the sun.

Junior high school was the first time I encountered what passed for an oatmeal cookie. They were sticky sweet, gooey and chewy and not chocolate. It was disgust at first sight. I'd sooner pass up a cookie than eat one of those beige, gnarly things.

Then, at the impressionable age of 15, I met my future mother-in-law, an oracle of the early whole foods movement. She had begun purchasing and cooking food from the co-op. A new concept, it was a compelling way to learn about real food that didn't come in a can or box. For the next year or so the horizons of food eating expanded to include homemade Mexican -- decades before there were the ubiquitous Mexican Food choices in our neighborhoods. She managed to make Asian food that didn't come from a Chun King or La Choy can. And once in a while we ate a little Middle Eastern fare with mild curries. It was an event to eat with that family.

At 17, it was my pleasure to marry into that same family where food was a daily adventure. Newly wed, we got to participate in buying from the co-op and sharing the mail-order bulk health foods from Walnut Acres. Like any good dealer, we drove around and distributed the goods from the trunk of the car. Lots of 17-year-olds were doing something similar, but few were distributing soy beans, cashews and oats.

There were always the oats. Lots and lots of oats. Not only were we eating granola by then (hey, so many oats) but wearing Birkenstocks. Our children wore baby Birkenstocks and ate lots of oatmeal. No matter how much we ate, the bottom of the oats never materialized.

I learned to make oatmeal cookies that were sometimes edible and most times only fairly good when fresh from the oven. They were still too sweet and a bit beige and gnarly. Truth be told, chocolate still won out every single time. For every batch of oatmeal cookies, or bars, there would be a corresponding batch of hearty chocolate chip cookies or brownies.

The years rolled by. The oats rolled out of favor. The co-op went the way of Whole Foods Markets. And gluten intolerance and Celiac came knocking on the door. Oats were on the forbidden foods list. Recently, though, Bob's Red Mill became the newest reliable source for gluten-free oats.

Now it seemed time to rethink that cookie. After many hopeless batches were filed into the garbage, we were about to give up hope. Too gnarly. Too beige. And boring. But not long ago, it became clear that we may have just cracked that oat. Quite by accident, a handful of toasted coconut made its way from the food processor into the oats, along with some leftover pecans, and the rest was history.

This batch makes more than 4 dozen cookies. They will last for a long time stored in a tin, and won't lose a bit of that crispy edge. These are gluten-free all the way, but they don't have to be made that way. Since I rarely remember to write this stuff down, this seemed like a good place to immortalize these oat cookies.

Coconut Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

2.5 scant cups of Gluten Free oats, lightly toasted
1 cup plus 2 heaping tablespoons gluten-free flour
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, lightly toasted
1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
freshly ground nutmeg (about a quarter teaspoon)
pinch salt
1.5 sticks of unsalted butter, softened (12 tablespoons)
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
1 cup pecans, rough cut (by hand), lightly toasted
1 cup raisins (optional)
1 cup of Hershey's butterscotch chips* (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line four baking sheets with silpats or parchment.
  2. Prep the oats, nuts and coconut by lightly toasting them on a cookie sheet in the oven. The nuts need about 8 minutes. The coconut about 5 minutes (or less -- keep an eye on it) and the oats, about 15 minutes.
  3. Once each of these is cool, proceed with the recipe.
  4. Cream the butter and sugars together until fully mixed. It doesn't have to be light and fluffy, but you want it close to that. Mix in the eggs, one a time until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla and stir.
  5. Meantime, mix the flour, xanthan gum, baking soda, cinnamon/nutmeg and salt with a whisk in a separate bowl. In a food processor (small one is great) take most of the oats and give them a whirl or two- don't turn them into flour. You are going for a chopped oat. Keep about a 1/2 cup of the toasted whole rolled oats aside. Pulse all the toasted coconut just slightly. Now mix all of the oats and coconut with the flour mixture and whisk it up to fully incorporate the flour, coconut and oats together.
  6. Gently add to the butter/sugar mixture and stir until incorporated. Add the pecans, raisins and butterscotch chips. Mix thoroughly.
  7. Using a tablespoon or scooper, drop balls of dough onto a silpat- or parchment-lined cookie sheet. You should be able to get about a dozen cookies on each half-sheet pan. Flatten them slightly. You will probably fill all four baking sheets.
  8. Let the scooped dough sit at room temperature for 45 minutes. Resting always makes them taste a little better. (A little tip from Alice Medrich -- thanks, Alice!).
  9. Bake two sheets at at time and rotate about halfway. They take about 11-12 minutes total, but watch them. Each oven is different. You want them to look slightly crispy on the edge but still soft in the center. As they cool, they will crisp up. Leave them on the silpat until cool, about 10 minutes. When totally stone cold, store them in a big cookie tin, if they last that long.
  10. Notes: Toasting the oats, coconut and pecans gives them a deeper flavor. Just watch them carefully so none burn. Whizzing the coconut and oats in the food processor gives them a different texture, making the finished cookie a little more cookie-like than granola-bar-like. The coconut adds some pizzazz and a hint of flavor. It isn't overpowering. You can substitute other dried fruits in place of the raisins. Don't use more than a cup; it will overpower the cookie. Rest the dough. It makes a huge difference. It works for gluten or gluten-free dough. To make these with regular flour, just omit the xanthan gum, and use all-purpose flour. Bake for less time if you like a soft cookie and more if you like them very crispy.

*Hershey's Butterscotch Chips are reported to be gluten-free. The other brand (Nestle) are not.

Bon appetit!

By Lisa Horel

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