Friday, December 17, 2010

The Smell of Christmas ~

One of my brother and my most favorite memories at Christmas time has always been the weekend we would spend making and baking sugar cookies with our mom. It was always a joyful tradition in our home, fostered by my grandmother and mother's love of baking...especially, during the holidays.

It was always a thrill to put on comfy baking clothes while our mom would play our favorite Christmas music in the background, the oven would be warming and we would lay out all of our candy decorations; sprinkles, colored tube frosting and of course, our prized holiday cookie-cutters. Our mom had boxes of these things, and it was such a thrill to pull the gingerbread men, angels, snowmen and Christmas tree shapes out each year as we were preparing the dough, sipping hot cider and dreaming of the moment the dough was ready to eat...raw, that is! I can still taste that holiday goodness filled with gluten, and remember how my mom taught us to always roll the rolling pin with flour to keep the dough from sticking, ensuring our little characters would soon come to life inside the oven.

I still miss those warm and special cookie-baking weekends at Christmas time. Once I was diagnosed with Celiac, baking our lovely sugar cookies sort of took a back seat. Ten years ago it wasn't that easy (or tasty) to whip up a batch of gluten-free sugar cookies. My mom being the lovely woman that she is, never felt it was fair to continue baking those spongy, aroma-filled sugary treats, knowing that I could not fully partake in the fun.

With that said, there are now so many more options for baking delicious gluten-free cookies that actually rise and hold some form of softness. I've been experimenting a bit with some recipes, longing to reestablish this lovey family tradition once again for not only myself, but to share with my precious niece and nephew. It's just such a memorable gather family in a kitchen and create something delicious and filled with love...and lots of frosting!

Here's a new favorite that I really love from Gluten-Free Girl's site:

, adapted from The Joy of Cooking

- 1/2 cup sorghum flour

- 1/2 cup tapioca flour

- 1/2 cup potato starch

- 1/2 cup sweet rice flour

- 1/2 cup amaranth flour

- 1 teaspoon xanthan gum

- 2 teaspoons baking powder

- 1/2 teaspoon salt

- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

- 1/2 cup sugar

- 2 eggs

- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract

- Pinch fresh nutmeg

Combining the dry ingredients. Place all the flours in a medium-sized bowl. Whisk them together. Slowly, sift them through a fine-mesh sieve into another bowl. Add the xanthan gum, baking powder, and salt. Whisk together. Set aside.

Creaming the liquids. Stir the butter (or let the beater attachment of the stand mixer do it for you). Add the sugar and cream them together until they are just combined. Add the two eggs and vanilla extract and beat for a couple of minutes more. Throw in the pinch of nutmeg and stir one last time.

Making the dough. Sift the dry ingredients into the liquids, one cup at a time. When the entire mixture is combined and well integrated, you are done. It should be a thick batter, not entirely stick to the touch, but not as stiff as traditional rolled cookie dough. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight.

Baking the cookies. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature. Don't let it reach complete pliability. The dough should still be rather stiff from the refrigeration. Preheat the oven to 375°.

Roll out the cookie dough between two pieces of parchment paper (saves on gluten-free flour on the board). This dough doesn't go paper thin, so you'll have cookie with a bite to them. Cut out with your favorite shapes.

Bake for 8 to 12 minutes, depending on your oven and how crisp you like them. Let them cool for 10 minutes before eating them. I know. Try.

Makes about 15 to 20 cookies, depending on the shapes.

A very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours!