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20 October 2006

more sweetness for the weekend

lemon olive oil cookies, originally uploaded by shaunaforce.

Yesterday, the skies lowered with grey clouds all day. Busy writing, I didn’t consciously look up for nearly an hour in the middle of the afternoon. When I did finally raise my head, I noticed that the window screen before me was flecked with raindrops. The trees across the street were tossing their heads and letting down their hair. The sun was only glimmering weakly behind the clouds, already starting to descend. It was 4:30 in the afternoon and starting to grow dark.

It’s that baking time of the year.

During the summers, I rarely want to turn on the oven. After hours at a farmers’ market, I want to eat food fresh, and whole. A chunk of creamy avocado on a slice of crusty, gluten-free bread, with a thick slice of tomato and green leaves of basil. Who needs anything more? This summer, when the evenings grow cool in Seattle fairly quickly, I had all my hot entrée needs met by going to the Chef’s restaurant. Braised baby short ribs with crispy polenta, a sour cream and cumin sauce. Prawns and scallions in an almond-garlic sauce. Seared lamb chops with garlic potatoes. Why would I turn on the oven when I could eat food like that? And when I didn’t eat at the restaurant, the Chef was the one to come home and turn on the oven. Why should I bake under those circumstances?

But these days, I have been seized by the need to bake. Peanut butter cookies. A roasted red pepper and goat cheese quiche with a millet-teff crust. Banana bread made with nutmeg and vanilla yogurt. Apple pie made with three different kinds of apple and an almond-meal crust. There is something about that cooling air and yellowing leaves, the gathering darkness and thoughts of the holiday, that make me turn to baking.

And besides, this year, I have the Chef to kept fed.

It’s daunting to cook for a professional chef. Even though this man would be blissfully happy if I made some hummus and gave it to him on crackers, I want to feed him more fully. And while I have happily let him cook us dinner every night for months on end —after cooking for ten hours straight at the restaurant — I can feel everything shifting, a bit. Maybe it’s that we have been with each other for long enough — and love each other so thoroughly — that I’ve stopped worrying that my food isn’t good enough for him. If everyone is afraid of cooking for a professional chef, then the poor chefs never eat.

And beyond that, I have simply missed the kitchen.

So, while he is feeding lucky people in the evenings, I take a break from writing and make us something simple. Lentil soup. Homemade corn tortillas with seared steak, fresh guacamole, and roasted tomatoes. Roast chicken with potatoes and gravy. He is happy and satisfied. And sometimes, nothing makes me happier than feeding this man.

Plus, I have been baking for him.
The man can bake. There’s no question. But so can I. And so lately, I have been inventing baked goods, left and right, for the good of the book, and for him.

When I first made him the peanut butter cookies, his eyes grew wide, and he jumped up and down. Then, he decided to make them at the restaurant, and improve on them.

[Here a side note: I am actually writing this at his restaurant, in the afternoon, before anyone comes in for dinner. He called me into the kitchen a minute ago and said, “Do you want a peanut butter cookie? They just came out of the oven.” I took one bite, and then my eyes grew wide, and I jumped up and down. We are well-suited for each other, obviously.]

A few weeks ago, I took a little jaunt to ChefShop, one of my favorite food resources in the world. A fabulous online store, ChefShop is physically located in Seattle, just five minutes from our home. That makes me one lucky girl. Among the other delectables and goodies I found on their shelves, I spotted a Sorrento lemon olive oil from Italy. When the knowledgeable staff member put it into my hands, and began to tell me the story of how the olives and lemons are crushed together, my brain snapped to attention.

Lemon olive oil cookies.

I had never seen a recipe. I had never baked with olive oil before. And yet, I just knew that I had to make them. The idea sprang forth from my head fully formed like Athena from Zeus. I ran home and threw ingredients into my Kitchen-Aid, trusting my instincts.

At the end of the evening, when the cookies had cooled, I drove to the restaurant, scurried in, and walked toward the Chef, the cookie in my hand headed right for his mouth. He took one bite, happily. I knew what they tasted like -- chewy, tangy with lemon, rich in complexity of flavor because of the depth of that olive oil -- because I always tast them before I give them to him. He looked at me in amazement, his eyes growing wider than the cookie in my hand, then said, “Yes please. More.”

Luckily, I had several more in the car.

I’m so happy it’s that baking time of the year.


