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.

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