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Stephanie Hill/The Lawrence Herald Even those with celiac disease can enjoy chocolate chip cookies again, thanks to gluten-free baking products like Cup 4 Cup Gluten-Free Flour.

"They say we should be eating more raw foods. That's all I needed to hear to whip up another batch of cookie dough." - Author Unknown

"Oh, you made your kids gluten-free cookies? I bet they tasted awesome! Said no kid, ever! - Author Unknown

"Hey, Mrs. Hill, do you want one of my birthday cupcakes?"

"Yes, I do!"

Then, I remember, I was diagnosed with celiac two years ago. I am not supposed to eat products with wheat, especially gluten.

"AwI changed my mind. Thanks anyway!"

Meanwhile, the aroma of confectioner'S sugar, butter, and flour fills my classroom at the end of the day. I try not to look. They really, really smell good. The frosting is chocolate, my favorite. I sigh and return to the task of setting up my classroom for the next school day. I am used to it, and, in the scheme of life, not a big deal.

One morning, in December of this school year, a student enters my classroom with a small cardboard box that looks a lot like a miniature cake box.

"Mrs. Hill," says the freckled faced student in a singsong voice with a broad smile. "My mom and I made something for you. It's gluten-free," her voice lilts the entire time.

I am stunned. Since when do middle-school students think of their own teachers, at least when it comes to going to the trouble to make a chocolate cake with chocolate icing-my very favorite.

I open the perfectly white, petite box. Inside are six small, equally portioned pieces of chocolate cake, just as the girl had promised. I smiled and thanked her, but inside I was thinking, "If it's gluten-free, it will have the texture of drywall dust." Still, I focus on the thoughtfulness that went into this gift.

"You have to taste it now. You'll love it! I promise!"

Who eats cake at 8 in the morning? Still, I indulge her anyway as she is clearly proud of what she has shared with me.

I pinch off a small piece. I hesitate momentarily to prepare my taste buds for the feeling of drywall dust, and take the bite.

Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Don't swallow, savor. Let it dissolve on your tongue. This is deliciousness of the most sacred kind-real, moist and flavorful chocolate cake with an amazing chocolate candy icing. Zing! Zing! Zing! Go the endorphins in my head, ready to eat the entire box before the 8:10 morning announcements and prayer.

The young lady remained in front of me, glowing with pride.

"You didn't think it was going to be good, did you?"

Before I could answer, because, of course, I was still savoring the wonderfulness of real cake, she hugged me briefly, and zipped off to her own homeroom.

"Enjoy, Mrs. Hill!"

It was all I could do to set the box aside and return my focus to my duties. Real. Chocolate. Cake. Had it been a dream?

I managed to make it through the day without eating more than the one piece during my lunch break. I was eager to take them home to my family to see if they liked them as much as me; or, was I just that desperate for a chocolate fix in December?

Ultimately, John and Maddie were as surprised as me. They agreed with me that it tasted like my grandmother's old-fashioned brownie recipe. Thus, I emailed the young girl's mom to discover her secret.

The mother's baking weapon of choice was Cup 4 Cup brand flour. According to the package, chefs in the French Laundry Restaurant developed it. The company states that this flour blend can be used in most recipes to replace wheat products, including quick breads (not yeast-based ones), muffins, cakes, cookies, scones and even biscuits. My taste buds were performing virtual high-fives!

Dare I try it for my Christmas brunch recipes? John and Maddie said, "yes." I used this flour to bake Grandmother Helen's brownies, Liz Kennedy's blueberry buckle, and my favorite chocolate chip cookies - the nontraditional Christmas cookie of my family's choice. And, unless all guests at my house made a secret covenant to lie, no one would have known they were gluten-free if I had not forewarned them.

I even made another batch of cookies around New Year's Day to take to a friend's house. Her family, along with ours, ate them up with much gusto. In fact, both times I whipped up a batch, I had to keep chasing both John and Maddie away from the dough bowl as they kept stealing bites of raw cookie dough!

If for any dietary/health reason, you must bake without gluten, I highly recommend this product. It was a game-changer for me this holiday season as my bathroom scales will attest!

Therefore, I share with you my recipe for the best-ever, gluten-free chocolate chip cookie recipe with much joy! My only warning is that this flour comes with a higher price point than traditional flours, but since baking for me is a special event, I did not mind paying the extra for taste bud heaven!

From my home to yours, I wish you giddily delicious, gluten-free baked good!

Best Ever Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

cup butter, softened

cup Crisco shortening

1 cup granulated sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 cups of Cup 4 Cup gluten-free multi-purpose flour

teaspoon baking soda

teaspoon salt

1 package of high quality chocolate chips (I personally love 60% cocoa chips.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together butter, shortening, and both sugars until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes on high speed, using a stand mixer.

Meanwhile, whisk together dry ingredients (flour, soda, salt) in a separate bowl.

Add in eggs, one at a time, mixing on medium speed until well incorporated.

Add in vanilla, continuing to mix on medium speed.

Add in dry ingredients, a little at a time, mixing on a lower speed until combined.

Fold in chocolate chips.

Drop rounded tablespoons of cookie dough onto ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 10-14 minutes. (We found 12 minutes was the magic point in our oven.)

Allow to cool on pan for four minutes before removing to cooling racks.

Makes approximately 4-dozen cookies.

Stephanie Hill is a freelance writer and a teacher at St. Joseph Catholic School in Huntington. She is also a lifelong resident of Lawrence County. She can be reached at hill992@zoominternet.net.

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