Monday, 16 May 2016

The Gluten-Free History Project

May is Celiac Awareness Month, so this seemed like the perfect time to officially introduce a project I'm organizing: The Gluten-Free History Project

I am aiming to document the food traditions of individuals and families with celiac disease and gluten intolerance. The ultimate purpose of this project is to establish a cultural history and unite people for whom gluten-free is a necessary way of life. 

You may already know about my ongoing obsession with traditionally-GF recipes - I've been cataloging the many uses of our flours from all around the world. For a while now, I have also been researching the history of cooking and baking with food sensitivities - I even have a (small but growing) collection of vintage gluten-free and food allergy cookbooks! 
Part of Gluten-Free History...three of the earliest GF books I've found!
But cookbooks and journal articles only tell a part of the story...so that's where YOU come in! I am looking for people to contribute experiences and information, and/or are willing to answer some informal interview questions, regarding things like:

  • Adaptation of established family/cultural food traditions and creation of new ones
  • The evolution over the past several decades of GF cookbooks/recipe resources and how people use them
  • The availability of GF supplies/products across time, particularly flours & other scratch ingredients
  • Community and culture surrounding GF food online and in person, including the role of blogs, forums, restaurants/bakeries, and support groups

I have a list of informal interview-type questions I will be posting soon, and you are also welcome to contribute information apart from these questions. I’d love to hear from anyone who would like to share some of their experiences with living gluten-free! 

The project is ongoing - I am just announcing it this month because it coincides so well with the topic of Celiac Awareness. All new information and updates related to the project will also be collected on this page.

If you or someone you know would like to contribute to the project, or if you have any questions about it, please contact me!

Monday, 11 April 2016

Of crusts and crumbs

I first developed this crust when I wanted to try this pie filling, which originally calls for a saltine-cracker crumb crust. Mine doesn’t taste like saltines, of course, but it works great anyway - it’s exactly the right amount of crumbliness and has the right salty-sweet flavor to complement the tart, rich lemon filling. I took the above pie to a gathering of non-GF people and it disappeared pretty fast! Proof that despite being different than the original, this crust does exactly what it’s supposed to. I’ve since used the same crust successfully in layer bar cookies that normally use a graham cracker crust, and most recently in this lighter lemon-lime pie I’m sharing with you now.

But, you may be wondering, why not just use GF crumbs? Well:

First, let’s take a look at why crumb crusts are used in the context of wheat based baking. For one thing, crumbs provide an alternative to both the tougher flaky pie crust or the denser, more solid shortcrust pastry made of wheat flour. The latter types require some liquid to mobilize and develop a little gluten and allow some starch to gelatinize during baking (among other reasons), whereas crumb crusts are made with cookies or crackers that have already taken care of that step, and so can be made with just fat and sugar.

The second thing to consider, though, is far more utilitarian: graham crackers/cookies/etc are convenient - they’re cheap and something most people would already have on hand. When adapting to gluten free, then, this convenience ingredient starts to look less and less convenient! It’s both expensive and time consuming to hunt down GF graham crackers - or worse, make them from scratch - just to turn around and pulverize them into crumbs.

So, when neither of the two main reasons crumbs are used in this recipe apply to GF ingredients...it suddenly makes sense to look for another approach! Because we have such a diverse array of GF ingredients available, it’s possible to make a crust with similar texture and flavor from scratch, in one step, no crumbs needed. I find this approach more elegant and far simpler, on top of being delicious. This particular recipe is just one way to do this, but I like it a lot.

This is a nice uncomplicated formula - just rolled oats (half ground into flour), coconut flour, brown sugar, salt, and melted butter (or equivalent). A crumb crust doesn’t need to hold together on its own beyond the most basic level: there’s no dough to roll out, and after baking it’s attached to a stiff, sliceable filling/topping such as cheesecake or key lime pie - the filling supports itself. As a result, this recipe doesn’t need any added binder - the slight binding ability of the oat flour is enough. Coconut flour is unusual amongst flours, as it’s made from the fibrous pulp that is left after fresh coconut has been pressed for oil or grated for milk. As a result, it’s much better at absorbing both moisture and oil than nut meal, almost like a starchy flour in that regard, yet its texture and properties are unlike any other flour. A crust made with starchy flour would be more of a shortbread texture, while coconut flour instead contributes a pleasant crumbliness and unique mouthfeel along with a nice toasty taste (surprisingly enough, the flavor is not particularly coconut-y).
Press and bake the crust...

