These vegan, gluten-free chocolate cookies are all about what you gain -- not what you miss

  • Chocolate Almond Cookies are made vegan-friendly by using virgin coconut oil as a substitute for butter.

    Chocolate Almond Cookies are made vegan-friendly by using virgin coconut oil as a substitute for butter. Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post

 
By Becky Krystal
The Washington Post
Posted8/7/2018 6:00 AM

I don't make a whole lot of vegan baked goods. Gluten-free treats come out of my kitchen a little more often, but not too frequently. Both vegan and gluten-free? That is a veritable unicorn in my house.

But when you've got friends or family who adhere to either diet, it's worthwhile to have a trusty recipe in your back pocket.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

These delicate cookies fit the bill. They are almost like a shortbread but with an even more melt-in-your-mouth texture. With no flour, they can cater to the gluten-free crowd. We chose to make them vegan-friendly as well by taking the original recipe's suggestion that virgin coconut oil could be substituted for the butter. Unlike refined coconut oil, the virgin stuff actually tastes like coconut, giving the cookies a lovely flavor reminiscent of a Mounds bar.

Coconut oil is all over the place these days, and if you haven't baked with it, there are a few things you should know. First: It is soft at room temperature but rock hard when refrigerated. For this recipe, you want the oil at room temperature so it can be creamed with the sugar; cool room temperature is ideal so it's not solid but also not super runny. Coconut oil is a pretty good substitute for butter or shortening in baking, though your results may not be exactly the same as if you had used butter.

Stella Parks at Serious Eats calls coconut oil "the secret workhorse of my kitchen." One reason: Coconut oil helps extend the shelf life of baked goods. Parks shares additional useful info, including that coconut oil melts at a lower temperature in your mouth, so there is less of that greasy feeling on your tongue. She also points out that the lower melting point means you might want to refrigerate certain doughs before cutting so they can firm up.

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