Flourless cookies? For some of the readers of our annual Christmas cookie issue, this seemed like too much of a stretch. How can a cookie without flour ever hold together?
That's the question several of you posed to me after reading Juliana Menke's recipe for Nutella Nutters in our Dec. 1 cookie issue.
"No flour????? Recipe sounds incorrect, think it would just melt away in the oven. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!," e-mailed one anonymous reader. The punctuation certainly expressed concern; I got the (exclamation) point.
I tested the Nutella Nutters recipe initially and can promise you that they don't melt away in the oven. The cookies I made were the ones photographed for the section. But the phone calls and e-mails sent me back to Menke's submission to double-check. Could we have left out the flour in the recipe we ran in the paper?
No, we didn't and, in fact, Menke even wrote "This recipe is flour-free and therefore gluten-free." That's a bonus for people coping with that dietary challenge. Menke also experiments with the basic recipe quite a bit. For the most recent batch she baked, she pushed a Hershey's Kiss into the middle of each cookie after removing them from the oven.
I wanted to make them again to be sure I could repeat my first success, sans flour. So last week, I had another excuse to buy Nutella, the chocolate-hazelnut spread. That's a jar you definitely want to lick clean.
With just six ingredients — Nutella, peanut butter, unsweetened cocoa, sugar, eggs and vanilla — it's a simple recipe. The dough is slightly oily, what with all the natural oil in the peanut butter and Nutella. Still, it hangs together well when plopped on the cookie sheet. Remember, eggs and sugar also act as binders.
The balls flatten as they cook — 10 minutes and not a second more — spreading to a round, thin cookie. I left them a few minutes to set on the baking sheet and then I moved them to the wire racks to cool completely. The end result was a crispy-chewy cookie that seems a close cousin to fudge taste-wise. (One caller said her cookies stayed in a ball and didn't spread out. I am sorry to say I am not sure why that happened, though if the cookies were tasty, it's all good. Menke says it might have something to do with humidity.)
Just for kicks on the second time around, I added flour to the dough after I'd baked 3 dozen according to Menke's instructions. I mixed in 1/4 cup flour to the remaining dough, and it made quite a difference in the next 3 dozen cookies. The dough didn't spread as much and the cookie was more cakelike. It was still chewy, but a tad softer.
The youngest wolverine at my house liked the flour-enhanced cookie better. He's not wrestling with gluten problems so he had the freedom to gobble either. I sort of liked them better with flour, too, so if you're going to do that, add 1/2 cup to the entire recipe.
There are a number of flourless cookie recipes on the Internet. With the seemingly growing legion of gluten-intolerant people out there, expect to see more. Flourless cookie dough tends to be stiffer and more oily because there's no flour to absorb the fat in butter or nut butters.
The result is cookies flatter than those made with flour, and they need to cool to truly set up. They are quite moist, though.
I appreciate the feedback and welcomed the opportunity to make another batch of Nutella Nutters. My family enjoyed the fruits of my experiment and thanks you, too.
Janet K. Keeler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8586.