Monday, January 11, 2010

Sugar Cookie Baking with Lillie


Snow day season is upon us, and it seems like the day is longer when you have the little ones to to entertain unexpectantly. One of my and their favorite things to do when we are stuck in the house is to bake. When the baking involves icing and sprinkles...even better. Sugar cookies are the perfect canvas for your little ones artistic efforts. Just because you've gone gluten free, doesn't mean you have to give up this treasured parent-child activity.

I feel sugar cookie making is a good option when you have hours to occupy, because it is a multi-part activity. First you have to make the batter, then cut out the cookies, bake and finally decorate. You can even push your children's creative talents further by wrapping the cookies up in a creative manner, attaching cards (homemade...yet another activity to occupy the kiddies) and distributing to friends.

A few years ago I starting using a shortbread recipe when I needed an eggless sugar cookie recipe for Rosie. It was superior to any of the allergy free sugar cookie doughs I tried, as it kept it's shape better-- which is a good quality for a cut-out style cookie. Many traditional Scottish shortbread recipes are made with rice flour, so you're ahead of the game in terms of gluten freeness.

Most sugar cookie recipes require chilling for several hours. If your kids don't have the patience for the chilling time required of sugar cookie dough, you can prepare the dough the day before and chill overnight. I like to make a double batch of dough and form logs out of the extra dough. I wrap them well in plastic wrap and pop in a ziploc on which I write the baking instructions. Then I freeze the logs, and have when needed, I have my own prepared dough logs-- just like the type made by that famous doughboy. The dough is very versatile and can be sliced, dipped in sprinkles, coconut or ground nuts and baked, rolled out for cut-out cookies, and even used as a pie crust.

Below I provide a recipe for gluten free sugar cookies (but you may use any of the abundance of recipes available), as well as step-by-step instructions with visuals courtesy of Lillie.

The cookie recipe I use is adapted from a recipe for Shortbread Hearts (p. 261) in The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins (may she rest in peace). I used Jules Gluten Free All Purpose Flour, but you can try your favorite gluten free flour blend, although you should make sure if it does not contain xanthan gum, add 1/4-1/2 teaspoon to the batter.

Gluten Free Sugar Cookies

3 sticks unsalted butter or non-dairy margarine such as Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks, softened
1 cup confectioner's sugar
31/2 cups all-purpose gluten free flour blend (with xanthan or guar gum), such as Jules Gluten Free All Purpose Flour or Better Batter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon almond or orange extract)

1. In a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream together butter or margarine and confectioner's sugar until light and fluffy.

2. Sift flour and salt together and add to creamed mixture. Add vanilla and blend throughly.

3. Form dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 4 to 6 hours.

4. Pre-heat oven to 325F degrees. Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper, or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

5. Roll out chilled dough to approximately 1/4- inch thickness. Using cookie cutters, cut dough into desired shapes. Carefully transfer to cookie sheets with a spatula. Decorate with sprinkles if desired.

6. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until they just start to turn light brown.

7. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack with a spatual to cool completely. Ice and decorate as desired.

Yield: Approximately 2 dozen cookies

Hints and Tips for Perfect Sugar Cookies

Lightly spray cookie sheets with water before laying down parchment paper. This will help keep the paper in place, and secure the cookies on the baking sheet. You can buy empty plastic bottles at the dollar store or any hardware store. Never use a bottle that held chemicals.

To easily roll out your dough, place between two sheets of plastic wrap before rolling out. If you have a metal rolling pin, chill before using. If your dough gets too "mushy", chill a metal cookie sheet and place on top of dough for a few seconds to harden.

Dip your cookie cutters in gluten free flour or cornstarch before cutting to keep them from sticking to the dough, and help to keep the desired shape of your cookies.

Use a spatula to transfer shapes to cookie sheet and don't overcrowd. If you fill up your sheets, refrigerate dough until you are ready to make the next batch. You can find inexpensive cookie cutters at dollar and craft stores on sale.

Have on hand a variety of sprinkles, chocolate chips and dragees to decorate your cookies. Betty Crocker and Wilton both make cake decorating items that are gluten free. Remember this endeavor is messy, but it can all be cleaned up with the vacuum at the end of the day.

Store finished cookies in airtight containers, or freeze in ziploc bags up to 3 months.

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