I'm certain that some of the magic of these cookies comes from using that particular type of Sorrento lemon olive oil. It's green and fruity, and it truly smells like lemons. I recommend that you order a bottle. If, however, you don't have that type of oil, I think this would still work with a high-quality extra virgin olive oil. Just bump up the lemon zest and juice.

I originally used plain, non-fat yogurt in this recipe, which is what this version calls for. This allows the cookies to crisp up a bit, and at least give the illusion of being healthy. However, in subsequent batches, I used sour cream instead. Yum, yum good. Those cookies are a bit chewier and far richer. If you are making this for a treat, I would use sour cream. That's what the Chef recommends as well.

1/4 cup plain, nonfat yogurt (make sure it's gluten-free) or sour cream
1/4 cup lemon olive oil (or the best quality olive oil you can afford)
1 egg
zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon
1/2 half cup white rice flour
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup fresh ground almond meal (fresh ground tastes best)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 350°.

First, combine the yogurt and olive oil well. Stir in the egg, then the lemon juice and zest, to make a coherent mixture.

Next, combine all the dry ingredients together. Slowly, fold the wet ingredients into the dry. The dough will be sticky. In fact, you might have dough all over your fingers by the time this process is done. Oh darn.

Form small balls with the sticky dough and roll each ball into sugar. This will make the finished cookies crunchy and shimmery. Place on a baking sheet covered with a silpat, or a layer of parchment paper.

Cook for twelve minutes, approximately. The cookies will be soft at this point, but they will feel fully formed. Let them sit on the baking sheet, on the top of the oven, for about five minutes.

Carefully, move the cookies to a cooling rack. Let them sit there for another five minutes, during which time they will harden in the air.

Now, try not to eat them all in one sitting.

Makes nine large cookies or twelve rather smaller ones.


At 10:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That looks yummy! Not like those cardboard GF cookies from the grocery store!

At 5:44 PM, Blogger Beck said...

Oh, those look WONDERFUL! My toddler has Celiac Disease, and I'm so happy to have found your site!

At 8:20 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Now I'm regretting not buying a bottle of Meyer Lemon Olive Oil while I was in Italy...guess I have to check out that website.

At 5:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another lovely story! These cookies definitely sound yummy! I am with you, it is this time of year to bake!

At 9:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've baked with light olive oil many times, but never lemon infused. What a fab idea!


At 10:53 AM, Blogger Traca Savadogo said...

Those cookies look amazing! Thanks for the reminder about Chef Shop too. It's been ages since I've been there. Miss you!

At 11:22 AM, Blogger madre-terra said...

And I thought that the picture of the peanut butter cookies was fab...this one is even better.
I love the recipe. I'm going to have to try those ones.
Love hearing about the weather in Seattle. Any word of home is good.
I'm glad you got over your food-cooking-self-consciousness. My husband used to teach at Cordon Blu (I am having a total mind blip on the spelling. You can read about the great day I'm having over at my blog. Then my mind blip will seem like the least of my worries.) and I'm glad that I got over my inhibitions in the kitchen.
You go get 'em girl!

At 11:09 AM, Blogger Darby said...

Oh my those look absolutely like heave! I have never used lemon olive oil but my mouth is watering just with the thought of it!

Also congratulations on your book deal!

At 6:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shauna - These sound delicious! I'm definitely trying them out. I was also wondering if there's any time we could make in the near future (early action deadline approaching... :) Thanks for all of your help! I hope all is well.

Alicia LeClair

At 8:50 AM, Blogger Girl Upstairs said...

This recipe looks like just the thing to cheer people up in the dark autumn of London, UK. I had read this post and been looking for good olive oil when I spotted a lemon polenta loaf at one of my health food haunts. It has many of the same ingredients, so the lemon olive oil could be put to further use. The loaf is lovely and moist and calls out for a cup of tea in the afternoon! I'll be trying to make my own version soon...

It is made by a company called Crayve's

The ingredients are, in order: ground almonds, corn syrup, eggs, polenta, lemon juice and zest, extra virgin olive oil and baking soda.

At 1:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Shauna - First off, I love your site. Second, thanks for all the lovely recipes that I am looking forward to trying. It is a cold, rainy, blustery day in the Washington, DC 'burbs - perfect for baking and cooking, so I just made a batch of your lemon olive oil coookies. My husband asked for comfort food for dinner, so we are having Stamppot (kale and potatoes from our garden, and kielbasa - lovely, warming food). Anyway, I just pulled the cookies from the oven and my husband says "Mmmm, lemon cookies?" So, I gave him a bite of one, and he actually liked it! He usually won't touch GF food, but these he liked. Me? I'm in heaven!! Delicious, chewy, moist cookies bursting with lemon. Oh, and for those who are also allergic to eggs (like me), using Ener-G foods egg replacer worked a charm in these delectable cookies.

