Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Superman at a kryptonite party

It’s hard to imagine there was a time in my life when butter used to sit in my refrigerator so long that it actually expired.

It was my second year of grad school and I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies to get me over the hump of the start of a new term.  Imagine my horror when I happened to glance at the side of the box and saw an expiration date that had passed three months prior!  I didn’t even know butter expired.  

Fast forward to now.  In the past two or three months I have gone through at least 4 pounds of butter; using it to bake cookies, scramble eggs, and on toast – just to name a few.  Butter wouldn’t dare expire on my watch now.

‘Tis the season, of course.  What would holiday baking be without butter?

Ben and I went to a holiday cookie party the day before Christmas Eve, where the hosts were baking up batches of sugar cookie cut-outs and guests were decorating with various colors of icing.  Basically, it was a gluten-filled feast.  Being the only non-gluten eater there, I was given the title of “Superman at a kryptonite party” – I had to resist all those sweet, delicious, gluten-filled treats, lest see my demise (insert evil laughter here).

In reality, it was a piece of cake (no pun intended), but I love the title, so I’m going with it.  Who wouldn’t want to be thought of as superman?

Although that was an awesome compliment, I received an even bigger one that evening:  The gluten-free sugar cookies I brought were eaten by the gluten-eaters, who exclaimed how good they were!  If good things come in threes, I think our luck is good for that inch of snow to fall tonight that will bring Portland to a screeching halt (no work Wednesday anyone?).

If you’ve got some snow-related time on your hands, or if you are just a super-human and actually have butter left in your fridge at the end of this month, try mixing up your own better-than-kryptonite sugar cookies.

Peppermint sugar cookies
I made these into candy cane cookies, but you can also roll the dough into balls (just smaller than a golf ball) and flatten to about a ¼ inch thick and sprinkle with red sugar before baking.  A neat trick I picked up from my mother is to use the bottom of a small glass – 1) rub some dough on the bottom of the glass to get it a bit greasy (this step is just to get started), 2) then press the bottom of the glass onto a small plate filled with the colored sugar, 3) then press the sugar onto a rolled ball to flatten into a cookie.  Then repeat steps 2 and 3.  I found it works best if you use plenty of sugar and do a quick squash with the glass, then flatten the cookie a bit more with your hand. 

¾ cup brown rice flour
¼ cup coconut flour
½ cup tapioca flour
½ cup millet flour
1 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp xanthan gum
¼ tsp salt

½ cup butter, room temperature
¾ cup turbinado sugar
1 egg
1 tsp peppermint extract (make sure it’s GF)
2 tablespoons any milk
Red food coloring
Crushed candy cane and/or red sugar

In a small bowl, mix flours, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt.

In another bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, cream butter and sugar using your mixer or hand-beaters.

Add egg, peppermint extract, and a tablespoon of milk and mix well. Add the flour mixture a bit at a time until incorporated (you may need to take your hands to it if your mixer can’t take the dough).

Add another tablespoon or so of milk if mixture appears too dry. The dough should be moist and firm, but not sticky at all.

To make these into candy cane cookies, place half of the dough into another bowl.  Add 15 drops of red food coloring and work into the dough using a spoon.  Now you have a ‘white’ ball of dough and a ‘red’ ball of dough.

Place each ball of dough on a sheet of cling wrap and flatten slightly. Wrap up the dough with the cling wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour (can go overnight as well).

When you remove the dough from the refrigerator, preheat the oven to 375F.  

To make each cookie: Grab a small bit of ‘red’ dough about the size of a quarter.  Work the piece of dough into a ball and then roll out on a plate so that you have a ‘snake’ (remember making ‘snakes’ out of play dough when you were a kid?  This is sort of like that).  Your snake should be about 6 to 7 inches long and ½ inch across.  Do this with the ‘white’ dough as well.  Place both snakes side by side and wrap one around the other so that they are twisted.  Bend the top around to make the hook in the cane.  Flatten slightly and place on the cookie sheet. At this point, you can sprinkle with red sugar or wait until they are baked to sprinkle with crushed candy cane.

Place cookies on a baking sheet and bake at 375F for about 10-12 minutes, depending on the thickness of your cookies. When done, the edges will be firm and the cookies will be slightly golden on the bottom.
If using the crushed candy cane, sprinkle the cookies with it as soon as they are out of the oven.  Let cool a few minutes on the cookie sheet before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.