My spouse’s favorite holiday treats are pecan shortbread cookies, so I figured out how to make them gluten and dairy-free so that I can enjoy them too. The ingredients are simple and they are pretty easy to make. I did the whole thing in my food processor. I found out that no matter how many you make, you always want more because they disappear so fast.
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 15-18 minutes
Chill Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 43 minutes
1 cup PECANS - finely chopped
1 cup VEGAN BUTTER (at room temperature: soft but not melted) - I use Earth Balance sticks
1/2 cup POWDERED SUGAR
1 teaspoon VANILLA EXTRACT
2-1/4 cups GLUTEN-FREE ALL PURPOSE FLOUR (with Xanthan Gum)
or add 1/2 teaspoon Xanthan Gum if your flour doesn't include it
1/4 teaspoon SALT
More POWDERED SUGAR for rolling
PRE-HEAT oven to 400 degrees F
PREPARE a baking tray with parchment paper
ADD the PECANS to a food processor (sharp blade) and grind until they are a coarse powder
ADD the BUTTER, SALT, SUGAR, and VANILLA EXTRACT to the food processor (dough blade) and combine by pulsing until the dough starts to hold together. Try not to overprocess the dough. (You can do this all in a large bowl but you will need to cream the butter and sugar together)
SCOOP the batter into 1-inch balls using a tablespoon or cookie scoop* onto the prepared baking tray. Leave 1-inch between balls. (You can roll the balls by hand but try not to make them too big.) *I love my 1-inch cookie scoop.
FREEZE the tray for at least 5 minutes.
BAKE: 15-18 minutes (check often – they should be lightly golden)
REMOVE from the oven to COOL for 3-5 minutes but LEAVE THE OVEN ON.
PLACE about 1/3 cup more POWDERED SUGAR in a bowl
ROLL the balls in the sugar gently while they are still warm. They are very fragile at this point so handle them with care.
PLACE the cookie balls back on the tray after they are sugared.
RETURN the tray to the oven for 3 minutes to set the sugar.
COOL on the tray for 5 minutes
ROLL the balls again in more POWDERED SUGAR before carefully moving them to a cooling rack.
I love almond anything and these traditional Italian Christmas cookies are quick and easy to make for any holiday gathering with pre-made or store-bought almond paste. At only 30 to 40 calories per cookie, who can resist eating a few? They are gluten and dairy free, and if you make them with egg replacer they can even be Vegan. Be careful not to overcook them or they turn into little rocks.
Cook Time: 20 – 30 minutes
1 extra large EGG WHITE (Vegans can use EGG REPLACER) 1 8-ounce can ALMOND PASTE (or make 14-ounces of your own as follows) 1-1/2 cup BLANCHED ALMONDS or ALMOND MEAL/FLOUR 1-1/2 cup POWDERED SUGAR 1 EGG WHITE (Vegans can use EGG REPLACER, with 3 teaspoons of CORN SYRUP) 2 teaspoons ALMOND EXTRACT 1/4 teaspoon SALT 1/2 cup granulated SUGAR 18 MARACHINO CHERRIES, optional 18 Sliced ALMONDS, optional
If you are making your own almond paste then do it at least the night before you make the cookies because it needs to be refrigerated to firm up.
To make almond paste:
In a food processor, GRIND the blanched almonds (or use almond meal/flour already ground)
COMBINE the ground almonds and sugar and PULSE until well mixed
ADD almond extract and pulse again until combined
ADD egg whites (or egg replacer and corn syrup) and mix until it forms into a dough. If the mixture is too wet, add more sugar or almond flour
TURN OUT onto a clean work surface, KNEAD a few times, and ROLL the dough into a log
SPLIT the log into 2 servings (about 7-ounces each). Then WRAP each log in plastic and place in the refrigerator overnight. The dough will keep for at least a month in the refrigerator and up to six months in the freezer.
PREHEAT oven to 325 degrees F
LINE a cookie sheet with parchment paper
COMBINE almond paste (after you break it into pieces for easier blending) and sugar in food processor.
ADD egg white (or Vegan egg replacer) and mix in the food processor until the dough is sticky (2 or 3 minutes). (Note: If you chose to go the Vegan route, the cookies are not as chewy which is why you might want to add corn syrup, but it just isn’t the same as egg whites and it is hard to get the dough tacky enough.)
DROP rounded tablespoons of cookie dough onto the cookie sheet about 1 inch apart.
TOP cookies with either 1/2 a cherry or a sliced almond. You may have to press the cherry or almond into the cookie a little bit to make it stick.
BAKE 15 – 20 minutes on the middle shelf and then move them to the upper rack for 5-7 minutes. The cookies should be golden brown in color.
MOVE cookies and parchment paper to a cooling rack and let them completely cool before placing in airtight containers.