Sometimes I listen episodes from A Taste of the Past, a podcast series on Heritage Radio Network. I learn many facts about food and culinary history from the authors whose books are featured in the show. These podcasts are a delightful source for learning the back story behind unfamiliar, as well as familiar, foods (although listening to the free podcasts do come with a cost – I end up buying many of the featured books). Last year about this time, I listened to podcast 257, which features Elaine Khosrova discussing her book Butter: A Rich History. That this particular book was featured so closely to Christmas seems fitting. Butter is an essential ingredient (to me, anyway) in most dishes, but all the sweet and savory dishes plentiful at Christmas time totally require loads of good quality butter in order to be Christmas-worthy. I think it’s maybe a universal Christmas rule or something. Khosrova’s research into the history of butter reveals the role of butter in the rites and celebrations of various religions. Now, other than the Catholic church’s prohibition of butter and other dairy products during Lent (a requirement long ago eased by the Church), butter isn’t associated with any official rite or celebration related to the celebration of Advent or Christmas. Unofficially, however, butter is a necessary ingredient for all the candy, cookies, breads, pastries, sauces, buttered rums, and all other rich, delicious foods in which people allow themselves to indulge during the holiday season. In fact, it’s the most important ingredient in such goodies in popular seasonal cookies such as these gluten-free vanilla bean spritz cookies I baked today. Butter makes spritz cookies melt-in-your-mouth tender and flavorful.
For these cookies, I deglutenize this spritz cookie recipe on the Serious Eats website. Spritz cookies can be tricky to make. The hints that accompany this recipe are helpful, and I recommend that people trying spritz cookies for the first time read the tips. The author of the article does warn against over-working the dough, , though, which can toughen the gluten and make the cookies less tender. HA! Ignore that tip! Gluten-free cooks don’t have to worry about! When I first deglutenized this recipe, I wanted to use blanched almond flour (not almond meal) in my flour blend for added richness. I worried that with its natural oil, the almond flour would cause the spritz cookies to spread too much. It doesn’t cause spread at all! It works perfectly in the spritz dough! A commercial all purpose gluten-free flour, in the same amount, can be substituted for the blend of flours I use, though.
Other adjustments I make to the Serious Eats spritz cookie recipe are that I use powdered vanilla bean instead of whole vanilla beans, and I add anise-flavored glaze to them. I also use caster sugar (I’ve only recently begun to appreciate the light texture it adds to cookies, cakes, and pastry). These cookies are so delicious. In a way I dread making them, easy as they are to make. They’re addictive and small, so I trick myself into eating way too many of them by telling myself the cookies are small enough that a serving of several equal eating one or two regular size cookies!
Gluten-Free Vanilla Bean Spritz Christmas Cookies
These light, rich, buttery gluten-free spritz cookies will melt in your mouth!
- 1 cup butter softened and cut into pieces
- 200 grams caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (according to taste)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground vanilla bean (Or seeds scraped from one vanilla bean)
- 150 grams superfine brown rice flour
- 100 grams arrowroot flour
- 75 grams blanched almond flour (NOT almond meal)
- 250 grams powdered sugar
- 2 - 3 tablespoons milk
- 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoons pure anise extract
- Christmasy sprinkles for decorating
- 1 egg
For the Cookies: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, place the pieces of softened butter and 200 grams of caster sugar. Cream together until light and fluffy, about seven minutes. Add the egg, salt, vanilla bean powder, and cardamom to the creamed mixture. Mix until well-blended, about five minutes. Add the flour all at once and mix until well blended. Using the dough at room temperature, fit a cookie press with a Christmas tree disk; fill the press with dough according to the cookie press instructions. Press the spritz cookies onto ungreased, unlined, cool cookie sheets. Bake in a 375 degree oven until the edges start to turn slightly golden, about 6 - 7 minutes. Remove cookies from the oven and cool on the pan a few minutes before using a spatula to remove the cookies to a cooling rack. Wash and dry the baking pans before using them for another batch of spritz cookies. Pressed cookies need a clean surface, free of grease, in order to stick to the pan when pressed out of the cookie press.
For the Anise Glaze: On a long kitchen counter, spread out a long sheet of wax paper. Place the cooled spritz cookies on the wax paper. In a small bowl, mix the powdered sugar, 2-3 tablespoons of milk (enough to allow the glaze of drizzling consistency), and anise extract until well blended. Mix green food coloring into the glaze, as desired. Using a spoon, either drizzle the glaze over several cookies at a time, or spread the glaze over each individual cookie. Add decorative sprinkles while the glaze on the cookies is still wet.