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Oily chocolate chip cookies


jedovaty
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Hi:

What are some reasons cookies end up very oily to the touch?  I've searched the interwebs, but there's very little info on this, most issues deal with cookie spread, and that's not my problem.

 

I used to have an excellent gluten free chocolate chip cookie recipe that I could make both dairy and egg free.  It was loosely based on AB's "the chewy", but sadly I lost the piece of paper with my notes and changes.  It's been a while since I've made them, and decided to try to make some last night for various reasons.  Instead of using shortening or earth balance, in place of butter, I subbed the butter with coconut oil, using only 80% by weight (since the butter has 15-20% water).  My cookies turned out very oily.  This also happened with attempted ginger snap and sugar cookies a few weeks ago, and it happens to me almost always with Jaques Torres' recipe as written (no subs, except sometimes I replace chocolate with white chocolate and add macadamia nuts). 

 

Thanks for helping me understand various factors which could lead to oily cookies.

Edited by Smithy
Corrected title spelling (log)
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I subbed coconut oil (for a neutral oil) into a cake and my cake turned out dry. (Had made that cake before and it was not dry.) I always attributed it to the way coconut oil is semi-solid at room temperature. Maybe you had the opposite problem. Coconut oil can also be semi-liquid at room temperature. Maybe that's giving you the oily feel. (You said you subbed it for butter, which would be "solid" at room temperature.)

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Thanks for the response.  There are recipes that use melted butter so I'm not sure that's going to be the culprit.  Also, the cookies don't just have an oily feel, there's a visible sheen to then that transfers to the fingers, and you have to wipe them to keep from getting other things oily.  It's almost as if the oil hadn't been absorbed - see attached photo.

 

I'm wondering maybe I over did the creaming and/or beating?  It's clear I have problems with this dough. I baked another batch last night and this morning from the same dough (straight from the freezer, and after 24 hours in fridge), one cookie in each was perfect (bottom right in #1, and bottom left in #2 which closeup is third picture on paper towel), the rest had varying degrees of spreading from a little to extreme.. wtf.  I've not seen such variety in a single bake like this before?!1235371911_shinyandgreasy.jpg.71796362f22ae683fe4589bdaf37156e.jpg

sample 2.jpg

sample 1.jpg

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You're right, it kind of looks like it does.  The very first batch I baked yesterday morning that prompted the initial question had six cookies and all looked just fine without any spreading.  Also, I've baked variations of this recipe about 1-2 years ago with no issues, and bake 1-3 loaves of bread at once on a regular basis.  Bread comes out even, no issues.

 

I'm wondering if I should try to make a new dough.  That said, I'd still like to know what causes cookies to be oily on the outside.  This isn't the first time it's happened to me.

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butter melts at roughly 90-95F

coconut oil melts about 20 degrees less -

 

there's a lot of temp variation depending on how refined / etc coconut oil is -

even tho a recipe may call for melted butter, when the product cools the butter does not remain melted.

I suspect the coconut oil is simply remaining liquid after the cookies cool.

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Interesting, okay.  Theoretically, then, if the ambient temperatures are in the low 60F range, the coconut oil based cookies should not have this oil, right?  That would be easy to test.  And conversely, if I had butter cookies out at 95-100F, they should appear oily like this? 

 

I have plenty of the coconut dough left over, and these cookies are tasty, no issues with more experimentation :D

Edited by jedovaty (log)
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I don't have experience in making cookies with coconut oil. Plus the link to the Food Network recipe is not working. If you can write the recipe it would be nice, I'm curious to know what flour you are using, the fat to flour ratio and the mixing method.

From the look on the photos, it seems like you made a mistake somewhere during the mixing. That big difference can only be explained by differences in the dough, meaning some pieces had more coconut oil than the others. Are you using water in the recipe? If so, probably you did not achieve a proper emulsion.

For sure it's not a problem of room temperature in relation to melting temperature of the fat. If you bake cookies made with butter then they are not oily at touch when you pick them out of the oven, and their temperature is well above the melting point of butter.

 

 

 

Teo

 

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Teo

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the oil will solidify in the chilling - but if it's a coating on the surface (already) - it may now feel greasy vs. oily....

