Friday, 18 December 2009

gluten free gingerbread for Christmas biscuits and decorations

The Autumnal rain has finally given way to clear skies and the temperature is dropping with every day that passes.  I had originally written this saying I was half hoping for a mythical white Christmas, and right this second my dreams have been fulfilled (though slightly early!) as I gaze out of the window onto dark street enrobed in the first snows of this winter down here on the south coast.
Christmas is just around the corner and we are finally getting ourselves ready for the holidays.  One of last year's Christmas cakes is unwrapped and ready to be decorated with marzipan and candied fruits, rum-mince pies made with fruits that have marinaded all year, and gingerbread for decorating the tree as well as eating, of course.
The gingerbread recipe that I use is less sweet and far more fragrant than traditional crunchy English gingerbread.  My daughter & her friends were not that keen on bought gingerbread when she was little so I tried to create something more suited to their tastes.  She still likes this now so I haven't changed the recipe or spice blend in years.  The biscuits are subtly fragrant with a blend of spices which conjure up, in our household, the start of Christmas.  Whilst these baked we put the tree up and the smell of spices mingling with the rich pine tree confirmed that Christmas had definitely arrived in our house.  Then, every year, we would snuggle down in fleecy blankets under the light of our advent candle and read a chapter of Jostein Gardner's Christmas Story.  I love this Christmas ritual that still continues today, especially as my daughter is no longer the toddler enraptured by a fairy story, but a philosophy-studying young adult who cites this an enjoyable influence on her path to adulthood (I am so glad I didn't choose Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer!).

Adding the spices to the sugar & butter mix and gently cooking them together creates a more rich and fragrant dough than you get by adding spices directly to the dry ingredients, in much the same way that you would cook off the whole spices before making a masala for an Indian dish.  You can adjust these spices to suit your tastes, dropping the cloves (maybe) and increasing the ginger if you prefer.
This recipe can make thick soft biscuits or crisp thin ones.  If you are making decorations for the tree then crispier ones are better so roll the dough out to 5mm, bake the cut biscuits for 18 minutes, then allow to cool.  Once they are cool, pop them back onto trays and put them back into the re-heated oven for a further 6 minutes, then leave them to cool in the oven.  These biscuits will be crispy and robust enough to hang from the tree.  If you want soft gingerbread roll the dough out to 8mm and bake for 16-8 minutes until the biscuits are cooked through but still soft.  Let these biscuits cool on the baking tray for five minutes before removing to a cooling tray.

These biscuits look great decorated but as the moisture will make the biscuits a little softer it is better to ice them closer to Christmas or when you are going to eat them.  My icing nozzles are still tucked away somewhere in the loft so decorating these will happen later this week and I will add some photos later on.

Gingerbread recipe
  • 70g dairy free margarine or butter
  • 125g light muscavado sugar
  • 100g golden syrup
  • 35g treacle / molasses
  • 60 ml rice milk 
  • 3/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds 
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 300g rice flour
  • 100g millet flour
  • 100g tapioca flour
  • 60g sweet (glutinous) rice flour
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 2.5 tsp gluten free baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3 medium freerange eggs (150g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • measure the spices directly into a small saucepan.
  • if your scales have a tare function you can weigh the sugar, syrup, treacle and butter directly into the pan
  • add the milk and warm the pan on a very gentle heat, keep the temperature low enough to be able to dip your finger in comfortably (not that you need to do this as part of the recipe!)
  • sift all the flours together with the baking power and xanthan gum
  • beat the eggs and vanilla extract together in a mixer or food processor
  • add all the flour and then the sugar mix and beat on the mixer
  • once the dough has come together stop the mixer and scrape onto a plate
  • cover and chill (either in fridge or outside depending on your weather) until the dough is between 8-14°C
  • pre-heat the oven to 150° C
  • dust the work surface with a little rice flour and tip out the dough
  • divide the dough into 4 sections
  • working 1 section at a time, roll out as per instructions in the introduction and cut out using decorative cutters
  • if you are making these to hang on the tree, use a straw to punch out a little hole so that you can thread a ribbon through
  • place the biscuits on a lined baking sheet and continue with the rest of the dough
  • roll and re-cut the trimmings until all the dough is used
  • bake as per introduction
  • allow to cool completely then pack into airtight containers to store for icing.


  1. Kate... I am sending this link to my coeliac friend... she will love this!

  2. These look so pretty. Thanks for the tip on how to bake them for tree hanging. Have never made any for the tree as always thought they would very quickly go soggy.

  3. Hi Kate, what a fantastic recipe, thank you so much. I don't have the flours in that you use, may I replace with doves plain GF flour, if I keep the rest of the ingredients the same? Definitely going to try this one! Charlotte

  4. Hi Charlotte - You can definitely replace these flours with doves farm but you might find that the texture is a bit different. I have gradually collected lots of different gf flours and much prefer using these to a pre-blended mix but I do make mistakes sometimes they are quite easy to confuse if I am not concentrating!

    Choclette - i have just iced and dipped these biscuit. the piped iced biscuits are still crisp, the ones I dipped are a little soft but they are not yet fully dry. I usually only put a few on the tree at a time and store the rest in an airtight container so that I can replace the ones that are eaten with fresh. This helps them last longer!

    Hi Wendy, hello and thanks for passing on the recipe to your friend!

    I will post the icing recipe tomorrow (I just have to take some photos 1st). By the way I love the biscuits when they are a bit soft as the spicy flavours are more pronounced.

  5. These look great and I will be passing it on to my sister who is wheat intolerant. I love your Christmas tradition and I am very pleased to hear it continues even into your daughter's adulthood.

  6. Hi there, these look wonderful! Its so great to find a gluten free recipe for christmas cookies! I was just wondering how they freeze? many thanks

  7. Hello,
    I haven't tried freezing these biscuits but they have quite a long shelf-life unfrozen (3-4 weeks in airtight container). There is no ingredient that would make either the raw dough or baked cookies un-friendly to freezing, though if you do freeze the cookies I would suggest that you ice them once they are de-frosted (so don't freeze the iced biscuits, in case the icing becomes sticky).
    hope this helps :)