Lemon-Lime Pie

Crust:
120 g (heaping cup) rolled oats, divided (see note below)
45 g coconut flour
36 g (3 T) brown sugar
½ tsp salt (or less, to taste)
65 g butter, melted (see note below)

Put half of the oats into a food processor or blender and grind into flour. Combine remaining oat flakes, oat flour, coconut flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Stir in melted butter - mixture will still seem dry and floury, but will cling together a bit. Press the mixture evenly into a 9” round glass pie plate, making sure to come up the sides to contain the filling. Put the plate in the fridge to chill about 15 minutes, then bake 15 minutes at 350º F and let cool.

Meanwhile, make the filling:

250 g coconut milk (the kind in a can, not the thin drink)
150 g sugar
2 eggs, separated
60 g (¼ c) lemon juice
60 g (¼ c) lime juice
15 g arrowroot starch

...and it will hold together nicely once the filling has set.
Put the egg whites in the bowl of a mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Put egg yolks in a small dish. Combine coconut milk, sugar, and starch in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently with a silicone spatula, until smooth - it will start to feel slick/slippery when you run the spatula along the bottom of the pan. Carefully whisk some of the warm liquid into the egg yolks, then add that mixture back to the pan (this prevents the yolks from curdling) and continue stirring over low heat until it thickens to the consistency of a thin custard. Remove from heat. Gradually stir in the lemon and lime juice, then turn the mixer on at low speed and with mixer running, slowly pour the whole mixture into the egg whites and mix until smooth.

Pour the filling into the cooled pie crust (it’s OK if it’s not totally cold) and bake the pie until filling is no longer liquidy, about 25-30 minutes.

Chill pie in fridge several hours before cutting. Serve with coconut cream or whipped cream, if desired.

Recipe notes:
  1. I personally like the textural contrast of the oat flakes, but if you don’t want such obvious bits in your crust, you could replace the rolled oat flakes with instant oats, or possibly even just grind them all into oat flour. I haven’t tried an oat-free variation yet - if you do, please let me know how it turns out!
  2. I imagine coconut oil would probably work just fine instead of butter. That said, keep in mind the fact that butter contains a little water (around 14%), while coconut oil is pure fat. I’m not sure whether that little bit makes a difference in this particular recipe, but to be on the safe side, if using coconut oil you might want to sprinkle in about a teaspoon of water. Any dairy-free butter equivalent should work as written.


Monday, 4 April 2016

Charlotte GFAF Event

The Charlotte GFAF Event was this past Saturday. Events like this one are a great opportunity to try new GF foods from both local bakeries/restaurants and big-name companies alike, to hear helpful info from bloggers, authors, and medical professionals, and also to meet other people who are living with food sensitivities. If you were there, you already know it was a lot of fun; if not, I'm here to share a few of the highlights! 

My favorite new find was these potato & veggie fries (center picture above). The inside is light like fluffy mashed potatoes, the outside has the crispness of a lightly floured/battered fry, and all four flavors are pleasantly savory. I think I like the chickpea & red pepper ones best of all, but all four are tasty. 

Caly's Kitchen (top right picture), a local NC-based bakery, offers baking mixes, granola, and - if you're in the Waxhaw, NC area - some very tasty cookies and other treats. They use pea starch rather than potato or corn, and they are also the only source I know of for home bakers to buy pea starch in small quantities - it's a useful ingredient.

Nourish is an entirely GF & vegan delivery food service in Charlotte. They were sampling butternut macaroni (right center picture) and a tasty pimiento spread with hearty seed crackers (bottom left picture), among other things. They deliver weekly in the Charlotte area, and they also ship throughout NC.

Aleia's almond horns (top left picture) are a traditionally-GF style of cookie, as these are made with almond paste instead of flour, similar to some types of amaretti, almond rings, etc. They also have several more kinds of cookies and other things.

Pure Pizza in Charlotte offers a sprouted-grain GF crust (left center picture). It's not leavened/fermented, but the sprouted ingredients give it a very pleasant soft flatbread texture. 