 

subbing oil is a bit tricky - butter acts a bit like making a roux - the butterfat coats the flour/starch and then the water makes it swell.  this obviously doesn't happen with (water free) oils.

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Hi there, thanks for the feedback.  I did bake up a few more last night and left them on the counter overnight, they were slightly less oily this morning at an ambient temp of 65F - barely left any trace on my fingers.

 

Since the food network link may not work outside US, see attached pdf, where I show my conversion to g and the coconut oil sub.  Only other changes to recipe besides coconut oil:

  • 50% each brown and white rice flours
  • coconut sugar instead of brown sugar
  • coconut oil was at room temp and soft (68-72F); creamed with the all the sugar and 20g water for about 5 minutes in stand mixer at high speed

@teonzo may be on to something.. I did add about 20g water to make up half the missing water from butter, but I simply added it to the sugar while collecting the other ingredients, instead of adding it while mixing.  Another possibility could be the sugars, because I am out of brown sugar and the brand I like to use has been out of stock.

 

Even with the oily feel these are quite tasty.  The next batch I might omit the extra ~20g water next time, or add it together with the other wet ingredients, and not cream the *censored* out of it.  It's got to be one of these causing the problem.

 

I think my original conversion notes may be in the ex-girlfriend box which I don't want to get into while in isolation, but if memory servers correct, only major change was a tweak to the sugar ratio and maybe a balance of baking powder and soda.  The notes were an attempt to convert the Neimann Marcus recipe to GF (it's my favorite ccc) because it's very similar to AB's.  Looking at the recipe, it also spends very little time creaming the butter with sugar.

the chewy alton brown gf ccc recipe.pdf

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I don't have a definitive answer but can throw in my experience. I've had oily cookies once using the Cook's Illustrated chocolate chip cookie recipe where part of the butter is browned and then added to the remaining butter, then sugars and eggs are whisked in. My suspicion was that the emulsion in the batter broke somewhere - a culprit could be when the hot browned butter is added to the unmelted butter (since melting butter naturally breaks the emulsion), but plenty of recipes use melted butter without resulting in oily cookies. However I've also made the recipe multiple times but only encountered the issue once, so I definitely suspect it was a mixing error rather than recipe/ingredient/oven fault.

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one common 'save' is to add a bit of milk to make up for the lack of water.

in "creaming butter & sugar" it is the water that dissolves the sugar.

 

fwiw - the variability in oils - even 'one type' such as coconut - make it very difficult to 'predict a how to' - basically it's experimentation....

a lot of bakers have 'problems' just between USA butter and the higher fat European butters. 

normally works - but for recipes 'on the edge' it doesn't.

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So the overall recipe should be about this?
200 g coconut oil
40 g water
340 g sugars
360 g starches


I would say the amount of coconut oil is a bit too high, this can be a reason for the greasy feeling. I would lower it to 180 g.
The sugar amount is really HIGH for my tastes, usually I go for less than 50% compared to flours/starches, here it's 95%. But this depends on personal taste.
The problem here is working with gluten free starches, you need to bind the dough with something different than gluten, so you use xanthan gum. But there's a bit of a difference between working with emulsified fats and non-emulsified fats/oils. I would sub the water with soy milk (if you are not allergic to soy, otherwise use water + non-soy lecithin). You make a mayonnaise-like emulsion using soy milk and coconot oil (liquefied): start with water, then using a whisk or an immersion blender you pour slowly the coconut oil to get a proper emulsion. I don't know if that amount of soy milk is enough to accept all that coconut oil, if the emulsion starts breaking then reserve the remaining coconut oil. After you get this emulsion, mayonnaise like, you add the sugars, mix, then add the starches and mix. If you reserved some coconut oil, then add half the starches, mix, add the reserved coconut oil, mix, then add the other half of starches.

 

 


Teo

 

Teo

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@teonzo: I used 180 grams of coconut oil (it's the third column of the pdf attachment, where I used the "alt butter" and "alt butter liquid", and also noted in the original post that I used about 80% of the actual butter content).

