When I was a kid, my mom was the Christmas cookie queen. It seemed like she would bake for days (she probably did) and there would be mountains of cookies to share with friends and neighbors (and to sneak while she wasn’t looking).
My favorite was always the Candy Cane Cookies from Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book. If you made cookies in the 60’s and 70’s, then you know this book well as it was the definitive cookie cookbook when it was published. I have my mom’s copy now (complete with all her notes for the cookies we used to make), and I thought it was high time to see if I could make a gluten-free version (I already know that the ones made with wheat flour are super tasty!). I loved these cookies because I thought it was so cool that you got to twist the dough and form the cookies into a candy cane shape (plus, I liked that you got to dye half the dough too!).
I used the Co-op Bakery’s gluten-free baking mix from the bulk department (made with Bob’s certified GF flours) and the cookies turned out delicious and didn’t taste like they were gluten-free at all! They were a lot more delicate than I remember from my childhood, but that was the biggest difference I could see between using wheat flour and gluten-free flour. You have to be really careful when shaping the cookies (using too much flour to roll them out makes it too hard to get them to form a cylinder, and not enough causes them to stick to your work surface), but after the first few I started to get the hang of it – it just takes a little patience.
As for the food coloring, I used India Tree natural food color (made with concentrated vegetables) which we sell around Easter at the Co-op (you can get it at the Greenhouse or at The Market in Fairhaven or on Lakeway), but you can also make your own red food coloring very easily with fresh or canned beets – you can find the recipe here. I’ve done it before and it is very simple, it just takes a few hours for the color to concentrate.
I hope you enjoy! Next Friday and Saturday I’ll be at the Cordata Co-op sampling some products for the holiday weekend, so stop by and say hello!
Candy Cane Cookies
adapted from Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book
- 1/2 c shortening (we sell organic non-hydrogenated shortening at the Co-op made by Spectrum)
- 1/2 c softened butter
- 1 c sifted powdered sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 t almond extract
- 1 t vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 c flour (gluten-free blend* or unbleached white flour), sifted
- 1 t sea salt
- ~ 1/2 t red food coloring (more or less depending on how rich of a red you want, I used about 40-50 drops of the natural food coloring)
- 1/8 c crushed peppermint candy (such as candy canes)
- 1/8 c granulated sugar
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Mix shortening, butter, powdered sugar, egg, and the almond and vanilla extracts until they are thoroughly combined (this is most easily done in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment).
- Mix flour and sea salt together, and stir into the shortening mixture.
- Divide dough in half, and blend the food coloring into one of the halves.
- Roll a 4” strip (using 1 t dough) from each color on a lightly floured surface. Too much flour and the strips won’t roll, too much and they will stick, so adjust as necessary. (see photo below)
- Place strips side by side and press them together lightly and gently twist into a rope shape.
- Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and curve the top down to form the handle of the candy cane. Don’t worry if they don’t come out perfect—you’ll get better at shaping them as you work through the dough.
- Repeat until you are out of dough.
- Mix crushed candy and sugar together in a small bowl.
- Bake for 9-12 minutes, until they are lightly browned.
- While still warm, remove cookies from baking sheet to a wire rack with a spatula and sprinkle with the peppermint sugar mixture.
The gluten-free version of the cookie will be delicate but shouldn’t break apart too easily once they are cooled.
Carefully store cookies in an airtight container for up to four days.
*make sure your gluten-free flour blend includes xanthan gum – if not, add 1t to the recipe to help the cookies hold together.