Gluten-Free Sugar Cookies for Decorating
SO I’ve been working on updating past blog entries - and planning the schedule for upcoming posts and seasons.
... and I realized that I should probably post my recipe for Gluten-Free Rolled Sugar Cookies.
Halloween is coming up, and the holidays after that - PRIME TIME for decorating cookies.
The thing is, many gluten-free options out there ... just aren’t good. Textures, tastes, etc. I learned early on that “Tastes just like the real thing!” means something entirely different to gluten-free people.
I think that after you’ve been off gluten for a while, either memory fades or desperation sets in, and you lose track of what “normal” tasted like... or felt like.
No judgement here - I’m the same way, and totally acknowledge it. I think you get to the point where it’s just “OMG A COOKIE”, and convince yourself it’s edible, you know?
It’s why - when I was writing Beyond Flour and Beyond Flour 2 - I tested all my gluten-free recipes exclusively on people who aren’t gluten-free. When *THEY* say “as good or better”, I know I can trust it!
Being on a special diet can lead to people feeling excluded, and never is that more the case than during the holidays. A typical holiday spread MAY include coconut macaroons or meringues, but other than that ... offerings usually aren’t set up with gluten-free people in mind.
That’s part of why these - and the rest of my cookies - sugar cookies are so great. They taste, look, and feel like normal sugar cookies, so you can just make a batch for everyone - no need to make 2 separate batches!
The Secret to Gluten-Free Baking
The big secret to gluten-free cooking and baking is that “all-purpose” gluten-free flours... aren’t really all-purpose.
Sure, they’ll get the job done... but in trying to be all things to every dish, they don’t work *great* for any of them. Passable, sure - which is fine if you’re just cooking for yourself.
If you’re looking to make gluten-free food that passes as “normal” to feed everyone, though? There aren’t many things that the “all-purpose” mixes are perfect for.
It’s because all-purpose wheat flour really is all-purpose - It’s super neutral so works for both savoury and sweet dishes. It thickens, it browns. Depending on how you use it, you can work the gluten to create something chewy (like bread), or you can AVOID developing the gluten, and get something delicate and flaky - like pie crusts or shortbread.
Basically, wheat flour is a jack-of-all-trades workhorse that no single GF flour really replicates.
So, generally you have to mix flours - whether using a ready made mix, or doing your own. One type of flour may work to hold things together, while another may add crispiness, or the ability to brown, or a chewy texture.
It’s about assembling a team to get the job done.
How gluten-free flours react with water vary wildly, so that’s another balance to keep in mind - and a big part of why many recipes don’t work well when converted from normal flour to a GF version.
Some GF flours need more water than wheat does, to achieve the same texture/volume, etc. Some need extra time to absorb moisture in order to work properly.
Then, there’s the matter of flavour. While wheat flour is pretty neutral, many gluten-free flours are anything but... which is a blessing and a curse.
Early on in the “all purpose GF flour” days - and still to some degree, with lower priced versions - there was a lot of bean flour being used. It’s cheaper than many of the other gluten-free flours, so you’d find a lot of mixes based with that and/or rice flour.
Great for many savoury dishes... not so much when it comes to cookies. That’s part of how GF cookies ended up with such a bad reputation.
The thing is, many gluten-free flours have taste that’s GREAT for cookies, especially when combined with other flours being chosen for their tastes and properties. Coconut flour, Oat flour, Sorghum flour - they all actually contribute *flavour* to the mix!
However, the proportions needed vary wildly. Coconut flour helps make a chewy cookie “pass” - without a gross texture! - but too much of it would ruin a shortbread.
Oat flour tastes great - and is great for fibre - but the flavour can overwhelm if it’s not balanced out.
Basically, designing gluten-free recipes that pass as regular food is a bit of a matrix - balancing not only the flavours, but also the properties of each.
A bit tricky, but fun for problem solving!
Anyway, I could go on all day about GF recipe development, but you’re here for the cookies!
Gluten-Free Rolled Sugar Cookies
With this Rolled Gluten-Free Sugar Cookies for Decorating recipe, I wanted something that will brown a LITTLE, that is sturdy enough that it’ll hold up to decorating, but tender enough that it’s nice to eat - it’s a cookie, after all!
It had to hold together well for rolling out, and hold it’s shape through baking - much the same as any regular, wheat flour rolled cookie dough.
It took a bit of experimentation, but here we are: A gluten-free sugar cookie dough, specifically for rolled sugar cookies.
It is easy to make, rolls out beautifully, spreads minimally when baking, looks like it should, and tastes delicious! No weird mouth feel, either!
While you don't want to mess with the main ingredients in this recipe, you CAN tinker with the flavourings.
The vanilla extract can be swapped out for any other flavouring. When I'm doing Halloween cookies, I'll sometimes swap it out for anise flavour... or I'll use anise in the royal icing, and flavour the cookie with orange flavouring. Depends on what mood I'm in - and the audience.
You can add the zest of an orange, lime, or lemon - or a combination - to this recipe with the butter. Use lemon or vanilla extract when you're doing zest - either way tastes fabulous!
Back on the subject of Halloween - you can dye the dough with a bit of food colouring. Black bat cookies, orange pumpkins - whatever you like.
Just have fun with it!
Also, if you're interested in gluten-free cooking and baking, you should definitely check out my gluten-free cookbooks: Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten Free Cooking & Baking (Where this recipe came from!), and the sequel... Beyond Flour 2. You can order them right here on my website, through Amazon, or through any major bookseller.
In The Meantime
If you're looking for more gluten-free cookie recipes, I've got a few here on the site! Like all of the recipes in Beyond Flour and Beyond Flour 2, these all use the flavours and properties of various gluten-free flours - in specific proportions - to create a recipe from the ground up. As a result, not only do they have great texture, they taste *better* than wheat flour cookies!
Check them out:
Gluten-Free Imperial Cookies
Gluten-Free Chewy Banana Oatmeal Cookies
Gluten-Free Unicorn Poop Cookies
Gluten-Free Oatmeal Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies
Gluten-Free Fruitcake Cookies
Gluten-Free Chewy Chocolate Salted Caramel Cookies
Gluten-Free Graham Crackers
Peppermint Swirl Meringue Cookies
Enjoy these Gluten-Free Sugar Cookies for Decorating!
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Keep scrolling for the Royal Icing Recipes!