What a delight to have you here!
I’ve got a couple treats for you today–a recipe for a super-tasty gluten-free cookie both your gluten-free and fully glutinous guests will love: Chocolate Crinkle Cookies (or, as they’re known in my household, Chocolate Crack.)
I’ve also got an excerpt from my latest historical romance, HOLD ME CLOSE! Read it and leave a comment to be entered in a random drawing to win a Christmas Memories Box of luscious chocolates from See’s Candies!
First, the recipe! This one comes from the wonderful Nicole Hunn of Gluten Free on a Shoestring, who has an amazing knack for re-imagining traditional recipes to be safe for gluten-free folks (and you know you’re likely to have at least one gluten-free guest over the holidays)! My family are Celiacs, so we really, truly can’t be exposed to gluten, but Nicole’s recipes help us make sure our holidays are merry and delicious!
Gluten-Free Chocolate Crinkle Cookies!!
If you’ve never had these amazing cookies, OH MY GOODNESS, you need to try them now!! They’re soft and brownie-like inside, with a crispy powdered sugar shell, and those amazing cracks that make them stand out on the holiday cookie platter!
The key to getting the surface right is dipping them in sugar TWICE. You can do both coatings with the powdered sugar (giving the cookie balls a few minutes to absorb the first coat before you add the second), or if you want to make sure the white part of the surface stays pure snow white longer, coat them in granulated sugar the first time, then powdered sugar the second.
Either way, DELICIOUS. And really easy and fun.
(A note on the gluten-free flour: Most supermarkets sell this now, and you can also mix your own, but if you have some lead time, I highly recommend ordering some of the one-for-one blend from Better Batter. It’s a staple in my gluten-free kitchen.)
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: about 12 mintes
Yield: 24 cookies
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 tablespoons (84 g) unsalted butter, chopped
1 1/2 cups (210 g) all-purpose gluten-free flour
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
5 tablespoons (25 g) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-processed)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
2 eggs (100 g, weighed out of shell) at room temperature, beaten
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup (115 g) confectioners’ sugar
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Prepare line baking sheets (I use reusable silicone sheets, but baking parchment is great, too).
In a double boiler (or medium bowl over a pot with an inch of simmering water), melt together the chopped chocolate and butter until smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit (if the chocolate’s too hot when added to the other ingredients, you dough will end up runny).
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, xantham gum, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and granulated sugar. Mix in the melted chocolate / butter mixture. Add beaten eggs and mix until you’ve got a thick but pliable dough.
Drop by spoonfuls (or use an ice-cream scoop) onto the prepared baking sheet, about two tablespoons dough per cookie. You should get about two dozen cookies.
One by one, pick up the dough balls in slightly wet hands and roll them in the FIRST coating of sugar (either powdered or granulated), then set them back on the sheet while that first layer of sugar soaks in a bit. By the time you’re done rolling the last one, it’s time to go back to the first and roll it in sugar AGAIN (definitely powdered sugar this time…that’s what gives you that “snowy” look on the finished cookie surface). REALLY, TRULY do that second sugar roll, or chances are the first coat will “melt” into the dough and your cookie won’t get the coveted cracks.
Bake for about 12 minutes until just set in the center, and cool 10 minutes before eating, if you’ve got the will-power for that.
Then watch them all disappear!!
And now time for a little romance…and a chance to win that super-tasty box of See’s Candies (which, by the way, are naturally 100% gluten-free!)
For the Grand Prize, I’m contributing a copy of my Golden Heart and Daphne Award-Winning spy novel, THE DEVIL MAY CARE. But today I’m sharing a little teaser from my most recent release, HOLD ME CLOSE.
A little background first:
Widowed young, Lady Julia Grantleigh can’t imagine finding love again. Certainly not with the fearsome Major Holsworth, her late husband’s boyhood best friend, whose harsh, brooding presence has always unnerved her.
But Holsworth has returned home from long military service in India, and arrives unannounced at the first ball Julia attends after taking off her widow’s blacks.
Nothing could unsettle Julia more—or so she thinks.
Midway through the ball, Julia discovers a mysterious golden bracelet, which she can’t seem to resist trying on. Almost immediately, her life takes an unexpected turn, as she quite literally runs into a hulking figure in the darkened conservatory….
Before Julia had time to scream, a great weight struck her, and she was knocked to the ground. Rough hands were at her throat, and a low, harsh voice demanded, “Who are you, and what are you doing here?”
He might not have recognized her, but she knew instantly who her assailant was.
“Holsworth!” she hissed with what little breath she was able to draw, even while instinct had her twisting to free her arms and legs from the warm bulk pinning her to the floor. Her backside and shoulders throbbed from where they’d hit the hard marble. “You will get off me this instant!”
The huge dark form above her stiffened, and the hands that had been about to throttle her flew back. “Good God!” Holsworth’s deep voice swore. “Julia—Lady Grantleigh!” And she could feel the desperate tension in his body as he sought to scramble away.
It was a relief to be released from the crush of his weight, but as he tried to rise, her left wrist was tugged awkwardly along with him.
“Wait!” she cried. “My—my bracelet is caught. Don’t pull!”
He froze in place, still hovering just inches over her, his palms now pressed to the floor on either side of her shoulders, his knees on either side of her thighs, covering her, but somehow managing to avoid actually touching her again. “What?”
