Cake Mix Hack: Gluten-Free “Oreo” Surprise Cupcakes with Cookies & Cream Frosting

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I hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend!  We jumped down to North Carolina for an overnight, to see our friends.  It was great to catch up with all of them and we had breakfast at the Saxapahaw General Store before heading back.  I’ve gushed about my love for this tiny strip of town before, and each year, it gets a little better and a little crunchier–in the best of ways. 😉  Now, in addition to the General Store, the cute industrial apartments, and performing space + Coffee Shop by day/Bar by night venue, Saxapahaw has added a butcher’s shop and a shared-space work studio.  I love this focus on community and local goods!  As for breakfast, M got the usual Coconut-Braised Pork Sandwich (which is still on my list to properly recreate at home!) and I had the brunch special: Eggs Salmon Florentine.  The staff assured me that if was gluten-free, so I was expecting a lighter version of Eggs Benedict Florentine.  You know, some kind of bread, layers of spinach and salmon topped with an egg and their “lemon and caper sauce”.  Instead, in this dish, there wasn’t any bread at all.  The spinach and over-medium eggs were resting on top of a salmon fillet!  It was delicious, and way more protein than I expected.

As for Monday, I had a meeting in the afternoon, so I missed what may have been the highlight of the summer: taking Punc to our community’s “Pool Pawty”.  Each year, the day before they close up the pool, our apartment complex allows the neighborhood to bring their dogs in to swim and play.  Our complex is great at these kind of parties, so M came back with a ton a gift bags full of dog treats, bones, tennis balls, and other swag.  It was pretty awesome!  While she didn’t enjoy the water, Punc did get a doggie massage and a pupcake.  Best of all, she got along with all of the other dogs!

M wasn’t able to take her hiking as often this summer, since it was so hot.  Our area has set a new record for the number of 90+ degree days in July and August.  Ugh.  I am definitely ready for the cooler Fall weather!  So it’s been nice to have this Pool Pawty and playdates with our friends’ dogs to fill in that exercise gap for Punc.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this weekend is our last heatwave, so we can start to settle into Fall.  I know M is itching to hike again, as well.

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Today, I am back with another cake mix hack!  They served me so well throughout the summer, being fairly quick and far less fussy than baking a cake from scratch.  I’m still on the search for my “one” cake flour mix.  But, I’m also starting to lean more towards the less sweet pound cake styles.  You know, not quite a quick bread, but not quite a cake.  So maybe I’ll keep my cake mix hacks in my back pocket for occasions that call for frosting and wrappers and all that jazz; and stay content with my simpler options for “everyday” cakes.  These cookies and cream cupcakes have a tasty surprise when you unwrap them: a whole “oreo” cookie at the bottom of each cupcake!  The chocolate cakes are even more fun, because the cake really hides the cookie until you take a bite of the cupcake.

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“Oreo” Surprise Cupcakes with Cookies & Cream Frosting

Serves 12

For the Cupcake

  • 1 box Gluten-free yellow or chocolate cake mix + additional ingredients listed on the back of the package*
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 12 (1/2 of a box) “oreo” style gluten-free chocolate wafer, creme-filled cookies**
  • Optional: the filling from 6 additional cookies (save the chocolate cookies for decoration)

For the Frosting

  • 4 oz (half a package) of cream cheese, softened
  • 4 Tbsp (half a stick) of butter, softened
  • 2-3 c. confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. crushed “oreo” style cookies (about 10-12 cookies)
  • Optional: 12 individual chocolate cookies leftover from the creme removed for the cupcake batter, for decoration

*I used Aldi’s GFree yellow cake brand, which calls for 3 eggs, 2/3 c. milk, and 1/2 c. oil per box

**I used Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free Jo-Jo cookies

Make the cupcakes

Preheat the oven to the temperature listed on the Cake Mix box.  Fill a cupcake pan with paper cupcake cups and drop one whole “oreo”-style cookie into the bottom of each paper liner.