Fields of Gold Farm was sampling goat milk gelato (bottom right picture). I tried the pistachio macaron flavor - it was delicious and rich. They also sell goat-milk soaps. 

Lenny Boy Brewing was there with some kombucha, a fizzy fermented non-alcoholic tea beverage brewed with a complex community of bacteria and yeasts. It's kind of polarizing as to whether or not people care for the flavor of the drink, but I'm firmly on the "love it" side. I especially like their "Elite Beet" flavor, which is gingery, earthy, and a little bit sweet. 

A couple of cider companies were there with drier (as in less-sweet) cider varieties, which I like a lot. Bold Rock is a Virginia-based cidery that just recently expanded into NC. They were sampling a green apple variety and a lovely new dry-hopped cider (cleverly called IPA, for "India Pressed Apple"). Hopped ciders are sometimes way too sweet, way too bitter, or both, but this one was just right - light, aromatic, and refreshing. I will definitely be looking for this at the store. Red Clay Ciderworks brought a classic dry cider and a tart cherry cider. They also make a herbal hopped cider which I'd like to try. Red Clay is just in the western part of the state for now. I hope they will make it up to the Triangle before too long, but if you're in Charlotte, stop by their taproom! 
New Udi's bread & Glutino toaster pastries.

There was more than just food and drink too - I found some really nice lotion (sadly I forgot to take a picture, and can't remember the brand!) and other skincare products. (FYI, skin products frequently contain wheat derived ingredients and/or conventional oats - not good to be slathering on your hands if gluten makes you sick!) 

In between all the snacking, I also managed to catch some of the presentations from the other speakers - there was some great info on living with food sensitivities, including tips for meal planning, current issues with the FDA's GF labeling guidelines, and good nutrition with dietary restrictions. 

These are just a few of the highlights. You can see lots more about the day from other bloggers and attendees by searching tags on Twitter - look for Charlotte #GFAFEvent and #GFAF tags. To see if there are any upcoming GFAF events near you, check out the schedule here - I will be at the events in Raleigh in August and Greensboro in September, hope to see some of you there! There is also a separate GFAF Expo which will be in several bigger cities this year.  

As you may know if you've ever been to one of these events, there were plenty of freebies to take home, too. So many snacks and coupons! The Milton's products were new to me - the crackers taste a bit like pita chips, and the baked chips are a nice salty crunchy regular chip style.

And, last but certainly not least, the surprises in my Blogger Bag! There was a lovely gift box from Caly's Kitchen, including a chocolate cookie mix and a bag of their tasty granola. I like to mix it with some plain oats, seeds, etc. for muesli. Also a bottle of spiced elderberry syrup from Norm's Farms, a local company specializing in elderberry jam and other products. (I know it's totally not the intended purpose, but I'm seriously considering using it in cocktails! Or macarons. Or both.)


Caly's Kitchen granola, two ways: mixed into muesli, or straight up w/ fruit. 
As always, all these opinions and statements are completely my own; as an event blogger I received the items provided by vendors and sponsors, but I was not otherwise compensated and I was not obligated to write about or feature any specific product(s) or vendor(s). 

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Irish Oat Soda Bread - A traditionally gluten-free recipe


When I first delved into GF baking over 8 years ago, the ingredient list required for most bread recipes was rather formidable for someone baking in a tiny dorm kitchen shared with several other people. A few months in, I was thrilled to discover an authentic traditional Irish 100%-oat soda bread that, being traditional, didn’t require any special starches or binders. It’s remained one of my standbys ever since. (I've mentioned it briefly once before, but I honestly don’t know why I’ve never shared the recipe here in all this time! Silly me…)

Sorry, oat-intolerant folks, but there’s not exactly a substitute for this one: the original recipe consists of oat flakes, steel-cut oats, and oat bran, with no other grains or flours. There’s really nothing quite like it - the texture is distinctly nubbly and it’s somehow simultaneously dense yet springy, with a delightfully chewy crust. I’ve tweaked it a little over the years, replacing some of the oat flakes with oat flour to bind it a little better, and letting the dough rest overnight in the fridge before baking to hydrate the oats more fully and develop flavor (original recipe bakes 30 minutes after mixing). More recently I’ve enjoyed using a little sourdough starter in place of part of the buttermilk. Here I’ve added a pinch of yeast instead to contribute some of that same depth of flavor, since I know most people don’t have GF sourdough starter on hand. I also like baking it in a dutch oven - it makes the crust chewier.

