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.


"Buckwheat Flour, Gluten Free Flour, Pseudo Cereal, Buckwheat and Rice Flour Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe (Gluten Free), Whats Cooking America." N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Jan. 2015. <>

"Do I Have to Add Salt If I Use Unsalted Butter in a Recipe? -"Better Homes & Gardens. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Jan. 2015.

"4 Tips for Baking With Oat Flour." Food and Wine. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Jan. 2015. <>

Gruss, MS Teri. "How to Use Gluten-Free Flours and Starches." N.p., n.d. Web. 02 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. 02 Jan. 2015.<>

"Is Masa Harina Gluten Free?" Gluten Free Cooking School Is Masa Harina Gluten Free Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Jan. 2015.<>

"Shortbread." : King Arthur Flour. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Jan. 2015.<>

"Shortbreads for Every Taste |" N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Jan. 2015.

"Shortbreads for Every Taste |" N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Jan. 2015.<>

"6 Best Gluten Free Flour Substitutes - Three Bakers." Three Bakers Gluten Free Bakery. N.p., 06 Apr. 2014. Web. 02 Jan. 2015.<>

"Sorghum June Grain of the Month." Sorghum June Grain of the Month. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Jan. 2015.

"What Is the Purpose of Cornstarch in Shortbread Cookies." Food52. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Jan. 2015.

No comments:

Post a Comment