Gluten-Free Festive Cookies
’Tis the time of year to bake cookies. If you’re concerned about making allergy-friendly versions of favorite treats, relax! Welcome to gluten-free, dairy-free baking that’s simple—and simply delicious.
Making cookies from scratch isn’t complicated and there are definite benefits, besides excellent taste and an aromatic kitchen. First, you know exactly what’s in them. Second, you have the flexibility to make any necessary substitutions. Third, you control the size, shape and amount baked. Fourth, homemade cookies make excellent gifts that are thoughtful and cost effective. And finally, you may just find that baking is a relaxing and satisfying way to showcase your creativity.
I’m a cooking instructor and own a gluten-free bakery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, so my family expects to see Christmas cookies coming out of the oven almost as soon as they finish up the Thanksgiving leftovers. Although I have a large collection of holiday recipes, I can pare my all-time favorites to a short list of three classics—shortbread, chocolate and “peanut butter” cookies. And they are by far the most requested.
These allergy-friendly cookies are as easy and fun to prepare as any conventional type. And they taste just like the real thing. You can bring them to parties, wrap them as gifts or plate them for company and nobody will suspect they’re allergy friendly. In fact, I’m betting your guests will ask for the recipe.
These cookies can be made, portioned and frozen for later so you can bake as many or as few as you need. Use them to continue (or start!) a special cookie-making tradition in your home.
Makes 5 different cookies
Classic Shortbread Cookies
MAKES 48 COOKIES
Shortbread is very versatile and easy to make. The dough can be rolled out immediately after mixing (no chilling required) and it takes color dyes very well, a plus for Christmas cookies. Use this recipe for Linzers, Cut-Out Cookies, Stained Glass Cookies and Festive Fruit Bars. Store cookies in an airtight container for up to a week. They freeze very well.
4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter or Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks
1½ cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3¼ cups white rice flour + ½ cup for dusting counter
1½ cups cornstarch
1¼ cups potato starch
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Using a mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Scrape the bowl with a spatula.
3. Add the eggs one at a time. Mix for 1 minute. Add the vanilla. Scrape the bowl.
4. In a separate bowl, combine 3¼ cups flour, cornstarch, potato starch, salt and xanthan gum. Add ½ butter and sugar mixture and mix for 1 minute. Add the second half and mix until ingredients are combined.
5. Divide the dough into 3 balls. Set two aside.
6. Dust your counter or rolling board with flour. Press the ball flat with your hands first. Then roll dough out to just over ¼-inch thick. Using your favorite cookie cutter, cut out cookies and place them on prepared cookie sheets about 1 inch apart.
7. Bake in preheated oven about 12 to 15 minutes, depending on your oven. Cookies are done when they just start to get golden around the edges. Remove from oven and place them on a cooling rack. When cool, decorate cookies with Royal Icing.
Each cookie contains 175 calories, 8g total fat,3g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 9mg cholesterol, 180mg sodium, 25g carbohydrate, .05g fiber, 1g protein.
MAKES 1½ CUPS
3½ cups confectioner’s sugar
2 large pasturized egg whites or powdered egg whites mixed with water to equal 2 whites
½ teaspoon lemon juice
1. Beat sugar and egg whites in a bowl until thick and shiny, about 4 minutes.
2. Add lemon juice and beat 1 more minute.
3. Divide icing into bowls and dye with food coloring to desired colors.
For Linzer Cookies, prepare dough as instructed and roll it out. Use a 3 to 4-inch round cookie cutter to cut out two shortbread cookies for each Linzer cookie. Cut out a center hole in half the rounds to create the top cookies; use a smaller round cutter for this, about 2-inches. Place bottom cookies on one cookie sheet and top cookies on another. Bake in preheated oven until done. Once cooled, spread 1 teaspoon raspberry jam over the surface of each bottom cookie. Place a top cookie on each bottom, pressing gently to seal. Dust with confectioner’s sugar.
For Holiday Cut-Out Cookies, prepare dough as instructed and roll it out. Use cookie cutters to cut dough to desired shapes. Bake cookies as directed and cool. Add food coloring to portions of Royal Icing. Frost cookies with icing and dust with decorative sprinkles. Set aside to dry.
For Festive Fruit Bars, prepare dough as instructed. Reserve 2 cups of dough for topping. Press remainder evenly into the bottom of a 9x13-inch pan so that dough is ¼-inch thick. Use a fork to poke some holes in the crust to prevent air pockets. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven until bars just start to turn golden. Remove from oven and cool. Spread fruit jam evenly over top, about ½-inch thick. Break off pieces of reserved dough and spread over jam. Bake until the top is golden brown. Cut into bars and serve. These bars freeze very well.
