Spotlight Recipe: Gluten-Free Almond Drops

by in Cookies & Other Desserts, Healthy Recipes, December 2, 2009

Gluten-Free Almond Drop Cookies
These gluten-free drop cookies are a soft holiday sweet that you can make now — or give as gifts — and be confident they’ll taste great. Sweet, spicy and fragrant right out of the oven, they still taste as fresh two weeks later. Store them in a tin for best keeping and beautiful presentation. –Linda Simon, Kitchen Therapy

If you are new to gluten-free baking, here is a little background information that might be helpful. Gluten is naturally found in wheat, rye and barley. So, when cooking gluten-free dishes, you can’t use ingredients made from these grains. That includes wheat flour, the main ingredient in most baked goods.

An Evolution in Gluten-Free Baking
Gluten-free baked goods used to be dry, gritty and crumbly. They hardly seemed like treats. To get a lighter texture, food manufacturers relied on highly refined starches to replace enriched wheat flour. They often added large volumes of sugar and fat to improve flavor, too — not exactly healthy! A gluten-free cookie or cake often has many more calories, carbohydrates and fat then the regular wheat version. That comes with little or no fiber or nutrition.

A Baking Savior: Xanthan
Then xanthan was introduced to improve the texture and give structure to many gluten-free baked goods. Breads, muffins, cakes, and pizza crust rely on xanthan so the dough can rise. Size matters — for little treats like these cookies, you don’t need xanthan.

Boosting the Nutrition
So the experts mostly solved the problems with the taste and texture, but nutrition remains a challenge. Enter gluten-free whole grains. Many creative cooks are developing recipes with some gluten-free whole grain flour. These recipes combine multiple flours and those old refined starches, which means ingredient lists are very long. Who wants to buy several flours for one recipe?

When I’m baking gluten-free, I like to use a single whole-grain, gluten-free flour, for three reasons:
1. It tastes great!
2. It is easier.
3. You get more nutrition when you leave out all the starches.

So What Are Some Gluten-Free, Whole-Grain Flours?

  • Amaranth
  • Buckwheat — despite the name it is wheat and gluten free.
  • Oat — they are naturally gluten free but are often contaminated with wheat during processing, so be sure to chose only certified gluten-free oats.
  • Quinoa
  • Millet
  • Sorghum
  • Montina
  • Timtana

Each of these flours has a distinct personality. Some play well with others; some are picky partners. A common one, sorghum is easy to work with and that’s why I use it here. Look for it in the health or special diet area of most mainstream markets.

almond drops
Making the Cookie
These drop cookies feature one nutritious flour, no xanthan, no special equipment, no hard-to-find ingredients and no huge time commitment investment in time.

I adapted this recipe from Almond Crispies on the Bob’s Red Mill website. The original version used their gluten-free flour blend, but I prefer mine with just sorghum flour. A little almond extract goes a long way, so I have reduced it. Also, the original cookie was not crispy, so I changed the name.

Sorghum Almond Drops
Makes 18 small cookies

1 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup oil
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Oil a baking sheet. In a medium bowl mix together sorghum flour, almond meal, slivered almonds, dark brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl stir together honey, oil, water and almond extract until thoroughly combined.

Add the honey mixture to the flour mixture. Stir until all the flour is mixed in. Shape by hand into 1 1/2-inch balls. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool and roll in powdered sugar.

Nutrition Info (per cookie):
Calories: 110; Total Fat: 6 grams; Saturated Fat: 0.5 grams; Total Carbohydrate: 15 grams; Protein: 2 grams; Sodium: 45 milligrams; Cholesterol: 0 milligrams; Fiber: 1 gram

Linda Simon is a registered dietitian, personal chef, gluten-free blogger and owner of Kitchen Therapy — helping you overcome your gluten-free kitchen issues!

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