This gluten-free shortbread cookie recipe is awesome!

Well, I did it!

I created an awesome gluten-free shortbread cookie!

And, in the spirit of the season, I’m going to share it with you!

I hope that you’ll agree that it’s delicious, feeds your craving for shortbread, and you can’t tell by the taste or texture that it’s gluten-free.

gluten-free shortbread cookies, Christmas cookies, shortbreadWendy’s Gluten-Free Golden Shortbread Cookies

1 ½ cups brown rice flour

¼ cup chickpea flour

½ cup tapioca flour/starch

½ cup Golden sugar (lighter version of brown sugar)

¼ tsp Xanthan gum (to keep your cookies from spreading!)

¼ tsp Himalayan or Celtic sea salt (this way I control the amount and type of salt in my cookie!)

¾ cup unsalted butter (room temperature)

sprinkles or chopped nuts

Sift brown rice flour, chickpea flour, tapioca flour, golden sugar, Xanthan gum and salt into a large glass bowl. Add butter. Turn on a favorite TV show or Christmas carols, remove your rings, wash and dry your hands and start squeezing the butter to absorb all the flour. Knead the dough for 20 minutes, or so, into a smooth shape. Flatten the dough in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap so it won’t dry out, and refrigerate for an hour or two. Overnight is fine.

Pinch pieces of dough and shape into 1” balls. Flatten to 1/4 inch thick using a metal spatula. Place about 1 ¼ inches apart on a dark cookie sheet. Decorate with sprinkles or chopped walnuts so those who want gluten-free shortbread can easily identify them.

Bake at 300 F for 20 to 25 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Remove from tray with metal spatula and place on cooling rack. Store in a sealed container.

Now, for all the bakers out there – here’s the story of how I created this recipe:

As anyone new to the world of Gluten-free baking realizes very quickly – gluten-free baking is more of an exercise in chemistry than regular baking!

You need a variety of flour types to give you the texture you’re used to with wheat flour. This means different flours and different proportions depending on what you’re baking – cookies, bread, muffins, etc.

Searching for the best ingredients for gluten-free shortbread cookies

I started searching the Internet for a recipe to make my favorite Christmas cookie gluten-free.  There are  a few gluten-free shortbread cookie recipes others have posted. When I found one that looked ‘easy’, I went in search of the flour it called for: ‘white rice flour’ and ‘sweet rice flour’. Huh?! I went to my local natural food store and he scoffed at anything less than ‘brown rice flour’. OK, I could work with that.

My online research gave me a really good tip about Xanthan Gum. Not many novice gluten-free bakers know this, but you have to add it to cookie recipes to prevent cookies from spreading all over the pan! After all, non-wheat flours behave differently than white flour or whole wheat flour.

I know this might seem obvious, but maybe not. Shortbread MUST be made with butter. Anything else (shortening – REALLY?!?!) is just cheap and nasty.

Test batches indicated an ingredient upgrade was necessary

I did a test batch of shortbread made with cornstarch, icing sugar and other ingredients. It tasted nice, texture was light, but the cookie was fragile. Then I just ‘happened’ to read an article that reminded that corn is one of the most GMO’d grain there is – producing health problems in humans that I won’t go into here. I know that sugar is grown with pesticides, and icing sugar has 0 nutrients in it.

Well, I’ve been a health nut from the time I was a teenager buying strange flour, beans, lentils and healthy looking fruit and veggies in the natural food store to cook for my family. I had to go the extra mile (kilometer in Canada and the UK! :-) ) and find something else that I could be satisfied was at least a little bit healthier than corn starch and icing sugar.

A few days later, I went to the gluten-free shop near where I live to buy a few items. The man who runs it is a baker by trade.  I recognized baker’s pride when he handed me the first taste of the chocolate chip cookie he’d perfected that morning. I told him how wonderful it was and that I’d been working on creating a gluten-free shortbread recipe. He offered to give me some advice so I wrote down my work-in-progress gluten-free shortbread recipe for him.

How different flours affect the outcome

I told him I wanted to replace the corn starch and icing sugar with healthier alternatives and make a stronger cookie. He told me I was on the right track and suggested a couple of flours I could add to make the recipe healthier and the cookies ‘stronger’. He also suggested I use coconut sugar – made from coconut blossoms, and gave me a sample.  But he wouldn’t tell me how much of each flour to use. Hmmm. Ok, it was clear he didn’t want to share his gluten-free shortbread cookie recipe, but he was helping me!

I kept digging for information so I wouldn’t be baking blind and wasting ingredients on failed attempts! I knew enough to ask what chickpea flour and tapioca flour would do for a shortbread cookie. Here’s what he told me:

Chick pea flour will give the cookie ‘substance’; Tapioca flour could replace the corn starch and will contribute towards a lighter cookie.

Bob’s Red Mill Tapioca Flour label describes tapioca flour as “a starchy and slightly sweet flour …an excellent ingredient for gluten-free baking as it lends a springy texture, promotes browning and makes crispy crusts.”  (Aha, a crispy cookie too, I thought.)

The label on Cuisine Soleil Organic Chickpeas Flour says “chickpeas flour adds a mild and rich flavor to your gluten-free baking. Rich in vegetable protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber, low in fat, this flour contains no cholesterol and it is a source of iron.  It is a good alternative to soy flour…it thickens and cooks relatively fast. It is used for a diverse range of pastry, bread, pancakes and to thicken sauces.”

With this information, I was satisfied that I could guess how much of each to use in my gluten-free shortbread recipe.

You might need to experiment…

The baker encouraged me to be patient – I’d likely have to make a few batches of the cookie to get it right – like he did with his chocolate chip recipe. Hmmm. I thought I could do better than that, and I did!! The recipe above is my first try and I’m quite proud of myself and my gluten-free shortbread cookie!

Please comment and share!

When you make this gluten-free shortbread recipe, I’d love to know how you like it. What could improve this recipe? What do you like about it? Did you try to roll out the dough, which is quite hard after refrigeration, so you could use Christmas cookie cutters to create fun shapes? That, and using coconut sugar will be my gluten-free shortbread cookie experiments for December 2013!! I have a moose cookie cutter that I’d like to use again!







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