Ah, the joy of making Chocolate Chip Cookies from scratch! Your mouth begins to salivate as you imagine the most beautiful smells wafting through your kitchen – as you work your ingredients into a smooth and creamy dough, from the soft raw gooeyness to the still warm, melting chocolate dripping all over your cheeks as you bite into your freshly baked creations. What an incredibly happy moment you are having!
And so you begin to gather up your ingredients: butter, flour, eggs, sugar, milk, chocolate, baking powder, baking soda and vanilla to begin the joy of creating this magnificent moment of life.
But wait! STOP!
Imagine for just a second, however, that the ONLY ONE ingredient you are allowed from this entire list is the baking soda. That’s it: just the baking soda. Not even the baking powder, as most brands contain cornstarch, which makes your mouth itch. The chocolate and butter have dairy, which would send you to the hospital; eggs, forget it – you’ll pay later for those; flour, well, we won’t go there – your stomach hurts just imagining it; vanilla, corn again, and the itchy mouth. Sugar, highly processed.
Your task, should you even choose to accept it, is to recreate that chocolate gooey loveliness from completely alternative ingredients – ones that won’t make you nauseous, give you a headache, make you vomit or send you to the ER gasping for your every last breath. And then imagine that you don’t really have any idea what those ingredients actually are, what to look for, where to buy them, what brands to use, or even what proportions or recipe to use, much less how they’ll even taste. Will they measure up? Will they be even half as good as you were used to? Will your friends, partner, spouse, parents, children, ANYONE, even like them?
Be Free Bakers first attempt, back in 1999…
Chocolate Chip Cookie #1: “Chocolate Bean Slop-Mess”
Ever try to make chocolate chip cookies from scratch using untested alternative ingredients without an allergen-friendly recipe? How’d that turn out for you? In this case, attempt #1 was a stinky mosh pit of chocolate flavored bean slop.
The naiveté! Who knew?
Back in 1999, there were no beautiful gluten free blogs. (What is that weird word? Blog?)
There were no top chefs making gorgeous creations for people with gluten allergies. (Gluten? What the heck is that?)
Garbanzo bean flour was the only “alternative” ingredient purchased (that’s what was available at Whole Foods Market in the “alternative baking” department, which, honestly, consisted of one lonely shelf at that time).
The recipe on the back of the Nestle Tollhouse package was used, merely substituting 1 for 1 this random yellow bean flour for the white all-purpose flour. After all, the only allergen we knew about at that time was the gluten, and we were just beginning our healthy eating process, so out it went and in came “garbanzo bean flour”. Oh my!
Few had even heard of xanthan gum, much less what it was. (It’s a bacteria that grows on stuff?) This “yellow bean cookie dough” was lovingly made by hand, carefully placed on a baking sheet and in and out of the oven it went.
The fumes were intoxicating, nauseating, revolting (among other things)! HOLY MOLEY!
Windows were opened, fans turned on, promises were made: garbanzo beans must never, ever be used in chocolate chip cookies again. Not like that please. Maybe in the future some time we’ll revisit? ☺
Years, yes years—nine approximately, went by, along with literally hundreds of failed attempts at the perfect allergen friendly chocolate chip cookie. Children with allergies were born, friends with new allergies were made, and the quest continued in earnest. Cookies and various brownies were created, played with, and the recipes declared “good”; but the Chocolate Chip Cookie became an ever-evolving concoction of recipes.
So many recipes, in fact, that had we bothered to do a v1, v2, v3, etc., we might possibly be at #862.
By the time Be Free Bakers began in earnest, in the summer of ‘09, our chocolate chip cookie finally “went to market” – quite literally, at The City Market Farmers Market in the River Market area of Kansas City.
But we were restless: we knew we could do better.
More testing. Better ingredients. Different ratios.
Our chocolate chip cookie had whole grains; it was already gluten free, vegan and didn’t have nuts.
But it was far from perfect.
There could be no compromises.
Our chocolate chip cookie had to be great, not just good or even average. Better than that. It had to have a good texture and flavor. The ingredients had to be as organic as possible and sourced fairly. We didn’t want to use traditional sugar. We liked Palm Sugar for its amazing health properties. But it also had to be organic and sustainably harvested. We wanted the cookie to have a lower glycemic index; less sugar; more flavor.
No GMOs. Out went the traditional canola; in came the Organic, Non-GMO Canola Oil.
Our chocolate chip cookie had to be consistent, outstanding, environmentally sustainable and sourced with integrity – plus it had to have a decent shelf life. It couldn’t get dry in 3 days. (We already lost two accounts for that problem.) Did we mention that it had to be packaged in something good for the earth too? (Compostable cookie bags and recyclable/compostable boxes, no coatings. Soy ink.) On top of all that, this chocolate chip cookie had to have the very best chocolate available – fair trade, organic AND soy-free.
We wanted it all.
We set the bar high and with purpose. It took 12 long years from our first attempt to our current recipe. We’re done for now. No more changes for a while, we promise. ☺
Did we accomplish all of our lofty goals? Well, we think so! Our customers are happy. Our clients are happy. Cookies continue to be made, packaged and shipped. People keep eating them. Mixes are starting to take shape in their awesome American-made compostable bags and recyclable/reusable cartons. More and more stores are asking us to bring BFB goods in for their customers. For now, we are content. Life is good.
Let’s just say we’ve come a long way from the recipe on the bag, made with bean flour.