Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Gluten Free Graham Crackers

Having to be gluten-free, I have missed graham crackers. Graham crackers are needed to make s'mores. Who doesn't like graham crackers with peanut butter? Almost nothing can beat the merge of a graham cracker crust and cheesecake. I've been talking about making gluten-free graham crackers for a year and it is time to get with it!

I sampled several commercial graham crackers. I think Kinnikinnick, Smoreable Graham Style Crackers are relatively close to "real" graham crackers but they are made from white and brown rice. As most all gluten-free baked goods, they are expensive, especially compared to the number of crackers in the box.

Origin of the Graham Cracker

To make a good gluten-free graham cracker, I wanted to know; what is a graham cracker? I am finding that to make a good gluten-free substitute, I must know what makes a good gluten cracker.

The graham cracker was developed by Sylvester Graham in 1829.  He was a minister and vegetarian. He avidly promoted the use of unsifted, coarsely milled wheat flour. He thought the high fiber of the flour was better for the human diet. The flour's name became graham flour.

Graham flour is more coarsely ground than whole wheat flour. Both contain the bran, germ and endosperm of the wheat kernel.

Substitutions for Graham Flour

That said, then the true graham cracker is made from the special whole wheat flour. So, the whole wheat flour cannot be used in a gluten-free diet. What to do for a replacement?  Most gluten-free bakers are using white rice flour and brown rice flour. Many of us don't use rice flour, especially brown rice flour. There are several reasons - the main focus is on a high glycemic index and arsenic. Rice flours are used so much in gluten-free flour mixes because it is cheaper.  Brown rice usually works as a substitute for wheat flour. Finally, rice flours usually make a great product, as stated by the American Test Kitchen. I hate to be at odds with the American Test Kitchen, but there are other choices that are more healthy.

The highly recommended recipe for gluten-free graham crackers is the recipe by Rebecca Reilly.  I found it in a magazine, Living Without's: Gluten Free & More. I investigated the flour blend used in the recipe and, yup, there was white and brown rice flour.  Fortunately it also contained sorghum, tapioca, potato starch, amaranth, millet or quinoa or oat. It was close in ingredients to  the whole grain flour blend (70% grains-30% starch) that I make of oat flour, millet flour, quinoa flour, sorghum, bean flour, masa haring, amaranth, teff, buckwheat, tapioca starch, corn starch and potato starch.

There is a company that makes a blend similar to this. The company is Maninis and they sell their flours and pasta through Amazon. The company makes no flour blends with rice. It is rather expensive as with most all gluten-free ingredients.

Lowering the Glycemic Index

The second change I made in the Reilly recipe was to lower the glycemic index of the graham crackers.  I substituted part of the brown sugar for a sugar substitute, though I don't show it in the recipe. I used 1/4 cup brown sugar and 3 tablespoons Stevia in the Raw. Some sugar is needed for helping with the protein structure and tenderness. Of course, it gives sweetness also.

Substitutions for the Gums

The third substitution I made in the recipe was 1 tablespoon of seed dust for the xanthan gum. The seed dust contains flaxseed, chia seeds and psyllium, ground in a coffee mill.  Some gluten-free bakers substitute just the psyllium. Many bakers now use only psyllium, rather than gums. I like the seed dust because it works as a great binder, adds nutrients and adds taste.

Making the Graham Cracker Dough

I hand blended the butter into the flour mixture the first and second time I made the crackers.  The third time I used this recipe, I didn't have success using the food processor to blend the butter into the flour mixture.  The processed dough was much to soft and greasy. I think I need to learn how many times to pulse the dough. I may have over blended the dough.

When I made the graham cracker dough the first time, I made crackers with the dough after 1 hour in the refrigerator. (I was so excited to try the graham crackers, and could hardly wait). Compared to wheat flour, it takes gluten-free flours longer to hydrate and distribute the moisture. I had to add a little flour because it was slightly too sticky to roll out.

The other half of the dough spent the night in the fridge. It wasn't as sticky but still needed a little flour to help roll out the crackers. I eventually solved the sticky problem so the dough didn't need extra flour.

Once the liquid ingredients are added to the dry buttered ingredients,
the dough may seem to be very crumbly. The dough will work 
together by kneading the dough a few times. The plastic wrap can 
help work  the dough together without adding any extra liquid. (Why 
red plastic wrap?  I have red, yellow, green, purple, & blue boxes
left over from students performing light experiments in the 
chemistry classroom. Going to get those experiments posted some day. )

The Reilly recipe states to roll the crackers with parchment paper above and below the dough. Some bakers prefer to use plastic wrap or wax paper. I've tried all three but prefer to place the dough on parchement and use plastic wrap on top of the dough. Rolling out the dough using the parchment on bottom and plastic wrap on top requires no extra flour and it is easy to see the dough as it is rolled.

