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Date-Cashew Chocolate DropsMy birthday was at the end of May, and among the generous heap of presents I received, there were two cookbooks: Nigel Slater’s epic and gorgeous Tender (more on this in an upcoming post) and then, on the opposite end of the cookbook charm meter, The Wheat Belly Diet Cookbook.

Yes, I had asked for it. But I am not intending to go wheat-free. Furthermore, I think that the title of the book is one of the most unattractive I have ever heard. So, why did I want it? Well, as a baker, I am always interested in learning to use new ingredients, and I was intrigued by the idea of all the alternative flours.

Gluten-free Date-Cashew DropsAfter reading through the book, I went on a grocery spree and bought myself some of the nut and seed meals that the author, William Davis, M.D., suggests using: almond, cashew, and golden flaxseed. And then I got home, looked at the stack of bags in my cupboard, and wondered if I would ever actually use them. Fortunately, Michelle, who is hosting the We Should Cocoa challenge over on her blog Utterly Scrummy Food for Families this month, announced that the theme for June would be gluten-free! A fortuitous circumstance indeed. Now I would have to break open at least one of the new flours and get baking.

Almond meal and spicesBut when I started to look around for my gluten-free recipe, I didn’t find The Wheat Belly Diet Cookbook to be much help. Dr. Davis not only doesn’t like wheat, he doesn’t use ordinary sugar either. And there was no way I was going to use Stevia or xylitol in my baking. I compromised by deciding to use only honey and dates as sweeteners. As for the flour, I was most curious to try the cashew meal, but although Davis talks about it in the book, he doesn’t call for it in many of the recipes.

Dates, honey, and orange blossom water Add the honeyI put the book away, did a little browsing on gluten-free baking blogs, and then got to work developing a recipe of my own. Pairing cashews, dates, and honey together immediately makes me think of the Middle East, so choosing to add cinnamon and orange blossom water was a natural next step. And since this was for We Should Cocoa, chocolate was a must, obviously. But in what form? Since it would be competing with a number of other strong flavours, cocoa powder seemed the most logical choice. And then I remembered another stack of bags that was languishing away in my cupboard.

Chop the chocolateMelted chocolateA few months ago, while searching for soy-free chocolate, I ordered a sampler package from an Ecuadorian chocolate company, Cafiesa. I had wanted very much to like it, and the milk and 72% varieties were quite nice. But I found that the 55% and 65% chocolates had a harsh, bitter note that was not very appealing. Still, I had bought it; I would have to use it. Worries about the bitter taste ruining my baking had, however, prevented me from making any headway with the two bags of chocolate. But in these cookies, a strong, bitter chocolate was just what I was looking for.

Add the date paste Date-Cashew Drop batterSo the Cafiesa chocolate was in. I also wanted to keep my cookies egg-free, and since flaxseed meal is often suggested as an egg substitute, I opened that bag up as well. I mixed up my ingredients, scooped the cookie dough onto trays, and put them in the oven, hoping that I hadn’t overlooked anything important. When you haven’t done a lot of gluten-free baking, making up your own recipe is slightly nerve-wracking. I had images of cookies so fragile that they would crumble to pieces as soon as they were picked up—I had heard that this was one issue that dogged gluten-free products.

Date-Cashew CookiesHappily, although these cookies do have a soft, cake-like interior, they still have plenty of structure and deliciously chewy edges. They look deceptively simple, like an ordinary chocolate cookie, but are bursting with intense, exotic flavours. I don’t think I’ll have any trouble using up those bags of alternate flours. And I don’t even think the remaining Cafiesa chocolate will have to hang around in the cupboard much longer.

ca865-we_should_cocoa_v3As mentioned, these cookies are my submission to the We Should Cocoa challenge organized by Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog. Many thanks to our June host, Michelle of Utterly Scrummy, for choosing what was, for me, the perfect theme!

AlphaBakes LogoI am also linking up with Alphabakes, the blog challenge run by Caroline of Caroline Makes and Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker. This month the letter was “D,” and Caroline is hosting.

no-waste-food-badgeAlso, as these cookies have rescued the Cafiesa chocolate from an ignominious end in the rubbish bin (and me from the resulting guilty conscience), I am sending them over to the No Waste Food challenge headed by Elizabeth of Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary. Michelle from Utterly Scrummy is hosting the No Waste challenge this month as well.

Bake-of-the-weekFinally, I am submitting them to the #Bakeoftheweek challenge hosted by Helen of Casa Costello.

Date-Cashew Chocolate Drops

Ingredients:

6 oz. pitted dates
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 ½ cups cashew meal
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup honey
½ teaspoon orange blossom water
2 tablespoons golden flaxseed meal
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
 

Technique:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F/175°C.
  2. With a large, heavy knife, chop the dates very finely, and then drag the side of the knife blade over them to mash them into a rough puree. Or, if you, unlike me, prefer not to do everything the hard way, puree them in a food processor.
  3. Bring a few inches of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and suspend it over the pan. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. Melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. Set aside and let cool.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the cashew meal, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.
  5. Beat in the butter, honey, and orange blossom water.
  6. In a small bowl, mix together the flaxseed meal and oil to a soft paste. Stir into the cookie dough, along with the date puree and melted chocolate.
  7. Portion out the dough with a small cookie scoop (2-teaspoon capacity), and drop onto ungreased baking sheets.
  8. Bake until the cookies are set around the edges but the centers are still soft, 10 to 12 minutes.
  9. Cool on trays for a few minutes and then use a metal spatula to transfer the cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling.
  10. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Yield: approximately 3 dozen small cookies

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