gluten free holiday treats that don’t suck
December 11th, 2013
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?