Who Needs Flour Anyway?

The door to my culinary world opened almost four decades ago when I was a little girl barely tall enough to see above my great-grandmother's kitchen counters in New Braunfels, Texas.

I was responsible for mixing the flour and water and stirring in the eggs to make homemade egg noodles—with browned (or burnt, as I called it) butter and homemade croutons, of course. Or blending the butter and sugar together with eggs, flour and vanilla to whip up a batch of amazing sugar cookies.

So, while I now cook savory things as well, at the core of my very being, I am a baker. Flour, sugar, butter and eggs. I can do anything with these ingredients.

And, really, what brings a smile to people's face more than a homemade cookie, cake, pie, fruit crisp, brownie or other sweet delectable?

Unfortunately, however, as I get older, flour is no longer my friend. And I am sad.

Very, very sad.

But I am a glass is half-full kind of person. So rather than be depressed about not being able to eat and enjoy flour any more, I am focused on finding new ways to bake...new ways to bring a smile to my face, as well as to those I love.

The truth is, I've dabbled in gluten-free baking for well over a year now, but I've done it because I wanted to. Not because I have to. There's a big difference. The funny thing is that everything I've made gluten-free has wowed even those who didn't have to eat that way! And that has been what's inspired me to continue trying gluten-free recipes.

This cookie is a great way to sample what the world of gluten-free baking has to offer. It's rich, chocolatey, requires just a few ingredients and satiating beyond belief. And to think that something can be this delectable without flour...it may be my saving grace!

The recipe comes from one of the world's most respected and renowned pastry chefs, Francois Payard, which makes it a perfect way to start...

So I invite you to join me on this new adventure of learning to find joy in baking without gluten. Once you try these cookies, you just may be glad you came.

Buen provecho!

Flourless Chocolate-Walnut Cookies
Adapted by The Cowgirl Gourmet from Francois Payard

Print Recipe

2 3/4 cups walnut halves and pieces (pecans would also work)
2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Optional: I added a cup of shredded sweetened coconut to half the batch and they were divine…like chocolate-coconut macaroons—with walnuts!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the walnut halves on a large-rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 9 minutes, or until they are golden and fragrant.

Let the nuts cool slightly, then transfer then to either a work surface and coarsely chop them or toss them in a food processor for a few seconds.

Position two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and lower the temperature to 320. Line two large-rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. (To ensure the cookies can be removed from the parchment, consider running a damp pastry brush over the back of the parchment paper before you lay it down on the cookie sheet.)

In a large bowl, whisk (or combine in an electric mixer on low speed) the confectioners’ sugar with the cocoa powder and salt followed by the chopped and cooled walnuts.

While whisking (or once you change the speed to medium), add the egg whites* and vanilla extract and beat just until the batter is moistened (do not overbeat or it will stiffen) [*Here it is important to beat for about one minute—otherwise, the egg does not become meringue-like but more of a flat cookie].

Spoon the batter onto the baking sheets in 12 evenly spaced small mounds (they will spread significantly), and bake for 14 to 16 minutes, until the tops are glossy and lightly cracked; shift the pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through to ensure even baking.

Slide the parchment paper (with the cookies) onto 2 wire racks. Let cookies cool completely, and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days (but they surely won't last that long).

*Somewhere online I found this comment written by the person at Payard who actually tested all the recipes for the book where this recipe is originally found. She writes: I see that some people had very good results and some not so good. This recipe completely depends on your egg whites. If you are using large eggs, medium eggs, etc., it will make a huge difference. Start with using 2 egg whites, and then slowly add the rest. The mix should look like thick brownie mix that can be scooped. Depending on the day...how cold, humid, not humid, your product will change a lot, as do all pastry recipes. Don’t add all your whites at once, and check for the consistency first, if you don’t use all the whites, it is OK. I hope this helps. At Payard, we want everyone to have a positive review on our recipes, especially these cookies, since they are a huge hit in the store @ Payard. Good luck.
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