Sugar free desserts can sometimes suffer from texture issues due to the fact that sugar substitutes can only replace the sweetness of sugar, not its chemical or physical properties. One of the physical properties of sugar is a tenderizing effect on gluten, without which sugar-free desserts can become dense, gummy or bread-like.
There are different ways to combat this problem. One would be to lower the gluten content by cutting the wheat based flour with gluten-free flours. Another is to add oat bran, ground nuts or cocoa powder, all of which have the ability to interrupt strands of gluten and prevent them from getting too long and tough.
These shortbread cookies use a third option: limiting gluten development by restricting water content. Gluten is already present in the flour, but it does not develop its rubber band-like physical properties until combined with water and mixed or kneaded. Keeping water content low keeps the cookies tender and crumbly, the way shortbread should be.
|Vegan Cashew Shortbread Cookies|
Sugar Free Cashew Shortbread Cookies
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
Stevia or splenda equivalent to 6 Tbsp of sugar
1/8 tsp cardamom
dash of salt
5 Tbsp oil
4 tsp water or soy milk
½ tsp vanilla
¼ tsp coconut extract
¼ cup cashew pieces (not whole)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Whisk together the flour, cardamom, salt and sweetener (only if sweetener is dry. If sweetener is liquid, add it with the wet ingredients). Measure in the wet ingredients and stir to combine, using your fingers if necessary.
Roll dough into a 1½ inch wide log and slice off 3/8 inch rounds. Take each round and press and shape with hands to firm it up. Place cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle tops of cookies with cashew pieces and press down lightly to help them stick.
|Pressing the cashews to the tops|
Bake for about 8-10 minutes, rotating cookie sheet once, until cookies are golden around the edges and fragrant. Don’t let the cashews burn.
Let cool and enjoy. Makes about 20 small cookies.
The cashews can be replaced with any other nut as well as sesame seeds or coconut flakes.
Shortbread cookies can also be made in a wide variety of flavors by changing the extracts and spices.
If you wanted to try these cookies with real sugar instead of sweetener, you should be prepared to add a little extra water or soymilk to get the dough to come together.
These went over pretty well. They’re fast and easy, so it’s easy to whip them up at the last minute to round out your dessert platter in case of an unexpected diabetic guest : ). The recipe can be halved or quartered if you only need a few cookies.