(Gluten-free/vegan peppermint iced sugar cookies, recipe in post)
Forgive the poor photo quality. You'll just have to trust me when I say these were some tasty cookies.
I realized the other day that I couldn't let the holidays pass without at least giving a mention to the most common of treats: the cookie. Everywhere I look people are sharing their recipes and ideas about how to festivize the dessert tray this season, and while I'm not one to conform, I'd be amiss not to join in.
And yet, with the blogosphere already an overflow of holiday treats and goodies, it's hard not to feel awash in the sea of already amazing recipes. In looking for some inspiration, I was quickly overwhelmed -- where could I find the ground to stand on to share my own ideas?
First, I decided to abandon the internet. *Gasp*
My cookie-making know-how is decent enough, so recipes be damned!
Second, I decided that rather than (just) share with you another recipe for sugar cookies, I would make them vegan and gluten-free. As I've said before, the holidays can get a little tricky for those with allergies or dietary concerns, and while I don't have a restricted diet myself (read: food? I'll eat it!) I know and respect many who do.
Now that I had a plan in mind, I went ahead and got started.
In making the cookies gluten-free, it was important to me that I make the flour mix myself. You can buy 'all-purpose' gluten-free flour mixes in the store, which there's nothing wrong with and, in fact, may be more economical than making your own... but I still wanted to do it from scratch to have a better understanding of the ratio of the different flours, and to be able to play with them once I have a little more experience.
I used some notes I had taken awhile back from this book for inspiration in making my mix, plus I looked up a few tips about using xanthan or guar gum. In wheat flour, gluten helps to bind and hold things together - it's what makes chewiness possible, and the holes in bread. Xanthan gum or guar gum are often used as thickening agents, but also work very well in replicating glutens.
This is what I came up with:
Gluten-Free 'All-Purpose' Flour Mix
(Loosely adapted from The Food Allergy News Cookbook)
1 cup white or brown rice flour
1 cup garbanzo or fava bean flour, or both as they're often sold as a mix (or: soy, coconut, or potato flour - almond or other nut flour will work as well, but may have slightly heavier, more whole-wheat like, results)
1 1/2 cups potato starch (this is a fine powder like corn starch, not flour)
1/2 cup corn starch
2 tsp. xanthan or guar gum (or 1/2 tsp. per cup of flour mix. If using flour to make yeasted recipes such as bread, add 1/2 tsp. more to the recipe per cup of flour used)
The method in which you measure your ingredients matters greatly and I am sorry to say I didn't take the time to measure in grams or ounces to be more precise. (See update)*
Rather than scooping your flours with a cup measure and packing the top flat, I suggest pouring (or lightly scooping) the flour into a large glass measuring cup and shaking/tapping it to level the surface and read the amount. Once all the ingredients are combined they may settle or tamp down to being up to a half cup less than originally measured, so note that while this recipe calls for four cups of powder, the final amount when measured for recipes may only be 3 1/2 cups.
Thoroughly sift or whisk together all ingredients. Store in an airtight container for up to one year.
Note: The Food Allergy's book recommends baking the flour at 25f. below the called for oven temperature. I followed this advice with good results.
*Update, 10/25/12: After making this mix over and over again (yes, it's that good!) I finally got around to measuring the flours by weight.
1 cup brown rice flour = ~ 130g.
1 cup garbanzo/fava bean flour = ~ 130g. (I have been substituting this with coconut flour for a sweeter flavor, or quinoa flour for the nutrition. Either of these are also ~ 130g. per cup)
1 1/2 cups potato starch ~ 195g.
1/2 cup corn starch = ~ 65g.
2 tsp. xanthan gum = ~ 5g.
(For this batch in the photo I used almond flour, hense the almonds, but would recommend using garbanzo/fava bean flour to avoid any nut allergies)
Not only is this mix great for personal use, but it would make an incredible gift for anyone you know with a gluten-free diet!
In making the cookies, the mix of flours worked flawlessly. It acted exactly as I would expect had I used regular wheat flour, rising slightly but not too much, and spreading very little.
The finished result was tender in the middle with lightly crispy edges, and no one would ever have guessed they were not only gluten-free, but vegan.
Peppermint Iced Sugar Cookies
Vegan and gluten-free
3 Cups gluten-free flour mix (homemade or store-bought)
1 tsp. baking powder
1/8th tsp. salt
1 cup lactose-free margarine
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 flax egg (1 TBSP flax seed meal and 3 TBSP water, combined and set aside to thicken for five minutes) or other egg substitute
1 TBSP "milk" (soy, almond, rice...)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract (or other extract, or more vanilla)
For the icing:
2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 - 1 tsp. peppermint extract, according to taste (or other flavor extract)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (omit for a whiter frosting)
3-4 TBSP "milk" (as needed to get the consistency you want)
Food coloring as desired
(Note: of course, you could throw in a little cocoa powder to the cookies and or the icing, if you were feeling naughty.)
Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together margarine and sugar. Add the flax egg, "milk" and extracts. With the mixer on low speed, pour in the flour and mix until all dry spots are gone.
Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour, or overnight.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350f.
Roll dough to 1/4-1/2 inch thickness, and cut into desired shapes. Space about 1/2 inch apart on a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake on the middle rack for 8-10 minutes, rotating half way through.
Let set 3-4 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.
For the icing:
Stir together all ingredients, adding "milk" slowly until the desired consistency is reached. Keep in mind that any food colorings will thin the mixture, so keep it on the thick side if you plan on adding any.
Stir in food coloring, leaving swirls if you wish.
Once cookies are completely cool, decorate however you like with icing, sprinkles, and the like.
These cookies turned out so good I was eating them as they came out of the oven. Did I care that the icing was melting all over the hot cookies? No. By the time I had finished making them, I had eaten so many that I felt like Santa Clause. And let me tell you, it was no 'bowl full of jelly', either.
Fortunately, passing out into a sugar-coma cures all. I imagine that's what Santa is doing the rest of the year - recovering. It just wouldn't be a good ol' American holiday without over-indulgence, would it?
The only thing I might change, next time, would be to replace the 'flax egg' with a different egg substitute, such as a few TBSP of applesauce, or apricot jam. Flax is my go-to substitute, and works wonderfully without altering the flavor much, but in the case of something as delicate as sugar cookies I would opt for something sweeter in the future.
Still - what could be sweeter than cookies that anyone can enjoy?