Remove the inside filling from six cookies, being careful to keep the chocolate wafers intact.  Heat briefly in the microwave to soften, then mix with the liquids called for on the package–if a liquid fat (like oil or melted butter) is called for, this is the best ingredient to mix with the creme filling.  Mix the dry and wet ingredients as instructed on the packaging.  Be sure to include the extra vanilla extract as you mix in the wet ingredient.  Scoop the prepared batter over the cookies in each cup, filling about 3/4 full.  Bake as directed on the packaging.  Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

Make the frosting

Leave the cream cheese and butter on the counter as the cupcakes bake and cool, to allow both to soften.  Whip the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla extract on low speed until the mixture is uniform and soft.  Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar, one half-cup at a time, whipping until fully incorporated.  After adding 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar, add in the crushed cookies and mix well.  If the mixture is still soft, continue to add in the additional confectioner’s sugar in 1/2 cup measures.  When the mixing blade or whisk is removed, the frosting should be almost at a stiff peak–the mixture stands straight up from where the whisk was pulled away (if the very tip of the peak falls, that is okay, but the whole peak shouldn’t slump).  Spread or pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes.  Favor a higher pile in the middle, which allows you to sink on of the reserved chocolate wafers upright into the frosting as garnish.

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From My Grandmother’s Recipe Box: “Grandma Hanson Cookies” (Gluten-Free)

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This is my 100th post! I’m glad I realized this before I posted.  This is more exciting with the happy coincidence that this 100th post is on Valentine’s Day and I will be sharing the first recipe in my “From My Grandmother’s Recipe Box“.  I introduced this idea back in November, but didn’t have time to sit down and decipher the recipe cards until now.  We woke up to 14 inches of snow yesterday, and I took the opportunity to participate in such iconic snow day activities as: reading books, trolling pinterest, napping, playing board games, not going out in the snow…oh, and making cookies.

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The infamous Recipe Box

Given my snowed-in status, I had to make a recipe with ingredients that I had on hand.  This one truly intrigued me.  The recipe card has the type-written title “Grandma Hanson Cookies” with the recipe scrawling in green ink.  Grandma Hanson could be two people, depending on whether it was written by my Grandmother, Ginny, and her sister, my great aunt Mimi, or if is was written by their mother, my great grandmother, Helen.  The original Mrs. Hanson was my great-great-great grandmother Thea Hanson, but her son-in-law, Brady, took his wife’s (Thea’s daughter) maiden name for his surname.  Mary Jo Hanson was, then, the second Mrs. Hanson.  Thea would be the “Grandma Hanson” to Helen, while Mary Jo would be the “Grandma Hanson” to Ginny and Mimi.  I’m thinking this is probably Mary Jo’s recipe.

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Whomever it originated from, this recipe is pretty…basic.  Most of these recipe cards are missing some details that are usually deemed important in recipe making: cooking temperatures and/or times, mixing instruction, ingredient clarification–just to name a few.  In some ways, it makes me love these recipe cards more: the lack of instruction reinforces that these women and men in the generations before me trusted their instinct in the kitchen, and that many of these recipes were loved and made often enough to become partially memorized.   In this digital age, where hundreds of thousands of recipes are at the fingertips of home cooks, we are certainly exposed to an amazing variety of dishes.  We can share knowledge and ideas with people across continents.  But I also think it leads to a little bit of paranoia in the kitchen, or at least over-specificity.  We grow so concerned that the smallest details might ruin a recipe, where as our grandparents knew how to think on their feet to rescue a recipe gone awry.

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“Grandma Hanson Cookies” Original Recipe Card

  • 1/2 cup shortening (butter is best)
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp lemon
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2 cups flour (more if batter sticks)
  • 1 tsp soda

Bake about 12 min.  I usually make up a batch and put it in the refrigerator for a few hours before baking.