Roll the dough toward the edge of paper and turn the whole unit, paper and dough.  Repeat the process until the dough is about 1/8" thickness. (No extra flour is needed with this method!) Remove the plastic wrap. Cut the dough with a knife, pizza cutter or pastry cutter into 2x3-inch rectangles.

Holes in the dough are requires to let the steam out and help the cracker cook evenly. I've tried several methods for making the holes. I've used a dinner fork and other times, a meat serving fork. The very best method, I found, is to pierce each cracker with the flat end of a wooden skewer.  The first time I did it, I thought the holes might be too big but the wooden skewer holes are perfect after baking. I have found the dinner fork holes to completely close up during baking.

Leave the cut dough on the parchement paper.  Slide the parchment paper into the pan and bake. When the crackers come out of the oven, the crackers needed 5 minute rest time on the parchment.  They are very delicate coming out of the oven. Remove the crackers to a cooling rack. (The best cooling rack for delicate gluten-free cookies and crackers is a grid cooling rack.) The crackers will firm up and be snappy by the time they are cool.

S'Mores made with mini marshmallows, chocolate chips and
the homemake gluten-free graham crackers.  Taste - fantastic!

Graham crackers  (makes about 3 dozen)

2 1/4  cups gluten free flour (70%-30%) blend (see below)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar or 1/4 cup Stevia brown sugar blend
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon seed dust
7 tablespoons butter, cold, cut into pieces
2-3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon cinnamon sugar (optional)


1. Mix together gluten-free flour mix, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, seed dust and salt.

2. Using a pastry blender, work cold butter into dry ingredients.

3. In a small bowl, combine honey, cold water, and vanilla. Stir the honey mixture into the dry ingredients. If dough is too dry, add a little more cold water, a teaspoon at a time.

4. Gather dough into a soft ball, using the plastic wrap if needed. Cover in the plastic wrap, or drop into zippered plastic bag,  and refrigerate for at least an hour.

5. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut parchment paper the size of the baking pan.

6. Place the prepared parchment paper on working counter and place 1/3 to 1/2 of dough on the parchment paper. Cover the dough with wax paper or plastic wrap the size of the parchment. Roll the dough between the parchment and wax paper (or plastic wrap) to about ⅛-inch thickness, or how thick you like your graham crackers. Remove the top sheet that was used for rolling.

7. Cut into 2 x 3-inch pieces with a knife, pizza cutter or pastry cutter and prick lightly 4-5 times with a fork or flat end of wooden skewer. With the dough still on the parchment paper, place the parchment paper in the pan. (Again, don't try to remove the dough from the parchment paper until baked.)

8.  Repeat steps 6 and 7 for remaining dough as many times as needed to finish rolling the dough.

9. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes (depending on thickness of dough) or until golden brown. If cookies spread and bake together, re-cut while still warm. The graham crackers are very delicate while hot. If wanted, the very warm graham crackers can be sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.

10. Let cookies cool slightly before transferring to cooling rack. As the graham crackers cool, they will become firm and crisp. When completely cool, store in airtight container

Haven't tried it yet, but I'm pretty sure these graham crackers can be made chocolate with the addition of 1/3-1/2 cup cocoa powder and maybe another 3 tablespoons water.  In a few weeks, I'll try making them -- cutting out little stars and little bears. I will update when I do. There is always experimenting fun in my kitchen!

Graham Crackers -- first try.  Great taste but not pretty.
The look of the crackers improved by rolling a little thicker
and using a wooden skewer to make the holes.

Whole Grain Flour Blend (70% whole grain - 30% starch)

The idea for developing this flour blend came from Gluten Free Girl and The Chef.  There is a list of flours from which to choose to make flour blends.


200 g ( 1 2/3 cup) oat flour
50 g (about 1/2 cup) millet flour
100 g (about 1 cup) quinoa flour
100 g (3/4 c + 3 tb) sorghum flour
50 g bean (about 1/2 c)(fava &  
50 g (1/4 c + 2tb) (corn flour (masa
50 g (1/4 c + 2tb) amaranth flour
50 g (1/4 c + 2tb)teff flour
50 g (1/4 c + 2tb) buckwheat flour


100g (3/4 c) tapioca flour
100 g (3/4 + 3 tb) corn starch
100 g (3/4 + 2tb) c + potato starch

The blend becomes light and fluffy when the starches are added. This blend has a great taste!

