Christmas cookies are everywhere in my kitchen. In tins, Tupperware and cookie jars. This year I tried 3 new recipes; this one is replicating a particular cookie called a Scandinavian Almond Bar. It is somewhat crunchy and somewhat addictive. My guy snuck a bunch of them while I was at church Christmas Eve! It is a traditional cookie and apparently quite popular. I don’t know how I missed them! If you are not gf just use all-purpose flour and leave out the xanthan gum too. This is one of those recipes that is yummier than it seems like at first glance. Of late, I like bar cookies; less work usually and can look very uniform if you wish. Fussy complex cookies can be exhausting; this is easy despite the long list of flours.
Scandinavian Almond Bars
1 cup brown rice flour
¾ cup gf oat flour
½ cup tapioca flour
¼ cup potato starch (NOT potato flour)
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp xanthan gum
¼ tsp. kosher salt
Directions: Blend all dry ingredients in a small bowl; use a whisk.
Next: In stand mixer bowl: place 1 cup sugar and ½ cup butter, softened; beat until fluffy. Add
1 lg egg at room temperature; beat until blended in. Add ½ tsp. almond extract (I did more like ¾ tsp)
Topping: 1 Tbsp. milk, ½ c sliced almonds
Icing: 3/4 cup powdered sugar, ½ tsp almond extract, 1-2 Tbsp. milk
Directions: Heat oven to 325. Butter a 9×13 pan. Make dough and press the dough into the pan evenly; use a sheet of parchment paper to do this; it will be very sticky. Using a pastry brush; brush milk over the dough and top with the sliced almonds. Press almonds lightly into the dough. Bake 20-22 minutes. Remove when just starting to brown at edges. Let cool for 5-7 min in pan, cut into bars with a sharp knife. If too soft; let cool a few more minutes. Carefully move them to a wire rack. Let cool completely and drizzle the icing over the bars thinly; too thick and it will be goopy, too thin and the icing will drip off. Let sit a while until icing is firm. Can be frozen once iced. Enjoy!
Nut tassies are a local favorite here in eastern Pennsylvania. They look like a tiny pecan pie, about the size of one giant bite! I have eaten them at many people’s homes, heavenly delish and best made with pecans. In all fairness, I never made them when I could still eat all purpose white flour. Perhaps it is that I was able to just snag them off a cookie plate at someone’s holiday party. Now that such was no longer a possibility, I started looking and found a great recipe on food.com, a classic tassie recipe complete with cream cheese dough pie crust and a filling almost identical to the traditional filling. And it was gluten free for folks like me…eureka!
I whipped up a batch of these gf tassies for a family Christmas gathering a few years ago. Even after chilling the dough my crust was very crumbly and with trepidation, I rolled a ball a bit over an inch in diameter and it held together. Then I dropped it in my mini muffin tin and used my finger to spread it out and up the sides. It worked and the tassies were simply delish!
As to the pecan filling, I didn’t chop my nuts really fine; left some in chunks to give a bigger texture which I prefer. The filing is so simple; chop the nuts, then dump the sugar and eggs in a mixing bowl, add the softened butter and the vanilla and nuts; stir and it is ready to spoon into the little crust cups you just created.
When I first made them I put some in my cookie jar, closed it tightly and 4 days later those cookies (what remains) were still delicious. That is pretty long for a gluten free baked good. By the fifth afternoon my last cookie in there was getting soft so suggest not holding them for more than 4 days in a jar. A big bonus I love isthat they can be frozen ready to bake in like 12 minutes.
Kiffles are a local favorite here in eastern PA when it comes to cookies, particularly Christmas cookies. The Kiffle Kitchen on 512 north of Bath, PA made their reputation on their outstanding kiffles, available online! I used to enjoy them but never took the time to make them in the past. Now that I can’t eat gluten anymore, I thought, why not bake some gf kiffles? They are a sort of local Ukrainian specialty (Their origin is Austria-Hungary in eastern Europe) so finding them in a cookbook and also gf was a challenge. A few years ago, I purchased “Gluten-Free Baking Classics – The Heirloom Collection” by Annalise G. Roberts. It was published in 2014 and I bought it brand spanking new – not one miss in anything I have baked from it so far. Page 170 had the answer to my search; Rugelach, Kifles, and Kolaki.
I got my courage up and made a batch of kiffles (the preferred local spelling) on that Christmas Eve afternoon. I did jam filled, apricot and raspberry. The cream cheese dough in formed into two discs and chilled before rolling out between wax paper sheets into an 8-inch square. I did find myself chilling the rolled-out dough a bit to keep it from getting too soft as I filled and formed the kiffles. Not too cold but chilly. After rolling and a slight chill, cut each big square into 16 two-inch squares and put a tsp. of best quality jam on each; fold together so the filling peeps out both ends and chill some more on the baking sheet. I brushed them with heavy cream and sprinkled a touch of granulated sugar on before they hit the 350-degree oven. The cute packets of dough and jam bake up lightly browned and delicate in about 15-20 minutes. Success was felt when my mom ate a few that evening. Her smile told me how yummy they were. I wish she was still around to share them with. This is my first Christmas without her….