The original recipe also makes twice this amount - I made it smaller so the individual wedges would be more scone-sized. If you want to double it to make the full loaf, use an 8” round pan or skillet.

Irish Oaten Bread
{Adapted from a recipe in The Irish Baking Book by Ruth Isabel Ross (1995) - see above for the changes I’ve made.}

Makes 6 scone-sized wedges

100 g steel-cut oats
75 g oat bran
40 g rolled oats
20 g oat flour [or you may use more rolled oats instead]
3 g (½ tsp) salt
1/2 tsp brown sugar
3 g (about ½ tsp) baking powder - I recommend Bob’s Red Mill
3 g (about ½ tsp) baking soda
300 g (about 1 ¼ cup) buttermilk -OR- 240 g kefir/yogurt plus 60 g water
Pinch of dry yeast (optional)

Combine all dry ingredients, including yeast if using. Mix in the wet ingredients until well combined and transfer to a buttered 6” round cake pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Next day, take the pan out of the fridge and preheat the oven to 400º F/200º C, with a dutch oven or other lidded baking dish large enough to hold the cake pan. Using a stiff spatula or knife, score the loaf into 6 wedges.
Put the pan inside the hot dutch oven and cover it - immediately lower the oven temp to 350º F/175º C, and bake covered for 8-10 minutes. Remove lid and continue baking for a total of 35-45 minutes - the center should appear set and no longer moist, and the edges should be nicely browned. Let it cool in the pan a few minutes, then turn it out on a cutting board. Let cool before serving. Serve with good butter and/or jam, marmalade, or honey.

Notes:
Make sure all oats/oat products are marked GF! Conventional oats are frequently contaminated with small amounts of wheat, barley, or rye due to grain processing procedures. Arrowhead Mills and Bob’s Red Mill both sell GF steel-cut oats; BRM sells GF oat bran; GF rolled oats are available from many brands including BRM and Trader Joe’s. Oat flour can be ground from rolled oats in a food processor or blender.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Substitution spotlight: Traditional non-dairy milks in European baking and cooking

A traditional-style homemade seed milk.
Ah, good old-fashioned plant milks. No, that's not an oxymoron! It's often assumed that the idea of a milk substitute is a modern concept; sure, other things may fill the same culinary niche in cultures without a major tradition of dairy production, but it's not like people in previous centuries needed something to use for vegan cupcakes...right? Historically, if you couldn't have milk for whatever reason, you'd just leave it out...right?? Not necessarily! Milk is highly perishable, and it's easy to forget that until relatively recently, it was also a seasonal food. Add this to the many days with dietary restrictions imposed by the Catholic church interspersed throughout the calendar, and the existence of non-dairy milk becomes quite logical. Their use was by no means restricted to times when dairy was unavailable. From this we can see that people found them useful and enjoyable, and even practical. In some cases, they were indeed used as a milk substitute in the modern definition (though not necessarily for the same reasons) and treated as interchangeable with dairy; in other dishes, they were simply part of the recipe.

Almond milk, in particular, has a long and rich history, having originated during the middle ages in the Arabic-speaking world and becoming popular as a dairy substitute in Europe a couple of centuries later. The first English-language mention of almond milk I’m aware of was in 1390, though because it's called for as an ingredient in a larger recipe, I'm guessing it was already well-established by that time. Other nut and seed milks can also be traced back to this era; where almonds were prohibitively expensive or unavailable, milks made from regional ingredients like poppyseeds, hazelnuts, and hempseeds are also well-documented!

Milk was not even the only way people found to use nuts and seeds like dairy - recipes also detail the preparation of almonds in ways which resembled cream, butter, and even a sort of acid-curdled cheese! This is where I should point out: all these preparations bear little resemblance to modern processed, emulsified, stabilized milk substitutes, and the cheese certainly would not melt like some of the new products do (it is more like a crumbly or spreadable fresh cheese). Rest assured, though - from a food science perspective, these traditional nut and seed milks are actually much cooler! Thanks to the unique properties of their proteins, fats, etc., you can do things with them that simply can’t be done with the commercial stuff (the packaged kind is very watered-down, and on top of that, the stabilizers and other additives get in the way). (By the way, this applies to soy milk, too, which is about as old as almond milk and just as traditional, but I have not included it in this discussion as it was not considered as a deliberate dairy substitute until just a few decades ago. The same goes for coconut milk.) The real, homemade varieties of all these plant milks not only make for much better milk substitutes than the store-bought kinds, they also can do some things that dairy milk can’t! Coming up, I will show you some neat ways to use these qualities in baking and cooking.

