“Perfectly Golden: Adaptable Recipes for Sweet and Simple Treats” (Countryman Press, $29.95) by Angela Garbacz

A Baking Book That Lets ‘You Do You’

A dairy allergy didn’t stifle Angela Garbacz’s childhood dream of opening her own bakery. Instead, it sharpened her focus.

By the time she received that diagnosis, she’d already earned a food science degree, trained in New York pastry kitchens, and returned to her hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska, to pursue her ultimate goal.

While working a day job in marketing, and fulfilling baking requests in her apartment kitchen on the side, she began teaching herself how to make dairy-free desserts that would measure up to the lofty Midwest baking standards inherited from her mother and grandmothers. She chronicled those lessons in a blog, and orders began rolling in — not only from people who were lactose-intolerant, but those who were gluten-free, vegan, or all three. In 2015, she opened Goldenrod Pastries with a commitment to accommodate all those restrictions. She and her team spent years experimenting with various flours and formulas for cakes, cookies, pies and yeast-raised buns satisfying and safe for all, leading Food & Wine magazine to name her one of the “most innovative women in food and drink.” She spills those secrets in “Perfectly Golden: Adaptable Recipes for Sweet and Simple Treats” (Countryman Press, $29.95).

Each recipe within these lusciously photographed pages comes with a “You Do You” key indicating whether it can be made gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan or “traditional.” I opted for the latter in making Double Chocolate Cookies (Get the recipe at ajc.com/cookbooks.) and Coconut Berry Thumbprint Cookies, choosing standard all-purpose flour rather than gluten-free, and butter rather than shortening. Both were not-too-sweet, a cinch to make, and positively delicious.

Should I decide to branch out, I can refer to the helpful ingredient guide that explains the different ingredient compositions of various gluten-free flour brands and how to use each, plus fat and dairy options, and instructions for making flax “eggs.”

I’m intrigued by Peach-Buckwheat Upside-Down Cake, using olive oil for the fat. And I suspect the vanilla custard filling for Graham Cracker Cream Pie made with coconut milk tastes even better than the traditional dairy version.

I’m game to find out.

Susan Puckett is a cookbook author and former food editor of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow her at susanpuckett.com.

Double Chocolate Cookies from "Perfectly Golden." COURTESY OF COUNTRYMAN PRESS

Double Chocolate Cookies 

Angela Garbacz calls this recipe her favorite cookie, even though she professes not to be a chocolate chip fan. They can be customized to make them vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free or traditional depending on your desires. I tested these using butter and standard flour for a “traditional” version, and also found them addictive -- not too sweet, and with just the right touch of sea salt. Below are the author’s recommendations for substituting gluten-free flour and instructions for making a “flax egg” to make these vegan. 

Double Chocolate Cookies
  • ½ pound (2 sticks, 225 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, or 1 cup (192 grams) vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup (179 grams) light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs or flax eggs (below)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ⅓ cup (30 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (200 grams) or gluten-free all-purpose flour (see below)
  • 2 cups (310 grams) bittersweet chocolate chips, vegan if necessary
  • Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Combine your choice of fat with the brown sugar and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on medium-high speed for about 5 minutes, adding one egg at a time. The mixture should be homogenous and fluffy.
  • Add the baking soda, salt, cocoa powder, and flour and mix on low speed to incorporate. Finally, pour in the chocolate chips and mix briefly with the mixer to integrate. It’s important to make sure the cookie dough is well-mixed, so be sure to stir it again once you have taken the bowl away from the stand mixer. Fold from the bottom of the bowl to the top, getting everything evenly mixed.
  • We use the #24 scoop for our cookies, about 2 ¾ tablespoons. You can also scoop the dough with a large soup spoon. Place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until the edges are set and the center feels soft to the touch.
  • About halfway through the baking process, gently press down the cookies with either a piece of parchment paper or the bottom of a glass. This flattens the cookies slightly to give them a nice even top, and also mashes the melted chocolate chips.
  • Remove from the oven and let cool completely on the baking sheets or transfer carefully to cooling racks. These will keep really well at room temperature, in an airtight container, for about a week. Makes 20-24 cookies.

Nutritional information

Per serving: (based on 20) 247 calories (percent of calories from fat, 52), 3 grams protein, 28 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 15 grams fat (9 grams saturated), 46 milligrams cholesterol, 169 milligrams sodium.

Angela Says: 

-- For the gluten-free flour, I recommend Nu Life Always Gluten Free All-Purpose Flour (270 grams) or King Arthur Gluten Free Measure to Measure Flour (240 grams). 

-- Because these cookies have a dark chocolate color, it’s easy to overbake them. Don’t wait to take them out of the oven until they look darker, just make sure the center of the cookie looks matte, and the edge of the cookie is firm to the touch.

Flax Egg
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax meal
  • 3 tablespoons hot water
  • Place the ground flax in a cup or bowl. Add the hot water and stir with a fork until well mixed. Let sit for about 3 minutes, or until the flax has absorbed the water and the mixture becomes slightly gelatinous. Use as directed in the recipe. Makes 1 flax egg.

Nutritional information

Per serving: 34 calories (percent of calories from fat, 59), 2 grams protein, 2 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 2 grams fat (no saturated fat), no cholesterol, 1 milligram sodium.

Recipe reprinted with permission from “Perfectly Golden: Adaptable Recipes for Sweet and Simple Treats” by Angela Garbacz (Countryman Press, $29.95).

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