5@5 - Tips for gluten-free cookies
December 19th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

A few years back, when people heard the words “gluten-free,” the words “tough” and “tasteless” also came to mind. Now, with so many options available in stores and restaurants, gluten-free is kissing its drab reputation goodbye.

Mastering the art of gluten-free baking is easy with a few simple tips to ensure great texture (no cardboard here!) and flavor.

Just in time for the holiday cookie season, Whole Foods Market's gluten-free guru Lee Tobin offers five tips for gluten-free cookies that are good enough to bring to your next holiday party, or even offer up to Santa ... if you're nice enough to share them.

Five Tips for Gluten-Free Cookies: Lee Tobin

1. Squeaky clean
"The tiniest traces of gluten (just 20 parts per million) can cause a reaction for someone with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, and that can kind of put a damper on the holiday cheer factor. Be sure to thoroughly clean your kitchen surfaces and baking equipment to make sure any traces of gluten are gone."

2. Flour power
"Gluten-free recipes typically call for a combination of several flours (usually starches and whole grain flours) to replace wheat. I tell people to buy a prepared mix or to make a big batch and save the mix for future use since it’s a lot of ingredients (and measuring!) - sometimes four or five flours."

Gluten-Free Fig Bars

Filling Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound black mission figs, quartered
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cranberry juice
  • 1/4 cup Grand Marnier or other gluten-free fruit liqueur
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

Dough Ingredients

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cold
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1/2 cup tapioca starch
  • 1 1/4 cups oat flour (certified gluten-free)
  • 1/2 cup potato starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

Cooking Directions

  1. Simmer filling ingredients for 10 minutes, puree and set aside.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients (including sugars) in a large bowl. Add the wet ingredients and mix to a smooth dough.
  3. Allow dough to chill in refrigerator for at least one hour.
  4. Divide dough in thirds.
  5. Roll chilled dough into a rectangle of 1/2-inch thickness.
  6. Spread filling down the center of the rectangle.
  7. Fold each long side of rectangle to center, overlapping slightly.
  8. Carefully flip the filled tube over, seam side down.
  9. Slice into 1 1/2-inch' wide bars.
  10. Place on sheet pan and bake in 350º oven for approximately 12 minutes, or until firm to the touch.

3. Don’t crumble under pressure
"We all have crumbs when we enjoy a good cookie, but nobody likes it when it’s falling apart before you even sink your teeth into it. The gluten protein holds a cookie together, so in gluten-free baking you need to mimic it with different ingredients.

Additional eggs help bind ingredients and the use of xanthan gum (a natural powdered thickener) help create the structure needed to keep your cookie whole - until you devour it, of course!

If your dough becomes too thick and unruly, simply oil your hands before handling to ensure a shapely product."

4. Fluff up flattened cookies
"Super-flat baked goods aren’t very appetizing and a lot of people struggle to find a fix in the kitchen. The extra moisture causes gluten-free batters to be heavy and may require additional leavening - baking powder, yeast or the incorporation of air bubbles in the batter during mixing usually does the trick."


Dough Ingredients

  • 8 ounces cream cheese (softened)
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter (softened)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sweet rice flour
  • 1/3 cup potato starch
  • 1/3 cup tapioca starch
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Filling Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup pecans, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves

Cooking Directions

  1. In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese until fluffy.
  2. Add the sugar and vanilla.
  3. Measure and combine dry ingredients.
  4. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix for one minute, or until well incorporated.
  5. Turn dough out onto rice-floured board, divide into quarters, and refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm.
  6. Working with one-quarter at a time, roll dough into a 9-inch circle, spread with 2 tablespoons apricot jam and sprinkle with 1/2 cup filling.
  7. Cut the circle into 12 equal wedges and roll up each wedge, starting from the wide side.
  8. Place carefully on a parchment-lined sheet pan and chill for 30 minutes.
  9. Egg wash and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and bake at 350° for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

5. Make merry with your old favorites
"Don’t be afraid to try and adapt your favorite wheat-based recipes by making the appropriate flour substitutions and adjustments. It may not turn out perfect your first try, but you can make it taste as good as it did before and keep celebrating the holidays (almost!) exactly the same as you did in the past."

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Baked Goods • Bite • Christmas • Cookies • Dietary Restrictions • Gluten-free • Hanukkah • Holiday • Make • Recipes • Think

soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Alicia

    Every recipe for gluten free cookies contains xanathan gum. That's just a fat sack of worse for you that gluten (celiac's notwithstanding of course)

    December 13, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
  2. Laura Tapley, Glutenfree Granny

    I always learn something new every time I read on this site. Gluten allergies are my thing to learn right now... my grandson is a recently diagnosed celiac child. As I try to cook gluten free I am thankful for all the info i have found online.
    Cant wait to try these out next time he is visiting.

    Laura Tapley, glutenfree granny

    December 7, 2012 at 2:52 am |
  3. I make up statistics

    For all of you bashing gluten free stuff, the joke is on you! Gluten is actually the leading cause of cancer for parakeets between the ages of 1 and 1.37.

