It’s only just the end of October, so you might be wondering why this photo looks like it’s all gussied up for Christmas. I usually don’t start my holiday baking until the beginning of December, but I am submitting this recipe to Jeanine over at The Baking Beauties for a gluten free e-book of holiday recipes that she is compiling. This is a low carb, gluten free makeover of one of my all-time favourites and I am really excited to share it with you.
Back in our pre-marriage, child-free days in Arizona, my husband and I used to host an annual Christmas dessert/cocktail party. It became bigger and more elaborate every year, with increasing numbers of friends and coworkers in attendance, and me baking far more cookies, bars and cakes than anyone could possibly eat. Each year I tried out different recipes, but the Chocolate-Glazed Mocha Fans from Bon Appetit, December 1999, were always on the table, and they were always a hit. When thinking about holiday cookies that I might tackle for a low carb makeover, these were at the top of my list. If I could be successful in recreating these, I would have a very merry Christmas indeed!
My biggest challenge with this recipe was getting the texture right. Traditional shortbread has a rather dry, crumbly texture, a result of the unique interplay between the flour, fat and sugar. Since I have to remove the flour and the sugar from the equation, I wasn’t sure I could pull this off. Fortunately, one of the things that makes shortbread so crumbly is that the large amount of butter inhibits the formation of long gluten strands. Mine wasn’t going to have any gluten in it to begin with, so that was one thing going for me!
The Results: I honestly did not expect these to turn out as well as they did. At first, they seemed rather soft and cakey, so I pulled out a trick gleened from a Cook’s Illustrated shortbread recipe and continued to dry it out in a low heat oven. It worked like a charm! The flavour is much as I remember from the original recipe, a nice chocolately cookie with hint of coffee. I am sure in a blind taste test, I would probably be able to tell the flour and sugar-filled version from these gluten free ones, but it be a challenge to say which one is better. If anything, mine are a little less sweet, but I think that allows the mocha flavour to shine through a bit more. I am delighted with the results, and happy to know that I can have at least one of my favourite cookies this Christmas.
I will confess that my first attempt at the chocolate glaze was an utter failure. I am not quite sure why, but my chocolate siezed and I couldn’t recover it, no matter how hard I tried. I scrapped it altogether and started over with a different technique (no cream, just butter), and got a much better result.
Chocolate-Glazed Mocha Shortbread
Note: I recognize that many people who need or choose to go gluten free do not need to be low carb, so I am including instructions on using sugar instead of alternative sweeteners.
1 1/2 cups almond meal
1/4 cocoa powder
1/4 cup erythritol (or 3/4 cup white sugar)
2 tsp instant coffee granules
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cups butter, softened
16 drops stevia extract (omit if using sugar)
1 tbsp coconut oil or butter
2.5 oz unsweetened chocolate (or semi-sweet chocolate), chopped
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp powdered erythritol (omit if using semi-sweet chocolate)
1/2 tsp vanilla
8 drops stevia extract (omit if using semi-sweet chocolate)
For the shortbread, preheat oven to 325F and spray a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together almond meal, cocoa, erythritol or sugar, coffee, xanthan gum and cream of tartar.
In another bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and stevia extract until smooth. Beat in half of almond meal mixture until combined. Beat in remaining almond meal mixture until the dough begins to clump together.
Using a rubber spatula, spread dough in prepared pan. It will be very sticky and difficult to spread, so try to just get it to the edges of the pan. Then take a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap to cover the surface and press more evenly into pan using fingertips.
Bake until firm around edges and slightly soft and puffy in the center, about 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes. Gently remove pan sides. With a large sharp knife, cut into 16 wedges.
Gently remove wedges to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Reduce oven temperature to 200F and continue to bake shortbread wedges for another 25 minutes. Turn off oven and let shortbread continue to dry out for 1 hour. Do not open oven door, you do not want the heat to escape.
Remove from oven and let cool completely on pan.
For the glaze, melt coconut oil or butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in cocoa powder and erythritol until no clumps remain. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and stevia extract. Let cool until thickened but still pourable (I hurried this up by placing the pan in the refrigerator). Drizzle over cool shortbread on pan. Chill shortbread until chocolate is firm, about 20-30 minutes.
Serves 16. Each shortbread has a total of 8g of carbs, but only 4.25g if you subtract erythritol.