So good gluten-free sugar cookies

Six years ago, we left all our family and moved to a state where we knew no one. Over the years, we have been lucky enough to have found some wonderful friends in our own backyard. With them, we have created a new family, with our own set of traditions.

Although I was a bit apprehensive about it at first, there is one neighborhood tradition that stands out as my favorite. It’s something you don’t see (or hear) too often anymore — caroling. That’s right, I said caroling.Caroling

There’s really only a small window of time where such an activity would be deemed acceptable by your child — let’s say from age 3 – 12, before it becomes a dreaded, forced activity of embarrassment.

CarolingMy older daughter is 10, and I know that it won’t be long before she decides she has outgrown the activity. This year was more spectacular than most, as there was an inch of crisp white snow on the ground, with more falling lightly as we went from house to house.

And in light of last Friday’s horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, I couldn’t help but pay extra attention to the beauty of the night, the excitement in their voices, and the joy that we brought to our neighbors,  particularly some of our oldest residents, as our group of 9 kids belted Feliz Navidad at the top of their lungs.

What does this have to do with sugar cookies? Every year, before we venture out, the kids always make a craft at a neighbor’s house and delight in a festival of gluten with pizza and cookies. This year, I brought a frozen gluten-free pizza (which was a bit of a flop) for Nora, and tried my hand at gluten-free sugar cookies, based on a recipe from Nicole Hunn at glutenfreeonashoestring.com. I only made some minor changes to the recipe, so this is more of a recipe review, but I included my changes in the recipe below, as well as the link to the original, so you can decide which one you’d like to try.

On to the review — maybe I’m just starting to become immune to the taste and texture of some gluten-free foods, but I thought these cookies were just what she promised — amazingly close to what you’d find at the bakery in the local grocery store.

Just like with chocolate chip cookies, there are two camps of sugar cookie lovers — those that love an uber-buttery crispy cookie and those that prefer the softer side of Sears. Oh sorry, I meant sugar cookies. I think I’ve had too much sugar. Anyway, I usually lean toward the crispier side, but when I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it. All in all, these got a lot of smiles, and compliments from non-celiacs.

Gluten-free sugar cookiesgluten-free sugar cookie
Makes 24 cookies
Adapted from Gluten-Free Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies at Gluten Free on a Shoestring.

Ingredients:
1 cup gluten-free flour mix
1 cup sweet rice flour
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
3 TBSPs confectioners’ sugar
10 TBSPs unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 extra large egg at room temperature, beaten
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Gluten-free colored sugars

Directions:
• Preheat your oven to 350°F and line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat, or spray with gluten-free nonstick spray.
• In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt, granulated sugar and confectioners’ sugar.
• Mix in the butter, egg, and vanilla.
• Mix on medium speed.
Note: My dough started out looking very crumbly, so I added another two TBSP of butter to what the original recipe called for (grand total of 10 TBSPs), and let the mixer run for about 5 minutes. Have patience–the dough will come together.
• Separate the dough into two balls.
• Sprinkle confectioners’ sugar on your clean countertop and dust rolling pin. Roll the dough out to 1/3-inch thickness.
• Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Sprinkle with gluten-free colored sugar and place on baking sheet.
• Bake for about 8 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies begin to look golden.
• Transfer cookies to cooling rack.

Enjoy with a tall glass of cold milk.

I’m not a huge fan of frosting on my cookies, but in case you are, the frosting posted on the original recipe at Gluten Free on a Shoestring looks quick, easy, and delicious.

Also, I have a feeling that I could make these even better next time by pulsing the flours in the food processor for minute, or maybe even just sifting them.

Share the love: I can never get enough cookies. Which ones top your list?

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Garlic and Butter Biscuits

Buttery biscuits. They taste like home, fill the house with delicious smells, and melt your troubles away from the inside out.

garlic and butter biscuits

I have yet to find a gluten-free recipe that can mimic the tall flaky biscuits that you get from Kentucky Fried Chicken or Pillsbury, but this recipe  satisfies our biscuit craving every time and has become a household favorite. The only problem is that there are never any biscuits left over.

Light and full of flavor, these are perfect for dipping into your favorite soup. And I find they hold up better to  moisture than your typical frozen gluten-free roll, which in my experience tends to fall apart when it gets wet, virtually making them unusable for dipping or for recipes that have a high moisture content or heavy sauce like sloppy joes.

These biscuits are best eaten fresh. I’ve tried to double this recipe in order to have leftovers throughout the week, but they turn a bit gummy or chewy after the first day.  And I’ve yet to discover a good way to reheat and bring them back to life.

My favorite soup to pair this with is chicken and dumplings, and I’ve successfully used the same dough as the dumpling dough. Keep an eye out for the recipe, coming soon!

Serve these with your favorite soup or use for breakfast sandwiches!

