gluten free holiday treats that don’t suck

December 11th, 2013

10 gluten free holiday treats (that don't suck)

I have been gluten free for almost two years now. In that time I have discovered that there are a lot of sawdust tastin’ turds out there disguised as gluten free cookies. Those are not the treats you are going to make this year.  You are going to make buttery, sugary, chocoately deliciousness. You can tell people they are gluten free, but they aren’t going to care. They’ll be too busy asking for more.

Many of the recipes I’ve love are naturally gluten free. They don’t call for xantham gum or lecithin–things I feel weird about buying.  They are old recipes based on nuts or egg whites or cooked sugar. Some you might have made for Christmases past, some you might have never heard of. I ordered this list from most familiar to least, but all of them are delicious.

english toffee recipe

1. ENGLISH TOFFEE: It simply would not be Christmas without a batch of english toffee. It is quick, simple, and everyone loves it. You cannot go wrong with the old favorites. And look I happen to have a recipe for english toffee right here.

candy cane marshmallows

2. MARSHMALLOWS: We are making peppermint marshmallows for my kids’ classmates this year. Making marshmallows is strangely magical. You start with a little sugar and gelatin and end up with fluffy sweet pillows. The image above is from a Martha Stewart recipe for peppermint marshmallows, but they can be flavored in a thousand different ways: toasted coconut, dulce de leche, coffee, anything!

caramels on elsie marley

3. CARAMELS: Every Christmas I make an absurd number of caramels and give them to my friends and family (and mailman and yoga instructor and neighbors and anyone else I know). The Martha Stewart recipes have not failed me yet. The gingerbread caramels are my favorite, but the chocolate ones are lovely, and the golden caramels are even better flecked with crunch salt.

mascarpone and boysenberry macarons

4. FRENCH MACARONS: This is the hardest recipe to make on the list, but well worth the effort. Last year I made peppermint, chocolate, and lemon ones for Christmas. The ones pictured above are my favorite to date: vanilla macarons filled with mascarpone cheese and boysenberry jam. Whatever flavor you make, do yourself a favor and follow the recipe and tutorial on the Not So Humble Pie blog. It is excellent.

sugar plums on elsie marley

5. SUGAR PLUMS: We go from the hardest recipe to the easiest. Dead easy.  I don’t know if these are what sugar plums actually are–does anyone know?–but they are delicious. Almonds and orange zest, cinnamon and nutmeg, apricots and dates. They taste like Christmas. They are gluten free, no bake, and vegan to boot.

Basler Brunsli

6. BASLER BRUNSLI: These swiss cookies are simple and sophisticated. It is an almond based cookie held together with egg whites and melted chocolate, and flavored with cinnamon and cloves. They don’t spread at all when baked, making them perfect for your cookie cutter collection. This beautiful photo of basler brunsli is from a lovely greek blog.

cinnamon stars on elsie marley

7. CINNAMON STARS: Even though these German cookies have many of the same ingredients as Basler Brunsli, they are somehow completely different. Nut based and flavored with lemon zest and cinnamon, they are brushed with a meringue before they are baked. When you bite into one you get a little crunch from the meringue, but then it gives way to the chewy, cinnamon-y cookie below.

hazelnut dacquoise cookies

8. DACQUOISE: Dacquoise is just a word for a nut based meringue. You can have hazelnut, almond, pistachio, or pecan dacquoise–any nut will do. Usually you make a dacquoise cake layered with pastry cream and chocolate. Dacquoise is incredibly versatile and quite simple. I think it’s strange it’s not more well known. These little hazelnut dacquoise cookies sandwiched together with chocolate ganache are just right for Christmas.

dutch cream truffles (slagroomtruffels)

9. DUTCH CREAM TRUFFLES: I haven’t made these yet, but they are on my list this year. Dutch cream truffles are made by whipping butter, then adding a mixture of cream, vanilla, and sugar that has been warmed until sugar dissolves and then cooled. This sweet cream cloud is then shaped, frozen, dipped in chocolate, and rolled in cocoa. I mean seriously.

I found the recipe in the book Sugar and Spice by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra. The book is absolutely amazing. Chock full of sweets from around the world and half–if not more–are naturally gluten free. If you love making desserts of all kinds, you must check this book out.