Thank you, thank you for doable recipes that taste so wonderful!


At 8:42 AM, Blogger seven said...

They sound lovely. Your blog is wonderful, but I can never reproduce the results since I'm a poor student, who can't afford seventeen different kinds of flour :(
I generally use the doves farm gluten-free flour mix, so I think I'll try that...

At 8:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yum, I'm going to throw in some fresh rosemary, use an egg replacer for the egg, and bake these this month in my allergen-free baking fest. :)

At 8:44 PM, Blogger Whimsy Valentine said...

Yum. yumyumyumyumyumyum! Even my picky hubby said "Wow, babe, these are really good!" Deliciouso!

At 1:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. Six months ago, my husband and I started eating gluten-free and have felt so much better. Before our switch, I was an adept baker.

I just tried making these cookies. I used the best olive oil I could find at my local health food grocery store. The dough was completely runny. I had to triple the flours and almond meal before the dough was manageable. What did I do wrong?

At 4:15 PM, Blogger Shauna said...


Sorry to hear you had trouble with these. You know, I had the same trouble for awhile, and was puzzled. And then I realized it all depends on the olive oil.

Every olive oil I've used has produced a slightly different result with these cookies. The viscosity, the warmth, the texture of the olive oil does change from oil to oil, believe it or not!

The version of the recipe I have in my book is a little more true, but only a little. Really, you have to count on the fickle nature of olive oil and use the feel of the dough instead of the measurements.

Hope that helps!

At 9:59 PM, Blogger glutenbee said...

gluten free girl - have you ever been able to make any rolled dough cracker-type things like cheese straws? i am particularly interested in a cheese and walnut kind of ahshort bread

At 1:36 PM, Blogger Dating Girl said...

Hey Shauna,

Love love love your site!

I just tried to make these and the yogurt olive oil mixture curdled. Did I do anything wrong? Is there any way to prevent this?

At 1:53 PM, Blogger Kay said...

My batter was also thin, but instead of adding more flour, I just baked them as they were. Turned out great--not at all the same texture as Shauna's picture, but the flavor is outstanding.

At 5:55 AM, Blogger Bea said...

Hi! I was wondering what the shelf life of these cookies are?

At 3:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These are amazing! Thank-you

At 6:54 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

Holy Cow!! These are some of the best tasting, little pieces of lemon heaven EVER!! THANKS!!

At 12:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These are delicious; the texture is perfect (I had to bump up the flour a bit with my particular olive oil). This blog is one of my favorite procrastination tools. Thank you, Shauna!

At 3:26 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I just made these lemon olive oil cookies! I had trouble with the batter being runny too however I just added a little more of the flours until it resembled the texture of a cake batter. Instead of rolling the dough in the sugar, I instead spread sugar on the parchment then just placed spoonfuls of the batter on the parchment and then sprinkled sugar on them. They came out just fine! Very thin but chewy and slightly golden. My husband just got home from work and has already eaten four! He usually is not a fan of GF cookies and I think I may just have to hide these from him! Thanks Shauna for what you offer to the GF community! Your recipes, techniques, and commentary seem to make life gluten-free more livable... makes me and others say "YES, I can do this!"

At 2:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I bought your book (actually, 2 copies of it) for friends who are celiacs. Since I was responsible for a dessert at a dinner party that one of my celiac friends would be attending I gave the Lemon Olive Oil Cookies and the Chocolate Financiers and the Gluten Free Pie Crust recipes a try (we filled the Gluten Free Pie Crust with Chef Susan Spicers Lemon Tart recipe). EVERYONE was so impressed....not the least of which was me. After hearing again and again how "bad" gluten free was supposed to taste I just could not believe it after reading all of the lovely descriptions in your book. All of the gluten free treats were a hit but those Lemon Olive Oil Cookies are in a class by themselves! Thank you so much for your contributions to the culinary world - - your recipes are so easy to follow that a non-celiac in her first attempt to cook something gluten free was able to wow everyone! Thank you thank you thank you!!!!

At 7:35 AM, Blogger Sean-Michael said...

