Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Merry Holiday Multiple Personality Gluten-Free Butter Cookie

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Right now there are four kinds of cookie dough chilling in the refrigerator and some will be relegated to the deep freeze so that we can enjoy holiday treats well past Christmas.  In February when the skies are gray and the ground is soaked with endless rain, there is nothing like the smell of gingerbread boys baking up in the oven to warm the soul.

All this annual cookie lollapalooza-ing began because this little Jewish kid got a taste of the holiday tree trimming and brightly sparkled cookies one Christmas when she was 5 years old.  And though I didn’t get a stocking filled with treats that year although I begged, I did add a festive and cookie filled Christmas, sans the religious part, to my things-I–will-do–when-I-am-all-grown-up list I kept in my kidlet head.  The list was varied; I never did get to fly on a spaceship with Major West from Lost in Space, but I eventually did get to make all the holiday cookies I wanted.

From the first year we lived on our own, I happily embraced the other festive holiday tradition aside from latkes and made more Christmas cookies than the bakery down the street.  Even having to live gluten free didn’t stop me.

A big fan of bakery butter cookies, and the store brand, Stella D’oro, I wondered for years how they got those little confections into those spiffy shapes.  And then one day I learned about cookie presses and rushed right out to find one.  I’ve gone through several varieties including the spiff-o-matic electric thing, and I’ve come back around to the simple cheap manual press.  Once a year I drag out the tattered box and set out to make fabulous copies of my favorite bakery and Stella D’oro treats.  And every year I end up with something slightly the same only different.

I am not organized.  If it weren’t for my blog, I might never remember the recipes I create.  I write them down as I bake and promptly do something stupid, like forget to label the paper with what the cookie is, or even that it is a cookie.  I put it in the junk drawer only to find it years later with no recollection of what the list means, if I can even read the bad penmanship at all.  Sometimes I put it in a special place where I am sure not forget it.  I still can’t find any of those.  Other times I write notes in a cookbook when I modify the recipe with annotations that make perfect sense at the time.  And later, reading them over, I’ve no idea what “yippee” means next to baking soda.

Consequently, I redo the whole recipe deal every year and search for something that sounds right, or a new one that seems improved.  And then I mix it up a little.  But I warn you.  Recipes are fluid and meant to evolve.  So don’t be surprised if I make the same thing next year, but it is slightly different.  Try it.

Multiply the recipe to accommodate larger batches.  You can store the extra dough in the refrigerator for a few days and in the freezer for quite some time.  Bring to a chilled room temperature before using.   Happy baking!
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Gluten Free Black & White Butter Cookie Dough: Spritz, Pinwheels, and Thumbprints
Almond & Vanilla Dough
  • 2 sticks room temperature unsalted butter (1 cup)
  • ¾ cup ultra fine sugar or 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon almond
  • 1 egg
  • 295 grams gluten free flour (no gritty stuff because it has no place to hide) about 2 and a scant ¼ cup
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch salt
Double Chocolate Dough
  • 2 sticks room temperature unsalted butter (1 cup)
  • 1 cup ultra fine sugar or 1 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon almond
  • 1 tablespoon strong coffee (leftover from the morning joe)
  • 295 grams gluten free flour (about 2 and a scant ¼ cup)
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa sifted (your favorite)
  • ½ cup of melted bittersweet chocolate
  • Pinch salt
Blend together the flour, xanthan gum, salt, (cocoa for the chocolate dough only) and whisk to lighten.

In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until pretty.  Add the flavorings and the egg.  On low, mix in the flour (and cocoa) until blended.  Finish incorporating with a spatula and don’t over mix.  For the chocolate cookies, add in the melted chocolate and blend in thoroughly with a spatula.

Bake each at 350.  Makes at least 3 dozen per recipe.

Spritz
Using parchment paper, place a long-ish rope of dough toward the edge of the paper and like roll up like sushi, into a sort of log that is slightly less than the width of the cookie press tube.

Refrigerate (or freeze) until ready to use but at least two hours.  You want the butter to chill thoroughly.

Take one log or two logs at a time out of the refrigerator and as soon as it is workable stuff into the press and pop out designs on silpat or parchment sheets.  They won’t spread much so you can get a lot on one sheet.

Add decorations, like sprinkles or colored sugar, cherries, or chocolate chips now.  Bake 5 minutes and rotate.  Bake for about 4 minutes more.  You want the light cookies just very lightly browned and the chocolate are better slightly less brown.

Black & White Pinwheels
Roll the plain and chocolate dough separately to the same size on parchment paper.  Place one on top of the other and roll them up with the aid of parchment paper (the dough is sticky) as tightly as possible.  Refrigerate overnight for best results.  Unroll the dough and slice at ¼ inch intervals with a very sharp knife.  Place on silpat or parchment and bake about 10 minutes depending on thickness.  Rotate and bake about 5 minutes more or until the plain dough is slightly brown on the bottom.

Thumbprints
Scoop dough by teaspoons size and roll into a ball.  Place on silpat or parchment lined cookie sheets and with your index finger, press a dent in the center.  Refrigerate about an hour before filling and baking.  Fill with jam (about a ¼ teaspoon) or a chocolate chip or two, or candied cherries, or nuts or crushed peppermint candy canes.  Bake about 5 minutes and rotate.  Bake about 4 minutes more.

Cool and eat.  Store in separate tins.
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