Last month, Baby Girl’s daycare asked to feature my allergy friendly blog in the school’s newsletter as part of its cooking theme. I knew I wanted to create a recipe that was free of the top 8 most common food allergens (dairy, egg, gluten, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, fish and shellfish), but also fun and easy to make with little ones. When I asked the school if they had a recipe preference , my heart sank when the answer was cookies. In my months of allergy friendly baking, my biggest challenge has been allergy free cookies. While I easily have mastered allergy friendly cupcakes, cakes, and even candies, I always have found perfecting the feel and texture of top 8 allergy free cookies to be the trickiest.
One of the school’s vice principals told me I could just share the recipe for the Snickerdoodle cookies that I had given her and other school officials with Protect A Life (PAL) awards as a small token of thanks during Food Allergy Awareness Week last year. The only problem was that I had used a recipe from one of my favorite allergy friendly cookbook authors (Cybele Pascal) to make those cookies. And I wanted the recipe that I submitted to the newsletter to be my own.
Plus, having run across more people with corn allergies, I also wanted my easy-to-make yummy allergy friendly cookies to be free of xanthan gum (which is corn based) in addition to guar gum (which is bean based). I know there is at least one other child at Baby Girl’s daycare with a bean allergy. Xanthan and guar gum are often used in gluten free baked goods (especially when they’re also vegan) to add soft texture and cohesiveness. My challenge was to create the same without.
Most importantly, I wanted to create a cookie that met the expectations of my toughest critic – my 4-year old Little Man, who explained that his favorite cookie was “one with a soft middle and crunchy outside.” (The boy is wise beyond his years!) After making some tasty gingersnap cookies (too hard for my toughest critic), I decided to make some chewy sugar cookies inspired by a non-allergy friendly sugar cookies recipe that my son and I had used to bake cookies for Santa. It took a couple attempts of experimenting (while baking is an art, gluten free baking often is a science!), but I knew I had reached success when both my son and daughter kept asking for more. Then when my office colleagues (without knowledge which cookie was which) voted that the allergy free cookies tasted better than even the non-allergy friendly ones, I knew the recipe was newsletter worthy!
Even your littlest Valentines will have fun sprinkling these easy-to-make allergy free sugar cookies with natural, dye free pink or red decorating sugars! 😉 Although these may not be as easy-to-share (they taste too yummy!), they also can make nice Valentine’s Day gifts for teachers or friends.
(Makes about 2 dozen cookies)
- 1 ⅓ cup gluten free flour mix (e.g., Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour** or Better Batter Gluten Free Flour)
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- ⅛ tsp. ground sea salt (or regular)
- ¼ cup dairy free, soy free shortening (e.g., Spectrum Organic Shortening)
- 2 tbsp. dairy free, soy free buttery spread (e.g., Earth Balance)
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp. rice milk (vanilla flavor recommended)
- 1 ½ tsp. Ener-G Foods Egg Replacer
- additional granulated sugar or dye free decorating sugar (e.g. India Tree All Natural Nature’s Colors Decorating Sugars)
** IMPORTANT Note: According to product labeling, Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour is manufactured in a facility that uses tree nuts and soy. For those with legume allergies, it also contains fava bean flour. Always properly check product labels.
Method (or Mistakes)
Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and preheat oven to 350° F.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Then set aside.
In a large bowl, use a hand or electric mixer to “cream” together the shortening, buttery spread, and granulated sugar until well combined.
In a small microwavable bowl, heat rice milk for about 15 seconds (until warm). Whisk in egg replacer (using a fork is easiest). Add vanilla extract and egg replacer mixture to sugar mixture and beat with mixer until combined. Mixture should be light and creamy.
Add dry ingredients in two parts, beating after each addition until just combined. Make sure to scrape down the sides of bowl with spatula to incorporate all ingredients. Using a small cookie scoop (or tablespoon) make small balls and place on lined cookie sheets about 2 inches apart.
In a small bowl, pour a small amount of granulated sugar. Dip the bottom of a drinking glass in the sugar and then use to gently press balls into round flat cookies. (Tip: Your first cookie may stick to the glass, so press lightly at first, re-dip in sugar, and then complete flattening.) Sprinkle cookies with dye free decorating sugars or additional granulated sugar.
Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until lightly golden on edges. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet placed on wire cooling rack for 10 minutes before removing and placing on rack to cool completely.
Best enjoyed shortly after cooling! (Store uneaten cookies in an airtight container and freeze to maintain chewiness).
At-the-end of the day, not only did I get these chewy sugar cookies kid-approved by both my little Valentine’s (including my toughest critic, my 4-year old son), but these allergy free sugar cookies were so well rated that my little ones kept asking for more. Actually, by her repeated baby signs for more, I think these were my daughter’s favorite cookie ever!
I also shared these cookies with my office colleagues (to get them out of my reach after realizing I couldn’t even resist them when frozen). In addition, I had some non-allergy friendly sugar cookies to share, so I thought it might be a fun experiment to have my colleagues guess which cookies were allergy friendly and which of the common allergens they were missing. Surprisingly, no one guessed that these chewy sugar cookies were top 8 allergen free. Even more surprising, most didn’t think these were allergy friendly cookies at all!!
To my surprise – likely due to their buttery flavor, chewy texture, and beautiful shape (including the crisp edges my son had asked for and the natural irresistible baking cracks) – most people who tried both types of cookies guessed that the chewy allergy friendly sugar cookies, with the beautiful crunchy golden edges were the ones loaded with butter and other non-allergy friendly ingredients!
My favorite part of these cookies was their sweet buttery flavor and yummy chewy texture. And I was so happy to create a cookie that was not only dye free and top 8 free, but also friendly for those with corn or legume allergies! This truly makes this the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for all (including, folks like me who are not fans of chocolate candy.) And the fact that these homemade treats are so easy to create makes them even more special for those baking them. Try tying them in favor bags (similar to how I did the PAL awards above) for a “fancier” presentation.
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