10. CALISSONS: I have never tasted a calisson, but the recipe intrigues me. Traditionally it is made by grinding almonds, candied melon, and adding orange flower water to make a paste. Then it’s rolled out, cut into shapes, and frosted with royal icing. Doesn’t it sound amazing? And there are many variations, like orange and ginger calissons pictured above in an amazing photograph from the French blog, Carnets Parisiens.

That’s it! Well really there are so many more, but it’s a start. Are any of these new to you? Do you have any naturally gluten free treats on your Christmas cookie list this year? Have I made you hungry?

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22 Responses to gluten free holiday treats that don’t suck

  1. Laura says:

    Great list! Thanks for including me!

  2. Kristin says:

    Thanks for this list. It really helps when you feel like baked goods are not easy to find and/or make :D

  3. hozishka says:

    Those aren’t sugarplums (I wouldn’t have known except Tumblr threw the article below at me twice in the past week!), but they look amazing.

    Sugar Plums: They’re Not What You Think They Are

  4. Thankyou Thankyou! I have been wanting to do some Christmas baking with my boys and wondering whether just to ignore ye old gluten intolerance since things that taste like old tyres make me feel sad. But now I don’t have to! Yaysies.

  5. Me again, in the recipe for Cinnamon Stars, is ‘Confectioners sugar’ icing sugar or regular sugar?

    • meg says:

      yes, icing sugar or powdered sugar (same thing). Also, if you make them I would suggest making another batch of meringue. The recipe says to save 2/3 of a cup for the topping—it’s not really enough. Do that and then make another batch too (and mix them together). Also, it’s fussy putting the meringue on top of the cookies. Another method is to roll out the dough, spread the meringue on top of all of it, and then cut the cookies out–diamonds will result in no waste, but stars are adorable.

  6. Jesse says:

    Don’t forget peanut butter biscuits! 1 cup peanut butter, 1 cup sugar, 1 egg, medium hot oven – couldn’t be simpler.

  7. Terri says:

    Love! Thanks for sharing!
    Every year I say I’m making marshmallows (my kids LOVE them). But every year it doesn’t happen. This year I AM DETERMINED!!! Lol I’ll start slow though and make a regular batch then maybe flavored. Thanks again!!!

    • meg says:

      Terri, you can do it! I feel you on the marshmallows. I put them on my list every year and rarely do they get made. In the past, I’ve measured everything out one day and then made them the next. Having everything ready to go, makes it so much easier. Good luck!

  8. Katie says:

    Thanks for the delicious-looking gluten-free treats. I don’t necessarily eat gluten-free but I know more and more people who do, and I cannot bring myself to make desserts with potato starch or corn starch or other yucky-sounding ingredients as a substitute for flour. I’ll definitely try some of these. Happy baking!

    Oh, I’d add peanut brittle to my list. The old Betty Crocker recipe is perfect and easy. I posted it on my blog last Christmas:

  9. Emily says:

    Thank you sooo much for this list! I was literally about to sit down and try to convert a favorite recipe of mine. Which I may still do, but this list is so great to have. It’s my second Christmas gluten-free but the first for my son, so I’m trying to be a little more ambitious with treats.

  10. Mina says:

    greetings from Greece

    thank you so much for your kind words and the photo in your post.
    have α happy holidays

  11. Knitlass says:

    Fudge! There is a great and easy recipe in Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s book ‘everyday’. Cream, sugar and butter – with vanilla or other flavours of you fancy. Yum, yum,

  12. oh those calissons look so lovely! It could just be the picture but I really want to try them!

  13. Tara says:

    oh, yay! I’ve been GF for the sensitive nursing babe. But dairy free too. The holidays were feeling kind of depressing for a while. Today at the grocery store I discovered coconut cream salted caramels. YES YES YES. I might still make them at home, but stilllllll. YES.

  14. Tara says:

    and just say no to turds. that’s my motto

  15. mrsrobinson says:

    Oh my, just catching up with reading blogs… but these all look so yum. Do so hope I can remember for next year…

  16. rebecca says:

    i’ve been enjoying your panforte made with a gf flour mix. comes out just as good as the original. man, that’s a good recipe!