Coconut Rice Flake (Poha) Cookies (gluten free, vegan, low sugar)

My friend is having a party tonight, and it is a great cause for celebration.  So, I wanted to make something special to take to the party.  He, his housemates, and most of their friends are all very socially, environmentally, and dietarily aware; they are a communal household that all work for a volunteer corps.   They are a mix of vegans, vegetarians and conscientious omnivores, so, I knew whatever I'd make, I'd have a totally receptive audience.  
I have been wanting to give another go at using pressed rice flakes (a.k.a. poha or flattened rice) in cookies,  in an attempt to conjure up the texture of oats.  Poha is used in Indian cooking for desserts, porridge, and different snacks.  It is simply dehusked rice, flattened into little flakes.  I found a really inexpensive 2 lb bag of poha at one of my favorite Asian grocers, and have been playing with different ways to use it; my last attempt didn't turn out as well.  I tried using it in bread; the flakes didn't absorb moisture as readily as oats during baking, and instead of plump, chewy flakes of rice, I ended up with rather dry, poky flakes that reminded me of press-on fingernails.  Gross. I had a hard time eating the bread after making that mental association.  It makes me kind of queasy just thinking about it. I was not pleased.  
The other option for tonight's cookie contribution was a macaroon.  This was also a very tempting choice.  I have never tried making macaroons, and thought a vegan, sugar free macaroon would be a fun challenge.  
Instead of choosing one or the other, I decided to make a macaroon-inspired rice flake cookie.  To avoid having dry, poky rice flakes this time around, I soaked the rice flakes in coconut milk first.  It totally did the trick, and those suckers plumped right up.  No press-on fingernails in these cookies, no sir.  Only chewy, coconutty, rice flaky goodness.
My cookies turned out chewy and moist in the middle, flaky around the edges, and a nice golden brown color.  I spiced them with a hint of cardamom, lightly sweetened them with fruit puree and just a dab of brown rice syrup, and didn't add and extra fat or oils - the coconut milk and coconut add plenty all on their own!  In keeping with the macaroon theme, I decided to dip half the batch in some melted down homemade carob chips.  Yum...
The cookies were a hit at the party, and everyone liked them - vegans, animal product eaters, and gluten-lovers alike. One girl said that they were some of the only vegan cookies that she'd actually want to eat.  My friend Lauren said that they are her favorite gluten free vegan treat I've made thus far; she was a very good sport to a highly experimental, only semi-successful carob-chocolate-zucchini-millet-rice cake a few months back.  The cake was weird.  The coconut milk carob frosting was delicious.  Yes, my gluten free vegan baking skills are definitely improving...  
The carob dipped ones went more quickly than the undipped; it added a nice touch, and I will do it again.  While many people liked the cookies just as they were, many people commented that they could stand to be a little sweeter (not a surprising or uncommon comment for my baked treats).  I only added 1 T of brown rice syrup for the whole batch; if you like a sweeter cookie (most people do!), feel free to add more per your preference, or add a little stevia instead.  
As for me, I will definitely be making these for more parties in the future.  Success!

COCONUT RICE FLAKE (POHA) COOKIES (gluten free, vegan)
yield: 36 cookies


2 c  pressed rice flakes (poha)

1 15-oz. can regular coconut milk
1/2 c rice milk
1/4 c fruit puree
1-4 Tblsp brown rice syrup, depending on sweetness preference (reduce fruit puree or rice milk if adding 3 or 4 Tblsp of sweetener)
1 tsp vanilla
2 c finely shredded coconut, unsweetened
1/2 c brown rice flour
1/4 c tapioca starch
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tblsp agar agar powder dissolved in 2 Tblsp boiling water
optional, for dipping:  melted chocolate chips or carob chips (either store bought or homemade
  1. In a large bowl, combine coconut milk, fruit puree, rice milk, vanilla, and brown rice syrup, and whisk together until well mix.  Add rice flakes, stir to coat evenly with liquid, and let soak for 20-30 minutes, until rice flakes are softened but not mushy.
  2. Preheat oven to 350* and prepare baking sheet.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together brown rice flour, tapioca starch, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom powder, and salt.  Add coconut and whisk again until well mixed.
  4. Put water on to boil.
  5. Add dry ingredients to soaked rice flakes mixture, stirring until just combined.
  6. Dissolve agar agar in 3 Tblsp of boiling water, then add to dough mixture, stirring until just evenly mixed.
  7. Use a cookie scoop to scoop dough onto baking sheets, then flatten lightly with a fork.  Bake in oven for 20-23 minutes until golden brown and firm to touch.  
  8. Remove from oven, let cool for 5-10 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to rack to finish cooling.
  9. If you want to dip in carob/chocolate, melt down chocolate/carob chips, or make a fresh batch of the homemade carob chips.  Dip completely cooled cookie in the melted down chocolate/carob and cool on cooling rack, or place in fridge to cool more quickly.  Once chocolate/carob has cooled to solid, serve 'em up!