For Stained Glass Cookies, prepare dough as instructed and roll it out. Use round cookie cutters to cut out dough. Then cut centers out of each round. Fill each center with enough broken pieces of hard candy so the candy is flush with the top of the cookie. Bake in preheated oven until cookies start to brown lightly around the edges. Remove from oven and cool completely. Carefully peel the cookies off the parchment paper. Decorate with Royal Icing to look like Christmas tree ornaments.
One recipe, three tasty treats
Chocolate Tea Cookies
MAKES 36 COOKIES
These crispy cookies have a nice dark-chocolate taste that stands great alone and works well with peppermint and mocha flavors. Sandwich white icing in between two cookies to create a familiar treat I nickname the “gl-oreo.”
2 sticks (½ pound) unsalted butter or Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks 1 cup granulated sugar
3 cups Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Blend + ½ cup for dusting your counter
1½ cups cocoa, sifted
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon xanthan gum
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Cream butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy, scraping the bowl once or twice as you work.
3. In a large bowl, combine flour blend, cocoa, cornstarch, salt and xanthan gum. Add in half the butter and sugar mixture and mix to combine. Add remaining butter and sugar mixture, scraping the bowl after each addition. Beat on medium speed until ingredients are combined.
4. Divide dough into two balls. Set one aside, covered at room temperature. Press the other ball down to make it easier to roll. Dusting the counter as you work, roll out the dough to just over ¼-inch thick.
5. Cut out dough into rounds using a cookie cutter 2-inches in diameter. Repeat with remaining dough.
6. Place cookies on prepared sheets and bake in preheated oven for about 12 minutes. Cookies are done when tops are firm to touch. Remove from oven and cool.
Each cookie contains 130 calories, 6g total fat, 2g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 0mg cholesterol, 119mg sodium, 20g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 1g fiber.
For Peppermint Patties, prepare recipe as instructed. Remove cookies from oven and cool. Add 1 drop gluten-free peppermint extract to 1 cup White Frosting (recipe below), mixing well. Spread frosting on cookies.
For Chocolate “Peanut Butter” Cookies, prepare recipe as instructed. Remove cookies from oven and cool. Add ½ cup Sunbutter to 1 cup White Frosting (recipe below), mixing well. Spread frosting on cookies.
MAKES 1½ CUPS
This versatile frosting can be flavored to suit your recipe. For Peppermint Frosting, stir in ½ teaspoon peppermint extract and 1 drop red food coloring. For Sunbutter Frosting, replace ½ cup Sunbutter for 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or Earth Balance.
2 sticks (½ pound) unsalted butter or Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks, room temperature
3 cups confectioner’s sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk or rice milk
1. Cream together butter and 1 cup sugar on low speed.
2. Beat in remaining two cups sugar on low speed, scraping the bowl as you work.
3. Add vanilla and milk, beating on low speed until ingredients are blended and frosting is smooth.
Tastes like peanut butter cookies
MAKES 16 COOKIES
These moist cookies pack a lot of flavor. Prepared with Sunbutter, a product made from ground sunflower seeds, they make tasty holiday gifts that pack easily and travel well. For flavor variation, add chocolate chips and dried cranberries or dust finished cookies with powdered sugar.
1 stick (¼ pound) unsalted butter or Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks
1 cup Sunbutter
1 cup granulated sugar + extra for fork imprint
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1½ cup Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour Blend
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1½ cups semisweet choco- late chips and/or dried chopped fruit, optional
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Cream butter (or Earth Balance) and Sunbutter on medium speed for about 1 minute, scraping the bowl occasionally as you work.
3. Add sugar and continue mixing on medium for an additional 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as you work.
4. Add egg and mix for 1 minute. Add vanilla. Scrape the bowl.
5. In a separate bowl, combine flour blend, salt and baking soda. Add to butter and sugar mixture, beating on low speed until ingredients are blended. Stir in chocolate chips or cranberries, if desired.
6. Drop well-rounded tablespoons of dough onto prepared baking sheet, about 2½ inches apart. Dip a fork into granulated sugar and press an “x” on each cookie.
7. Place cookies in preheated oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until edges turn golden brown. (Remove cookies when they look like they should bake an additional 2 minutes. Once out, they continue cooking from the heat of the pan.)
Each cookie contains 257 calories, 14g total fat, 3g saturated fat, 0g trans fat, 13 mg cholesterol, 236 mg sodium, 28g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 5g protein. LW
Traci Anello is a pastry chef and owner of Anello's Gluten Free Cafe in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.