Dessert of the Month: Almond, Fig and Orange Cookies

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This is the time of year when it seems everyone is baking cookies. And because it's a lovely holiday tradition, I wanted to create a recipe that everyone could enjoy: the sweets lovers, the healthy eaters and the gluten-intolerant.

These whole-grain, gluten-free cookies not only fit the bill but also fill the kitchen with the festive scents of oranges, figs and almonds, making them irresistible. I chose to use coconut nectar (made from the sap of the coconut flower) and brown rice syrup (made from malted brown rice) for the sweeteners, which give the cookies a satisfying chewy texture and also provide a delicately sweet flavor.

Almond, Fig and Orange Cookies

Makes 14 (2-inch) cookies
½ cup gluten-free rolled oats
¼ cup brown-rice flour
¼ cup gluten-free oat flour
¾ cup almond flour
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup coconut nectar
2 tablespoons brown rice syrup
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Zest of one orange, divided
7 black mission figs, trimmed and thinly sliced
½ cup toasted whole almonds, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. Place rolled oats in a food processor and grind until fine, about 30 to 40 seconds. Transfer to a medium bowl and add rice flour, oat flour and almond flour; stir to combine and set aside.

3. In another medium bowl add oil, coconut nectar, rice syrup, salt, vanilla and half of the orange zest; whisk until emulsified. Add the oat and flour mixture and mix until combined. Stir in sliced figs and chopped almonds.

4. Roll a rounded tablespoon of dough between your palms, place on the lined baking sheet and flatten to about ¼ inch in thickness. Repeat with remaining dough, separating cookies at least an inch apart. Sprinkle cookies with remaining orange zest and bake 12 to 14 minutes or until edges are golden.

5. Remove from oven and allow to cool 10 minutes on the tray. Using a thin spatula, transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Store any leftover cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Amy Chaplin is a chef and recipe developer in New York City. Her cookbook At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen will be available fall 2014. She blogs at Coconut & Quinoa.

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