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This is it. This is THE cookie recipe. The recipe I've been on and off working on ever since I started this blog back in early 2014. Every year, I say I'm going to finish it before Christmas and until now, I've been wrong every year.
Sunbutter cookies may seem easy to make and that's because well, they are easy. So why did I struggle so much? It's because I was dying for a very specific texture of sunbutter cookie. You know how some traditional peanut butter cookies are just ever so slightly crisp on the outside and the inside is moist and you can feel the creaminess of the peanut butter with a strong peanut taste as you are eating it? Sometimes there's even a dark line where the moisture is. That's what I wanted.
I can eat peanut butter just fine but I love all the varieties of nut and seed butters and thought sunbutter cookies sounded really good. It's the best peanut butter replacement in my opinion because it has a rich flavor that butters like almond and cashew don't have. I also don't like to include peanuts on my blog since it's such a common allergen. Since I was making so many batches of this, I started experimenting while using peanut butter to save money until I got the recipe right. It's a 1:1 replacement and if you make a peanut butter version, I've linked to peanut butter cups you can use in the blossoms. Otherwise, the plain ricemilk chocolate was good too!
I tried so many versions - coconut oil, shortening only, brown sugar only, flourless, refrigerated overnight, refrigerated four days, frozen, with/without vanilla, three ingredient, egg free,...I even tried other people's recipes (not to publish here obviously, just to try to satisfy my craving). None of them were it. Next, I started making traditional peanut butter cookies that I found online (again, for my personal enjoyment) and swapping the flours for gluten free and replacing the dairy ingredients with dairy free. It still didn't work.
I believe the reason why all this didn't work was that gluten free flour is very low protein so it's difficult to get any crispiness on the outside if you want the inside to be creamy. Adding more flour to make up for the texture only made the cookies dry and diluted the peanut flavor. On the opposite end of the spectrum was play-doh texture. This was typical of a three ingredient, flourless cookie.
I really enjoyed the texture using all non-hydrogenated shortening but I also included dairy free butter to make up for any rich flavor lost due to switching from peanut butter to sunbutter. Another thing I found is that if I used a dark brown sugar and equal parts white sugar, the texture was perfectly balanced. I also rolled the cookies in some sugar for a slight added crunch on the outside.
The other factors for the right texture were cookie thickness and refrigeration. This is where I might get some criticism because I'm starting to suspect that I like undercooked cookies. You know that dark line in some cookies I was talking about earlier where you really get a different, creamy consistency? I don't know if that means it's undercooked or just delicious but either way, that's what I like. I mostly notice it underneath the chocolate when it's pressed down in a blossom so I think it's mostly compacted or collapsed as it's cooling rather than raw but you can cook yours longer if you think they are underdone.
I was able to get this creamy texture in my cookies by keeping them thicker instead of smashing them completely flat. It also had to do with chilling them a little bit. I learned so much about chilling cookie dough in this post by King Arthur Flour (really interesting and definitely worth a read if you enjoy baking!) Basically, the longer you chill dough, the more it dries out and the more the flavor concentrates. Chilling 30 minutes was enough to improve the texture. If you go longer than that, it does start to taste even better but know that it also becomes more crumbly and difficult to handle. If the dough is very cold (chilled several hours), expect to increase the cooking time a little.
That was probably horribly boring to read but I have just learned so many interesting things during this almost six year process that I just had to share it! I hope you guys enjoy this recipe as much as I did - please let me know how it goes if you make it!
This sunbutter cookie dough can be made into either sunbutter cookies or blossoms. Includes a peanut butter option too. Gluten free, dairy free.
- 1 1/3 C Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour, see notes
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 C non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening
- 1/4 C dairy free butter, softened (I used Earth Balance soy free baking sticks)
- 1/2 C + 2 Tbsp sugar, divided
- 1/4 C + 2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 C unsweetened, unsalted Sunbutter or peanut butter if tolerated
For blossoms you'll also need:
- approximately 20 pieces of allergy friendly chocolate, see notes
- Whisk together the gluten free flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside.
- In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together the shortening, dairy free butter, 1/4 C + 2 Tbsp of the sugar, and the brown sugar.
- Add egg and sunbutter or peanut butter and continue to mix.
- Slowly add the flour mixture and continue to mix until combined. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Put the remaining 1/4 C of sugar in a small bowl and set aside.
- Once the dough has chilled, use a cookie scoop or a spoon to make around 20 scoops of dough. (It's find if you don't get exactly 20, just adjust the baking time accordingly). Roll each scoop of dough in the palm of your hands to form smooth balls then roll those in the bowl of sugar to lightly coat.
- Place the prepared dough balls on a cookie sheet. If making regular cookies, slightly flatten them with the prongs of a fork to get the classic peanut butter cookie crosshatch pattern. If making blossoms, leave them as-is.
- Bake for about 9-11 minutes depending on the size and how well done you like them. If making blossoms, immediately press a chocolate piece into the center of each cookie as soon as they come out of the oven.
- Allow cookies to slightly cool on the cookie sheet for about 2 minutes then you can transfer them to a cooling rack to finish cooling then serve.
- Potential allergens contained in these cookies may vary due to brands of ingredients used, product reformulations, etc. Please verify that all your ingredients are safe for you to consume and always be mindful of allergen cross contamination while cooking.
- Flour: I’ve tried several different 1-1 gluten free flours in cookie recipes and have had many cookies fall apart and crumble. Unless you have another reliable 1-1 gluten free flour that contains xanthan gum, I would stick with Bob’s Red Mill since that’s what these were tested with. Note that this is made in a facility with tree nuts and soy according to the package I had.
- Chocolate: I chose to use Enjoy Life ricemilk chocolate bars which are free from most common allergens. Each bar contains 4 rectangles of chocolate and I recommend cutting each one in half which means that each bar will make 8 sunbutter blossoms. They also sell individually wrapped pieces around the holidays. If you can eat peanuts and soy, the Justin's mini dark chocolate peanut butter cups were good in these too. Note that only their dark chocolate doesn't contain dairy and even so, these are currently produced on shared equipment with dairy as well as tree nuts. See packaging and their website for the most relevant allergen information.
- Cookie discoloration: Note that the high chlorophyll content in sunbutter can react with baking soda and turn the cookies green. Adding an acid can counteract this and since this recipe contains brown sugar (acidic), it should be fine but know that if you notice any little green spots or discoloration start to happen, even days after they're baked, it doesn't necessarily mean they're bad. It's most likely just the chlorophyll!