One of Lua’s most beloved past times is making cut-out cookies. My mom, the avid holiday cookie-maker, couldn’t wait for her first chance to make cookies with Lua two Christmas’s ago. Ever since, no matter what time of year, when Grandma Bobbie is visiting or when we are in Minnesota we make cookies.
As Halloween approaches we wanted to bring a special treat to her Hedgesparrow Tuesday morning group. It is a parent-child group organized by the Waldorf School of South West London located in Balham. It was the first group we joined after moving to London and has grown to be a very special weekly event of our London lives. We start with a morning song followed by a cup of tea and craft-making, then a cup of soup and an apple and end with songs. It all takes place in a wooded area of a large park, rain or shine!
Yvette showed us how to make festive spiders using conkers, which are seeds from the horse-chestnut trees. They are often used as a children’s game in Britain and Ireland where you take a conker which has been threaded with string and two players swing them into each other. Whose ever conker does not break is the winner. Though we did not play this game, it is important to note because the children run with excitement to collect these things. To live in England, it is good to know about conkers.
To join in the festivities Lua wore her Jack-o’-Lantern costume, my Mom’s first sewing project.
She did an amazing job, Lua received many smiles walking through the streets of London. And so, since it was a Halloween themed day in the park, we made cookies!
I found a recipe on line for gluten-free cut-out cookies and thought I had all of the ingredients. Come to find out, my bag of rice flour was just about empty. Thankfully, I had just bought a bag of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free baking flour and it worked perfectly. The mix includes garbonzo bean flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, white sorghum flour, and fava bean flour at about $6 per 600 gram bag. I am sure it would be most cost effective to buy all of the flours listed above and create my own. However, London living means small storage space.
Here is all of the pantry space we have, literally. I will not let you see inside because it is so crammed and in such disarray all sorts of packages would fall out! One day I will clean it and show you the before and after makeover.
The dough was wonderful, very easy to work with and very forgiving. One useful tip is to refrigerate the dough before rolling it out and then after the cookies are cut and before they go into the oven. I reduced the sugar quantity and replaced with almond flour and they were great. I also added a touch of nutmeg, which my Mom uses in her Christmas cut-outs, adding a beautiful aromatic warmth to a plain old sugar cookie.
We made some plain ghost cut-outs and then some pumpkin sandwich cookies filled with apricot jam, then rolled in sugar. This was another idea from Pia. During the Christmas holidays she makes wonderful cookies that are sandwiched together with your jam of choice then rolled in sugar while still warm. They glisten from the sugar and the jam makes for a very tasty cookie.
2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free baking mix
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon xanthum gum
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup almond flour
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-3 teaspoons rice milk
1 cup of sugar (to roll the cooked cookies in)
1/2 cup of jam of your choice
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside. Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine; set aside. Using an electric mixer beat coconut oil, sugar and almond flour until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix to combine. Stop machine and add dry ingredients, slowly mix to combine. Add milk if dough is still crumbly, one teaspoon at a time until dough starts to come together. Shape dough into a disk, cover and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Prepare a work space with a piece of parchment paper, then sprinkle on about 1 tablespoon rice flour on top. Start rolling dough, moving and adding flour as you go to prevent the dough from sticking to the rolling pin. Once you have the thickness that you like your cookie (thicker for a chewy cookie and thinner for crispy) start cutting out your shapes. If you are making the jam-filled sandwich cookies, make 1/2 of the dough plain and with the other half use a smaller cutter for the center so that the jam shows through. You do not have to do this, it just looks pretty. You can still make the sandwich cookies without the inside shape. Place them on one of your parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for another 15-30 minutes. Then bake for 12 minutes.
While they are baking place your jam of choice in a bowl and mix to smooth it out, then place 1 cup of sugar on a small plate. Once cookies come out of the oven immediately add jam, then top, then gently roll in sugar and let cool on a cooling rack.