Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Ratio Rally! Vegan Salted Oatmeal Cherry Cookies

Gluten-free Vegan Salted Oatmeal Cherry Cookies

A culinary ratio is a fixed proportion of one ingredient or ingredients relative to another.  These proportions form the backbone of the craft of cooking.  When you know a culinary ratio, it's not like knowing a single recipe, it's instantly knowing a thousand. - Michael Ruhlman

If you were asking yourself, "What on Earth is a 'ratio rally'?", the previous quote might give you a little insight.  But if you're still scratching your head (and I don't blame you), allow me to explain.  In a nutshell, beginning this past February, bloggers from all over the web have 'rallied' together each month to create gluten-free recipes based upon culinary ratios set forth by Michael Ruhlman.  Each month is hosted by a different blogger, and each month features a different food item challenge, ranging from pancakes to  pasta.  All caught up?

This is also my first foray into the ranks of the Rally.  It's exciting to contribute to this event alongside such amazing bloggers and culinary creatives.  I love that our collective efforts might be able to make gluten-free cooking and baking more accessible and less daunting when people realize that it can all come down to numbers and not be rocket science.  And I also love how it has pushed me to be a better baker and to continue learning well beyond my comfort zone.

Which brings me to this month's Gluten-Free Ratio Rally challenge: cookies.  

When it comes to cooking and baking, my instincts almost always draw me to my past.  Nostalgia, and paying homage to food-centric memories and moments, is a huge source of inspiration for me.  And especially for those of us who discovered food allergies or intolerances later in life, nostalgia is definitely something we know about.

So thinking back, I recalled a cookie memory from 2002, not long after I moved to Austin to attend UT.  Like most of the graduate students I knew at the time, when I wasn't at lecture, the library, or in front of a computer, I was posted up at a coffeehouse table for hours, nursing my single mug of tea while poring over textbooks and research journals with a highlighter.  But always the rebel, I decided to break the bank one night/morning and buy a cookie.  And that's when I first encountered the salty oat cookie with raisins.

The Salty Oat Cookie from Quack's, a local Austin bakery.

As you may know, I'm not usually one for sweets.  But when I first tasted this cookie and experienced the counterpoint of sweet and salty in a chewy but still crumbly texture, my tastebuds did not object.  In fact, they did the exact opposite, and this cookie soon became a crucial part (habit) of my everyday routine (coffeehouse loitering).  Luckily, I moved across town the following year and I left that coffeehouse and the beloved salty oat cookie behind.

But nearly ten years later, I still haven't forgotten.

Adapted from a recipe for Chewy Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Cookies by Anna from Cookie Madness, this is my tribute to those late nights of tea and not-so-sweet cookies.

Vegan Salted Oatmeal Cherry Cookies
(GF, DF, V, rSF, SF)

30 g or 1/4 c teff flour
40 g or 1/3 c ground oats
50 g or 1/3 c quinoa flour
70 g or 1/2 c coconut crystals
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
70 g or 1/3 c unsweetened applesauce
70 g or 1/3 c canola oil
1/2 teaspoon GF vanilla extract
100 g or 1 c certified GF rolled oats
1/2 c rehydrated cherries, chopped
sea salt to garnish (optional)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Combine all dry ingredients except for the whole oats.  You'll notice that I specified 'ground oats' instead of 'oat flour.'  I found that processing the oats myself until they were thoroughly ground but still slightly coarse produced the best results in terms of texture.
3.  In a separate bowl, combine all wet ingredients except for rehydrated cherries.
4.  Fold wet mixture into dry mixture.
5.  Add roughly 3/4 of the oats and mix to combine, and then add cherries.  For added flavor, experiment with rehydrating the cherries in liquids besides water, like orange or cranberry juice, or even brandy.  I rehydrated my cherries in a warm infusion of ginger and lemon.
6.  Once mixed, allow to sit for 5 minutes.  Then add remaining oats.
7.  Form dough into roughly tablespoon size balls, space them two inches apart on a lined baking pan, and flatten to approximately 1/2".  While both worked well, I found better results with parchment paper over silicone mats.
8.  Sprinkle with sea salt and lightly tap salt crystals into the dough.
9.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.  After removing cookies from oven, wait for 5-10 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack to cool for an additional 15-20 minutes.
10.  Makes 14-18 cookies.

Ground oats and a bounty of textures.

Using my new kitchen scale.

Note to self: it helps to chop the cherries before you rehydrate them.

Layering the ingredients.

The black Hawaiian sea salt was my favorite.

Ruhlman's ratio for cookie dough is 1 part sugar : 2 parts fat : 3 parts flour.  His book, Ratio, didn't include any recipe or even mention of oatmeal cookies, so I was curious to see what would happen.  And surprisingly, if you interpret the ratio loosely and consider the applesauce to be a fat and the whole oats to be a flour instead of an add-in, it nearly holds with this recipe (70 : 140 : 220 or 1 : 2 : 3.14).  Pretty cool.

While these cookies were sweet enough for me, you may prefer more sweetness to balance with the salt.  In one batch, I added an additional 15 grams of maple syrup for my sweet-tooth friends and they definitely appreciated it.  You may also find that you would prefer less salt or even no salt at all on top.  No worries, I won't be offended.  With or without the garnish, the cookie is still delicious with a great chew and the combination of teff and quinoa flours really lend it a satisfying, earthy flavor reminiscent of hazelnuts or chestnuts.  Most definitely a delight for the tastebuds.