Speaking of substitutions, I will be giving a presentation at the upcoming Charlotte, NC GFAF Event entitled "Recipe Remodeling: The Art and Science of Ingredient Substitution," in which I will explain how to keep the spirit of your traditional recipes even when you need to change key ingredients! The event is on Saturday, April 2nd - location and directions can be found here. I also have some tickets to give away!! If you’d like to win a ticket to the Charlotte GFAF Event, leave a comment telling me what kind of traditional dairy substitutes you want to see featured in a future recipe!



Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Baking history mysteries: Solved?

So, I had some oral surgery a few weeks ago and have been dealing with a diet pretty much limited to liquids, purees, and mush. (OK, technically after the first week of liquids I was also allowed very soft foods...but considering it still hurts to chew anyway, that doesn’t really expand my options a whole lot!) Basically, most of what I’ve been eating has to go through a blender, and since “Will it Blend?” is already a thing that has been thoroughly covered, I can’t really do much in terms of recipes right now. But I do have a bunch of recipe-related research to share, and the next few weeks seem like a great time to share it!  

I’ve previously mentioned my fascination with the various early American uses of rice and rice flour in baking, along with other historically-gluten-free baking. In the course of my research on this subject, I’ve come across a few unresolved mysteries with the origin of some of these recipes. I know this probably isn’t an especially compelling topic to many people other than me, but I’ve been super excited over the fact that I think I may have gotten to the bottom of a few of them! So, for any fellow food-history geeks out there, here’s what I’ve been investigating (And for the rest of you, there are also some yummy updates at the bottom of the post!):
   
Mystery #1: A set of recipes attributed to unfindable newspaper sources, purportedly decades earlier than their appearance in the Confederate Receipt Book (1862) and the Carolina Rice Cook Book (1901).
The recipes that appear in both the Confederate Receipt Book and the Carolina Rice Cook Book are the same word-for-word (well, except for the confusing omission of a couple of lines of text in Mrs Stoney’s version which results in one long, nonsensical run-on sentence of a recipe that originally was two separate recipes), and both claim to have originated from a Charleston paper. However, we know Mrs Stoney wasn’t simply repeating the information found in the CRB - there is no date given in the CRB, nor is any specific paper identified; the submitter in the Sept. 20, 1862 edition of the Mobile Register says only that “they were printed in Charleston, S.C., several years ago.” Mrs. Stoney, on the other hand, lists the source as “The Charleston Gazette, April 1830.” As Karen Hess, food historian and author of The Carolina Rice Kitchen (an excellent book, by the way, for anyone interested in food culture), has noted, this April 1830 article has not been found - nor, apparently, has any source prior to the 1862 appearance. This has led some people to speculate about the true age of the recipes.
Hess’s book was published in 1990, however, and since then, approximately a zillion old periodicals have become freely available online - and through the wonders of optical character recognition, these digitized documents are not only available, but searchable. The character recognition isn’t flawless, but between a few different snippets of the text, I was able to turn up several appearances of the article. It seems the recipes were repurposed throughout the mid-1800s, showing up attached to advertisements put out by various rice millers etc., and even collecting a few additional recipes along the way. I still did not find the Charleston source, unfortunately. But in the end, I was able to see that the original article did indeed appear in 1830...and even earlier than initially thought! In fact, the earliest printing I’ve found so far is an edition of the Philadelphia Port Folio dated March 25th 1830 - - and that article is attributed to the Charleston City Gazette, meaning it was originally printed even a little earlier still! A small thing, I know, but I was extremely excited to be able to confirm the previously-unverified age of these recipes.

