Birthdays and holidays in the daycare classroom involve some culinary creativity. Most schools are nut-free these days, and a lot of our son’s friends also have egg allergies or gluten sensitivities.
So recently I decided to develop a recipe for chocolate chip cookies that everyone could eat.
My secret ingredient? Sunflower butter! It imparts a nutty flavor similar to peanut butter, but is much more allergy-friendly.
A COOKIE EVERYONE CAN EAT – AND WILL LOVE
I love these cookies for a few reasons:
First, they straddle the line between super chewy and crispy, which I feel is always something to celebrate in a chocolate chip cookie. While there’s a time and a place for soft, pillowy cookies, I don’t think that place is this type of cookie.
Second, I use coconut oil, which adds a subtle sweetness that pairs nicely with the caramelly brown sugar and the dark chocolate chips.
- Note that the FDA does list coconut as a tree nut, though many people with tree nut allergies are fine with coconut. If you’re not sure if the person or people eating your cookies has a tree nut allergy that includes coconut, check with them before making this recipe, or substitute another fat in place of the coconut oil (we recommend butter if there are no dairy allergies, or vegan EarthBalance if there are).
Third, they’re made with homemade sunflower seed butter, although you could use any seed or nut butter you’d like. Here’s my favorite recipe for homemade sunflower butter!
Last but not least, these cookies are even better the second day!
MY FAVORITE GLUTEN-FREE FLOUR BLEND
There are dozens of gluten-free flour blends to choose from these days and many are great; I happen to like Bob’s Red Mill’s Gluten-Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour blend.
It’s a great all-purpose choice and doesn’t contain chickpea or legume flours, which impart a savory flavor to baked goods that I don’t always love.
MAKE SURE IT HAS XANTHAN GUM
Bob’s blend contains xanthan gum, which acts as a binder in gluten-free baking recipes like this one.
Before baking, check the ingredients in your own gluten-free flour blend and if it doesn’t contain xanthan gum (or another binding ingredient such as guar gum or psyllium husks), I recommend adding 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum to ensure success.
HOW TO MAKE THESE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
In terms of method, this cookie dough is slightly finicky – not in the sense that you’re going to be banging your head against your hands while mixing up your dough, but you may feel like something’s slightly amiss.
I’m here to assure you that everything is just fine. This dough just takes a little extra love before you can form it into balls on your cookie sheet.
This instruction will feel counter-intuitive to anyone used to baking with regular flour, but it’s important to knead the dough at the very end of mixing and then also knead in the chocolate chips. Because the dough doesn’t contain butter or eggs, it won’t be sticky or creamy like traditional cookie dough. Instead, it’s more on the crumbly side, so kneading it will help incorporate all the ingredients, including the chocolate chips, and form them into a ball.
So get in there, and trust me that all will be well.
After kneading, be sure to chill the dough after mixing. This will help it firm up and prevent the cookies from spreading too much, and it allows time the flours to fully absorb the liquids in the dough. The cookies will still spread a little, but without the chilling, they end up flatter than I like.
Finally, the dough will be a bit crumbly after chilling, so when it’s time to form the cookies into balls, let the dough warm up a bit first – much like you would do with a pie dough. Even so, you may have to really press the dough to form it into balls.
BAKE AND SERVE!
After all that kneading and finessing, these babies bake relatively quickly in the oven. They will fill the kitchen with the smell of fresh-baked (allergen-free!) sunflower butter chocolate chip cookies in no time.
They taste much like a peanut butter cookie but with slightly savory undertones – imagine a classic peanut butter cookie with a hint of tahini (I find sunflower butter reminds me a bit of tahini in flavor). They’re not too sweet, and are great as an afternoon pick-me-up or a simple evening dessert.
Slightly Green Cookies? Don’t Panic!
If you notice a slightly green tinge to your cookies after baking, don’t panic! There’s some science here: the chlorophyl in the sunflower seeds can react with the baking soda or powder in the recipe and cause a green color once the cookies cool. You can read more about it here on the official Sun Butter FAQ page.
The slight green color didn’t bother me, but as the website notes, you could always reduce the baking soda here (I’d go ahead and try 1/2 teaspoon) and it sounds like that may help.
More Allergy-Friendly Treats!