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Adapting this recipe was pretty difficult.  I had to fill in key information, along with converting it to gluten-free.  In the end, I had to step back and take a breath, and just try different techniques–even if they went against my own instincts.  I had to add a lot more flour, even when I used a scale.  I still had a sticky, loose mess of a dough and all I had left was to try refrigeration.  I put the whole bowl in the fridge overnight and crossed my fingers.  This morning, the dough still seemed too sticky.  But I decided to just try it anyways.  In the end, I found myself with light, crisp-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside, barely-spiced, lovely tea cookies.  To be honest–I have absolutely no idea how the gluten-ful result of this recipe would be.  I’ve never made them and my mother does not recognize them from my description of my end result.  I’ll bring her some for a taste test for a final verdict.  But I am perfectly happy to find myself with tea cookies.  As I mentioned, the nutmeg, lemon, and vanilla combined to barely spice these cookies–they have almost a floral sort of taste, simply because the spice elements are used in such small quantities.  They are light enough, and barely sweet–perfect for a bite in the afternoon.  I chose to add a little drizzle of lemon glaze over top of these cookies, just to bring out a little more citrus flavor.  I think these would also be wonderful with a drizzle of chocolate, as well.

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Gluten-Free “Grandma Hanson [Tea] Cookies”

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 c. granulated sugar (+ more for rolling)
  • 3 eggs (large)
  • 1/2 cup full fat* sour cream
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 3/4 c + 2 Tbsp white rice flour
  • 1/4 c. buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 c. almond flour
  • 1/2 c. sweet white sorghum flour
  • 3/4 c. tapioca starch
  • 1/2 c. potato starch
  • 1/4 tsp ground psyllium husk
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum

Optional Lemon Glaze

  • 1/2 c. powdered sugar
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice

Optional Chocolate Drizzle

  • 3/4 c. chocolate chips
  • 1 tsp. coconut oil (or 1/2 tsp. liquid oil–olive oil, canola, etc)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly with each addition.  Mix in sour cream.  Add lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla and mix well.  The wet mix should be similar in consistency to pudding.  In large, separate bowl, whisk together all flours, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, psyllium husk, and xanthan gum.  Add dry mix to wet in two parts, mixing well.  The dough will stick be kind of wet and loose.  It’s okay.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

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Sticky, slumpy dough is fine!

When ready to bake the next day, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and remove plastic wrap from dough.  Grease a pan and line with parchment paper.  It will have tightened up a little, but still kinda slump and be pretty sticky for cookie dough.  Again, that is a-okay.   Spread about 1/2 cup of sugar in a shallow bowl.  Spoon a scarce Tablespoon of dough into the sugar.  Gently turn the dough until it is coated in enough sugar that you can manipulate the dough.  Roll the dough into a small ball, re-roll in sugar.  Space the cookies 3 inches apart on the cookie sheet.  Bake for 13 minutes.  Allow cookies to cool for 2-3 minutes on the baking sheet, but remove them from the sheet to a cooling rack while still warm.  Cool cookies completely.

Make the drizzle: lemon or chocolate.  For lemon: thoroughly mix powdered sugar and lemon juice into a consistency slightly thinner than frosting.  Spoon into ziploc bag (or piping bag) clip a tiny corner off of the bag and squeeze glaze over cookies.  For chocolate: put chips and oil in microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave in 30 second interval, stirring well in between, until melted.  Allow to cool for 2 minutes.  Spoon into ziploc bag (or piping bag) clip a tiny corner off of the bag and squeeze glaze over cookies. Allow to dry.  Store in airtight containers with layers of parchment or wax paper between the cookies.

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Happy Snow Day!


Homemade Holidays #3: Triple-Ginger-Bread Cookies

Here is the second cookies recipe from last year to make it into the baking spree this year.  These soft, gingerbread cookies were an absolute fluke.  But a glorious fluke, for sure.  They are the ones that M requested specifically, a slightly cake-y cookie that is (again) not-too-sweet, even with the frosting.  The frosting adds just enough sugar and moisture to these cookies, but feel free to try them without it if you feel so inclined.  I also tried to save time and not roll these cookies in loose sugar before baking, but they look much more unfinished without the hint of sparkle from the coating.