 

That is fascinating process you describe to make cookies using a mayo.  I don't think the xantham gum is there as an emulsifier, rather more a texture component to the rice flours and get the "chew".  The emulsification would occur with the egg, since the recipe does have both a whole egg and an extra yolk.  I might try this mayo process, that's more than enough egg for the water and oil (I use about 300ml oil per egg when I make aioli, I have no idea what that weighs though, but eyeballing 180g of coconut oil seemed less than 300ml?). 

 

You also mentioned mixing the sugars in... you wouldn't do any additional "creaming", to beat in some air with the mayo and sugar?  Just a mix until it is uniform?

 

As a fall back, I picked up some vegan butter to test (not the "earth balance" brand here in the states, I don't like how it tastes).  I wonder how the above process would change also using ghee or even cacao butter.. cacao buttr is closer to butter as far as melting temp, but has no "give" like butter.

 

I am excited.

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I freely admit to being out of my depth in the scientific realm of this discussion. But my gut feeling, by which I cook more often than not, is that a bit less coconut oil would fix things.

 

That said, are you using solid coconut oil, or liquid, to cream in with the sugar? Again, my gut tells me it ought to be solid. Maybe a chilled bowl.

 

Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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22 minutes ago, jedovaty said:

: I used 180 grams of coconut oil (it's the third column of the pdf attachment, where I used the "alt butter" and "alt butter liquid", and also noted in the original post that I used about 80% of the actual butter content).

 

I'm a bit confused, so what's this row?

Alt-butter liquid     0      0     45.4      (actual was 20g)

I thought it was additional 20 g of coconut oil.

 

 

 

24 minutes ago, jedovaty said:

That is fascinating process you describe to make cookies using a mayo.  I don't think the xantham gum is there as an emulsifier, rather more a texture component to the rice flours and get the "chew".

 

Xanthan gum is added to gluten free flour as a gluten substitute. It's the gluten that acts as a binder and allows you to get a uniform dough. If you take out the gluten, then you end up with sand, not with a uniform dough, unless you use huge amounts of butter (meaning butter, not oil). Xanthan gum is there to absorb water and act as a binder, so you get a proper dough and not a sum of really small sandy particles.

 

 

 

28 minutes ago, jedovaty said:

The emulsification would occur with the egg, since the recipe does have both a whole egg and an extra yolk.  I might try this mayo process, that's more than enough egg for the water and oil (I use about 300ml oil per egg when I make aioli, I have no idea what that weighs though, but eyeballing 180g of coconut oil seemed less than 300ml?). 

 

I'm confused here too, since you wrote you were doing it dairy free and eggs free.

If you start with eggs, then they should be enough to accept the coconut oil. If you start with soy milk, then it's possible you will face troubles.

 

 

 

31 minutes ago, jedovaty said:

You also mentioned mixing the sugars in... you wouldn't do any additional "creaming", to beat in some air with the mayo and sugar?  Just a mix until it is uniform?

 

No creaming... you are already adding air during the mayo-like emulsion process. If you keep mixing then you risk breaking the emulsion.

 

 

 

Teo

 

Teo

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For some reason I'm having a lot of trouble with the reply/quoting system.

 

@teonzo:

1. The "alt butter liquid" row in the table is the the remaining 20% of the missing butter portion, generally any liquid/protein, to make up the weight.  That's how I've done it in the past, and it'd worked well.  In this case, I didn't add the full amount of water, but rather about half the amount.

 

2. We are in agreement then the purpose of xantham gum in this recipe, it is essentially a gluten replacement.

 

3. Apologies for the confusion.  I was not making this recipe eggs free.  I have done it before, using ground chia seeds and water, but in this case, I'm using the egg.

 

4. Thank you for the clarification on the mayo and sugar!

 

I'll give the mayo version a try next!

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Hello again. @kayb: sorry, I missed your post earlier.  I'm using 80% less coconut oil by weight than butter.  I don't think this is an issue of too much coconut oil.  Do consider there are plenty of recipes using melted butter, so whether coconut oil is melted or not is less of a concern - here, it's likely technique, and going through all this I'm certain I simply overmixed .  FWIW, with these cookies, the coconut oil was soft, but not fully solid or melted.  There was a different recipe I tried with a more solid coconut oil and chilled bowl during creaming, it didn't work as there were chunks of coconut oil in the resulting dough.  I think this is because coconut oil is not like butter in that it doesn't have a plastic-like phase.

