Baking for my family is a bit of a challenge. My husband and children all suffer from food allergies or sensitivities. Taking into account the various problem foods for the three of them, I have to avoid using gluten, eggs, dairy products, peanuts, and tree nuts (and that isn’t even the whole list!). Finding recipes that yield dishes that taste good and are safe for them is really tough, to say the least. Baking without eggs and gluten is particularly difficult, and despite my best efforts at modifying recipes to recreate my favorite cookies and cakes without the problem ingredients, my creations are often inedible and end up in the trash. It is incredibly frustrating – so when I find a recipe that works, I tend to make it a lot.
One of my go-to recipes is, the cookie recipe below, which I use for all the holidays. At Christmas, we make cookies in the shapes of stars and trees; at Easter, we make bunnies and eggs; and for Valentine’s Day, we make hearts.
These cookies are delicious, and people are always shocked when I tell them that they are allergy-friendly. The cookies taste like shortbread and are perfect to enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee. This recipe was adapted from one that my mother-in-law, a former preschool teacher, made with her students at holiday time.
Recipe for Holiday Cut-Out Cookies (Vegan and Gluten-free)
2 sticks (1 cup) dairy-free margarine (I use Earth Balance) at room temperature
1 cup maple syrup (the real thing!)
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 1/2 cups gluten-free flour (I use only King Arthur brand-it is the best)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
3 teaspoons baking powder
(See below for directions. This recipe yields 2 dozen large cookies or 3-4 dozen small ones).
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and maple syrup together in a bowl, and add the vanilla to the mixture. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, xanthan gum, and baking powder. Then,slowly add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and mix until well blended. Chill the dough for at least one hour. Roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness on lightly floured surface and cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Bake on parchment-lined cookie sheets for about 10 to 12 minutes if small in size and 14 minutes if they are large (the 3 1/2-inch diameter cookies I baked most recently took 14 minutes). These cookies don’t brown–just make sure they are set.
After baking, transfer the cookies to a cooling rack in preparation for applying the glaze, which should be applied only when the cookies are completely cool. For the glaze, mix 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar, 2 tablespoons of water, and 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla in a bowl. Add 2 or 3 drops of food coloring if desired. When the cookies are completely cool, use a spoon to spread the glaze on them. Add sprinkles and let the glaze harden.
This recipe works beautifully with dairy and wheat flour, too–just substitute butter for the Earth Balance and white or whole wheat flour for the gluten-free variety and leave out the xanthan gum altogether.
You can package these cookies as gifts for friends and family.
Happy baking, and let me know what you think!