The dough for these cookies doesn’t look “right”.  It seems too sticky, to loose.  But trust me, it’ll be okay.  Cover the top with saran wrap and leave the dough overnight in fridge.  After a night of chilling, it will be much easier to work with and will come together just fine.  Believe in the dough!

Gingerbread Cookies

  • 2  1/4 c.  White Rice Flour
  • 1  1/2 c.Tapioca Starch
  • 2  tsp. xanthan gum
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. ground (dry) ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 sticks of butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 1/2 c. molasses
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, finely minced.
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c. crystallized ginger, finely chopped

Whisk together all dry ingredients in medium bowl.  Cream butter and sugar in large bowl.  Add molasses, then fresh ginger, then eggs, one at a time; taking the time to fully incorporate each addition. Slowly add in dry ingredient mix, again, taking time to fully incorporate each portion of dry ingredients.  Fold in crystallized ginger.  Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Roll dough into 1″- 2″ balls and roll in loose granulated sugar until completely coated.  Press onto cookie sheet with palm to flatten slightly.  Bake for 12-14 minutes, until cookies are turning golden and tops are cracking.  Remove from oven and use the bottom of a solid spatula to re-flatten to about 1/2 inch thickness.  Allow to cool for five minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.

Mix 1/2 c. powdered sugar with 2-4 Tbsp milk and 1 tsp vanilla extract to make frosting.  The frosting should be soft enough to puddle after it is spread on top of the cooled cookies, but thick enough not to drip down the edges.  It should dry stiff, but not too hard, on top of the cookies.

Makes 2-3 dozen, depending on size of cookies.


Homemade Holidays #2: Spicy Almond Slices

Somewhere in the midst of the madness that is my life at the holidays (Children’s holiday shows are a serious business), I had an evening of utter abandon and made six dozen cookies.  Should I really  be so surprised, after last year?  Anyways, I did, thankfully, make all of these sweets before my 8-performances-in-48-hours-weekend that brought on a nasty virus.  I’m still trying to shake this sickness and trying to churn out all of my holiday posts and recipes within the next couple of days, because M and I are leaving for the UK on Sunday!  AH!

Confession: I haven’t packed at all.  I do have a list of what needs to be packed…that is a step in the right direction, isn’t it?  Packing for a wedding/meeting the entire family/traveling all up and down the country is hard enough, but when it has to be done with bulky, warm winter clothes, it is even worse.  I’m hoping I can stay under 51 lbs for my one free checked bag!  Hahaha.  (But seriously, I’m taking 5 pairs of shoes!  While I have a lot at home, I have never been a crazy packer… until now, I suppose).  Sometime (probably Friday) I will force myself to sit down, sort things out and pack away, but, in the meantime, I can procrastinate by sharing my Christmas recipes with you, right!

These Spicy Almond Slices were posted with last year’s batch of Christmas cookies, but as one of the two repeat recipes who made the cut in this year’s mad-dash baking spree, I thought they deserved they’re own post with pictures.  These cookies are a wonderful break from the normal deluge of Christmas cookies: crisp, crunchy, and not-too-sweet.  They are also the perfect icebox cookie.  Simply double-wrap after forming the unbaked dough into a log and store in your freezer for up to six months.  I bake them straight from frozen (you may have to add a minute or two to the baking time, keep an eye on them).  Though it does seem like a lot of spices (well, the normal amount to me, which can seem a little extreme), the cinnamon and nutmeg and clove come through as a warm undertones, supporting the nuttiness of the double almond flavor.  And, as a special bonus, this recipe is pretty easy to halve or to double!

Spicy Almond Slice Cookies

I used almond flour in these cookies to up the nut flavor.  You can replace the almond flour with an additional 3/4 c. + 1 Tbsp of the GF Flour blend.

  • 1 c. (112 g.) almond flour
  • 1 1/2 c + 1 Tsbp White Rice Flour
  • 1 c. Tapioca Flour
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 c. butter (2 sticks), softened
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbs. cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 extra large eggs
  • 2 c. sliced almonds.