Homemade graham crackers with peanut butter.
Any choice of butter can be used.  Wonderful to have again!

To cut out the little pigs, cats, elephant and teddy bears, roll
dough on parchment as usual. Place the parchment on the
baking pan.Then, freeze the dough. Once frozen 20 minutes,
use the cutters to cut out cookies. Run a knife under the dough
and gently pop the cookie out. Reroll the leftover dough and
freeze again or make squares without freezing. Bake the little
cookie grahams 6-7 minutes. Watch carefully. They burn quickly!


Bellis, Mary. "Sylvester Graham - History of Graham Crackers." Inventors., 05 Mar. 2014. Web. 13 Jan. 2015.<>

"Frequently Asked Questions." Food Safety Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2015. <>

"Gluten-Free Graham Crackers - Recipes Article." Living Without's Gluten Free & More. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.<>

"Graham Crackers Were Originally Meant to Be Part of a Diet Thought to Curb Sexual Urges." Today I Found Out RSS. N.p., 28 Mar. 2013. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.

"Home Baking Association: Providing Tools and Knowledge to Perpetuate Generations of Home Bakers." N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Jan.2015

"How Much Arsenic Is in Your Rice - Consumer Reports." How Much Arsenic Is in Your Rice - Consumer Reports. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.<>

"How to Make a Gluten-free Whole-grain Flour Mix - Gluten Free Girl and the Chef." Gluten Free Girl and the Chef RSS. N.p., 05 Feb. 2013. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.<>

"How to Make Cinnamon Sugar." WikiHow. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.

Disclosure Statement:
I have not received compensation for any products mentioned or used in this post.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Gluten-Free Shortbread Using A Cookie Press

Many years ago, before my gluten problem was identified, I baked  Cookie Stamp Shortbread cookies.  I even developed a Chocolate Stamp Cookie recipe that my children liked.  The cookie stamps I used were made from a variety of media, including glass, ceramic and plastic.

The stamps with deeper impressions seem to do better with gluten-free dough.

Those 2 dozen cookie stamps have been calling my name for awhile and I have been ignoring the call. I figured that it was hard enough to make a riceless cookie, much less try to stamp one. Even though I don't use rice flour, there are reasons bakers use rice flour in gluten-free baking. Rice flours (white, brown and glutinous) are the cheapest of the gluten-free flours; it usually gives a nice looking product and most people using it have fewer failures in the baking department.  But there is a problem in that it has arsenic. White rice flour has few nutrients and though, brown rice has more nutrients, it has more arsenic than white rice. Reading this info from Consumer Reports might help understand the problem.

What is Shortbread?

Shortbread is described as a rich, thick, sandy, buttery cookie and sometimes molded, then baked until the edges are golden. It is also a crumbly cookie. Shortbread is suppose to be a dough of 3 parts flour, 2 parts butter and 1 part sugar. Many recipes only contain those three ingredients. Some recipes list powdered sugar as an ingredient and some include the addition of cornstarch. There is cornstarch in the powdered sugar.  The cornstarch is used to absorb water from the butter so that the shortbread is dry. There is no leavening ingredient in shortbread.

Ree Drummond states that a shortbread cookie is entirely different from a sugar cookies, with different texture and flavor. She says that they should never meant to be eaten alone. They need cream, ice cream, fruit or something else.

The cookies can be made chocolate with the addition of cocoa. Instant coffee can be added with the cocoa to make mocha shortbread.  Chocolate chips, mini chocolate chips or chopped chocolate can be added to the dough for delightful chocolate shortbread. Toffee bits can be added alone or with chocolate chips for a great shortbread. Shortbread can be dipped in chocolate.  Lemon drink mix or lemon zest can be added to the dough to give lemon flavor.  Chopped nuts can be added to made nut sandies. Chia shortbread can be made by adding cardamon, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper. Give a hint of caramel flavor by using light brown sugar.  A savory shortbread can be made using some of the following ingredients: cornmeal, sharp cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, nuts, herbs of choice, cayenne pepper, paprika, chili powder or dry mustard. Dried fruit such as dried blueberries, dried cherries, dried can berries can be added to the dough for berry shortbread.

