It is pretty unbelievable to me just how much I love baking now. I actually used to despise it, I hated that seemingly every little measurement had to be perfect or you would pull it out of the oven to find it ruined, with no way to fix it. That is so different from cooking and it was way too much pressure for me. I love with cooking how no measurement has to be precise, there isn’t as much chemistry of ingredients involved so you can really play around. I got even more scared of baking when I found out I was gluten intolerant nearly 7 years ago. All the different flours, starches and gums made my head spin. I was always nervous that I would spend nearly $10 on a package of flour that I had never heard of, to just ruin the recipe and not even have a delicious treat after all that.
I have finally loosened up a bit with baking and I am really starting to enjoy it. There are so many wonderful bloggers sharing their delicious gluten-free baked good recipes that I just started out by making those, making subtle substitutions here and there. As I have done more and more baking and experimenting, I have started to see what works and what doesn’t. What flours react well together and which ones don’t. I am still far from being an expert and I very rarely just dive right in and create my own recipe completely from scratch, it still intimidates me quite a bit. However, I have started to play a lot more this year and though there have been some pretty rough flops and fails along the way, I am still enjoying it.
I decided I wanted to make a fun fall-inspired cookie this weekend. Beyond wanting something sweet but relatively healthy after my cleanse, oatmeal cookies have just sounded good for a while now. Plus, it was my birthday weekend and we had a really fun weekend of fall activities planned to celebrate my aging and the beautiful fall weather. On Friday, we played hooky from work a few hours early to head up to Niagara-on-the-Lake for the afternoon. We walked around and checked out the little shops, I did some wine tasting, we had a couples massage at the Shaw spa and we had an incredible dinner at Epicurean. It was such a fun night. On Saturday morning, I made some delicious concord grape jam (I am gonna try to get a post together, though I didn’t take any process photos since it was a very dark and rainy morning), these cookies and then we spent the rest of the day working. Saturday night my parents took us out to Mangia Ristorante to celebrate my birthday. (By the way, Mangia has some of the most delicious Italian food I have had and almost all of their pasta dishes are available with gluten-free pasta). On Sunday we woke up and went apple-picking in the morning at Blackman Homestead Farm with my sister, Vicky, and my niece, Teagan. We had so much fun. Then we came home and I made a delicious fall dinner for us – a roast chicken from Sojourner Farm, with roast acorn squash wedges and baby fingerling potatoes over arugula – all from local farms. For dessert, we had some hot spiced apple cider that I had picked up at Blackman Homestead when we were apple picking and we served it with a couple of these cookies on the side. Such a perfect way to end a perfect fall weekend. Yesterday was my actual birthday and when we were eating dinner Mark had mentioned feeling bad that we were eating cookies that I made for dessert and that there hadn’t been any cake or candles all weekend and no birthday gifts to unwrap. I explained to him that my birthday included absolutely everything that I love and I couldn’t ask for anything more. That really is the truth. I am not one for cake and to me being around the people I love is truly gift enough.
Me at Niagara-on-the-Lake
Beyond all the awesomeness of the events surrounding these cookies, they also made me super happy because I didn’t use a recipe – I just planned my own recipe with ingredients I knew (well, probably more like hoped) would work together. I ended up adding more oats than I had originally planned, because I knew with how the dough felt in my hands that it would be too thin. This is huge for me. A year ago I would have slopped the dough onto the baking pan and had a little fit when they came out flat and too soft. My guessing and instincts overall paid off and these cookies turned out wonderful. They are so moist and chewy, not dry at all the way some oatmeal cookies can be. They have the perfect mix of spices and I love that there is no butter or sugar in them. Just grape seed oil and honey. You could certainly replace the raisins with dried cranberries or even chocolate chips, you could add nuts and of course, you could simply use your favorite egg replacer to make them vegan.
Hope everyone had a lovely weekend as well? Did you do anything fun?
Chewy Pumpkin Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (Gluten-Free)
makes approximately 2 dozen cookies
2 cups blanched almond flour (meal) – I use Honeyville brand, I don’t care for the Bob’s Red Mill almond flour
2 cups rolled oats (not instant) certified gluten-free if you are intolerant
1 cup fresh pumpkin puree (canned will work)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/2 cup organic local honey (maple syrup would be great here, too)
1 large farm fresh brown egg (or egg replacement of your choice)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup raisins (dried cranberries would also be delicious)
1 1/2 tablespoons flaxseeds (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375º F, line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
In a small bowl, whisk together the oil and honey until smooth and well blended. Mix in the egg, pumpkin and vanilla.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry, stir to combine well, add in the oats, raisins and flaxseeds, stir until everything is well combined.
Drop the batter by rounded tablespoons 2-inches apart on the baking sheets, flatten the dough gently with a fork. Bake the cookies for 18-20 minutes until they are moist and soft but appear to be dull on the outside and are starting to lightly brown. Rotate the baking sheets during baking for even heating (I rotated mine every 6 minutes). Remove the cookies from the baking sheet after a few minutes and allow to cool on a wire rack. Or eat one while they are still warm, you know you want to.
Once the cookies are cool, store in an airtight container at room temperature.