I recently started reading your book Gluten-Free Girl and came across this recipe. It looks and sounds so delicious that I couldn't wait to get all the proper ingredients. Probably makes you cringe to hear that because obviously the recipe won't turn out just the same, but I happened across some local meyer lemon olive oil that smells and tastes like this amazing extra virgin olive oil with an amazing lemon smell and definite lemon after taste. So I decided rather than wait until I can get to the store for the proper ingredients, to use the recipe I'd read a few days earlier to inspire some kitchen experimentation. I'll post about it in my blog soon, but I just wanted to say thank you. They were a hit with everyone who has tried them so far, and I'm going to add too them by making some icing to pour over them today. I can't wait until I get some more cash and can buy the rest of the ingredients to try the ACTUAL recipe. Lemon love!

At 7:26 PM, Anonymous Nat said...

This is a very interesting recipe, wish I understood how the different oils could produce such different viscosities. I was out of lemons, and am allergic to dairy, so I tried this with almond/peanut oil, 2tbsp soymilk for the lemon juice, an extra egg for the 1/4 cup yoghurt, and ground cardamom for flavor. I wasn't expecting it to come out exactly the same with all these substitutions, but I was expecting to get cookies out of it. However, the batter was too runny - more like pancake batter. Even after adding several lashings of brown rice flour, it was closer to cake batter than cookie dough. But! I poured the cakey batter into six English muffin rings, result, six lovely and unique tea-cakes. Seems like this is a very versatile recipe as long as you are prepared to roll with the results.

At 4:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. Is there anyway to substitute millet or quinoa flour for the tapioca? I am new to GF baking and would love to learn some recipes. Thanks in advance. Julie

At 2:22 PM, Blogger philogaia said...

New to the gluten-free lifestyle and still working my way through the initial grieving process these cookies looked amazing. I didn't have any tapioca flour and only brown rice flour AND I am also dairy intolerant. Also, only a garden variety spicy EVOO. That wasn't going to slow me down! Ha Ha! I used the 365 AP baking mix blend which has white rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch and guar gum. I was a little nervous about the guar gum making the cookies too tough so I used 1/2 cup of that plus 1/4 cup brown rice flour. I used coconut yogurt (a most interesting product) and a lovely pastured egg snagged from the Portland Farmers Market. I was also dubious about my EVOO when I tasted it. Very spicy. Hmmm. I cut it by half with second press olive oil. I also came up with very loose batter. My inclination was to let it sit about 15 minutes to see what the flours absorbed. I did add a couple more tablespoons of brown rice flour and let it sit a little longer. I then proclaimed it good enough. Sort of at the 'soft ball' stage. I just dropped it into the sugar and tossed it to cover. It could then be moved (very carefully) to the pan. The finished product is just lovely! Now I want to get the recommended flours and oil and have another go! Thanks Shauna. I'm especially pleased you live in the Pac NW so I know we are cooking in the same altitude and humidity. You are helping me moving into the acceptance phase of grieving much more quickly than I expected.

At 10:01 AM, Blogger WM Jenner said...

Will these cookies work without the almond meal and yoghurt or are there some good substitutions? I also have a milk and nut allergy but really want to try these cookies!

At 6:33 PM, Blogger Erin said...

My first batch of lemon olive oil cookies is just cooling and they're delicious! I had the same issue as others with my batter being super thin to begin with - more a pancake batter consistency than i was hoping for. Initially I thought I'd made an error (I have never been much of a baker, gluten free or otherwise), but read the comments and decided to just keep adding flours until I could work with the batter.

Am I ever glad I did. I'm thrilled with the results. Thanks Shauna!

At 6:36 AM, Blogger Karen Abir said...

Really special looking cookie recipe! Thanks for the recipe. Who would have thought to put olive oil in a sweet not savory item? I love lemon and olive oil, can't wait to give it a try. I am not on a gluten free diet, but so many people are these days, its so good to have recipes at our fingertips like this. Keep them coming :-)!
warm regards,

Karen from

At 4:05 PM, Blogger Adventures in Monster Keeping said...

Help, please? I've let these cookies cool for an hour now, and that nasty tapioca flour taste just will not go away..

At 6:38 AM, Blogger Beth P. said...

I love these. Thanks for the recipe! I wondered, since there are no whipped egg whites and no gluten, why do we fold the liquid into the solid ingredients rather than just stirring them together? (Sorry if this is a silly question.)


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