Several years ago I came across a sugar cookie recipe in an old church cookbook. With no eggs, it looked innocent enough. Ty had severe allergies to eggs and nuts then, and we had never been able to bake holiday cookies together. I could easily dispense with the nuts and adjust any flavorings my son might not like.
His godmother and I gathered him at the table and began mixing the flour, sugar, butter and extracts. We listened to Christmas carols, sipped Russian tea and giggled profusely as we cut stockings and reindeer out of the dough. "Ty's cookies" became our go-to treat for the holidays.
Then my younger daughter was diagnosed with severe allergies to wheat, dairy, egg and nuts. I uttered words that Baby Jesus would not approve. Not only did I need a recipe without eggs, I needed to part the wheat and dairy sea, too. Where is Moses when you need him?
Just as I was ready to throw my KitchenAid mixer on the floor, I remembered Ty's cookies. Could they be made gluten- and dairy-free? I recently pulled out the recipe and got to work. Talia, 4, suited up in her apron and stood on a chair by the counter.
We used Fleischmann's non-dairy margarine instead of butter and creamed it with sugar, vanilla and a little lemon extract. We substituted two cups of King Arthur brand gluten-free all-purpose flour for the two cups of regular flour, added baking powder and a smidgen of salt. It smelled just like my pound cake batter. Talia licked her lips in anticipation. She had never been able to lick the bowl before.
As I spooned the batter onto waxed paper, I heard a smacking sound. Talia had taken the spatula and was running it across her tongue like a toothbrush. "It's yummy, Mommy!"
The batter was super soft, not as pliable as the wheat kind. It was hard to spread. Ty, 10, surveyed the dough and suggested that we make circles "because we can get more cookies out of it. But if you make shapes," he reasoned, "it looks like you worked harder."
We settled on a mixture of both. Talia and Ty added liberal sprinkles of red and green before I popped them in the oven. They didn't look done after nine minutes, so we baked them another seven. Uh-oh. The cookies puffed up and spread like Oompa Loompas. They broke apart upon being lifted. The kids ate them, but surely we could do better.
Refrigerating the dough overnight made all the difference. I rolled it into balls and flattened them well with my hand. They were done to crispy perfection in about seven minutes. We glazed them with a powdered-sugar syrup and got to eating.
Ho! Ho! Hallelujah! We have a new go-to recipe. Like all gluten-free products, it's best to eat these cookies within two days or freeze them. They don't last long in my house.
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Ty and Talia's Hallelujah Sugar Cookies
Makes about two dozen cookies
1 cup butter (or non-dairy Fleischmann's unsalted margarine)
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla and 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract)
2 cups all-purpose flour (or gluten-free substitute)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 teaspoons water
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine butter, sugar and extract(s). Beat at medium speed until creamy. Reduce speed to low. Add flour, baking powder and salt. Beat until well mixed.
Refrigerate dough for a couple of hours or overnight. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Flatten balls to -inch thickness with the bottom of a buttered glass dipped in sugar.
Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Cool 1 minute; remove from sheets. Cool completely.
With a whisk, stir together glaze ingredients in a small bowl. Decorate cookies with glaze and colored sugars.
More cookie options
If baking is not your thing, numerous companies provide allergen-free cookies. Our runaway favorite is Divvies, a New York-based company specializing in dairy-, egg- and nut-free cookies. Order online at divvies.com. Its gingerbread molasses and sugar cookies are fantastic and freeze well.
Talia loves the dairy-, egg-, nut- and gluten-free Snickerdoodles from Trader Joe's. And Enjoy Life's line of cookies is free of the top eight allergens.