“My bracelet!” A hot blush burned from her very core. The thoughts she’d had about him entering her chamber upstairs made her want to shrink away in shame. “It’s—oh, I think my bracelet’s snagged somehow. On your—your uniform coat.”
In fact, his coat was the least of her worries. Judging from the warm air against her calves, the hem of her gown was jumbled all the way up around her knees. And Holsworth was so close she could catch the scent of his cologne, a warm mix of bay leaf and leather, with a hint of some tropical spice. The intimacy of their position was…simply too much. Somehow worse in the darkness than it would have been in the light.
Holsworth shifted his weight carefully onto one knee, and took her wrist in one of his big hands. She could feel his fingers working their way around the bracelet, seeking the spot where it had attached itself to his uniform.
If only there were enough light for her to see his face. If he were the one who’d put the mysterious bracelet in her chambers, he’d surely recognize it by touch, and she wanted to see his expression when he realized what it was.
Using her free hand to push up slightly off the floor, she managed to wriggle her way to something more approaching a seated posture, and to her relief, Holsworth squatted back on his haunches to give her room. Her forearm was still pinned to his chest, of course. And her legs were still trapped between his, with no easy way to extricate them without knocking the man over, at least until the bracelet was released and she had the use of both her arms again.
Good heavens, he was a big man, especially at such close quarters as this. Christopher had been only a little taller than she was, and lean of frame. The size and power of Holsworth’s body was a different thing entirely—he seemed to loom, to threaten, whether he wished to or not, the sheer mass and heat of him dominating all the available space.
Blast it. Much as she wanted to know whether he’d given her the mysterious gift, her nerves longed for him to get the bracelet loose so she’d be free of him as well.
His fingers made another circuit of the gold oval, his touch hot whenever it brushed her wrist. “I don’t understand how it’s managed to catch on me at all,” he said at last. “The surface feels smooth all the way around.”
“It—it has hidden closures,” she said. Surely that information would identify the bracelet for him, if he was in fact the source of it. Her heart beat a little harder than before. “There’s a concealed hinge at one end, and a pin at the other that lets the two halves slide apart. Some part of that mechanism must be stuck in the fabric of your coat.”
“One side seems stuck in the cloth of my shirt as well,” he growled, giving the bracelet an experimental tug. “It won’t give way on either end. Good Lord, you women find the most infernally complicated ways of ornamenting yourselves.”
Well, that answered her question: the tone of simple masculine irritation made it quite clear the bracelet hadn’t come from him.
“I can’t get it loose,” he said, tugging again. “And we certainly cannot stay here on this floor.” Without waiting for a reply, he let go of the bracelet and seized her waist with both hands. Then he simply stood, his powerful arms sweeping her to her feet as easily as if she were a china doll.
Her stomach lurched and her lungs seemed to bump her ribs, and worst of all, standing didn’t render their posture appreciably more appropriate. With her bracelet still snagged, they stood close as lovers, his arms about her, her forearm pressed to his chest with her fingers all but brushing the underside of his jaw.
And, Lord, much as she really, truly did want to get away from him, some deeper, less civilized part of her was having other impulses entirely. Holsworth was so warm and strong and solid, so utterly male, she felt the strangest urge to bury her face against his chest and breathe in more of his cologne.
Which she most certainly would not allow herself to do.
At least gravity had dropped her skirts more or less into the correct position again.
Still, she really did need to dispel the enforced intimacy of the moment. “Generally speaking,” she said, in the arch tone she might use at a formal dinner, “it’s men who make the ornaments ladies wear. Ladies are in fact obliged to wear them, to shore up masculine pride.”
“Is that so?” he answered, this time giving the bracelet and his lapel a simultaneous, and still quite ineffectual, pull. “And who obliged you to wear this particular one? And why now, precisely? You weren’t wearing a bracelet earlier tonight.”
She raised her brows, though she doubted he could see them in the darkness. “You made an inventory of the jewelry I was wearing?”
A pause. “Not of your jewelry specifically,” he said. “But soldiers learn to observe everything closely. Attentiveness to detail saves lives.”
“Ah. Like you observed my failure to keep myself adequately fed.”
Holsworth made a sort of scraping noise in his throat, and the vibration of it ran through the bracelet into her wrist. “That observation wasn’t meant as an insult, Lady Grantleigh,” he said. “It was—merely an expression of concern for your well-being.”
“Was it? I don’t know a single lady who wouldn’t take umbrage at being called too thin.”
It was absurd,of course, to banter with him like this. But she had no other bulwark against the discomfort of their situation. “In fact,” she continued, “some ladies would go into a decline at hearing such a thing, and never show their faces, or their figures, in society again.”
Holsworth went very still, and she could make out just enough in the dim glow of moonlight to tell that he was staring hard at her. “You never struck me as that kind of woman,” he said.
“As what kind of woman?”
“Trivial. Vain.” His voice darkened, seemed to drop half an octave. “Unaware of your true value.”
Oh. He was still staring at her, and suddenly bantering didn’t seem like a safe thing to be doing, at all.
Want to read more of Julia’s and Holsworth’s story? Find it on Amazon.
Remember to leave a comment below to be entered in the drawing for the See’s Christmas Memories box!
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Good luck collecting all the delicious cookies on the Holiday Hop and (fingers crossed!) having a shot at the Grand Prize of a $160 gift card and all 32 historical romances!
Remember to email your list to Heather@HeatherMcCollum.com when it’s complete, but no later than midnight December 15th!