Garlic and butter biscuits
Makes about 10 biscuits
Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Ingredients:
2 cups gluten free-flour mix
1 TBSP baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 – 1.5 tsp garlic powder, depending on how much you like garlic
5 TBSP cold unsalted butter, cut into tiny pieces
3/4 cup cold buttermilk
1 TBSP butter, melted to brush on top

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray baking sheet with gluten-free cooking spray or line with parchment paper or silpat.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and garlic powder.
  • Add butter pieces and quickly cut in using a pastry cutter, fork, or food processor. You want to leave both small and large pieces of butter. Do not over work the butter. You want it to remain cold to help create flakiness in the biscuits.garlic and butter biscuits 2
  • With a rubber spatula, slowly mix in cold buttermilk. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can quickly make it by using regular milk and adding 1-2 tsps of vinegar. Stir and let it sit in the fridge for 10 minutes before pouring into the flour mixture.garlic and butter biscuits 3
  • If the dough looks too dry, add 1-2 more TBSPs of buttermilk at a time, until it starts to come together.

garlic and butter biscuits 4

  • Once it starts to stick together, gather the dough, and use your hands to gently shape it into a ball.
  • Sprinkle a small amount of gluten-free flour or cornstarch on your counter, and press the dough out flat with your hand.  Remember, your hands are very warm, and will melt the butter, so the quicker you can do this, the better.
  • Use a biscuit cutter or drinking glass to cut out biscuits. This is a great activity for the kids, especially during the holidays, when they can use cookie cutters to make it even more fun!
  • Gather the scraps and repeat the process until all the dough is gone.garlic and butter biscuits 5
  • Brush the biscuits with melted butter and sprinkle with kosher salt.
  • Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve warm and enjoy!

Garlic and butter biscuits 6

Share the love: Have you figured out how to get more fluff in your biscuits? Don’t keep the secret to yourself! Share it here!

7 kid-friendly gluten-free staples

There’s no doubt about it–going gluten-free is expensive!! And frustrating! And often disappointing. When a new gluten-free product makes an appearance on our grocery store shelves, I grab it like it’s the last iPhone on the store shelf. Which is crazy, because it’s not like there’s a horde of people fighting me for it.

Here’s how the scenario often plays out. I run home and tell Nora I’ve found a new cracker (or whatever) for her to try. She eagerly takes a hearty bite with a light in her eyes. Then her chewing slows, the light fades, and she shakes her head “No.” And into the trash it goes. Sometimes, I force myself to keep it, thinking it will get better by turning stale in our pantry. Trust me, it doesn’t.

Through our countless trial and error episodes, we have found many products that we love, sometimes even more than the original. Here is our first list or recommended kid-friendly foods. These products are ones that I buy regularly now and they have been taste-tested by some of the most picky children (and adults) I know.

1. Udi’s Sandwich Bread
I didn’t want to select just one particular kind of bread because I know there are some kids who will only touch white bread. Our current favorite is Omega Flax & Fiber.

2. Gluten-free Corn Pasta
I haven’t found a brand I don’t like yet. Since we discovered it, corn pasta is preferred over all others in our house for it’s nearly normal texture, taste, and “chew.”

3. Annie’s Gluten-free Rice Pasta and Cheddar
The one exception to my corn pasta rule is this box macaroni and cheese. Preferred over the creamy frozen version, this was gobbled down by a slew of kids who didn’t know it was your regular blue-box mac-n-cheese. And they came back asking
for seconds.

4. Rudi’s Gluten-free Plain Tortillas
Bring back taco night! With these, we never have to worry about the tortilla crumbling apart or tasting like cardboard. And we are happy to have quesadillas back on the menu!

5. Pamela’s Gluten-free Baking & Pancake Mix
OMG. I think that was our actual response when we first tried these heavenly pancakes. Now we cannot live without this mix in our house. Make pancakes, crepes, or use it for baked goods in a pinch. So delish.

6. Gluten-free Honey Nut Chex
Ok, so this is a bit of a cheat. But one year ago the gluten-free cereal choices were much more limited for us. Now, several brands have started to adorn the GF label. Honey Nut Chex brought a bit of normalcy back into breakfast.

7. The Great Organic Beef Hotdog by Applegate
Never fear, Applegate hotdogs are here to save your summer BBQ. We brought these to all our summer gatherings, and never had to worry about mystery ingredients. They are gluten-free, dairy-free, and casein-free, but also full of flavor and snap!

If you happen to shop at Whole Foods, I do know that they have a policy that you can bring back any food, even if it is opened, if you don’t like it. I haven’t inquired to see if other grocery stores honor the same policy, because quite frankly, I’m one of those people who say they will return something and then I never do.  If you are thrifty and more organized than me, check with your local grocery store to see if they have a similar allowance. It could save you from throwing your money away on food you
don’t enjoy.

Share the love: Do you have favorites to add to this list? Bring ’em on!