Each month FBC member and nutritionist, Sondi Bruner, takes a favourite dish and shows you how to adapt it to be allergen-friendly, as well as delicious and healthy. This month she gives the classic holiday favourite, gingerbread cookies, an allergen friendly makeover. Enjoy gluten-free, egg, nut and dairy free Gingerbread (and it's vegetarian and vegan too!)
What I have to tell you today might be controversial, so I’ll slip on my boxing gloves and shield my face.
I know that many of you out there are skilled bakers. While I love to bake too, when I began developing gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free and allergen-friendly recipes, my dedication to precision and rules went out the window.
Don’t get me wrong: gluten-free baking has its own set of commandments, but I also neglect to follow them. Experienced gluten-free bakers will tell you creating gluten-free baked goods is a science, too, and you’ll benefit from using weights and scales and exact measurements.
Me? I prefer to toss everything into a bowl, see what happens and then use my intuition to tweak and troubleshoot. Does the mixture look wet? Then add more dry stuff. Too dry? Pour in more liquid.
Please don’t hate me. Can we still be friends?
Despite my lackadaisical approach to gluten-free baking, it’s rare that I’ve ended up with something un- delicious, plus my method leads to a lot more fun in the kitchen.
Today we’re talking about a holiday baking classic: gingerbread cookies. Roll-out cookies are notoriously difficult to create gluten-free, because when the gluten isn’t there to hold everything together, you’ll often end up with loads of rips and tears in the dough.
A typical recipe for gingerbread cookies will have the following ingredients:
- All-Purpose Flour
- Brown Sugar
- Butter or Shortening
- Ground spices: ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves
Here’s how we can make swap ingredients to create an allergen-friendly version.
Gluten-Free Flours for Gingerbread Cookies
Every gluten-free baker has a blend of flours he or she swears by. I prefer to use a mix of brown rice flour, sorghum flour, millet flour and arrowroot flour, as these are quite mild in flavour, and are light and easy to work with.
There are loads of gluten-free flours to choose from: quinoa, teff, buckwheat, coconut, almond, chickpea, black bean, oat, corn, amaranth and more. (For a more detailed guide, check out the Gluten-Free Girl’s guide to baking.
Flours made from quinoa, teff and buckwheat tend to be quite dense. Flours made from coconut and almonds soak up a ton of liquid, while bean flours usually work better in savory baked goods, which is why I choose not to use them as a substitute in gingerbread cookies.
Brown Sugar Alternatives for Gingerbread Cookies
Typically, when swapping sugars I trade wet for wet and dry for dry, but since I’m not using eggs in this recipe, I have a little leeway here. I chose to use maple syrup because it’s Canadian and awesome, filled with antioxidants, potassium, magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc.
Don’t forget that molasses is a sweetener, too: blackstrap molasses is a by-product of the processing of sugar cane into refined white sugar. It has all the nutrients that were stripped from the sugar cane and it’s especially high in iron and calcium, just in case you’re iron deficient or need to build your bones. (fancy molasses is sugarcane juice inverted into a syrup which is different fro blackstrap molasses). I prefer to use blackstrap molasses, but you can use another type if that’s what you’ve got in your kitchen.
Ditch Butter or Shortening
Instead of butter or shortening, I use coconut oil, which can be switched 1:1 in recipes. Coconut oil is a healthy saturated fat, it’s easily digested, and it has anti-microbial properties (in addition to being delicious, of course).
Egg Substitutes for Gingerbread Cookies
Applesauce is a great egg replacement due to its high content of pectin, which helps to bind ingredients together, plus applesauce adds a little bit of extra sweetness. Arrowroot flour has a sticky, binding quality as well, and that’s also why I include it in my gluten-free baking.
Gluten Free Dough Rolling Methods
There are two ways you can form the following recipe for gluten-free gingerbread cookies.
- Roll it out. Sprinkle arrowroot flour or brown rice flour onto a sheet of parchment paper. Take the chilled dough and divide it in half. Leave one half in the fridge, and put one half onto the paper, and then cover with an additional sheet of parchment. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough ¼-inch thick, then peel off the top layer of parchment. Use cookie cutters to stamp out your cookies. Carefully transfer the cookies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat with the other half of dough, and any scraps that remain after you’ve cut out the cookies.
- Log ‘n slice. Tear a piece of plastic wrap off, then dump the dough onto it. Roll up the dough in plastic wrap, smooshing it out into a long, relatively-even log. If the dough has warmed up too much in the smooshing process, put it back into the fridge. Slice the log into ¼-inch cookies and transfer them to a baking sheet lined with parchment.
Since I’m lazy and don’t have the patience to roll out cookies, I prefer method #2. They’re not as perfectly-shaped, of course, but if you plan to slather them with icing anyway I don’t think that matters.
And don’t forget to have fun! For more ideas about how to health-ify holiday cookies, check out this post on healthy holiday cookies.
- 1 cup brown rice flour
- 1 ¼ cup sorghum flour
- ½ cup arrowroot
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- ¼ tsp cloves
- ½ cup maple syrup
- ⅓ cup blackstrap molasses
- ⅓ cup coconut oil
- ⅓ cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large bowl, mix the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.
- Add the maple syrup, molasses, coconut oil, applesauce and vanilla to a small pot. Gently heat the mixture until the coconut oil has completely melted and everything is mixed together.
- Mix the wet ingredients into the dry and stir well. Chill the dough in the fridge for at least an hour.
- When the dough has chilled, either roll it out ¼-inch thick and cut into shapes using a cookie cutter, or pat the dough into a log and slice cookies that are ¼-inch thick. Place the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes, then remove the baking sheets from the oven. After the cookies have cooled slightly, transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Check out more of Sondi's Allergen Friendly Remixes for great ideas on including some tips for holiday eating with a Stuffing remake and how to host vegans and vegetarians over the holidays! Got a favourite recipe you'd like to see get an Allergen Friendly Makeover? Let us know in the comments!
Sondi Bruner is a holistic nutritionist, freelance writer and food blogger. She educates people who follow allergen-friendly diets about how to eat simply, deliciously and safely, allowing them to rediscover the pleasure of food. When she’s wearing her writer’s hat, she works with natural health brands to create content that will help their customers live fulfilling, healthful lives. Find out more at www.sondibruner.com. Or you can follow Sondi on Facebook or Twitter