Sunday, March 22, 2015

Tangram Birds: Playing With Chocolate Rollout Gluten Free Cookies

Our kids went to a rural Vermont elementary school in a funky building on Route 9 in southern Vermont. Many of the facilities at that time were constructed with parent volunteers, and there wasn't a lot of fancy equipment and state-of-the-art classrooms. To this day, I think their elementary school was unique for turning out lovely, caring, and highly imaginative human beings. At recess, the kids build tree forts in the woods. In the classroom, creativity ruled, and they were encouraged to write every day and engaged in peer-to-peer and project-based learning. One day, they came home with five tangram puzzles for homework with a note encouraging parents to join them in this activity.
Tangrams are a Chinese puzzle that includes two large right triangles, a medium sized right triangle, two small right triangles, a small square, and a parallelogram. What is most amazing about them is that they can be arranged in ways to make over 6500 figures. Not only do they teach visual-spatial relationships, but in this case, they did something even more important--they engaged the parents in the child's learning process. Want a wonderful baking and learning experience for your kids? Make these Rollout GF Chocolate Cookies (recipe below) tangrams using this template:

and start making up your own edible flock of birds: roosters, geese, vultures, cranes, herons and the like. I'll be making sets of these for The Blue Project, a free family event in Brattleboro on April 11 to help raise autism awareness in our community. LOTS and LOTS of fun!!!

Chocolate Rollout Cookies
½ cup (70g) tapioca starch
1 cup (120g) light buckwheat flour
¼ cup (30g) cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons (70g) butter
3 tablespoons (36g) palm shortening
1 cup (200g) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 large egg yolk

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the tapioca, light buckwheat flour, cocoa, and salt.  Set aside.
3. In a separate large bowl, use a hand mixer to cream the butter, palm shortening, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk until fully blended.
4. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until the dough comes together and the flour is fully incorporated.
5. Gather the dough into several balls to work with. Roll out a ball of the dough at a time between two pieces of plastic wrap to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Remove the top piece of plastic and cut out desired shapes. Carefully transfer the cookies to the baking sheet by inverting the bottom sheet of plastic or by using a tin, flexible metal spatula. (For Tangram Cookies, use a tangram template and a ruler to measure and cut out the individual tangram shapes.)
6. Bake for 11 to 12 minutes. The cookies will set as they cool so allow them to cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes before attempting to transfer them to a cooling rack.

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