I am. I will be blunt, baking without eggs baffles and alarms me. I feel the need of the whole sticky, rising, burnishing, yummy thing eggs do to batter. But cookies are my wheelhouse — the first thing I ever baked after I graduated from my sister’s EasyBake oven, and I can’t let a little thing like fear of egg-free baking defeat me. In the past, I have attempted substituting tofu for egg, but there was no point. I don’t have any arrowroot on hand and I disapprove of thickeners on principle
I also had a rather uniquely Berkeley problem — while cleaning out my cupboards (which turned out to be a not-so-good activity for my broken foot), I discovered a surplus of cacao nibs.
After watching last night’s episode of Portlandia, which featured the word “cacao” in a very unusual context which you will have to see for yourself, I also feel like having too many cacao nibs in the house is a somewhat pretentious problem. (Side note: Portlandia should be required viewing for everyone who lives in Berkeley. I know it’s supposed to be Portland, but trust me, it’s us.)
Nibs are bits of roasted cocoa beans and they are nice in place of nuts or any time you want a chocolate taste without the actual chocolate. (Not often, if you’re me!) The reason I have so many of them lying around is that I’m not crazy about them normally. They can have an after effect of eating bits of wood but they are too expensive not to use!
Alice Medrich, who ran Cocolat, a store that used to be in the Gourmet Ghetto when I was a teenager (I think they were next to the space where Lenny the Butcher used to be, RIP), was a pioneer of how we eat and cook with fancy chocolate. Her store featured these enormous truffles, too enormous for my taste, and I’m a serious chocoholic, but many other blogs have waxed whiney and nostalgic about Cocolat. I won’t do that here, but I do need to mention that Alice’s nibby cookie recipe, which I watched her make in a cooking class at Sur la Table on 4th street once, is the best in the world. You can find it all over the web and in her excellent cook book, Pure Dessert. The problem for me? It’s a butter cookie, a shortbread even, the kind of cookie that even Earth Balance can’t replicate properly.
I have friends who can’t eat gluten and most of them are also vegan, those two intolerances going hand-in-hand in the case of Celiac’s disease. In my Internet research to find a good gluten-free, vegan cookie to adapt for my excess nibs, I ran across a Celiac’s baking site, but as soon as I read where the blogger had written that “grapeseed oil was interchangable with butter” I knew I couldn’t rely on her taste for recipes!
I also checked out sites for almond flour baking, since I had a bag of Bob’s almond flour on hand. I ended up modifying a recipe for a cookie from the Bob’s site beyond recognition and then throwing in almond milk at the last minute as a binder.
The result? Amazing! Part cookie and part candy, this delectable cookie reminds me of the lace cookies we used to make with oats when I was small. They are the perfect vehicle for the nibs, converting them into a delightful crunchy taste sensation. These cookies are great — not just good for cookies that were created for what they aren’t — no dairy, no eggs, no gluten. Try them yourself and see what I mean.
Almond Florentine Nibby Cookie
Gluten-free and vegan — but not low-fat!
Caveat: Cookie can not be baked on a rainy day or it will not attain desired crispness.
2 cups almond meal (can be created by pulsing almonds in a food processor or purchased)
1 stick Earth Balance
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup cacao nibs (can be ordered from Scharffen Berger or more cheaply, elsewhere)
1/4 cup almond milk
Soften the butter outside the fridge. Preheat your oven to 350.
Mix all ingredients until they are smooth and creamy and drop 1/4 inch balls of dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. The parchment is crucial, as these cookies spread a great deal and are extremely sticky while hot. They are exactly the kind of cookie you could roll on the end of a wooden spoon, if you are more dexterous than me!
Bake about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and cool by moving parchment off cookie sheet and onto a cooling rack. The cookies will set and slide off of the parchment in about 5 minutes.
If you are rolling them, you will want to pull them out about a minute before they are brown. I couldn’t make this work but that’s probably because it was about to rain. Moisture in the air interferes with caramelizing sugar, which is the secret to this recipe and the foundation of candy making — why you can’t make candy on a rainy day either, sadly.
Because what would be more fun on a rainy day than making candy?
I have no idea how many cookies this recipe makes because it started to rain but I made about 3 dozen (and ate a dozen more) before the rain came and I still have almost half the dough left in the freezer.