Saturday, April 28, 2012

Gluten-Free, Vegan Almond Butter Apple Cookies

Ask anyone who knows me and they'll be able to confirm that I'm a snacker.  I'm eating constantly in efforts to keep up with my metabolism, which at the moment is particularly revved up since I started teaching Pilates again.  And one of my favorite go-to snacks, especially for Spring, is nut butter on fruits and vegetables.  Look in my refrigerator and you'll find sunflower seed butter, almond butter, peanut butter, cashew butter, etc., and right now I'm also well stocked with organic celery, apples, bananas and carrots to go with them.

So one day after coming home from work and devouring an apple copiously slathered in almond butter and sprinkled with hemp hearts, it occurred to me, "I've never come across a nut butter and apple cookie before."  As I finished the apple and considered eating the almond butter directly from the jar, the thought process continued, "It definitely sounds interesting.  Would the two even work together in a baked good?  Hmmm..."  And as self-control enjoyed one of its fleeting victories and I started walking to the fridge to return the almond butter to its chilly home, I smiled as I stopped mid-motion, glanced over at kitchen scale, and set the almond butter down on the counter. "Well, there's only one way to find out, Jonathan..."

I swear there's an apple under there...

Given that I'm sharing this recipe with you today, allow me to kill that tiny bit of suspense and tell you that the two come together deliciously in this cookie.  Chewy, soft, and moist in the center, satisfyingly sweet without being cloying, and a heartiness from the quinoa flakes and millet flour that could justify eating this cookie for breakfast (which I totally did on more than one occasion).  Definitely my kind of cookie - nutritious, mmmm-inspiring, and an adventure for the taste buds.

A sweet treat that you can feel good about giving in to.  Who can argue with that? 

Almond Butter Apple Cookies
Gluten-Free & Vegan

Active Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Inactive Prep Time: at least 1 hour
Baking Time: 15-20 minutes
Yield: 18-20 cookies

scant 2/3 c (60g) almond meal/flour
1/3 c (45 g) millet flour
1/3 c (40g) arrowroot starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 c (30g) quinoa flakes
1 heaping tablespoon (10g) ground flax
2 teaspoons (5g) raw hemp hearts

1/8 c (10-15g) diced dried apple 

1 tablespoon (15g) olive oil
2 tablespoons (30g) unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon (40g) maple syrup
scant 1/4 c (35g) coconut sugar
scant 1/4 c (45g) almond butter
scant 3 tablespoons (40g) almond milk

1 tablespoon coconut crystals to garnish

1.  Combine all dry ingredients (from almond meal to hemp hearts) together in a bowl and whisk to evenly distribute and break up any clumps.  The hemp hearts add a nice little crunch as well as little flecks of green that I enjoyed.  If you don't have hemp hearts on hand, feel free to use an additional 5 grams of quinoa flakes.
2.  Once combined, incorporate diced dried apple.  Your goal is coat each piece individually with flour, so break up any clumps of dried apple in advance, adding them gradually if needed.
3.  In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients and coconut sugar.  Whisk until uniform in consistency and just beginning to lighten in color from aeration.  If almond butter is not available or not your favorite, I used both sunbutter and peanut butter in previous trials with great results.
4.  Fold wet mixture into dry mixture until a sticky dough comes together.  Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.
5.  When ready to bake, remove from refrigerator and preheat oven to 350 degrees.
6.  Portion the dough into roughly tablespoon-sized balls spaced 2 inches apart.  Flatten to about 1/2 inch in thickness and sprinkle with coconut crystals to garnish.  If you don't have coconut crystals on hand, feel free to use another crystallized sugar of choice (e.g., turbinado, beet sugar).
7.  Bake for 15-20 minutes.  They will not tend to spread, and if anything will rise up, though the increase won't be drastic.  You are looking for an even golden brown color and cookies that are just firm to the touch.  Depending on your oven, you may want to check them as soon as 12 minutes in - erring on the side of underbaking benefits these cookies. 
8.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool for an additional 15 minutes. Flavor is best when fully cooled.

Coating the dried apple in flour.

Sticky dough ready to be covered and chilled.

Roughly tablespoon sized.

Garnished and flattened to about 1/2 inch.

Cookie with its muse.

While I figured that I would have to tweak the recipe after tasting the first trial batch to make them "public sweet," I was delightfully surprised when I brought them to work and was told repeatedly that the sweetness was "perfect." Score.

And in terms of using oil and/or applesauce, I ended up using a combination of the two, since I enjoyed that further dimension of apple-ness that the sauce lent the cookie but I also appreciated that oil not only made handling the dough easier, but also contributed to the moist, chewy center and the slightly crisp exterior that made it a cookie as opposed to a mini-muffin top.  I tried it a few different ways (all oil, all applesauce, varying ratios), and while each batch was tasty in its own way, this recipe was my favorite of the lot.

While I'm not normally one for baked sweets, my mind is slowly being changed thanks to my resolution for 2012 of becoming a better baker.  Perhaps I wasn't one for baked sweets because most desserts are made too sweet or were made in such a way that the core ingredients lost their identity, lost in a muddled sea of spices, extracts, and frosting.  But now that I'm beginning to gain confidence with creating desserts that are gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, vegan and still delicious without qualification, I think I'm beginning to see the light.

May these brighten your day  as well.

And then there were two...


  1. nom nom nom....those look fantastic!

    1. Thank you, Cheryl! These cookies are definitely up there on my favorites list. :)

  2. I love that you mention a concern for "public" taste. I have the same concerns regarding "public" taste for spiciness and amount of salt in food that I make. Your cookies sound perfect. I'm a fan of nut butters and fruit!

  3. Thank you so much, Lisa! While "public" taste doesn't usually come into play when I'm testing recipes, it's when I'm ready to share them that I have to usually make adjustments. It was cool to not have to do that with this recipe. :)

  4. These sound amazing and have everything in them that our family loves! I can't wait to try these out for our Memorial Weekend "treat!" Thank you for sharing.

    1. I can't wait for you to try them, too! They're definitely a treat. :)


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