Monday, December 20, 2010

Classic Christmas Cookies

As promised, here is a holiday treat recipe for you. I'll have at least one more tomorrow.

I grew up with my mom making the Joy of Cooking recipe for "Roll Cookies" for every holiday. She would top them with the same cookbook's milk glaze recipe. I carried on the tradition, making them for Christmas, hearts for Valentine's Day, shamrocks for St. Patrick's Day, bunnies and crosses for Easter ... until we went gluten-free.

Try as I might, I couldn't come up with a flour blend that worked very well for these cookies that 1. Would taste the same and/or 2. Would not fall apart. I tried other recipes for cookies that you roll out the dough and cut, but none of them had the taste or texture I wanted. I finally resorted to making some sugar cookies that had the taste and a good texture, but didn't roll and cut out well so we'd just eat them in plain circles with the glaze.

The other night I thought I'd give them a try again this year using Vanessa Maltin's flour blend I used for our pizza. She lists this recipe in the Fall 2010 issue of Delight Gluten Free. Now I used this recipe for my pecan Scotch shortbreads and it didn't work at all. I baked those before I baked these, but after I'd made this dough. I was worried these wouldn't turn out, either, but I think having an egg in there helped hold them together.

They turned out pretty well. Definitely the best as far as not falling apart goes and surviving the cookie cutters and transfer to the baking sheets. They were a little more bland than I like, and a little more dry. I'll use more almond extract next time. I may try them using Pamela's bread & flour mix at some point, and will post the recipe if I ever do since it will need adjustments.

So now, here is my adapted/added-to recipe from the above mentioned "roll cookies."

Projected prep time: 5 hours (including chilling at least 4 hours); Projected bake time: 7-12 minutes
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla
1/2 tsp. pure almond extract (I will be using 3/4 to 1 tsp. next time if I use the same flour blend)
2 eggs
2 1/2 c. flour blend (see above note)
2 tsp. gluten-free, aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt (I may use a tad more next time if using the same flour blend)

(Edit 3/17/2011: I made these again for St. Patrick's Day and used the Pamela's bread mix & flour blend this time, and also adapted the "Rich roll cookies" recipe found on the same page of the cookbook. They were so much better - exactly how I remember the cookies being before going gluten-free. If you want to try them, here is that recipe: Rich Roll Cookies.)

Cream sugar and butter together. Sift dry ingredients together. Beat in vanilla, almond extract and eggs. Beat in dry ingredients. When well-mixed, form dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap.

Chill 3-4 hours or overnight. The dough keeps well and freezes well.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

This dough doesn't roll as well as it did when it contained gluten. I found it was easier to take smaller chunks at a time, roll into a ball and then pat down on my Silpat instead of rolling them. The Silpat makes it easier to lift them after cutting. Don't press the cutters too hard on a Silpat if you use one for this purpose.

Bake 7 to 12 minutes (top rack if using gas oven) or until cookies are turning light golden brown on edges and bottom. Turn cookies halfway through baking.

Cool completely before decorating. My favorite glaze for these particular cookies is listed below. It hardens into a beautiful shiny coating that tastes wonderful.

Milk glaze (adapted from Joy of Cooking milk glaze recipe)
Projected prep time: 5 minutes
1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 tsp. hot milk
1/2 tsp. pure almond extract
Sometimes I also add 1/4 tsp. pure vanilla
Mix well. You'll want to make more if you plan to use more than one color.


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