Gluten Free Sugar Cookies with Beet-Dyed Sugar Sprinkles

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Valentine’s Day is probably my favorite holiday, and for all the right reasons…

SUGAR COOKIES!

These sugar cookies don't look or taste like they're gluten free.

These sugar cookies don’t look or taste like they’re gluten free.

 

Among all of my mother’s from-scratch baked goods, her sugar cookies have always been my favorite. I was a little nervous converting her recipe to a gluten free, dairy free version, but I managed to get it right the very first try! These cookies taste just like the “real deal,” and I’ve yet to find anyone that can tell they are gluten free.

The transformation is in large part due to the combination of sweet white rice flour* and King Arthur Flour’s fantastic gluten free multipurpose flour*, which doesn’t have any of the bitter notes or course texture that you find in many gluten free flours. And unlike many gluten free cookie mixes that produce a sticky, wet batter that is impossible to work with, this dough can be rolled out and cut with your favorite Valentine cookie cutters.

What?! A gluten free dough that you can cut with cookie cutters?! It's real.

What?! A gluten free dough that you can cut with cookie cutters?! It’s real.

 

Naturally-Dyed Sugar Sprinkles

I love the simplicity of sugar cookies decorated with colored granulated sugar, but I’m not a fan of the artificial dyes that are frequently used to create them. I’ve recently made a more conscious effort about eliminating artificial dyes from my family’s food, largely due to this report published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. But you don’t need artificial dyes to add incredibly brilliant colors to your foods… just step into your garden.

My daughters expect pink and red hearts for Valentine’s Day, and the beets from my winter garden easily provide these colors. To dye sugar, simply squeeze a few drops of beet juice directly onto the sugar and stir… there isn’t enough moisture to dissolve the sugar, and you’ll be surprised just how far a few drops of natural beet pigments will go.

Add a few drops of beet juice to sugar and stir well. Continue to add juice a drop at a time until all of the sugar is dyed to your preference.

Add a few drops of beet juice to sugar and stir well. Continue to add juice a drop at a time until all of the sugar is dyed to your preference.

 

You don’t need to cook beets… I get the best results from squeezing the stems of beet leaves in a garlic press. Turn the press upside down so that the juice runs out the backside… you’ll get more juice, and you won’t have to worry about minced stems dropping into your sugar.

Any beet variety will do, but these stems are from an heirloom called Mammoth Red Mangel.

Any beet variety will do, but these stems are from an heirloom called Mammoth Red Mangel.

 

The hue and intensity of color varies with different types of sugar (e.g., white granulated, Demerara, etc), so experiment with a number of types to find what you like best.

White granulated sugar (left) and Demerara sugar (right), dyed with the same amount of pressed beet juice.

White granulated sugar (left) and Demerara sugar (right), dyed with the same amount of pressed beet juice.

 

Isn’t Valentine’s Day about spending time with the people you love? Grab them and have fun making these sugar cookies together!

Gluten Free Sugar Cookies
 
These cookies are not only gluten free, but also perfect if you must avoid dairy. Although you could substitute butter or margarine, I highly recommend Earth Balance buttery sticks… they’re a fantastic gluten free, dairy free substitute, contain no artificial dyes, and are also non-GMO!
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: Makes ~2 dozen cookies

Ingredients
  • 1 and ½ sticks Earth Balance buttery sticks
  • ¾ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract (not imitation; McCormick brand is gluten free)
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 tsp almond milk (or other milk of your choice)
  • 1¾ cup gluten free multipurpose flour* (King Arthur Flour Company preferred)
  • ¼ cup sweet white rice flour* (plus more for rolling)
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • sugar for decorating

Instructions
  1. Thoroughly cream buttery sticks and sugar.
  2. Add egg to creamed mixture and beat until light and fluffy.
  3. Add almond milk and vanilla extract to creamed mixture and mix well.
  4. Sift together dry ingredients and blend into the creamed mixture. Chill at least one hour (I usually make this dough in the morning, for baking that evening).
  5. Generously sprinkle sweet rice flour on a sheet of waxed paper. Remove one-third of the refrigerated dough, sprinkle with rice flour, and cover with another piece of wax paper. Roll dough between waxed paper to ~1/8 inch thickness.
  6. Cut in desired shapes with cutters, sprinkle with sugar, and bake on greased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 6-8 minutes.
  7. Remove from pan to wire rack and cool.

Notes
I can’t vouch for how well these cookies will turn out with any other gluten free multipurpose flour mix besides King Arthur Flour Company‘s*. KAF gluten free flours are truly superior, without any of the bitter flavors or gritty texture characteristic of many GF blends. In addition, I’ve noticed that KAF flour absorbs much more moisture than others, so using another flour blend may require that you experiment with the amount of milk or butter sticks.

 

*Affiliate links; they cost you nothing, but help me pay for this blog.

 

5 Comments

  1. Violet Rose Gold

    March 1, 2013 at 10:50 am

    How can I be sure to have access to your wonderful blog?

    • Ma Hubbard

      March 1, 2013 at 12:08 pm

      Thank you, Violet. You can subscribe to receive email notifications of new posts. Just enter your email address in the subscription box (found beneath my picture on the right side of the screen). Have a wonderful day!

  2. Isis Loran- Little Mountain Haven

    March 13, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    what a fantastic idea!!

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