    December 21, 2011 at 9:10 am |
  4. J.I.M.

    If you are one of the few unfortunate that have a real problem with gluten, then all the best to you. However, if you are one of the many anti-gluten advocates that imagine that you are gluten intolerant because you "don't feel well", then this article only serves to encourage your imaginary gluten problems. I am so sick of hearing about gluten, like it's another one of the conspiracies of agribusiness to wreck our health. For the vast majority, gluten is a benefit. It's protein. Mostly it is good for you, especially if you don't have other sources of protein.

    December 20, 2011 at 7:56 pm |
    • marissa

      Gluten is inflammatory and difficult to digest, whether you "think" you have a problem or not. Wheat is not the same as the original grain, and it is ubiquitous in our food supply. Anything that is in everything has the potential to become a common allergen. At the very least, try using other grains and don't eat so much of one grain. Beyond gluten sensitivity, which I believe most people with inflammatory problems have, grains of any kind are essentially sugar. Sugar is also inflammatory. Inflammation is the root cause of all chronic disease. Wake up, people, and take control of your health and aging by eating a diet that reduces inflammation .... that diet will be restricted in simple carbs and sugars that shoot up your insulin (insulin is inflammatory) and restricted in gluten, among other things.

      December 20, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
      • Brian

        You must be a blast to hang around with. The regular toast of the office Christmas party.

        December 21, 2011 at 1:32 am |
  5. B.L.

    Eating gluten free is so healthy! Definitely a challenge to find great recipes! http://www.whatifoundwhilewalkingaround.com

    December 20, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  6. Unfortinately a Celiac

    Paula Deen has some amazing gluten free cookies, as a matter of fact they don't have any flour at all. One cup peanut butter, one cup sugar (or a substitute) one egg and a tsp of vanilla. Google it for the full recipe, they are great!

    December 20, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
  7. Unfortinately a Celiac

    If eating gluten just made us sick temporarily that would be great BUT... it doesn't. Celiacs who eat gluten are at astronomically greater risks of getting intestinal cancer, colon cancer and many more. Even small amounts of gluten. So Art maybe before you start talking about something you clearly know nothing about maybe you just shouldn't. Living with this sucks enough without having to deal with your type.

    December 20, 2011 at 6:24 pm |
    • Art

      Re-read my posts. I'm not attacking people with the disease, just lazy-a$$ed Melissa. She's gone way off track and has taken to putting words in my mouth. It's ok. It's all she has. If you have been diagnosed with this disease by a doctor, I can empathize with you. I too have a condition I must eat around. I hope you and those like you live a long & happy life.

      December 21, 2011 at 7:04 am |
  8. podunda

    mmmmmm Gluten – Homer

    December 20, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
  9. JM

    Come on now- this is about gluten free cookies for celiac and other with gluten issues; no about out why or when they are eaten. Time to get off the "religion bandwagon" and be a little bit more accepting and respectful of others and their individual needs.

    December 20, 2011 at 3:27 pm |
  10. Helen

    Thank you for sharing your Rugelach recipe – this will be my first Christmas for my son & I both eating gluten-free. Rugelach has been a long-standing tradition in our house.

    Thank you too for letting others know that 20ppm can cause a problem. One of the things my family is having a hard time understanding is that at a buffet, they must keep the serving utensils in the bowls where they belong. That using a serving utensil in another item can contaminate not only the serving utensil, but the rest of the item as well.

    December 20, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
  11. rrnyc40

    Great stuff – my family and I have held several bake sales to benefit Cookies For Kids' Cancer and gluten free options are always a crowd pleaser...So, good to have this info for our next!

    December 20, 2011 at 1:21 pm |
  12. coriolana

    Thank you #GlutenFree Mom and Son, for the tip about C4C (I can't tell you how that name makes me giggle, though. Cooking with C4...hummmmm). I have some friends I'd like to include in my yearly cookie rounds, but they are gluten-free and I was wondering how to make something for them.

    December 20, 2011 at 1:16 pm |
    • Gluten Free Mom and Son

      I had not thought of the C4 thing..lol. You can get C4C at William Sonoma. It is pricy but worth it. When you compare it to the pre-prepared packages it is actually equal in cost or less. I did the math and price per cupcake with C4C was about 2 cents less than price per cupcake of the pre-packaged mixes. It already has the xanthum gum in it too, so you won't need that as an added ingredient.
      That is so thoughtful of you. I had a friend make gf cookies for me last year and it really meant a lot to me that she went out of her way to make them for me.

      December 20, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
  13. Melissa

    These recipes have too many ingredients and would cost too much money to make. I'll buy Betty Crocker's GF cookies instead.

    December 20, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Art@Melissa

      Are you kidding?! How lazy are you? There aren't any more ingredients in this recipe than any other cookie recipe. YOU go out and buy Petty Crackers cookie mixes you lazy cur. Consider your Eatocracy card revoked!

