My 2017 Christmas box contains a combination of old favorites and new surprises. Green Gal Granola is an annual “must-include”; my homemade citrus salt is making a repeat appearance; and I’ve created another set of homemade cards, using leftover papers and previously sent cards for my designs. Back by popular demand is my special fruited chocolate bark, too. But there are some new items, as well, including a to-die-for gluten-free cookie (see below), some special holiday items from the folks at New Hope Network Co-op’s Blogger Box and local artist finds from potter John Boss and Chad and Felicia of Mississippi Mud Pottery.
As I expected, I struggled with the Christmas cookie selection for my daughter Heather, who is gluten-sensitive. When her childhood favorite was traditional Scottish shortbread, made with tons of all-purpose white flour, what to do? Well, the struggle is officially over, thanks to inspiration from World of Chia Raspberry Fruit Spread, a yummy new product I am so pleased to recommend.
This beautiful fruit spread is so well-balanced between sweet and tangy, so spreadable, so healthy and so full of fresh raspberry flavor, I just had to create a recipe to show it off. When Heather and I test-tasted a spoonful we both said “cookie!” And because this luscious spread is gluten free, I decided to take up the challenge and attempt a gluten-free shortbread thumbprint. And, you know what? I did it!! And so can you…with just a few adjustments, so be sure to read over the tips that follow the recipe.
- Two cups gluten-free flour mixture (I chose Bob’s Red Mill Organic All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour, which substitutes one for one with regular flour—just add the recommended amount of xanthan gum for your recipe. Measurements are on the flour package.)
- One-half cup gluten-free cornmeal (Technically, all cornmeal should be gluten free, but to be sure only buy “certified gluten free.”)
- One-quarter teaspoon baking powder
- One-quarter teaspoon fine sea salt
- One-half teaspoon xanthan gum
- Two tablespoons lemon zest
- Two sticks unsalted butter, softened
- Two-thirds cup evaporated cane juice
- One large egg, room temperature
- One-quarter cup buttermilk, room temperature
- One teaspoon pure vanilla extract (Coconut extract is also nice here, if you prefer.)
- One cup pecan halves, crushed (I pulsed mine in the food processor. You want the consistency of even crumbs, not chopped nuts. But be careful; there is a fine line of two or three pulses between pecan crumbs and pecan butter. Light touch!)
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, xanthan gum and lemon zest. Set aside.
- Whisk the egg with the buttermilk. Set aside.
- In the large bowl of an electric mixture, beat the butter until fluffy. Gradually add the evaporated cane juice and beat until light and creamy. Add the egg/buttermilk mixture and continue to beat until combined. Add the vanilla and beat until everything is smooth.
- With the mixer on low speed, add in the flour mixture, spoonful by spoonful, scraping the sides of the bowl, as necessary. Once you have a smooth, fairly stiff dough, turn it out on plastic wrap, divide in half and chill well, at least two hours and up to 24. Your sweet spot is four hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Prepare baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper. Note that even well-chilled, this dough can be sticky. Parchment paper is a must.
- Prepare the pecans and place the crushed pieces in a wide flat bowl for rolling your dough balls.
- Remove half the dough from the frig. Using your hands, roll out one-inch balls that will then be rolled in the pecans to coat. Place one inch apart on baking sheets and make a fairly deep indent in the center of each ball with your thumb.
- Working with one baking sheet at a time (Any pre-rolled/pecan-coated dough balls should wait their turn in the frig while the others are baking.), bake the thumbprints for 10-12 minutes, with a half turn at about six minutes.
- Once baked, let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for two minutes before transferring to cooling racks. When you remove the hot cookies from the oven, use the back of your tiniest spoon to re-indent the center of each cookie while they are warm because, despite your best efforts to keep these buttery balls from spreading, they will. A second indent is essential—see below.
- Continue rolling, coating, baking and repeating the indent until all the cookies are baked. Once the cookies have cooled completely, fill with your favorite jam or jelly.
Note that the prep time equals the time it takes to make the dough and crush the pecans. It does not include the chill time, which allows you to make the dough ahead up to one day. The cook time refers to how long it will take to bake the entire batch of cookies. Each sheet will take 10-12 minutes, with that rotation halfway through. Do not over-bake the cookies. They should look sandy but not brown.
Keep It Cold
This batter is very sticky when you first make it, and the longer it rests in the frig the easier it will be to handle. Chilling this dough well and keeping it cold before it goes in the oven will give you a much better looking and tasting cookie in the end.
One at a Time
While you might be tempted to double up your sheets in the oven to speed up the baking process, really resist this. These cookies need your full attention and their own special place in that heat-filled oven. Be brave and patient.
It’s that raspberry jam—or you favorite jam/jelly—that will make these cookies the standout on the cookie try, but storing them after they are filled and keeping them fresh will be difficult. Solution: store your cookies in parchment-lined tins, unfilled. Keep the tins in a cool, dry place. Fill your thumbprints as you serve them, placing them on the top of the cookie pile. Everyone will be impressed… and just wait until they bite into that crumbly, short, butter confection with a dab of jam. Fa La La La La….
While I will always love and cherish the homemade jams and jellies I buy at my farmers market, I still highly recommend World of Chia. If you are a raspberry lover, you will not be disappointed in its intense, fresh flavor. You can order online and select from raspberry, two kinds of blackberry or strawberry flavors. Or buy them all! At about $7 per 10-ounce jar, it’s a great deal.
What would a Christmas cookie be without a pretty plate and hot cup of cocoa, coffee or tea? Including a handmade cup (John Boss Pottery) and a colorfully painted plate (Mississippi Mud Pottery) takes the simple gift of homemade cookies to something that is truly one-of-a-kind special. Note the John Boss star ornament in the cover photo that also became part of the gift.
To round out this simple but special surprise of yuletide joy, I included Numi Teas—a family favorite for years in my house and featured in the New Hope Blogger Box. Numi Teas are delicious and the company is one of high integrity: organic ingredients, Fair Trade-sourced and community-minded. Then there are the flavors—hibiscus, floral rose, lemon verbena and ginger, just to name a few. You can find them at any natural foods store and some larger chains. I will be confident that while my gift recipients will love every sip, the Earth and its people benefit, too.
My final item for the Christmas box was a candle from Aroma Naturals. Small, personal and fragrant, the special holiday-inspired scents are made of non-GMO soy and vegetable food grade waxes and enhanced with only 100 percent pure essential oils and plant aromas.
So there you have it. Simple. Green. Not extravagant in any way. But given straight from the heart.
Share your simple and green gift ideas, won’t you? Happy holidays from GGMW.