A couple of years ago I made them with the nut and cinnamon filling that is very traditional around the Lehigh Valley. Delish! I also hear that some stores sell special kiffle filling meant just for these cookies. Gonna look for it; hopefully gluten free and therefore safe for me to enjoy.
So if you are gluten free and crave kiffles; this cookbook by Annalise Roberts is the place to find a workable recipe. She has never failed me yet with her desserts and I thank my lucky stars her cookbooks are on my shelf to guide me through holiday, parties and everyday meals. I don’t mean to sound like a salesperson for her but I can’t say enough great things about this new cookbook and her prior best seller Baking Classics – my copy of that is well worn and I couldn’t exist without it. This kiffle recipe is way too involved to type out for you and I think that if you are serious about baking gf you need to check it out and get your own copy, real soon! Here are the ingredients for the dough and a brief directionns paragraph but this is a three page recipe in her book and if you want the entire directions you should support the author by buying her awesome cookbook called “The Heirloom Collection.
1 cup King Arthur basic gf flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 Tsp. xanthan gum
1/2 Tsp. bakig powder
1/4 Tsp salt
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter at room temp.
4 ounces full fat cream cheese
1 -3 Tsp rice flour for rolling it out.
1/2 cup apricot, raspberry and or cherry jam
Mix sugar and butter in stand mixer. Mix dry ingred. Add slowly. Form into 2 patties, wrap in plastic and chill 30-60 minutes. Roll out on lightly floured surface to 8 inch square; cut into 16 squares. Put rounded half teaspoon jam on center; fold up two sides and pinch. Place on parchment covered cookie sheet. Chill 15-20 minutes. Brush with optional egg wash or heavy cream and then bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. For a longer recipe buy the book! I will say that you should avoid jams with corn syrup in them; they boil out of the cookies; use jam made with cane sugar.
Note: I did a search on line for a gluten free kiffle recipe and didn’t really find one; lots of other cookies but these are quite a specialty and not made by most home cooks except in areas where they are popular and what you can buy is definitely not gluten free. I am very happy with these utterly delicious cookies and can heartily recommend them to you for your gf holiday baking. Enjoy
Originally published in 2016; just added ingredient list and minor text changes done 12/2020, and revised slightly today!
These miniature snowball cookies were the foundation of the Christmas cookie baking season when I was a kid. They were always made every year, sometimes a second batch had to be baked as we had eaten them all before the big day! You can use pecans but I rarely do; walnuts are cheaper and I sort of prefer their flavor for this cookie. Some people call them Mexican Wedding Cookies but we generally called them Russian Teacakes…However, in the midst of the Russian war against the Ukraine I am going to revert to Mexican Teacakes! For me it is not Christmas without these cookies so I was extremely pleased to find a great gf recipe. My sisters think they are better tasting than the old regular recipe!
They are easy to make with not too many ingredients. Be careful lifting them off the pan as they are delicate until fully cooled. The texture and subtle flavor of this GF version is actually superior to the wheat flour recipe of my childhood. When you bite into one it shatters into a delicious mouthful of sweet cookie. They are delightful with a cup of tea or coffee. My family clamors for a few to take home!
If you like them really sweet sprinkle on extra powdered sugar, less of it makes them perfect for those who are not used to too much sweetness. No one will ever know they are GF and you will get complements on their flavor and texture. This recipe is from Annalise Roberts’ fabulous Gluten-Free Baking Classics with some minor changes by me. Enjoy: they are rather addictive cookies!
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
6 tbsp. powdered (confectioners) sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups brown rice mix (recipe below)
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 cup walnuts or pecans chopped fine
Confectioner’s sugar for sprinkling
Directions: beat butter and powdered sugar in large bowl of stand mixer until light and creamy. Add vanilla, beat in. Add flour and gum, mix in until well blended, stir in walnuts until distributed. Chill dough for an hour.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Form dough into 1 inch balls. Roll in powdered sugar if you like. Place on cookie sheet lightly sprayed with Pam (not the baker’s version that has flour). Place about 1 ½ inches apart. Bake 13 to 15 minutes until lightly browned on top and bottom. Cool on pan for 5 min and then sprinkle with lots of powdered sugar before placing on wire rack to cool. I like to sift it onto the cookies so the coating is even. You could put a sheet of wax paper under the wire rack to catch the excess sugar. Store well wrapped: in airtight container, in fridge for a week or freezer for up to 30 days. You could store unbaked dough in fridge for a few days.
Brown Rice Flour Mix base mix (same as King Arthur gf blend) 2 c brown rice flour
2/3 c potato starch *not potato flour
1/3 c tapioca flour
Note: First posted December 2014 on my blog. Minor revisions have been made since then.