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October 26, 2018

Tips For Making Gluten Free Cookies

Post by Cinde Little

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.

Tips For Making Gluten Free Cookies
Tips For Making Gluten Free Cookies -photo credit Jim Little

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 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. I found other recipes that asked for the dough to rest overnight. And of course 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.

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.”

This is a favourite quote of mine. When I watch people in my cooking classes the most common error I see is sloppy measuring. When you cook you can go by your own taste. When you bake, follow the directions for best results.

When you bake cookies follow the directions. This is not the time to add a little of this or substitute a little of that. 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.

Precise Measuring For Gluten Free Cookies

Tip #5 – Get the tools.

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 baked a million cookies on jellyroll pans, also known as baking sheets (with ¼-inch sides all around). Eventually I acquired cookie sheets (they have no edges) but for a cookie baking spree I use both.

Scooping up cookie dough for Snickerdoodles
Scooping up cookie dough for Snickerdoodles -photo credit Jim Little

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.

Tips For Making Gluten Free Cookies – The Recipes

These are the cookie recipes I have posted categorized by the flour called for:

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. Do you have any questions about making cookies?

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