 

@teonzo: on a total tangent, it's past 2am now, I woke up thinking about your comments of the mayo and sugar, and had to post: I don't think that air is introduced into mayo.. a mayo is as you say an emulsion, where we force a suspension of oil in water or water in oil situation.  Maybe a little might be since there's fast mechanical action, however, it's not like creaming butter with sugar, or making whipped cream or egg white meringue, where air is part of the mixture; there's also a substantion increase in these, whereas I don't think I've ever noticed a volume change making aioli.  That said, I do agree with you that over mixing the mayo and sugar would lead to breakdown of the emulsion - this makes sense, especially considering sugar is hygroscopic and would probably suck the water component out of the mayo separating the oil. 

 

BTW, I did try some basic google research, and wasn't able to confirm or deny whether mayo is aerated.  What I wrote is just conjecture at this point, so I am curious to hear whether I'm on the right track.

 

This is fun, thanks for the discussion :)

Edited by jedovaty
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When you make the "mayo" with a whisk or blender you are going through the mayo mass with a whisk's wire or with the blender's blade, so you are carrying air inside the mayo. Some of this air will remain trapped inside the mayo. Not as much as when whipping butter, that's for sure, but butter works in a different way, since i's composed by different fats with a wide melting range. You whip butter when a part of its fats are solid and another part are melted.

When you mix two different ingredients then the final volume is not always the sum of the two starting volumes alone. If you make a syrup, the final volume is not the sum of the starting water volume plus the starting sugar volume. Same goes for a lot of things, especially when there are physical / rheological changes like in the mayo case. You could try putting the mayo in an open jar, run it in a chamber vacuum machine and see if it keeps the same volume after the cycle, but you risk some troubles (the couple times I tried the mayo separated).
You need small air bubbles for the baking powder to work: if there are no air bubbles in the dough then the gas formed during cooking won't find an escape. In this case you are making cookies, not a cake. You need a sufficient amount of air bubbles for the baking powder to work, so the cookies spread and gain some volume. If there is too much gas inside the cookie dough while it's cooking then it will collapse, which can be a desired result in some cases. That's a problem you face when making cookies with a whipped butter dough (the ones you form with a pastry bag and a star tip): if your recipe calls for too much baking powder then they will collapse, same if the recipe is not balanced (too few egg proteins).
With cakes it's different, your goal is to get the more gas possible inside the finished product, so you need the more extra air possible you can add during the mixing stage. Even there you need to be careful with the baking powder, too much and the cake will collapse.

 

 

 

Teo

 

Teo

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@jedovaty It does sound like your proportion of fat is too high in comparison to the starch - the fat absorbs all of the starch and wants to absorb more but there isn't any left.  If you don't want to reduce the fat content, have you tried letting the dough age in the fridge for a day or two?  That always dries out any dough for me because the flour gets absorbed more.  Also, I would definitely try adding or subbing in a wee bit of coconut flour.  That stuff sucks up moisture like crazy.  I doubt it would take much.

 

I've done a lot of GF baking.  FYI on xantham gum - once you add it, you're supposed to beat the crap out of the dough in order to "activate" it.  The more you beat it, the chewier the cookies become.  Let us know your progress, please!

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@teonzo excellent, thank you for that.

@Emily440 It's 180g oil to 360g starches (rice flour and corn and tapioca).  So, 50% oil:starch.  Is that too high?  If so, what would you consider a good ratio for cookies like this?  On your comment about beating the xantham gum, that's fascinating.  I've watched it gel up water just by leaving it alone for a while.  If you are in the US, you should be able to see the Good Eats video linked to above.  AB doesn't mix much at all.  That's where I think my mistake was.  I chilled the dough a little, then portioned it, and finally let it rest in the fridge ~24 hours, and transferred to freezer.  I bake directly from freezer.

