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How to Make the Best Gluten-Free Cookies

December  2, 2014

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: Gluten-free cookies don't need to be dense hockey pucks or crumbly messes -- here's how to get them right, just in time for the holidays.

Gluten-Free Cookies

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As far as baking goes, cookies are easy: There’s no risky bain marie or smoldering hot caramel, no worrying about your dough not rising. You just mix together some butter, sugar, eggs, and flour, form your dough into cute little shapes, bake them, and then eat a few too many while they are nice and warm. 

Gluten-free cookies are a little more tricky. They have a tendency to become hockey pucks, which are useful for holiday family games, but not as fun to eat. They can fall apart upon first bite, resulting in a pile of buttery crumbs on your fancy dress. Worst of all: They taste “interesting.”  

More: Alice Medrich's gluten-free Russian Tea Cakes are interesting in only the best ways. 

There is hope, however, for good gluten-free cookies. With a few special flours and techniques, you’ll be able to make cookies that can hold their own at holiday parties. Here are a few important tips to keep in mind:

Use a Mix of Flours
Unfortunately, no single gluten-free flour will perform as well as ordinary all-purpose flour. A cookie made with just rice flour will be too cakey, while one made with only almond meal with be too dense. To mimic wheat flour, you will need to mix flours of different densities with a bit of tapioca or potato starch to lighten it up; the recipe below is a good place to start.  

More: Baking with a scale will change your life -- here's why.

Remember: Xanthan Gum is Your Friend
It might sound scary, but xanthan gum is key for successful gluten-free baking. It helps bind together the ingredients, preventing your cookies from falling to pieces. Be careful to not use too much; no one likes gummy baked goods.  

Let Your Dough Chill Out
Like serving booze at awkward family gatherings, refrigerating your dough will make your cookie experience much more pleasant. Chilling helps the flours and xanthan gum absorb liquid, which makes the dough sturdier and easier to handle. Without a proper rest, your cookies are likely to crumble.

Mix It Up
Think of mix-ins as the Spanx of the cookie world. They are a sly way to ensure that your cookies look like cookies, not misshapen gluten-free blobs. They give some structure to your dough, preventing it from crumbling. Fold in whatever you like: chocolate chips, dried fruit, chopped nuts. They add texture and variation, but also take the performance pressure off your plain dough. And really, do people complain about finding chocolate chips in their cookies?

These spicy chocolate cookies are a fun way to add some excitement to your cookie plate. A little bit of chipotle powder adds a subtle kick, while a hefty amount of chocolate makes them crowd-pleasing.

Spiced Chocolate Cookies

Makes 4 dozen

For the cookies:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

54 grams oat flour

58 grams brown rice flour

28 grams potato starch

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup raisins

1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips


For the cinnamon sugar coating:

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon


See full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Do you have any special tricks for gluten-free cookies? Tell us in the comments!

Photos by Mark Weinberg

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8 Comments

Madelyn October 5, 2015
I have no idea whether your recipes are good - yet (first time visitor) - but I'm pinning to keep track of this page because I love your writing style and sense of humor (almost as much as I love cookies.) Thanks for sharing.<br />xx,<br />mgh <br />(Madelyn Griffith-Haynie - ADDandSoMuchMore dot com)<br />- ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder -<br />"It takes a village to educate a world!"
 
leigh December 19, 2014
I've been using Cup4Cup Flour blend in my gluten free baking projects for years. Its a 1:1 substitution for all purpose flour and produces amazing gluten free goods!
 
Beth December 3, 2014
Unfortunately, xantham gum is not everyone's friend. Some celiacs (like me) and people with corn allergies can't handle it. Guar gum is a decent substitute.
 
Author Comment
Hillary P. December 3, 2014
I would just recommend weighing the flours and then using cup/tablespoon measurements for the other ingredients. The precision is important for the flours, but less so for the other ingredients.
 
FJT December 4, 2014
I'm European - we weigh just about everything for baked goods (fats, chic. chips - the lot!) and don't have cup measures!
 
FJT December 2, 2014
I'd love to try these but I'm a bit confused with the mix of measures used. I'm happy with grams and can convert the ounces to grams, but what does a tablespoon of butter weigh or a cup of raisins / choice chips?!
 
FJT December 2, 2014
Typo - sorry: choc chips
 
mmmassey December 9, 2014
there are many volume to weight converters online. Google is your friend!