Ask Chef Hosch and Ann

Q: Chef, we are planning a cookie baking get together. Any suggestions about what we should bake? We also need hints and recipes for low calorie and gluten-free cookies.

A: Cookie recipes generally fall into one of the following categories.

Bar – A good example of a bar cookie is the classic brownie. Ingredients are mixed together into a batter and then poured or pressed in a pan. This type of cookie can consist of multiple layers of different batters or ingredients. They are baked, cooled and cut into individual pieces.

Drop – The most well known example of a dropped cookie is the much loved chocolate chip cookie. Ingredients are mixed into a relatively soft batter and dropped by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet.

Molded – The dough is stiffer and is molded into balls by hand, placed on a cookie sheet and “flattened” with the tines of a fork. Peanut butter cookies are a good example of molded cookies.

Pressed – These cookies are made from a very soft dough that is extruded from a cookie press in various shapes.

Refrigerator – A good example of refrigerator cookies are right in the dairy case at your grocery store; slice and bake cookies. This type of cookie is made from a very stiff dough that is refrigerated to become even stiffer. The dough is formed into a roll, the cookies are sliced from the roll, placed on a cookie sheet and baked.

Rolled – Gingerbread cookies are an example of a rolled cookie. A stiff batter is rolled out like a pie crust, cut into shapes with a cookie cutter, baked, cooled and often decorated with frosting. Decorated sugar cookies are another example of a rolled cookie.

Sandwich – Oreos anyone? You get the idea of a sandwich cookie from an Oreo. Two cookies (usually rolled or pressed) with a sweet filling in the middle.

Not all cookies fit exactly into one of these categories. Some cookies are hybrids; pecan tarts and pizzelles are good examples.

As far as specific recipes for traditional cookies, explore cookbooks, magazines and websites that specialize in cookie recipes. You also can ask everyone who plans to attend your baking session to contribute a recipe that is a favorite of their own family.

Light and gluten-free recipes

There are several types of ingredients that are used in most cookie recipes; butter, flour, sugar, eggs or liquid, leavening and flavoring. It is possible to replace some of these ingredients with lower fat/calorie options. You can also adapt your recipes for special needs diets.

Lighten up your cookies by replacing half the fat with pureed fruit. Applesauce is often used but apple butter, pureed pears, apricots or prunes are all good choices. Baby food fruit works well and there are lots of varieties to choose from at the grocery store.

To substitute yogurt for some of the butter, replace half the butter with half as much yogurt. For example, if a recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, use 1/2 cup of butter and 1/4 cup of yogurt. If a recipe calls for two cups of butter, use 1 cup of butter and 1/2 cup of yogurt. Greek yogurt works best because it has a lower moisture content than regular yogurt.

Never use low fat butter or margarine because they contain too much water and air. The cookies won’t taste anything like a traditional recipe.

Light cookies don’t brown as well as cookies made with all the traditional high fat, high sugar ingredients. If you add a little baking soda, in addition to the other leavening agents in the recipe, it will help the cookies bake to a golden brown.

Corn syrup browns at a lower temperature than sugar so it produces a crispier, evenly browned cookie. If you are concerned about the suspected health risks associated with corn syrup, as little as a tablespoon can make a difference.

Substitute organic coconut sugar or agave for the sugar in your cookies. Neither raises the glycemic index as much as sugar or honey. Coconut sugar can be substituted in equal parts for regular sugar. Agave is a little trickier. The ratio for substitution is available on the package or is easily found online. A word of caution; agave tends to dry out a bit when baked.

Substitute 2 egg whites for 1 whole egg to cut down on cholesterol. Egg whites also tend to make a crispier cookie.

Melt any butter in your recipe in a small saucepan and simmer until it just begins to darken. When adding nuts to your baked good, toast them slightly in the oven. These two tips heighten the natural flavors.

Here is a recipe for a lower fat variation of everyone’s favorite cookie.

Chocolate chip cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce or other pureed fruit

3/4 cup organic coconut sugar

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose white flour

1 whole egg

2 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix flours and baking soda together in a medium sized bowl. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the pureed fruit, eggs and vanilla. Mix until just blended. Add remaining ingredients an blend until mixed. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto a cookie sheet lightly sprayed with nonfat cooking spray or lined with parchment paper. Cookies should be about two inches apart. Bake about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Gluten-free peanut butter Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup cookies

Ann is the expert on gluten-free baking and has a delicious recipe for peanut butter Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup cookies that are always a hit with everyone. Please note that the traditional shape Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are listed as gluten free on the Hershey’s website, but the holiday shaped cups are not. Ann uses Pamela’s Pancake and Baking Mix for most of her baking as the flavor is good and the product is consistent.

About 40 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups miniatures

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup all natural creamy peanut butter

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-1/2 cups Pamela’s Baking Mix

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Remove wrappers from candies. Spray small muffin cups (1-3/4 inches in diameter) with nonstick cooking spray, or line with paper bake cups. Beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, peanut butter, egg and vanilla until light and fluffy in large bowl. Add Pamela’s Baking Mix to butter mixture, beating until well blended. Shape dough into 1-inch balls; place one in each prepared muffin cup. Do not flatten. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until puffed and lightly browned; remove from oven. Immediately press peanut butter cup or piece onto each cookie. Cool completely in muffin pan. About 3 1/2 dozen cookies.