Is making homemade gluten free cookies a challenge for you? If you are a cookie person like me, or if you have little cookie people in your life, then you should be making homemade cookies.
In this post I share tips to help you choose your cookie recipes wisely and avoid fatal errors. Just take what makes sense to you, bake some cookies and learn as you go. Over time you might go back to old favourite recipes and tweak them or maybe you will have a new collection of cookie recipes; ones that will keep you baking amazing gluten free cookies all year long.
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A Positive Mindset
A positive mindset can help create a lot of happiness in life and in the kitchen. Making gluten free cookies isn’t that hard, but it is definitely different than baking cookies with wheat flour. The first time you do something it often seems hard. But once you do it over and over it gets easier. That is how my cookie baking went and that is why I love this saying:
“Everything is hard before it’s easy.”
The first time I put a tray of cookie dough balls into the oven only to remove a blob of greasy partially cooked dough I realized making gluten free cookies wasn’t as easy as I thought. But of course I knew I could do it. I poured through cookbooks like America’s Test Kitchen The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook plus other books on my shelf and from the library. Then I got back to baking.
Tip #1 – Not all books, blogs and recipes are going to work for everyone. Start with recipes that are already written with gluten free ingredients. Pass over the recipes that require several substitutions. Not all of them will work but this will increase your chance of success and your cookies should at least be edible.
Cookies Are Not Muffins
Muffins are the easiest thing to bake gluten free and always the recommended place to start. I certainly had muffin disasters when I started but eventually I learned to make my favourite six or eight muffin recipes gluten free. When I finally got a homemade gluten free flour mix that worked in any muffin recipe I was thrilled.
But it didn’t work as well for cookies. I learned that cookies are not muffins. These two facts make cookies different from muffins and other baked goods.
- Cookies have a high sugar and fat content
- The short cooking time does not allow the flour to fully absorb the fat
So I started to notice cookie recipes that combined oil and butter or even called for melted butter. I found other recipes that asked for the dough to rest several hours or overnight. And I paid attention to what was in all the different gluten free flours and blends.
Tip #2 – Brown rice flour and/or almond flour are excellent in cookies.
Gluten Free Flour and Flour Mixes
I often write there is no single gluten free flour or flour blend that works for all baked goods. But I also learned this:
Tip #3 – You can make excellent cookies with more than one combination of gluten free flours and starches. There is no perfect recipe but many excellent options. The ultimate purpose is to mimic the role of wheat flour and there are many ways to do that. Pay attention to what works.
Choosing Cookie Recipes
As I was working through my year-long blog series on How To Use different gluten free flours, I realized there were many different types of recipes. I divided cookie recipes into these categories:
- Some made with a single flour like quinoa flour
- Ones made using only a gluten free flour mix
- Those made with specific measurements of different flours and starches
- Some made with a gluten free flour mix plus the addition of other flours
There is no right or wrong. I have all of those types of cookie recipes on my website because I was determined to learn more about cookies. So whatever you are looking for it’s out there. Simply pay attention to the recipes you want to try and ignore the others. Just start baking.
Tip #4 – If you like experimenting here is a cookie flour mix recipe that makes 1 cup – ⅔ cup brown rice flour, 3 Tbsp potato starch, 1 Tbsp + 2 tsp tapioca starch, ¼ cup almond flour, ¼ tsp xanthan gum.
Baking Is Not Cooking
“When baking, follow directions. When cooking, go by your own taste.”
I love this quote because it reminds me that not everyone knows there is a difference between cooking and baking. The most common error I see people make is sloppy measuring. If you are cooking a pot of soup you can go by your own taste – a little of this, a little of that. When you bake, follow the directions for best results.
Baking is part science so this is not the time to wing it. Of course dietary restrictions force everyday cooks to do this but as a general rule find recipes written for that restriction. Once you have mastered the basics of cookie baking then you can get creative and make your own adjustments.