There are several ways to prepare the shortbread for baking. Sarabeth Levine believes it should be rolled and cut into shapes. Her favorite shape is disk-shaped because there are no sharp edges to over- brown. Ina Garten rolls her shortbread, cuts, bakes and dips part of the shortbread in semisweet chocolate. Shortbread can be baked in cake pans, removed from the pans after baking and cut into wedges while still warm. The dough can also be dropped by teaspoon and flattened with a small glass, fork tines or anything that can make a pretty pattern, such as cookie stamps. Laurie Sadowski has some great ideas for making shortbread cookies. You might like her recipe also.

 I wanted to be able to replicate the description of shortbread using gluten-free flours. Gluten-free shortbread is going to be slightly different from gluten shortbread. Trying to remember the feel and taste of shortbread before becoming gluten-free is difficult -- what did it feel like and how did it taste? I can only slightly remember. Most resources agree that shortbread, gluten or gluten-free,  should never be allowed to brown except lightly around the edges. Some gluten-free shortbread recipes call for an egg for binding the flours and starches.  The egg might give a different consistency to the shortbread.  Extra cornstarch or arrowroot flour might be needed to absorb water from the egg. I want to make a gluten-free shortbread cookie that will be exactly like a gluten shortbread cookie.

First try

The flour blend I used contained gluten-free oat flour, sorghum flour, corn flour (masa harina) and tapioca starch. The recipe called for xanthan gum, cornstarch, sugar and salt. It was easy to make and was buttery and sweet. It was easy to knead into a log.  Rather than cut into cookie disks, I rolled the slices into balls so that they could be stamped. The balls were difficult to stamp.  The dough was difficult to release from the stamp. Once baked,  the shortbread was too crumbly and delicate.  When baked, some of the impressions disappeared while the shortbread baked. The gingerbread man impression was very prominent. The glass stamps did not make good impressions because the impressions on the glass are very shallow. With the glass stamps, it was difficult to see the impression, even before baking. Final results: the dough was sticky, the dough stuck to the stamps and some of the impressions disappeared upon baking.

These cookies haven't been baked yet. When baking the oat flour shortbread,
the flower, apple and heart will disappear on the shortbread when baked.
How disappointing but the second try is triumphant.

Second Try

For the second batch, I decided to change the recipe.  I used the whole grain flour blend, mainly because it made a wonderful cracker.  Maybe it would make a better short bread.  The flour blend was the 70%-30% blend of 70% whole grains of oat, millet, quinoa, sorghum, bean, masa haring, amaranth, teff and buckwheat. The 30% of starches are tapioca, corn starch and potato starch. Other ingredients in the recipe include sugar, butter and egg and extra cornstarch. 

Making only half the recipe, the dough was mixed, the dough was dumped onto plastic wrap (or a Ziploc bag can be used), and kneaded a few times, until a soft ball formed. Using the plastic wrap (or bag),  it was rolled into a log with 2-inch diameter. It was cooled in the refrigerator for 60 minutes to let the dough hydrate. It was then removed from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature, 10-15 minutes.

What to Do Next

Remove the plastic wrap. Use a knife to divide first roll of dough into 10-12 equal pieces. Roll each disk into a ball and place on the prepared pan with parchment paper. Place the plastic wrap over the balls and flatten with fingers or small glass bottom.

Note that the log has be marked into 8 disks but had to be
remarked because each dish was larger than 1-in balls.

The first 9 (1-inch) balls from the first log.

The yellow plastic wrap gives the flattened dough balls a darker appearance.

With the plastic wrap over the flattened cookie balls, stamp each ball.  If the impression is not good, pull the plastic wrap off, reroll the ball, recover with plastic wrap and restamp.

Stamped gluten-free shortbread.  Because gluten-free dough is
sticky, stamping though the plastic wrap helps.

Remove the plastic wrap from the stamped shortbread cookies. (Save the plastic wrap to flatten and stamp the next set of shortbread). Place the cookie pan with the unbaked stamped cookies in the freezer.  Cooling the stamped dough will help the cookies hold their impressions while baking.

The flower, at the top of the photo, makes a nice stamp in the cookies but because
it is not very deep, baking doesn't hold the impression in the shortbread. The gingerbread
boy, the cat and the butterfly impressions baked beautifully, leaving the impression.

After baking, kitty and gingerbread boy impressions stay nicely but the flower is gone!
In the third trial, I found that placing the pressed cookies in the freezer before baking
help holds the impression during baking.

Notice that the cookies do not brown very much.  The edges are slightly golden. These cookies are buttery, rich, sandy and have good flavor.