In  medium bowl, whisk almond flour with GF flour blend.  In large bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, vanilla, nutmeg, salt, eggs, and 2 cups of flour mix until well-mixed.  With wooden spoon, stir in remaining 1 1/2 (+ 1 Tsbp) flour and sliced almonds.  Dough will be very stiff, use hands to mix if necessary.

Divide dough in half.  Shape each half into 10″x3″x1″ log, wrap each in wax paper or plastic wrap.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 1 week.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cut brick into 1/4″ slices.  Place slices 2″ apart on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes until browned around edges.  Cool on wire rack.  Store tightly covered.

Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies.


When I have a day off, all alone

Things like this happen:

Unfortunately, I do not have a recipe, because these were a pain and a half to make.  See the un-chocolated/frosted ones at the bottom…I got bored of being bored halfway through.  To keep the story short, I picked the wrong type of dough, one that was barely meant to be rolled out, let alone to make cut-out cookies.  I also constructed the large ones out of two circle cookie-cutters and my fingers.  Which subsequently melted the dough.  I covered up the cookies with melted chocolate, and sprinkled either sliced almonds, chocolate jimmies (sprinkles), chopped pecans or orange zest.  Delicious, but nothing really to write home about.  The was one shining moment in the day, though:  Look at those baby hedgehogs.  Perfection, yes?  HOLLY LEAF COOKIE CUTTER!  I know.

That is all.  Please go play.  Make mistakes.  Pick the wrong dough and stubbornly push on with your plans until you finally give up and smoosh the last handful of it onto the sheet pan in vaguely cookie-shaped piles.  Breathe.  Decide to cover the cookies with chocolate to make yourself feel better.  Be reminded that you need your kitchen counter to be six inches higher, but until then you will inevitably end up with a knot between your shoulder blades.  Give up on frosting and fill the last few with peanut butter, nutella, jam, and any other spread you can find in the fridge.  Eat cookies.  Feel better.

Or, you know…follow a recipe.  But sometimes that is a little boring.


Christmas Cookie Round-up

So I missed the sense of posting these recipes before the holidays so that you could also make them.  My deepest apologies, as these recipes were quite successful in my book.  For my first year (truly) tackling holiday baking sans gluten, I couldn’t be more thankful that each of the seven recipes I made panned out.  I’ll admit I was  little nervous and more than a little crazy.  At the end of it all, I made 25 dozen cookies!  I might scale things down a little next year.  But I’m putting all of these up now (with unfortunately scant pictures, they were all gifted away or eaten before I remembered to take individual pictures of them) so that you and I can file them away for next year, or for that Tuesday in June when an insatiable craving for wintry flavors overtakes you.

First round of baking (clockwise from top right): Lemon Tea Cookies; Frosted Gingerbread Cookies; Turtle Cookies; Lemon Bars (the Tea Cookies reformed); Almond slices; Chocolate-Peppermint Biscotti; Gingerbread, Turtle & Lemon cookie overflow.  The ‘Twix’ bars and macaroons didn’t even make it into the photo!

My common sense lasted long enough to decide to use the same basic flour mix

  • 2 parts white rice flour
  • 1 part tapioca starch
  • 1/2 tsp xanthum gum per cup

 for almost all of the cookies.  Mix up a large batch of the blend now, it’ll be much easier than trying for the math come mixing time!  For the almond slices, I punched up the flavor by adding almond meal, and the Twix bars and Coconut macaroons used minimal-to-no flour.  But for all of the others, this is the blend I used.  But enough chatter.  Onto the (multitude of) recipes!

Lemon Tea Cookies

I adapted Food.com’s recipe, making them gluten-free and upping the lemon factor.  There is no such thing as too much lemon!

