Saturday, February 9, 2013

Gluten Free, Vegan Blueberry Pine Nut Oatmeal Cookies

Sometimes I get stuck in that "bigger, better, never-look-back" kind of rut in terms of recipe development.  You know what I mean?  An expectation that once I've figured out how to cook or bake something that I'd never go back to those recipes because it would be 'redundant' or a 'cop out.'  It's sort of like that 'Top Chef' mentality where you need to keep pulling rabbits out of a hat or doubloons from behind someone's ear.  And it can be a source of stress for me because I don't always have time to spend in the test kitchen, particularly in recent weeks, and it makes me feel like I'm not only coming up short in terms of the standards I set for myself, but I feel like I'm coming up short in the eyes of my readers.  [deep breath]  

However, that being said, today I present a recipe to you that is inspired by a recipe I came up with over a year ago.  Because at the end of the day, a good cookie is a good cookie.  And this, my friends, is a great cookie.

I'm currently in the middle of my annual pantry and refrigerator cleanse, and taking inventory and reorganizing my baking flour arsenal, I realized that I had quite a surplus of gluten-free rolled oats.  So while toying with the inspiration for a blueberry and pistachio cookie and flipping through my personal recipe notebook, I came upon the salted oatmeal cherry cookies that I made for my first contribution to the Gluten Free Ratio Rally.  I had actually been wanting to revisit this recipe, because while it was quite popular with my friends and struck a wonderful balance between savory and sweet, it was also quite hearty and not what I would refer to as 'decadent.'  More of a breakfast cookie.

Trial #1 - pistachio/almond flour cookie with blueberries.

During my first go at the blueberry pistachio cookies, I found that the pistachios, while delicious in theory and concept, didn't really shine when paired with the blueberries.  So looking at what else I had a good amount of, I subbed out pine nuts and switched gears from a nut flour-based cookie recipe to a riff on my oatmeal cookie recipe.  

[cue sun bursting from behind the clouds in dramatic Imax time lapsed 3-D fashion

I wanted to see if I could get a moister, chewier cookie than the previous oatmeal cookie recipe, so I decreased the amount of whole rolled oats and upped the amount of ground oats and sugar and added flax.  I also modified the process of making the dough and added time for the dough to chill and hydrate.  And while still quite rustic in appearance (code for 'not the most photogenic'), the change in texture and sweetness was extremely satisfying, from both the standpoint of a taster and a baker.  And when I presented them to my friends and coworkers, they were literally bargaining with each other when it came down to the final ones in a slightly crazed fashion.  

I took that as a good sign.

Blueberry & Pine Nut Oatmeal Cookies
Gluten-Free & Vegan

Active Prep Time: 5-10 minutes
Inactive Prep Time:  up to 8 hours
Baking Time:  12-15 minutes
Yield: about 2 dozen 3/4 tablespoon-sized cookies

1/4 c (1 oz) teff flour
scant 2/3 c (2 1/2 oz) certified gluten free ground oats
1/3 c (1 3/4 oz) quinoa flour
scant 2/3 c (3 oz) coconut crystals
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 c (2 1/2 fl. oz) unsweetened applesauce
6 tablespoons (3 fl. oz) non-GMO canola oil
1 teaspoon ground flax seed

scant 2/3 c (2 1/2 oz) certified gluten-free rolled oats
1/3 c rehydrated blueberries
scant 1/4 c raw pine nuts

1.  Make your ground oats by grinding them in a food processor.  I prefer to to take this route, aiming for a partially coarse but mostly fine grind, and that is what I used for this recipe.  But if if you have gluten free oat flour already on hand, feel free to sub it in.  The results should not be drastically different.
2.  Combine remaining dry ingredients in food processor and pulse until well combined.
3.  In a separate bowl, whisk together applesauce, oil, and ground flax until loosely combined.  While running the food processor, gradually pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture until a sticky dough has come together.  From here, transfer the dough into a large mixing bowl.
4.  Incorporate whole rolled oats, blueberries, and pine nuts, and fold into dough.  I know that both pine nuts and blueberries, especially organic, which I used here, are not the most affordable.  In variations, I subbed black currants for some of the blueberries and subbed chopped walnuts for some of the pine nuts and the result was still quite delicious.
5.  Cover dough and allow to chill for at least 4 hours and up to 8.  I experimented with freezing the dough directly and then thawing before baking.  The result was perhaps a little chewier and moister - so if you'd like to prep a large amount of the dough and make it as needed/wanted, this route works very well.  Personally, I actually preferred it.
6.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and make roughly 3/4 tablespoon-sized balls of the dough, spaced 2 inches apart, and flatten slightly.
7.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until dry in appearance and the aroma of cinnamon and nutmeg is filling the kitchen.  Allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack to finish cooling completely.  No need to worry that the cookies are still slightly soft to the touch at this point- they will firm up as they cool.

Oats ground and ready for the remaining dry ingredients.

I love the fact that I don't have to worry about eating vegan dough.

Freezing some for a later occasion.

Just slightly flattened like small, squat cylinders.


I realize that most blogs are featuring heart-shaped cookies and cakes and Valentine's inspired food and drink creations.  And while that was definitely on my mind for the last few weeks, resulting in pages of scribbled ideas and recipe concepts, I ultimately brought it back to this:  all my food is about love.  Loving one's self, loving others, and through grounding in self-love, allowing others to love you as much if not more.

And these cookies were no exception.  They were a way for me to show compassion for myself, giving myself a break to stop pushing and pressuring myself, regaining confidence in my abilities as a baker.  And when I offered them to my friends, it was a gesture of loving-kindness that inspired smiles, laughter, and happiness as they ate them, a sight and experience that made me proud.  And regardless of this time of year, when the town is literally painted red with cut-outs of hearts, winged Cupids, and firetruck red icing, that exchange of positive emotion is something I strive for.

Every day, every moment, and every opportunity.


  1. LOVE this! We don't always have to reinvent the wheel when developing recipes and I think when we show we aren't, it helps people learn who aren't as confident in the kitchen as we might be. Riffing is a GOOD thing!

    And I'm of the mind that not everything for Valentine's day has to be red and/or heart shaped. Give me something good with chocolate and I'm a happy camper. :D

    1. Indeed, you make an excellent point, Debi - riffing is a *very* good thing. If something isn't broken, we don't need to fix it, but why not tweak it a bit from time to time to see what happens, right? And by the by, I bet this recipe would be killer with some chocolate chips baked into it. Or dipped in chocolate ganache. Just sayin'... ;)


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