Not Interested in Stamping?

This same shortbread cookie recipe can be made without stamping. An alternative method of making the cookies is just slice and bake. If needed, each slice or disk can be flattened with a glass or fork.

I liked the adventure of stamping and discovering what works and what doesn't work. (Guess that is the science teacher in me.) Another thought -- no matter what gluten-free recipe and gluten-free flour blend you choose to use, and there are many out there, you might have to experiment a little if you care to make perfect shortbread. I haven't gotten perfection yet and will continue working on the shortbread. If there are any extraordinary discoveries, I'll repost them.

Linda's Cookie Stamp Shortbread Gluten Free


1/4 cup + 2 Tb (49g) cornstarch
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (168g) Gluten-Free Whole Grain Flour Blend*
2 tablespoons egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon psyllium powder or ground flax seed or seed dust
extra sugar


Cut parchment paper the size of the cookie sheet.

Stir together cornstarch, sugar and flour in a bowl.

Blend the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives to form a soft crumbly dough. The butter can also be frozen, grated and mixed into the flour mixture.  It can also be blended with a food processor.

Mix in egg and vanilla to form a soft dough.

Empty the dough onto a piece piece of plastic wrap. Knead the dough several time. Form it into a log shape. Fold the plastic wrap around the dough and shape again to form a roll  1 1/2 to 2″ in diameter. Place the log in the refrigerator to chill for at least 60 minutes.

Take the log out of the refrigerator and let the dough come to room temperature, 10-15 minutes.

Cut the roll into 10-12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into 1-inch ball and place on parchment lined cookie sheet. Place plastic wrap over the balls and flatten. With the plastic wrap over the flattened cookie balls, stamp each ball.  If the impression is not good, pull the wrap off, reroll the ball , recover with plastic wrap and restamp. The impressions will not be as sharp using plastic wrap but the dough will not be stuck in the stamp.

When finished with the stamping, pull the plastic wrap off. Place the cookie sheet of stamped cookies in the freezer for 15-20 minutes.

Remove the cookie sheet from the freezer and sprinkle the cookies with a little sugar.

Bake at 350℉ for 10-13 minutes, until the edges are slightly brown and set. Remove from oven and cool in pan for 5 minutes. Carefully lift each cookie on cooling rack. The cookies will be delicate but will firm up as they cool. Repeat directions with the second roll.

When cool, store in an airtight container.

Linda's Whole Grain Flour Blend

70% WHOLE GRAIN FLOURS (all gluten-free)

200 g ( 1 2/3 cup) gluten-free oat flour
50 g (about 1/2 cup) millet flour
100 g (about 1 cup) quinoa flour
100 g (3/4 c + 3 tb) sorghum flour
50 g bean (about 1/2 c)(fava &  northern or any bean combination)
50 g (1/4 c + 2tb) corn flour (masa harina)
50 g (1/4 c + 2tb) amaranth flour
50 g (1/4 c + 2tb)teff flour
50 g (1/4 c + 2tb) buckwheat flour

30% STARCHES (all-gluten free)

100g (3/4 c) tapioca flour
100 g (3/4 + 3 tb) corn starch
100 g (3/4 + 2tb) c + potato starch

Rather than use oat flour, millet flour, and quinoa flour,  350 grams of one of those flours can be used.  I prefer to use all the flours. Each adds a specific purpose. The bean flour adds protein, fiber and moisture. Millet flour contains amino acids and helps prevent crumbliness. Quinoa flour adds a complete protein with vitamins, minerals and iron. Oat flour adds fluffiness and softness to the flour blend and is a good iron source. Oat flour also behaves similar to wheat flour. Teff flour is high in protein and has a sweet, nutty flavor. It is expensive and used in small quantities. Sorghum flour has a low glycemic index and has high anti-oxidant properties. Buckwheat flour is high in essential amino acids, fiber, vitamins, minerals and better when combined with other flours. The masa harina helps with the density of baked goods and helps give moisture.

The starches help a gluten-free flour blend to be lighter and help give rise and lift to baked products. Tapioca helps with browning and potato starch helps lighten up the product. Corn starch adds tenderness.

To make the whole grain flour blend less expensive, I mill the oat, millet, quinoa, bean, amaranth, teff flours and sometime the sorghum and buckwheat.  If this combination seems too much trouble, a company makes a blend comparable to this one. Maninis flour blends, found at this site, are more expensive but, are excellent flour blends. There is no rice in their blends.


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