Cookies:

  • -1 2/3 c. (233 g.) GF flour blend  (or: 78g/about 2/3 c. tapioca starch, 156g/about 1 c. white rice flour, 3/4 tsp xanthum gum)
  • -1 cup butter, softened
  • -1/3 c. powdered/confectioner’s sugar
  • -1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • -2 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • -few drops pure lemon extract

Filling:-2/3 c. granulated sugar

  • -4 tsp. grated lemon zest
  • -3 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • -1 Tbsp. butter
  • -1 tsp. cornstarch
  • -1/4 tsp. salt
  • -1 extra-large egg, beaten

In large bowl, beat butter, powdered sugar, lemon zest, lemon extract, and vanilla until well blended. Stir in flour blend until dough forms. The dough will be crumbly.  Feel free to toss aside your spoon and mix with your hands until all ingredients are evenly incorporated.  Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Shape dough into 1″ balls.  Place balls 2″ apart on cookie sheet and use your thumb to make indentations into each cookie. Bake 8-10 minutes until golden.  I’ve found that gluten-free thumbprint cookies often puff up their indentations.  Take a tablespoon or teaspoon measuring spoon (whichever size is more appropriate) and repress the indentation when cookies are removed from the oven.  Allow cookies to cool completely on the cookie sheet before removing to a wire rack.  The cookies will be very delicate.

In a saucepan, combine all filling ingredients and stir constantly over low heat, for about 20-25 minutes, until thickened.  Cool about 15 minutes.  Spoon filling into cookie wells, dust with additional powdered sugar.

Makes 3 dozen cookies.

Variation: To make Lemon Bars: press refrigerated dough into a 9×13 pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes, until golden.  Make filling as instructed and pour over cooked crust.  Cook layered bar in 350 degree F oven for about 10 minutes, until edges of filling begin to brown.  Cool, dust with powdered sugar.

 

Gingerbread Cookies

I’ll be honest: I intended for these to be Shauna’s Soft Molasses Cookies, without any modifications.  But somehow, between my kitchen-scale-less math, my 1.5-ing the recipe’s amount, and my own tendency to play, they turned out much like gingerbread, dense and chewy, and showcased far more ginger than molasses.  This is the recipe I worked most heavily with by weight, which warranted a lot of math, but it is much easier with my new kitchen scale!  I’ve included the approximate cup breakdown as best as I can.

  • -2 3/4 c. + 1 Tbsp (400g.) GF Flour blend (1 1/2 c. + 3 Tbsp White Rice Flour, 1 c. + 2 Tbsp Tapioca Starch, 1 1/2 tsp. xanthum gum)-1 tsp. salt
  • -1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • -1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • -2 tsp. ground (dry) ginger
  • -1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • -2 sticks of butter, softened
  • -1/2 c. white sugar
  • -1/2 c. molasses
  • -2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, finely minced.
  • -2 eggs
  • -1/4 c. crystallized ginger, finely chopped

Whisk together all dry ingredients in medium bowl.  Cream butter and sugar in large bowl.  Add molasses, then fresh ginger, then eggs, one at a time; taking the time to fully incorporate each addition. Slowly add in dry ingredient mix, again, taking time to fully incorporate each portion of dry ingredients.  Fold in crystallized ginger.  Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Roll dough into 1″- 2″ balls, then press onto cookie sheet with palm to slightly flatten.  Bake for 12-14 minutes.

Mix 1/2 c. powdered sugar with 2-4 Tbsp milk and 1 tsp vanilla extract to make frosting.  The frosting should be soft enough to puddle after it is spread on top of the cooled cookies, but thick enough not to drip down the edges.  It should dry stiff, but not too hard, on top of the cookies.

Makes 2-3 dozen, depending on size of cookies.

These almond cookies are an old family recipe, one of those yearly constants whose smell and taste scream “Christmas”.  Spicy and nutty, they were also the very first adaptation I tried after discovering I had to give up gluten.  These are great freezer cookies-make a batch, wrap into logs, and freeze one to slice and bake when unexpected company arrives.  Add a few minutes to the bake time, and you can even bake the cookies without thawing.

Spicy Almond Slice Cookies

I used almond flour in these cookies to up the nut flavor.  You can replace the almond flour with an additional 3/4 c. + 1 Tbsp of the GF Flour blend.

