Pork Free Post: Sugar Cookies!

23 Aug

Christian is out of town in Honduras again, so I’ve been using my alone time to bake, something I don’t do nearly enough. Having lots of baked goods around the house is dangerous. Very dangerous. And in our efforts to get healthier, cookies and cakes don’t really fit in. But every once in a while is okay, right?

I got in the baking mindset this week when I developed a new all-purpose baking mix. I ran out of my other one, and I decided to get creative while wanting to use up some coconut flour that Christian had bought. The result was great – I’m really happy with it so far (well, I’ve only used it for the cookies, so I don’t have too much to base it on yet!). It is a mix of coconut flour, millet flour, rice flour and starches (proportions are below after the cookie recipe). The taste is very mild, with no pronounced coconut flavor, which is good.

My first baking attempt this week was a disaster. Like, a serious disaster. For some unknown reason, I thought making bagels would be a great idea. Wrong. This was probably the worst thing I’ve ever tried. It was laughable……and a total waste of 3 hours. Luckily I had nothing else to do. I made the dough, which seemed like a success – it felt like “real” dough. From there it went off a very, very steep cliff. They didn’t rise (the recipe called for putting them in an oven that had been warmed to 200 degrees, then turned off – I think it was too warm). Then, when they were boiled, they became bricks. After baking, they were gooey on the bottom, super dense inside, and not crispy on the outside. When this fiasco was over, I just stood there and laughed. Into the trash they went.

Second attempt, last night, was cookies. I’m having our friend Karen and her daughter over for dinner to celebrate Mandy’s second birthday. Mandy loves cheese, so I’ve developed a new mac and cheese recipe (will be posted, assuming it is a success – stay tuned). There’s no dessert in the house, and I couldn’t have them over without having something sweet. I figured I’d bake up some cookies. Normally this is easy, but when I realized I have no brown sugar, no butter, and no vanilla extract on hand, it made me think a bit more. While prepping for our kitchen renovation, I rediscovered my sanding sugars for holiday cookies. So, I decided I had to make sugar cookies – they don’t require brown sugar, I can use coconut oil in lieu of butter, and I can use almond extract rather than vanilla. Done.

So I whipped up a batch. Oh my goodness, yum. This is my new sugar cookie staple recipe. They roll out well, cut well, and bake up to a nice crisp golden brown. I finished some with the standard sanding sugar, and for the rest I dipped half in chocolate ganache and coconut (kind of almond joyish, I guess). I really cannot tell the difference between these and “regular” sugar cookies. So good! These are a must make. Holiday cookie time will most definitely include some of these.

I started thinking of variations. Obviously, you can use vanilla extract instead of almond, butter instead of coconut, etc. But you could also add in lemon zest / juice for brightness, or anise extract for a totally different flavor. Make larger cookies and use them for ice cream sandwiches (I’m starting to think about making some pumpkin ice cream and sandwiching it between two of these).  Basically, it is a great cookie base to play around with.

Note that the recipe uses psyllium husk. I don’t like xanthan gum, and have actually never purchased it. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I just refuse to use it. The psyllium husk works wonders to hold doughs together, in my opinion. And a bonus – it is actually good for you. There’s no harm in adding a little extra fiber to your sugar cookies. Also, if you use an all-purpose mix that has coconut flour in it, like my mix below, add an extra egg white to compensate for the moisture absorbing qualities of the coconut flour.

Gluten Free Sugar Cookies

makes about 2 dozen cookies, depending on size

  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose gluten-free flour (see my mix below)
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp psyllium husk powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 egg (if you use a mix with coconut flour, add another white)
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • sanding sugar, melted chocolate, icing, etc. for decorating

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and prepare baking sheets with Silpat or parchment paper.

In a bowl, mix the dry ingredients together well. Add the coconut oil, egg and almond extract. Mix until well combined. The dough will be very smooth and will resemble a “normal” dough – it will come together and not be sticky. If it is sticky, add more flour by the tablespoon until you get a good dough that you can work with, using your hands rather than your mixer. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap (it is easier to split it into 2 portions for rolling out). Put in the refrigerator until well chilled, about 30 to 45 minutes.

When chilled, lightly dust a work surface with flour and roll out the dough to a thin disk, about 1/4″ or 1/8″ thick. I like to put plastic wrap on top of the dough to prevent sticking and so I don’t add too much flour to the dough. You want the disk to be even in thickness, so I use the “pie crust” method – roll the dough in one direction, then turn 1/4 of the way and roll again. Keep doing that until you are finished. Using whatever cutters you like, cut out the dough and put on the baking sheet. If using sanding sugar, sprinkle with sugar now. Stick the cookie sheets back in the refrigerator or freezer for a few minutes to chill.

Put cookie sheets in the oven and bake about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool on the sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to a rack. Once cool, you can either decorate with icing or chocolate…..or just eat them.

All-Purpose Gluten Free Baking Mix

  • 300 gms millet flour (you can use brown rice or sorghum flour)
  • 100 gms coconut flour
  • 300 gms white rice flour
  • 300 gms cornstarch (you could use potato or tapioca)

Weight out all ingredients and combine very well with a whisk. To ensure even distribution, I also sift the mix together before putting it in containers. It is best to store this in the fridge.

Note that with coconut flour, you will need to increase your liquid ingredients a bit in whatever recipe you use. Coconut flour absorbs moisture, so you’ll need to compensate for that.

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