Mystery #2: The origin of the upside-down rice bread.
You may have heard me mention this highly unusual, literally-topsy-turvy technique for making 100%-rice bread before - if you missed it, it’s towards the end of this video. The first English-language description of it, to my knowledge, was printed in 1796, attributed to a French periodical and, as far as I can tell, it’s a word-for-word translation. These articles claim the method comes from ‘the Americans,’ but no further context is given. But where in America? How and when was this method created? Are there other examples of upside-down baking anywhere? Searching snippets of the text only turned up later reprints of the exact same English translation - - a dead end. But then I went to the French article and employed the same method of text-searching. Well. I discovered the method seemed to have quite a history - the earliest description I found was from 1761! Subsequent descriptions were not just reprints, either - there are at least four somewhat different versions spanning 1761-1795, becoming more detailed over the years. A historical note: While the use of rice in loaf breads was far more common in the rice-growing region of America, rice breads were not unheard of in Europe despite the higher cost of rice there. Formulas for making part-rice or, more rarely, all-rice bread were published occasionally in both France and England in the later 1700s into the early 1800s, as both countries suffered frequent shortages of wheat many times in those decades, and it seems many people liked bread with some rice flour in it even after the shortages were resolved. What sets this particular recipe apart is the unusual method - and the significantly lighter crumb texture it allegedly produces, something the writer of the recipe makes sure to emphasize. Meanwhile, any attribution of this method to America doesn’t appear until a 1790 article. Earlier versions have no introduction beyond presenting a means of making bread from rice alone.

I began to question the recipe’s origins - if the method was American, why was it described in French many times across over 30 years before ever appearing in English? More troubling still is the fact that following that first English printing, a reader from South Carolina - the epicentre of American rice production and rice-based baking - sent in a letter to the editors of the publication in response, declaring the method “more complicated and tedious than that used in Carolina,” and offers his own recipe much more in line with those we later see in The Carolina Housewife, etc., which combines hand-pounded rice flour with either well-cooked corn mush or boiled potato, along with leaven and salt. (It may be noted, however, that apart from the unusual baking technique used in the previous account, the overall process of Drayton’s method is really not that different - both employ a pre-cooked starch source and sourdough-like leaven and are mixed as a batter consistency.)

Now I was even more determined to figure this out! This research was harder than the previous mystery - optical character recognition is far less helpful when searching through these older documents with their imprecise printing and antiquated spelling, not to mention the fact that the letter “s” used to look a whole lot like “f.”
Case in point: This was the result of copying text from an older version
with the antiquated typeface as shown below - the word should be "furnage,"
not "surnage." Even the typesetter got confused sometimes!
See what I mean?
After a whole lot of digging and thinking, another explanation began to look more and more possible: I have a hypothesis that this method of making rice bread may have been devised by French-speaking colonists in the territory that was then New France. Here’s my reasoning: Settlers in this area produced rice for their own use and to ship to France, and wheat did not grow well there. In Le Page du Pratz’s account of time spent in the French colony in the early 1700s, bread made of rice is clearly mentioned and said to be very white and good. Based on his description of the bread itself and the fact that the method goes unmentioned, I don’t think it’s quite the same bread. And perhaps it’s not even related to the above bread. In any case, though, it is very clear that the French colonists were creating their own rice bread traditions which developed separately from those in South Carolina, and the Louisiana colony (which, by the first attribution to “America” in 1790, was indeed no longer owned by France) seems like the likeliest French-speaking place for such a rice bread to be developed. Whatever the origins of this unusual bread, I really hope I can eventually find out more about it!

OK, enough about history for today - 
as promised, now here are some miscellaneous updates/pictures of things I've been making these last couple of months:
Based on one of my much older recipes, but now
without the eggs or additives. Almost there! 
More experiments in homemade natural food colorings - buttercream frosting for pumpkin cakes I made a
few months ago. This bright orange and vivid green are made entirely from scratch, not a store bought extract! 
Experiments in flaky yeasted pastry, using an unusual traditional technique to create the layers.
L: Banana bread mix from Caly's Kitchen, toasted under the broiler.
R: Rugelach recipe from Alice Medrich's "Flavor Flours."