  • -1 c. (112 g.) almond flour
  • -2 1/2 c. + 1 Tbsp. (350 g.) GF Flour blend (or: 1 1/2 c + 1 Tsbp White Rice Flour, 1 c. Tapioca Flour, 1 tsp xanthum gum)-1 c. butter, softened
  • -1 c. granulated sugar
  • -3/4 c. brown sugar
  • -1 Tbs. cinnamon
  • -3/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • -1 tsp. baking soda
  • -1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • -1/2 tsp salt
  • -2 extra large eggs
  • -2 c. sliced almonds.

In  medium bowl, whisk almond flour with GF flour blend.  In large bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, vanilla, nutmeg, salt, eggs, and 2 cups of flour mix until well-mixed.  With wooden spoon, stir in remaining 1 1/2 (+ 1 Tsbp) flour and sliced almonds.  Dough will be very stiff, use hands to mix if necessary.

Divide dough in half.  Shape each half into 10″x3″x1″ log, wrap each in wax paper or plastic wrap.  Refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 1 week.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cut brick into 1/4″ slices.  Place slices 2″ apart on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 10-12 minutes until browned around edges.  Cool on wire rack.  Store tightly covered.

Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

In addition to copious amounts of math, I undertook the imposing task of my first batch of biscotti, without a proper pan and gluten-free at that.  I turned to Nicole at Gluten-free On A Shoestring for the know-how.

Chocolate-Peppermint Biscotti

I adapted these from Nicole’s Dairy-free Chocolate Almond Biscotti.  I knew I wanted a mint element for one type of cookie, as it is such a quintessential ‘winter-taste’ for me.  The chocolate drizzle and white-chocolate-based peppermint bits nix the dairy-free factor, but the cookies themselves are still dairy-free.

  • -1 1/4 c. + 2 Tbsp (196 g.) GF Flour mix
  • -1/4 c. cocoa powder
  • -1 tsp. baking powder
  • -1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • -1/2 tsp. salt
  • -1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • -3 extra-large eggs, beaten
  • -3 Tbsp. canola oil
  • -1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • -1 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
  • -3/4 c. chocolate chips (I found a mix of peppermint chips and dark chocolate chips that worked perfectly)
  • -2 Tbsp. cornstarch

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  In large bowl, mix all dry ingredients except chips and cornstarch.  Add eggs, oil, peppermint extract, and vanilla, mix for several minutes until batter is smooth.  In small separate bowl, combine chocolate chips and cornstarch.  Stir to coat.  Add mixture to batter and stir until well combined.

Pour dough into a biscotti pan (preferred) or into a greased 9×13 pan. Shake the pan to even out dough, and smack bottom on countertop to release air bubbles.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until firm(ish).  Turn down heat to 300 degrees F and remove pan.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run knife around edges to release loaf.  Allow to cool completely in pan, then turn out onto cutting board.  If baked in biscotti pan, slice crosswise about 3/4″-1″ thick.  If using 9×13″ pan, slice loaf in half lengthwise, then slice crosswise into 1″ slices.  Place slices two inches apart and return to oven.  Bake about 20 minutes until dry and crunchy.  Allow to cool entirely.

Melt 1/2 c. chocolate chips.  Stir in 1 tsp. canola oil and 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract (optional).  Drizzle over cooled biscotti. (I tried the dipping method like fancy coffee shops, but it was messy and not as pretty.  Sprinkle with peppermint bits or crushed peppermint candies.  Allow to cool.  Store tightly covered.

Makes 2 dozen cookies.

I’ve actually never made these turtle cookies with regular flour, but my tweaking the gluten-free version has improved with each time I make them.  I’ve also made nut-free batches, without rolling the cookies in anything, but, if you can eat them, nothing beats this delicious chocolate-caramel-pecan combo.

Turtle Cookies

Adapted from Bree’s recipe.

