Last month, I was lucky enough to win a random-draw contest at the Foodie Blogroll: I received a free copy of a new cookbook called ThinkFood: Brain Fitness Recipes, published by Posit Science in conjunction with the foodblogging community. Posit Science is a unique organization dedicated to improving brain health through mental exercises, games, and now through healthy eating. I was really excited to learn about this site, because as I always say, I’m never going to win any beauty contests or feats of strength, so my brain is really the only thing I’ve got going for me! The recipes in the cookbook, each accompanied by a full-color photograph, emphasize specific ingredients that may promote brain health according to scientific studies. I haven’t tried any of the recipes yet, but they look fantastic—you can see for yourself here.
As I pondered my review of the cookbook, I decided that I was going to have to make my own recipe for brain-healthy cookies, just so I could call them Smart Cookies. The only problem was, I was in the process of baking sugar cookies for the Daring Bakers and more cookies was the last thing we needed. However, as I finished the lettering on my chalkboards, it became clear that I was going to have quite a bit of thick icing leftover—and that was all the excuse I needed to whip up a batch of gluten-free cookies to bring along to Nolan’s preschool as an alternative to all that white flour and sugar.
The problem with this idea—beside the fact that my house is likely covered with a fine sheen of wheat flour at all times—was that I don’t have many gluten-free flours on hand. Those of you who have ever tried your hand at gluten-free baking will know that the recipes are often made of a blend of several different flours, plus other rarities such as xanthum gum, for optimal texture. Looking through my cupboards, I found a few options, however.
Almond meal was a given, since it is especially high in vitamin E, a nutrient that has been shown to prevent cognitive decline with age. I also had buckwheat flour, and although I don’t know if buckwheat is specifically good for your brain, it is full of flavonoids and is extremely good for the heart and blood sugar levels. Since the dusky buckwheat flour was going to compromise the color of the cookies, I decided to go dark all the way and used my spice grinder to mill some black “forbidden” rice, so named because it was once reserved only for consumption by the Chinese emperor. Thanks to its beautiful and unique coloring, which becomes a rich purple when cooked, this rice is especially nutritious, being high in iron and anthocyanin. To round out the dough, I also incorporated some of my homemade blackberry compote, full of vitamin C and more antioxidants which provide a similar profile to blueberries in the brain health arena.
The completed dough, which had a raisiny color very much like that of the blackberry compote, was quite soft, so it spent the night firming up in the refrigerator. The next day, I sliced the still rather sticky log into malformed rounds and baked them until they seemed to be set. They never did crisp up, probably because of the moisture from the fruit and the natural leavening power in the egg.
Once the cookies cooled, I piped flowery abstract designs onto them with the white icing for contrast. Come to think of it, I should probably have done some brain-like designs—apparently I should be practicing Posit Science’s brain training exercises, because it didn’t even cross my mind at the time. 🙂 Nolan loved these cookies, and gobbled down about half a dozen in one sitting. I took a bite and had a very different response, finding them gritty from the homemade flours and kind of raisin-flavored from the blackberry compote. I almost didn’t bring the batch along to the preschool, but everyone who tasted the cookies either exercised extremely good manners or else genuinely enjoyed them. I guess you can be the judge yourself.
3/4 C forbidden rice flour
1/2 C almond meal
1/4 C buckwheat flour
3 T blackberry compote (mine is very thick, you could substitute blackberry jam)
1/4 C sugar
7 T unsalted butter
Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse just until a dough comes together. Dollop onto a long sheet of waxed or parchment paper and roll into a log; refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350F and prepare a cookie sheet (grease, or line with parchment or a silpat). Unwrap the dough and use a sharp knife to slice into 1/4″ thick rounds. Work quickly so that the dough stays cold. Arrange the rounds on the cookie sheet—close together is is fine since they don’t spread—and bake for 12-14 minutes, until the cookies are set. (Go by touch, since the dark color will make it difficult to judge doneness visually.) Cool and decorate with royal icing if desired.
Source: Inspired by Culinaria Eugenius.