 

I do have another batch going right now, was very curious to try teo's mayo technique.  I am waiting for the dough to chill.  I'll bring in feedback soon as I bake some up later tonight, it was... interesting :)

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I attempted @teonzo's mayo technique, and did not change other factors in the recipe.  The good news is that the cookies were not greasy to the touch at all, the bad news they did spread more than I wanted them to.  I am not sure if that happened because I forgot the xanthan gum, or something else.  The cookies did have a gloss to them.

 

Few interesting notes:

  • after ~12 hours in the fridge and ~8 hours in the freezer, the pre-shaped cookie doughs are still soft and malleable.  I've not experienced this, any cooke dough/batter always turns rock hard in the freezer, even butter based ones.
  • with the small amount of oil, to successfully create the emulsion required I use two egg yolks and exclude all other liquid components.  I added liquids to the dry goods and rubbed my hands until the dry mixture was crumbly.  Then the last step, mixed in the mayo, followed by the chocolate chips.
  • the coconut flavor from the unrefined oil I use is masked more with this technique; I baked a few from the last batch alongside these and was surprised by this

The above results further support that I over mixed the initial batch, and are likely a reason why some of my cookies in the past have these kinds of results.  I'll try the original technique again, and this time just use a hand mixer and work until the components are integrated, rather than trying to replicate a butter creaming method.

 

I normally bake with parchment, but I'm out and costco hasn't had any in stock for a while.  I'm also nearly out of aluminum foil, so I've been reusing the same sheet, looks used haha.  😛

 

By the way: the first attempted mayo emulsion I made broke (I handled it like my traditional method, just tossed egg, liquids, oil into jar and used the BAMix).  It's nicely separated into oil and liquids, can I reuse it in a recipe now if I'm going to try the "regular" sugar/oil creaming method, or do I need to toss it and start from scratch?

 

chicken fetus emulsion.jpg

Edited by jedovaty (log)
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@jedovaty Ok, I read through everything again and have some thoughts for you.  Seems like reducing the amount of coconut oil helped a bit with the oily sheen, correct?  So the problem now is that they spread a little too much, is that right?

 

I referenced the GF cookbook I use and one of my personal all-time favorite cookbooks ever for help, Flavor Flours by Alice Medrich.  Definitely buy it.  Anyway here is what I suggest for you:

- I can't speak to the mayo suggestion because I haven't done it, but maybe leave off doing that one so as to to affect the results of this test.

- Remove the water you added and make it two full eggs (so add an egg white).  This will help with the moisture problem and will add strength to your dough.

- Remove the white rice flour and substitute oat flour.  I personally am not a huge fan of white rice flour in GF baking unless it's thai white rice flour (the thai version is finer) because it doesn't add much in the way of flavor.  It's more of a neutral flour.  Oat flour is pretty excellent in a lot of things.  I think it will absorb more of that fat too.  You could grind your own oats, but I prefer buying it because it's finer.  Bob's Red Mill works well.

- Switch out your starches to potato starch and use 65g.  This book specifically references this silky starch working well in choc chip cookies.

- Reduce the sugar to 300g overall.  Sugar will make cookies spread more and you'll taste the lovely brown rice and oat flours better.

- I always add vanilla bean paste (or extract) to choc chip cookies, but that doesn't really matter for the purposes of your experiment anyway.

- Combine all the dry ingredients.  Melt all of the coconut oil and then mix in the sugars and vanilla while the oil is warm.  Whisk in the eggs once it's cooled a bit.   Add the dry ingredients and stir briskly for at least 45 seconds.  Again, this activates the binding power of the xantham gum - the more you mix, the chewier and less crunchy the cookies will be.  Add the chips.

- Do your portioning / fridge routine again.

- When ready to bake, position an oven rack in the upper third and lower third of the oven.  Bake at 375F, switching between the two racks.  A higher temp also helps reduce spreading a bit.  Of course, smaller cookies will bake faster too, which could help with spreading, but most people like big cookies better!  :)

 

Let me know if you give it a shot, please!  Good luck!

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Hi!  What began as a "why do cookies sometimes get oily" question has turned into a "let's play with gluten free cookie dough" topic 😁.

 

@Emily440  Thanks so much for that!  The original AB recipe uses all brown rice flour.  I don't recall why I changed the recipe to be 50/50 brown/white years ago when I was making the vegan variation, but, I did recall doing so which is why it made its way here.

