Sunday, December 5, 2010

Gluten-Free Sparklemas Cookies

I feel a little bit sick to my stomach from eating 15 square inches of mistakes, and I’m wondering what kind of gastrointestinal hell there will be to pay later. But overall, I’m going to declare a success of my first foray into gluten-free baking. Yay!

Last weekend I made the season’s first gingerbread cookies to share with friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family. A small but growing number of people in my life are eating gluten-free. Many are trying to avoid refined sugar, dairy, and other animal products. I want to include these people in my cookie plans, but who wants to get a cookie they can’t eat?

Thanks to Kim Christensen, who pointed me in the direction of The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen blog, where I found a recipe for Spiced Teff Cookie Bars. I dialed down the vanilla to 1 teaspoon, the cinnamon to 2 teaspoons, and the ginger to the full 2 teaspoons. Well, I measured the ginger kind of sloppy because I like ginger.

This recipe tasted great—just like traditional gingerbread. The texture was a little bit gritty, as gluten-free baking is wont to be. Once the bars cooled, I could make fairly clean cuts using a sharp knife. The bars held their shape well, too.

I thought I’d use my deep metal cookie cutters to make Sparklemas shapes, which I would then decorate with nuts and dried fruits. Pushing the cutter into the pan was easy, but convincing the cookie—like a very soft brownie—to pop out of the cutter in one piece was more of a challenge. Cutting the bars warm definitely did not work. Cutting them cold was better, and cutting them slightly frozen was best of all. The larger and simpler the cutter, the easier a time I had. (No gingerbread people shapes, alas.) I used the side of a knife tip to push down on the corners a little at a time, and soon my cookie slid free.

I set out to make a dozen or more cookies, but I only got eight usable ones. I screwed several of them up while learning the principles outlined above. There was a high ratio of trimmings to cookies as well. I think I will make these again, but perhaps I will cut them into squares or diamonds and decorate each one with a dried cranberry, a slivered almond, a sprinkling of coconut flakes, or a dusting of cinnamon. They will not be as cute, but they will still taste great. And as my overfilled belly will attest, you don’t really have to eat very many of them to feel like you’ve had an abundant amount of gluten-free Sparklemas cookies.