Tip #5 – Get The Tools
Precise Measuring For Gluten Free Cookies
If you enjoy baking you do need a few tools. Metal scoops in various sizes speed up the process, ensure your cookies are a uniform size and therefore will cook more evenly. I have three sizes and use them for all kinds of jobs in the kitchen.
I have baked a million cookies on jellyroll pans, also known as baking sheets (with ¼-inch sides all around) because that is what my mom used. Eventually I found out there was a difference (who knew) and acquired cookie sheets (they have no edges). But for a cookie baking spree I use both and I’ve never heard anyone decline a cookie because it was baked on the wrong pan.
Parchment vs Silicone
I was baking cookies long before you could buy parchment paper at the grocery store. Parchment paper seems standard now and it certainly does prevent cookies from sticking. Bigger is not always better so buy parchment in the size that fits in the location where you need it. The small 50 square feet box fits in a convenient drawer in my kitchen but…different strokes for different folks. You can buy pre-cut parchment sheets or for those who like everything big, you can buy the larger 250 square foot box.
If you bake a lot then silicone baking mats seem to be the safe, reusable option. (You can read forever on the safety so I’ll leave you and Google to that topic.) Many brands are available and I would recommend buying quality. Manufacturers make items cheaper by substituting lesser quality ingredients (which may not be safe). Silpat baking sheets come in a variety of shapes and sizes and seem to be the premium brand. You can find other baking sheets so spend a few minutes shopping and remember your purchase will last you decades.
Baking Basics – Tips For Success
Here are basic baking tips, gluten free or not.
- All ingredients should be at room temperature unless otherwise specified.
- Always use large eggs
- Measure both dry & liquid ingredients precisely using measuring cups/spoons
- Preheat your oven; use an oven thermometer to confirm the temperature
- Allow baked goods to cool on baking racks as directed.
- Liquid measuring cups have a pour spout & measuring line below the top; read the measure on a flat surface at eye level.
- Dry measuring cups are filled right to the top; overfill then swipe with a straight edge. Use a plate or lid to transfer the spillage back into the container.
- Organize measuring cups & spoons in a way that makes sense to you & is easy to access.
- A kitchen scale is useful for weighing everything from pasta to meat to flour for a homemade flour blend. Tare is the term used to zero the scale after you place an empty bowl on it.
The NEW BASICS For Gluten Free Baking
Learn these new basics to improve your baking.
- A basic kitchen timer is essential, serious cooks might like this triple timer.
- Use a wire whisk to thoroughly combine dry ingredients.
- A strainer turns lumpy potato starch into the fine texture needed for baking.
- An extra egg or yolk can help improve structure and add moisture.
- Add ¼ teaspoon of xanthan gum to each cup of gluten free flour for structure and freshness.
- Let batter or dough sit for up to 30 minutes before baking to absorb liquid and avoid a gritty texture.
- Resting time helps gluten free baked goods keep their structure. Let them cool slightly in the pan then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
- For maximum freshness double wrap baked goods and freeze immediately.
The Recipes – Tips For Making Gluten Free Cookies
These are the cookie recipes I have posted categorized by the flour called for:
These use a gluten free flour mix (I use my homemade mix); Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies, Chocolate Chip Cookies and this one with a mix plus another flour to improve the results Chocolate Chip Cookies with Teff.
The Podcast – Tips for Making Gluten Free Cookies
As soon as I published this post Sue Jennett of A Canadian Celiac Podcast called to interview me about it. If you are a podcast listener you can list to that interview here: A Canadian Celiac Podcast episode 43. If you are not a podcast listener I recommend you give it a try. The modern version of radio you can listen to podcasts while you drive, workout or cook. A great way to stay up to date on all things gluten free.
Well, that’s a lot of tips for baking gluten free cookies. I hope some of them are helpful and that you will be baking cookies soon. I’d love to hear from you in the comments below how your cookies turned out. Any questions about making cookies?