  • -1 egg
  • -1/2 cup butter, softened
  • -2/3 cup sugar
  • -2 tablespoons milk
  • -1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • -1 cup GF flour blend (2/3 c. White Rice Flour, 1/3 cup Tapioca Starch, 1/2 tsp. Xanthum gum)
  • -1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • -1/4 teaspoon salt
  • -1 1/4 finely chopped pecans
  • -16 caramels
  • -3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • -1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • -1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Separate the egg.  Reserve both parts.  Cream together butter and sugar in large bowl.  Whisk together flour blend, salt, and cocoa powder in separate bowl.  Beat vanilla, egg yolk, and milk into butter and sugar mixture.  Stir in flour mixture until just combined.  Cover and chill for 2 hours, up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  While oven is heating, roll dough into 1″ balls.  Whip reserved egg white until frothy.  Place pecans in separate bowl.  Dip dough balls into egg white and then roll in pecans.  Place 2″ apart on baking sheet and use thumb or tablespoon measure to press indentation into center of cookie.  Bake about 10-12 minutes until set.  Repress wells in cookies if necessary.  Cool on wire rack set on parchment paper.

Melt caramels and cream together in microwave or double boiler, stirring frequently.  Fill cookie wells with liquid caramel, let cool.

Melt chocolate chips with vegetable oil in microwave, stirring every 20 seconds until fully melted and mixed.  Use a fork to drizzle chocolate over cooled, filled cookies.  Let set.  Makes 2 dozen cookies.

These “Twix” bars are another classic in my house.  Originally only made at Christmas, over the years, we have been more successful at convincing my mother to make it more often, until we were finally able to make them ourselves.  These are incredibly easy cookies, and cheap, for folks who can eat gluten.  Gluten-free prices make it a little more costly, but this recipe is also very forgiving to substitutions.

“Twix” Bars

Feel free to play with the components of this recipe.  The cracker base provides a wonderful salty-sweet combination, and the graham-cracker caramel has a more distinctive taste, but, if you have a reliable recipe for sturdy caramel, feel free to use it in place of the caramel.  Nut allergy?  Swap in some soy butter, or make a simple ganache in place of the chocolate-peanutbutter top.

  • -2 boxes table crackers (find some similar to Saltines or Club crackers, preferably squared or rectangular)
  • -1 c. graham cracker crumbs (buy a box of GF grahams or make your own to crush up)
  • -3/4 c. brown sugar
  • -1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • -1/3 c. milk
  • -1/2 c. butter
  • -1 c. chocolate chips
  • -2/3 c. peanut butter

Line a buttered 9×13 pan with table crackers, breaking into pieces as necessary to fill bottom.  Heat graham cracker crumbs, sugars, milk, and butter in a saucepan, stirring frequently.  Bring mixture to a boil, boil for 5 minutes, or until thickened.  Pour over crackers, spread to corners if necessary.  Put on another layer of crackers.  Melt chocolate chips and peanut butter until liquid.  Spread over crackers.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Cut into bars and refrigerate for another hour, until set.  Serve chilled.

Makes 2 dozen bars.

I made coconut macaroons from a basic recipe; one I’ve seen all over the web.

Coconut Macaroons

There is such a minimal amount of flour in this recipe, you can use any kind.  I had some coconut flour on hand, and love the thought of purer flavors, so that is what I used.

  • -1 (16 oz) bag flaked coconut
  • -1 (14 oz) can condensed milk (I used fat free without any problems)-1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • -2 Tbsp. coconut flour
  • -1/4 c. chocolate chips

Preheat oven 350 degrees F.  Mix coconut flakes and flour in bowl.  Add condensed milk and vanilla extract, stirring until all coconut is coated.  Dropped by rounded tablespoons onto greased baking sheet.  Bake for 8 minutes.  Remove from baking sheet immediately with thin spatula (cookies will stick if allowed to cool on baking sheet) and transfer to wire rack covered with wax paper.  Allow to cool.  Melt chocolate chips and drizzle over cookies.  Store tightly covered.

Makes 1 1/2 dozen cookies.