The Very Best Gluten Free Gingerbread Cookies! (dairy-free & egg-free option)
No Christmas without gingerbread..
..and a really truly great recipe is a must!
Gingerbread really is the flavour of the season. Shops are full of it, cafe’s are full of it, even your favourite coffee’s full of it these days.
If you don’t mind I’d like to strip it back to basics. Back to my grandmas amazing and ever-perfect Christmas-only gingerbread cookies. In fact, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret; namely the very best gingerbread cookie recipe on the planet! My grandma made it with oodles of gluten of course, but I’ve de-gluten’ed it and I cannot tell the difference in the slightest. -They are absolutely perfect!
One of the great things about this dough is that there’s no melting butter, sugar, syrup or the likes. No stove top action at all in fact, which makes it easier for you and safe for kids to join in!
The recipe I’m gonna share with you is for Norwegian gingerbread, and traditionally the cookies are made thin, crispy and rather dark. I know some people out there like’em soft, and they can easily be made softer by simply rolling the dough thicker. However, if you wanna mix it up a little this Christmas, even if it is just so that you can say you made Norwegian cookies, go thin and crispy. I sure will!
Now most great things in life will require you to roll up your sleeves, and there’s almost always some good old patience involved. I’m not gonna lie to you, gingerbread is no exception. There is a little bit of work involved, and you really need to let the dough rest over night. But trust me, when the house starts filling up with the scent of Christmas’ past, and those little golden pieces of jolly come out of the oven… it is just so very worth the effort!
Sleeves rolled? Here we go:
For a family sized dough (I’m thinking roughly three children, two of which are teenage boys. Lots of cookies in other words.) you will need:
- 300 grams of room tempered butter (or suitable dairy-free butter replacement -not spreadable!)
- 2 Eggs or egg replacer. (Nb: Egg replacer may change the dough somewhat as egg helps bind it in lieu of gluten)
- 1 kg gluten-free white flour (you can use The Gluten Free lifesaver’s own all-purpose flour found here) (in Australia I had good luck with Orgran’s all-purpose, and in the UK Doves Farm white bread flour worked well. I also tried Juvela White Mix, which did not work very well. Nb: do not use self-raising!)
- 500 g dark syrup (or treacle in British English) -If you use regular golden syrup, the dough will be light in colour, though the cookies will still bake fairly dark. However, proper dark syrup gives a lovely rich flavour!
- 300 g sugar
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp ground pepper
- 2 tsp ground cardamom
- 1 tsp ground cloves
- 4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 500 g icing sugar
- 2 egg whites (or scratch the eggs for egg-free version. Can be replaced by a tsp of gelling agent)
- The juice of half a lemon or one lime
First mix sugar and butter, then add the eggs. Once mixed, add spices and bicarbonate of soda.
Blend in the syrup, then carefully add flour. Nb: different gluten-free flours will react differently! You know your flour mix better than I do, so add or hold back as required. The dough shouldn’t be too dry, yet firm enough to knead. If it’s starting to feel a bit like ordinary cookie dough, buttery -crumbly, then all is as it should be so well done!
Each time I try a new type of flour, I always make a test batch to see how the dough reacts. If your cookies rise too much or spread; add more flour and/or roll the dough thinner. They should expand a little but not spread.
As mentioned in the ingredient list, in Australia I had great luck with Orgran’s All-purpose flour mix. In the UK I used Doves Farm white bread mix with good results, and I also tried Juvela’s White Mix, which did not work as well in this particular recipe. With Juvela I needed almost double the flour, plus the cakes spread due to the added bicarb in the mix. Point is; whatever the flour you choose, make a test cookie and ajdust if the result isn’t what you want.
Also; don’t mix all the flour in at once. Keep some aside in case your dough will require less.
Wrap the dough in clingfilm and pop it in the fridge over night, or at least 12 hours. This is where the patience piece of the puzzle comes in to play.. The waiting game. Though if you think about it it’s pretty good; you can make the dough when you have the time, then bake the cookies when you at some point come across time again! The dough only gets better the longer it lingers. Obviously not till next year, but any time within three days should do the trick.
The Best Bit!
Start by turning on your oven. Every oven is different, but my gingerbread cookies bake perfectly on 160 c (320 f) conventional (not fan) for exactly 11 minutes.
The fun part comes next; kneading, rolling and cutting!
The dough will be cold and hard after a night in the fridge, but it will soon soften after a good kneading. If you find it too hard to work with then just leave it on the counter for an hour or so before you get started.
As I make my cookies the Norwegian way, I roll the dough quite thin. So thin in fact that it starts looking lighter in colour. I suppose it would equal to a rough quarter of a centimeter.. Don’t ask me about inches, I’ll get you into trouble. The dough will require flouring along the way, so make sure you have some flour handy to get you out of any sticky situations.
If you, like me, live in a country where the outside of the oven seems hotter than the inside, I recommend airconditioning for this job. The dough is virtually impossible to work with in the heat because of the fairly high butter content. Even my stone bench proved too much for the poor little gingerbread men. Without aircon they will hang on to the surface as though their lives depend on it.
Yet another tip:
Roll the dough straight onto the baking paper, cut the shapes and remove the surplus dough, then simply lift the paper onto the baking tray. Easy peasy.
The baking is best done with more than one tray. -Fill one whilst the other one’s baking.
With gingerbread there’s a scarily fine line between done and burnt. As mentioned mine magically need 11 minutes pretty much on the dot. If I give them 9 they’re raw, and by 12 they’re burnt. That being said, I always burn one tray. Every year. Bare in mind the thickness of your cookies. Thicker ones will need more time to bake, so by all means try to keep them even on any one tray, or you’ll run into all kinds of trouble.
As soon as they start darkening in colour keep an eye on them. Take them out when they have reached your preferred shade of golden deliciousness, then pull the whole sheet of baking paper off the tray and onto a cooling rack. The cookies will be soft whilst they’re still hot, but fret not they will crispen beautifully as they cool down.
Once they’re cold and all the mess is cleared up, the icing can begin!
Perfect Gingerbread Icing
Mix up the icing and fill a plastic bag to make a piping bag. It pays off to choose a bag that can handle a beating. If it pops in the process you’ll fast learn the meaning of sticky.. Also make sure you don’t cut too big a hole in the bag. All it takes is tiiiiny.
Roll the plastic bag over the sides of a container. Makes for easy filling.
Because the icing is made with egg whites it will harden well enough for the cookies to be stacked in a tin. This dough is also great for gingerbread houses, and the icing is particularly good for such projects too.
Queensland Australia is as humid as it is hot, and humidity is the ultimate killer for crispy cookies. I’ve worked out that putting a bit of dry rice in the bottom of the tins will keep the moisture from getting to your cookies, and by all means make sure your tins have good lids!
More cookies can be made with the same dough. You can find one yummy version called Peppernuts, on this link!
Baking gingerbread cookies always takes me right back to my childhood. Even now as I’m oceans away from the snowy Christmases of my past, this cozy annual family ritual does the trick.
I wish you a very merry gingerbread baking, and I hope you’ll find just the feeling that rings right for you!