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December 20, 2021

Visions of tasty candy canes, Christmas trees, stars and Santas

Photos/Ellen Fox Emerson
Click here for information about Ellen’s new cookbook, “No Sacrifices — Entertaining Gluten-Free.”
Could one have Christmas without the cookies?

I don’t remember my mother baking them, but my friend Ruthie’s mom, Mrs. Morton made the best Christmas cookies ever.

Mrs. Morton baked sugar cookies cut in the shapes of trees, candy canes, stars, snowmen, ornaments and Santas. Each got decorated with a creamy icing in red green, yellow or white and topped with a variety of sprinkles. She would start weeks in advance and make dozens and dozens.

Ruthie and I always checked in on the process and sampled as many as we were allowed. Knowing how much I loved them, Mrs. Morton would always wrap up a special container just for me.

I’ve tried to replicate her cookies and have come pretty close. Now with a little more practice, I will master the decorating part.

Another favorite cookie for this time of year: Gingerbread men, happy little guys that put a smile on your face just looking at them.

Both recipes are fairly simple and provide a wonderful way to entertain the younger ones while they’re out of school for the holidays. Cookies also make great gifts.


Christmas Sugar Cookies

1 cup of sweet cream unsalted butter (at room temperature)
¾ cup of sugar
1 extra large egg (at room temperature)
1 teaspoon of vanilla
½ teaspoon of salt
2-½ cups of gluten-free flour
¾ teaspoon of xanthan gum
½ teaspoon of baking powder

Preheat oven to 350° F. Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar, beating until it doubles in volume. Add the egg and vanilla and continue until thoroughly blended.

In a separate bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. Using a low to medium speed gradually add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture, one half cup at a time, until well blended.

Dust work area with flour and roll dough out to ½-inch thick. Cut the cookies and place on a cookie sheet one inch apart. Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Let cookies cool on wire racks completely before icing.


Gingerbread Men


2-¾ cups gluten-free flour
¾ teaspoon of xanthan gum
1 tablespoon of baking powder
¼ teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of ground cloves
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon of allspice
½ teaspoon of salt
1 extra large egg
1 cup of dark brown sugar
2/3 cup of dark molasses
½ cup of unsalted sweet cream butter

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Whisk together all of the dry ingredients and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer blend together the egg, brown sugar, molasses and butter. Beat until thoroughly blended.

Using a low to medium speed gradually add the flour mixture, one half cup at a time, until well blended.

Dust work area with flour and roll dough out to ¼- to ½-inch thick, depending on preference. Cut the cookies and place on a cookie sheet one inch apart. Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Let cookies cool on wire racks completely before icing.


The Icings


Below are two recipes for icing. The first one dries more quickly and is a little wetter to work with; the second one is easier to work with and tastes more like Mrs. Morton’s recipe.


Icing I

1-1/2 cups of confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoon of soft sweet cream unsalted butter
3 tablespoon of milk
1-½ teaspoon of vanilla

Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine all of the ingredients and beat until smooth. After icing the cookie let sit out up to 24 hours so that the icing will set.


Icing II

2 cups of confectioner’s sugar
½ cup of softened butter
1 egg white
1/8 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine all of the ingredients and beat until smooth. After icing the cookie let sit out up to 24 hours so that the icing will set.

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