And there you have my first posting for the Gluten Free Ratio Rally.   Huge thanks to Jenn from Jenn Cuisine for inviting me onboard, and thank you to Caroline* from The G-Spot Revolution for hosting this month's cookie challenge.  And in closing, a list of all the cookie contributors and their creations for this month's Ratio Rally Challenge.  Can you imagine if all these cookies were at a bake sale?  Mind-boggling. :)

Amanda / Gluten Free Maui / Simple Shortbread
Amie / The Healthy Apple / Grapefruit Sugar Cookies
Brooke / B & the boy / Candy Cane Shortbread
Caleigh / Gluten Free[k] / Mulled Spice Cookies
Caneel / Mama Me Gluten Free / Cardamom Date Cookies
charissa / zest bakery / Coconut Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies
Claire / Gluten Freedom / Chai Latte Cashew Cookies
Erin / The Sensitive Epicure / Spritz Cookies with Jam
gretchen / kumquat / classic sugar cookies
Jean / Gluten Free Doctor Recipes / Reindeer Cookies
Jenn / Jenn Cuisine / Basler Brunsli
Karen / Cooking Gluten Free! / Mexican Wedding Cakes
Lisa / Gluten Free Canteen / Molasses Rum Raisin Cookies
Mary Fran / frannycakes / Pinwheel Cookies
Meaghan / The Wicked Good Vegan / Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
Meredith / Gluten Free Betty / Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
Pete and Kelli / No Gluten, No Problem / Belgian Speculaas Cookies
Rachel / The Crispy Cook / Melomakarona
Shauna/ Gluten-Free Girl & The Chef / Soft Molasses Cookies
Silvana / Silvana’s Kitchen / Old-School Italian Jam-Filled Hazelnut Cookies
T.R. / No One Likes Crumbley Cookies / Cinnamon Lemon Cookies
Tara / A Baking Life / Walnut Shortbread

Disclaimer - In a small percentage of cases, avenin, a protein found in oats, has been found to trigger the same response as gluten in those who are gluten intolerant or allergic.  If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease or know you are gluten intolerant or sensitive, please consult with your physician/health care provider before integrating certified gluten-free oats into your diet. 


  1. Welcome to the GF Ratio Rally. Your recipe sounds so delectable!

  2. These look great! Welcome to the GF Ratio Rally! Merry Christmas!

  3. Jonathan - I love these. I love that you rehydrated those cherries in lemon and ginger - bet that added a wonderful back note to the cookie. Awesome recipe!

  4. Welcome to the rally Jonathan!! Your cookies sound awesome - looking forward to all of your great GF creations :)

  5. I, too, love creating recipes based on memories and nostalgia for foods I used to eat back in my gluten-full days. And salty oat cookies sound awesome - I can definitely understand your craving for them! I love that, even with all the adjustments for gf, vegan, sugar-free, etc., the ratio still holds! Welcome to the Ratio Rally, Jonathan!

  6. A vegan cookie I can feel good about eating? You sir are a genius!

  7. Thank you, Rachel! It's awesome to be a part of it. :)

  8. Happy Holidays to you, too, Erin!

  9. Lisa- Thank you so much for your kind words. Lemon and ginger are two of my favorite things, so I try to sneak them into just about everything I eat, cook, or bake. :)

  10. Thank you so much, Jenn, particularly for inviting me to be a part of the Rally. Already looking forward to the next challenge. :)

  11. Tara- it surprised me as well. So cool that the ratio can hold relatively constant across so much variation. And re: nostalgia and recreating recipes, most of the time it's more about helping others understand that enjoying delicious food can happen at any time in life - not just in the past. I love that the Rally can be a vehicle for that message.

  12. Thank you, Morri! [blushing] It's an amazing cookie, and the fact that it's free of so many things is just gravy.

  13. Sweet and salty is a combination that's hard to resist. I love oatmeal in cookies too, so these sound like perfect treats!

  14. They really are wonderful cookies,Lisa, particularly for those of us who enjoy both the sweet and the salty. Sometimes I cut the cinnamon with 5-spice, and then things get really interesting. I'm not one for sweets, but I am one for delicious, multi-dimensional desserts.

  15. Yay! Welcome to the rally Jonathan. I love making food based on my memories and nostalgia. Your cookies sound wonderful.

  16. Thank you so much, Irvin! Participating in the rally has been both inspiring and invigorating. Already looking forward to next month's challenge!

  17. These look REALLY delicious, Jonathon! Welcome to the rally! :)

  18. Thank you, Caneel! What a great challenge to kick things off. :)

  19. welcome welcome to the rally! your cookies sound delightful... i'm always a fan of sweet and salty, and i am infatuated with the chewiness that oat flour gives to baked stuff. are you still in austin? i'm currently a displaced texan... and i'll stifle any gloats of how brilliantly my baylor bears beat you longhorns last weekend. (we never beat anyone when i was there, so i'm not used to gloating anyway.)

  20. Thanks, Gretchen! I am still in Austin, and while I follow many UT sports, surprisingly football is not one of them. The best team on that day won, and it wasn't us. So gloat away. :) btw- I love that your blog is named after one of my favorite fruits.

  21. This looks like an awesome recipe! I love Hawaiian black sea salt, too. I've been to Hawaii twice and it's one of my favorite places on earth. Great nature, people, scenery, culture. I must try these cookies soon!

  22. Thank you, Rachel! I also love Hawaii and hope to go back again soon. Everything you said and more. :)

  23. What a fantastic recipe! I love everything in it. Yum!

  24. Wow these look great. The GF Ratio Rally sounds like a great idea.

  25. Thanks, Gisela! The Ratio Rally _is_ a great idea. :)

  26. Jonathan - so nice to meet you at the Steeping Room the other morning...I am glad Chris made the intro! I will have fun reading your blog and also learning more about ratios. I have now put Ruhlman's book on my wish list! Cheers!

  27. Likewise, Andrea! 'Ratio' was a revelation- totally changed my approach to baking. Here's hoping someone puts it under the tree for you this holiday. :)


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