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Cookie exchange! Part 2: The new old-fashioned way


OK, so I know it's a little last-minute, but I have some more cookies to share with you! Several of the traditionally-GF cookie recipes linked in this post make great holiday cookies and have traditionally been used as such, especially various types of amaretti cookies and other similar pastries using nut meals, such as zimmtsterne (cinnamon stars), mandelhoernchen, and kransekake. However, I’d like to focus on some of the traditional rice-flour cookies from other parts of the world. Some of these are already considered Christmas cookies - achappam, for instance, is a rice-flour-based variation on European rosette cookies, traditionally made at Christmastime. Others, though, are for different holidays or occasions, and we can build on some of these traditional rice cookie formulas to make more types of European Christmas cookies that are usually made of wheat flour!

Spritz cookies are formed by extruding the soft dough through a press to make various shapes. This means it doesn’t need to be rolled out or handled very much, which in this case is good. The texture and flavor of the wheat-flour-based recipe, from what I recall, are somewhere between that of a rich buttery shortbread and a sugar cookie. This is remarkably similar to some of the traditional Persian rice-flour shortbread cookies (naan berenji), also featured in this post. With just a few adjustments, I found a naan berenji recipe can indeed be the basis for some pretty tasty spritz cookies! As a traditionally-GF recipe, these cookies of course use no gum, nor any other binding additives (no psyllium, pectin, flax, etc).

This recipe, with some changes to the flavorings, made a stiff dough which I shaped by hand just to test it. I found the cookies quite tasty. However, they have a softly powdery mouthfeel - this is typical of some of the styles of traditional shortbread-like cookies from (what was formerly) Persia (now areas including Iran, Pakistan, etc). I personally like this texture, but it probably wouldn’t seem quite right to someone familiar with traditional spritz cookies.

First test.
Another more involved recipe, with the same changes to the flavorings, made a dough that was too soft - it melted and the shapes were lost during baking. Considering the pictures in this post, I don’t think it is supposed to be this soft. One possibility is that the author of the original recipe was using a measuring cup that actually held a little more than a cup, resulting in my dough not containing quite enough flour. The other possibility is that my syrup was not as thick and viscous as it was supposed to be - I had problems with the sugar recrystallizing, which caused it to have a sludgy consistency instead of thick and syrupy.
Second test.
These second cookies were too crisp - probably again due to the crystallized sugar, but a little more flour wouldn’t have hurt here either.

My third formula is sort of an average of the other two, and this created the best balance of flavor and texture and the dough worked perfectly in my cookie press. Egg yolks contribute a rich shortbread texture and golden color, and a little syrup helps the dough stay smooth and helps keep the cookies tender. Here is this recipe:

Merry Christmas!
Rich rice-flour spritz cookies
160 g Thai/water-milled rice flour (**see note**)
10 g potato starch (optional - you may instead simply use 10 g additional Thai rice flour)
1 tsp baking powder
70 g powdered sugar
¼ tsp salt
125 g butter
1 whole egg
2 additional egg yolks
10 g lemon juice
10 g water
10 g golden syrup (or other fairly thick syrup/honey)
½ tsp each almond extract and vanilla extract

Butter and eggs need to be at room temperature. Cream together the butter, powdered sugar, and salt until fluffy. Combine the whole egg, egg yolks, water, lemon juice, and extracts, then add this mixture to the butter mixture and beat until smooth. Stir the baking powder into the flour(s), then add this to the previous ingredients until well combined. Chill dough overnight, or at least for a few hours.

Preheat the oven to 350º F. To shape the cookies, gently form the chilled dough into a log and load it into the cookie press. Hold the press flat against a cookie sheet and squeeze out just enough dough so that the cookie will stick to the sheet, then lift the press straight up and the cookie should remain in place. (This is a little hard to explain if you’ve never made spritz cookies before - it’s not as complicated as it sounds! There are probably plenty of youtube videos etc. that can help clarify if this step doesn’t make sense!) Sprinkle cookies with plain or colored sugar or decorative sprinkles, if desired. Bake for 10 minutes.


**Note on rice flour: For this recipe you’ll need wet-milled rice flour, not stone-ground. You can get wet-milled Thai rice flour at an Asian market - I’ve seen several sources saying Erawan brand is trusted to be gluten-free. Please do not try making this with stone-ground flour (Bob’s Red Mill, etc) - it will probably not work right! Stone-ground flour is not only more coarse, it also has a higher proportion of damaged starch; both of these factors will affect the amount of water needed, the stickiness of the dough, and the texture of the final product.