March 12, 2012

Thin Mints: Gluten-Free, Vegan, Nut-Free, and Homemade

If you work exclusively from home, have sons not daughters, and do all your grocery shopping online, you may not have realized that we are in the midst of Girl Scout Cookies season!  Cheery young ladies and their proud parents have armloads of boxes ready to bestow upon hungry and generous (remember, they're like $3.50 a box now...) cookie lovers everywhere.  In front of markets, at sporting events, right in your office, you can hardly escape the delicious morsels...but, if you're a regular reader, you probably have to due to food allergies.

As I mentioned last week when I posted a recipe for vegan, gluten-free lasagna, I think I have developed an intolerance to gluten.  I seem to be able to tolerate some but I'm not sure exactly how much.  The fear of being sidelined on the couch with abdominal pain is real enough that I'm trying to phase out most wheat products from my cooking and baking. 

Last year I posted a dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free Thin Mint recipe with soy-free options.  This month I tried taking out the wheat flour.  I made a simple substitution of gluten-free flour blend and xantham gum in place of the white whole wheat flour.  I'm happy to report that it seemed to work out just fine!

The one thing I wish I had done was to add more peppermint oil.  I added just three drops each to the cookie and chocolate coating and tasted once.  After the cookie was all set, the final product wasn't as minty as I would have liked.  My word of advice is don't be shy about tasting your dough or coating at different points of your mixing and assembly.  With vegan cookies, you can worry less about food poisoning from uncooked ingredients.  Use that perk to make sure you get the perfect taste!

Gluten-free Vegan Thin Mints (wheat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free)
Adapted from GAW's vegan thin mint recipe which, in turn, was adapted from a recipe by Alien's Day Out

2/3 cup gluten-free flour blend*
1/4 tsp xantham gum
1/3 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder (if you only have regular unsweetened cocoa powder, that's fine)
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 Tbsp sugar (I use organic sugar.  You could use refined white sugar but it won't be vegan.)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp peppermint extract or 3-6 drops peppermint oil

1 bag dairy-free semisweet chocolate chips (for chips from of the top 8 allergens, use Enjoy Life)
2 Tbsp vegetable shortening (for shortening free of the top 8 allergens, use Spectrum Organic Shortening)
1/3 tsp peppermint extract or 4 drops of peppermint oil (have more on hand per your taste)
  1. Combine, maple, vanilla extract, and peppermint oil. 
  2. Sprinkle flour and cocoa over wet mixture.  Mix thoroughly being careful to break up any clumps of cocoa.
  3. When dough has been combined, scoop it onto a large sheet of parchment or wax paper.  Using the sides of the paper, hand-roll the dough into a log, about 1 1/2-inch in diameter.  Freeze for at least 1 hour to firm up dough.
  4. Preheat over 350 degrees.  Grease or foil-line a baking sheet.
  5. Take hardened dough from freezer.  Unwrap it onto the baking sheet and, if needed, wait for it to warm up enough so that a sharp knife can cut through it.
  6. Cut log into circles 1/4-inch thick.  Reshape to round out the edges if needed.
  7. Bake circles for about 11-13 minutes.  I baked mine for about 12 minutes and got a crunchy cookie like real Thin Mints.  Cool on pan for a couple minutes and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
  8. When the cookies are cooled, melt chocolate chips with a double boiler.  If you don't have this (I don't), find a lipped glass bowl that can hang on the edges of a small pot.  Put about 3/4 of the bag of chips and the 2 tablespoons of shortening into the bowl.  Heat about an inch of water in the pot.  As the water heats up, the chips will melt.  Stir constantly.  When most of the chips have melted, turn off the heat and stir in remaining chips.  Stir until the chocolate is completely melted.
  9. Add 4 drops of peppermint oil.  Add more extract or drops of peppermint oil if needed. (Yes, taste away but make sure you have stirred well first!) 
  10. Using a fork and your fingers, dip cookies one at a time into the melted chocolate, using the fork to scrape off any excess.  Place finished cookies on pan lined with parchment paper. 
  11. Refrigerate or freeze cookies to set chocolate.  Your fingers will get messy, but it's so worth it!  Makes about 2-3 dozen cookies.  Store leftovers in an airtight container.  You can freeze the cookies for long-time storage.
Freshly dipped Thin Mints -- tempting to eat not but refrigerate for neat eats.
When life gives you extra chocolate dipping sauce, make fancy popcorn!
 On Wednesday, we'll show you the spoils from the hunt for an allergy-friendly Tagalong recipe.  'Tis the cookie season!

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