I did it! I successfully altered a favorite recipe and made it gluten free. Woo hoo! Candy cane cookies are a bit difficult and delicate even using wheat flour because the sugar is all confectioner's rather than regular table sugar. Using the lighter flours accentuated these challenges but it was worth it in the end. For those who don't need the gluten free recipe, here, to start off with, is the regular one (make these today, you won't be sorry!)
My Mom's Candy Cane Cookies
1/2 cup soft shortening
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sifted confectioner's sugar
1.5 teas almond extract
1 teas vanilla
2.5 cups sifted flour
1 teas salt
1/2 teas red food coloring
(yes, I used green for the gluten free versions--I would like to say it was because I was thinking ahead and needed to tell them apart from the regular version but it was simply because none of the three boxes of food coloring rattling around in my cupboards had any red left)
1/2 table sugar for sprinkling mixed with 1/2 cup crushed candy cane
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix thoroughly the shortening, butter, confectioner's sugar, egg and flavorings. Sift together flour, salt and stir in. Divide dough in half.
Blend red food coloring into 1/2 of dough. Roll 1 teaspoon of each color dough into a long strip about 4" long. Place strips side by side then twist together to form rope. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and make into candy cane shapes. Bake about 9 minutes. Sprinkle with mixture of 1/2 cup crushed candy cane and 1/2 cup sugar.
As I said, make these pronto and enjoy sweet, flavorful, tender cookies. They get a bit frustrating because of the rolling between your hands and shaping and sometimes, no matter what you do, they break in your hands and often when you remove them from the cookie sheet after baking, but they are worth it.
Gluten Free Candy Cane Cookies
Use the recipe above but switch out the wheat flour for two cups Brown Rice Flour Mix (I'll explain in a bit), 1/2 cup sweet rice flour (see below for where to buy) and add 1 teaspoon xanthun gum.
Before forming the canes, chill the dough for three hours or overnight as the dough is very soft. Work with only small amounts of dough at a time. If it gets too soft, return to the fridge or freezer before continuing. When you have all the canes formed, put the entire sheet into the fridge for at least ten minutes to stiffen before baking as these are even softer and more delicate than the wheat variety. However, they are even more tender and melt-in-your-mouth, too. I actually ended up adding a bit more vanilla and almond flavoring, also, as the xanthun gum adds a bitter taste to the dough. They spread out a bit more than the wheat version but it's what they taste like that matters.
I learned about Brown Rice Flour Mix from Annalise G. Roberts as seen in her cook book "Gluten-Free Baking Classics". The mix is made of 2 parts brown rice flour, (extra finely ground), 2/3 part potato starch (not potato flour) and 1/3 part tapioca flour. The potato starch and tapioca flour are easy to find but the extra finely ground brown rice flour she recommends can be purchased only at Authentic Foods in Southern California. Fortunately they ship. The Sweet Rice Flour is also available at www.authenticfoods.com. These finely ground flours are a bit expensive but they are the difference between dry, heavy baked goods that fall apart and light and tender ones that hold together better. Merry Christmas!!!