 

I made a variety of doughs since this thread prompted by discussions, then baked them up to compare.  The recipes are provided in the attached table - color coding denotes mixing groups.  All with same scoop.

 

The original batch was a full one, the rest were half-batches, there's only so much room in the freezer!  Batches 2-6 used a hand mixer instead of the stand mixer.  Baked at 350 + fan (e.g. 375) for 11 minutes.  Through discussions with the intended recipient of these cookies, I learned xanthan gum causes irritation, so I excluded it in 2-6.

 

Here are comments, left to right of the picture:

1. Original dough that prompted this thread.  Cookies were oily and randomly spread.  I think it has to do with using the stand mixer and over mixing or just not properly mixing bottom of the bowl.  Tasty.

 

2. Tried @teonzo's mayo technique.  They spread, and were shiny, but neither oily nor greasy.  Super crispy, lacy and Mandelbrot-patterned texture, I really like these.  The coconut oil flavor was masked compared to the original.  I'm not sure if the spread was because I omitted the white sugar (accident), extra yolk brought more moisture, improperly mixed, or simply nature of the ingredients and technique.  I suspect it was the latter because the spreading was consistent and had body to it.  The dough was soft and malleable even after several days in the freezer!

 

3. With arrival of chocolate supplies, I was anxious to try cacao butter instead of coconut oil.  I followed technique suggestions here, pouring oil in slowly and mixing with sugar no more than a minute or two.  As sugar and oil became uniform, I drizzled in the soy milk, and finished with rest of the wet ingredients.  Results were neither oily nor greasy.  Everything came together very nicely.  I was sorely disappointed with flavor, though, the cacao butter is not good baked, at least, with the combination of ingredients.  Unpleasant, almost like eating cookies off hot silpat sheets (you know that plastic, silicone flavor?).

 

4. Original recipe with the improved technique (slowly pouring oil in, short mixing times, etc).  I also used the whole egg.  Delicious, if not cloying.  After tasting all the cookies and dough batter, the sugar was making me jitter.  I think using the whole egg kept the cookies poofier and they spread less.

 

5. I read @Emily440's suggestion just as I prepared to shut down my computer Thursday evening, and was excited since I had all the ingredients on hand.  The cookie recipient has issues with oats as well, so I subbed buckwheat flour***, which gels up kind of like oats, and thought I'd be close enough to her recommendation, except, I thought the amount of potato starch was a bit high so I dropped it a few grams.  As I was mixing in the chocolate chips in the last step, I looked over at the packages and realized a mistake I used potato flour, not starch.  Oh, well, might as well try.  These were delicious.  The reduced sugar is better.  They did not spread as much, were more cakey and pleasantly moist inside.

 

6. The cookie recipient loves all things coconut, so decided to try this sub as the last step, and realized I have japanese potato starch (katakuriko), not american potato starch from some attempts to make karaage.  It's not clear on the packaging whether the starch was derived from potatos or the water lilly.  Coconut flour absorbs a lot of water, but I'm not sure how much more so I made sure to increase liquid items a bit.  The resulting taste was interesting, but kind of bland.  They have an unusual, almost unpleasant texture of very sproingy meatballs.  They also did not spread at all.

 

Conclusion: for the official batch, I will reduce the sugar, sub in buckwheat for white rice flour, and stick with the 1 egg + yolk, rather than 2 eggs.  I might try one more batch replacing the starches and/or potato flour with katakuriko.  I could also try splitting the flours three ways with coconut, rice, and buckwheat, or add an extra yolk to the sixth test.. oh boy, too many choices 🤯

 

Thanks all for the help, hope you've enjoyed my attempts at making some tasty cookies.  I enjoyed eating them!

 

*** I have hulled buckwheat groats on hand, which I rinse, spread out on a paper towel into one layer, and allow to dry overnight.  I then grind down to flour (I use an EK43 coffee grinder... don't judge me).  These have more moisture due to the rinsing stage, they absorb some water as they dry off, about 5% I think.  I do this as a result of the advice here.

 

cookie gluten and dairy free 2020-11-07.jpg

Edited by jedovaty
fixed oven temp, revised picture to include heights (log)
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