      December 20, 2011 at 1:07 pm |
    • Art@Melissa

      Are you kidding?! How lazy are you? There aren't any more ingredients in this recipe than any other cookie recipe. YOU go out and buy Petty Cra cker's cookie mix you lazy cur. Consider your Eatocracy card revoked!

      December 20, 2011 at 1:08 pm |
      • coriolana

        How seasonal you are? Do you call your flying monkeys next?

        December 20, 2011 at 1:12 pm |
      • Art

        I'll get you my pretty and your little dog too!

        December 20, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
      • Melissa

        Art, you pompous twit, the people who have to eat gluten free (celiacs like me) spend their lives having to cook complicated meals to enjoy anything good. There's no popping out for a quick, easy meal. Gluten free isn't just gastronomic fad. We're blessed that there's a new market of convenient and good gluten free options on the market. So go F yourself. Good day.

        December 20, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
      • Art@Melissa

        Waa, waa, waa. You said the above recipes had too many ingredients. Boo elfin' hoo. You are the epitome of laziness. You want uncomplicated and gluten free? Hit McD's, order a burger and tell them to hold the bread. How easy was that?

        December 20, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
      • Melissa

        You're a moron. People with celiac disease can't go to McDonalds and can't order a burger, even without a bun. We are the people that must be gluten free. The crumbs on the counter are enough to make us sick. Go back to your day job, being a foodie gaylord snob.

        December 20, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
      • Art@Melissa

        This started with me calling you out as lazy. After doing some reading it turns out you're a liar, too. You're talking about celiac disease like it's a severe peanut allergy. Get over yourself. There's plenty of information on the net about how sufferers can eat safely at McD's, Wendy's, Outback, etc. The leg you were standing on just got amputated.

        December 20, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
      • Melissa

        Four minutes of googling makes you an expert, right Elitist Arty? The problem with gluten-free restaurant fare is that it is prepared by people less educated about gluten than you. That's scary and risky for the people who truly need to be gluten free. Enjoy your $50.00 pain in the butt cookies.

        December 20, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
  14. Diana

    Lee Tobin is awesome and I love his GF goods, especially the scones and light white bread. He has spoken with our local Celiac Support Group and remains a great ally for all of us. I highly recommend Whole Foods GF Bakehouse line.

    December 20, 2011 at 12:53 pm |
  15. End of times

    Jesus is the reason we should dispense with religion, same as for Muhammad and Zeus, and all the rest. Religion is the worst plague ever foisted on the peoples of the world. It will be the death of this planet.

    December 20, 2011 at 11:26 am |
    • 1%'er

      I could have sworn it was the U.S. Congress.

      December 20, 2011 at 11:32 am |
    • Mayan

      Just wait 'til December 22, 2012 comes ... IF it comes.

      December 20, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  16. Gluten Free Mom and Son

    They are coming out with some good gluten flours these days. I have been using C4C alot recently and the results have been amazing. My friends like the desserts that I make with that better than even regular flour (both my GF friends and my freinds that don't have gluten issues). For those of us that have to eat GF, it has been a godsend. Better Batter is also another one that I love using for everyday cooking/baking. There has also been more sharing of recipes and that has been great to see too.

    December 20, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • Gluten Free Mom and Son

      "They are coming out with some good gluten flours these days"...I meant gluten free flours...

      December 20, 2011 at 10:57 am |
      • Celigirls

        Mr. Ritts is a wonderful GF flour that I have used for the past few years and can be substituted cup for cup with any recipe and my family is unable to tell the difference. I order online at raisinrack.com (the 25lb bag is $57-that is the cheapest price per pound I have found).

        December 20, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Darshi

      What is C4C please?

      December 20, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
      • Carie

        C4C= Cup for cup, a new gluten free flour by Thomas Keller: http://cup4cup.com/

        It's spendy...haven't tried it yet but have read great reviews about it.

        December 21, 2011 at 12:26 am |
  17. Bible Thumper

    Having cookies without gluten is like having church without Jesus.

    December 20, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • Valentijn

      Yeah, Jesus makes me swell up and feel irritable just like gluten does. I won't go into details about what he does to my gastrointestinal system.

      December 20, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • End of times

      Jesus is the reason we should dispense with religion, same as for Muhammad and Zeus, and all the rest. Religion is the worst plague ever foisted on the peoples of the world. It will be the death of this planet.

      December 20, 2011 at 11:27 am |
      • Bible Thumper@End of Times

        Religion makes cookies taste like rainbows and butterflies. Without it, they would taste like farts and baby seal tears.

        December 20, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • J.I.M.

      Stop dumping on gluten.

      December 20, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
    • EuphoriCrest

      Hmm... Church without Jesus. Oh, you mean catholicism?

      December 20, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
      • Amelia

        I'm Celiac. Catholic. Love Jesus. Just sayin'...

        December 21, 2011 at 7:06 am |
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