Why make Gluten Free Shortbread at home when you can buy it in the shops?
I’ve been wanting to achieve a great gluten free shortbread biscuit for ages… One that holds its shape, melts in the mouth and tastes crisp and sweet, yet creamy. I mean… who doesn’t love a moreishly good shortbread? Clearly not just me, because shortbread biscuits have been around for a very long time. They date back to the mid 16th Century.
With the growing gluten free food market, there is now plenty of commercially available gluten free shortbread in the shops. So why, you may wonder, would I want to spend time creating my own when I could just pop down the supermarket? The thing is…. whilst it’s really convenient to grab a pack from the shelf without the hassle of weighing, mixing, rolling and baking the ingredients, I actually think that most gluten free shop-bought shortbreads are pretty poor. Considering how much they cost, I expect better.
Why I don’t like most shop-bought gluten free shortbread :
Commercial gluten free shortbread is (mostly) heavily weighted with rice flour, leaving it gritty in texture and possibly offering a dose of arsenic. Neither of these qualities are something I enjoy, or make it comparable to real (glutenous) shortbread.
Seeing it on supermarket shelves is frustrating, because without fail, I get ridiculously excited when it appears in ‘special’ seasonal boxes… magnetically tempting my gaze towards them…. only to remember that if I buy them, I am setting myself up for disappointment.
So I have decided not to waste my time or frustration on them anymore… Especially since traditional shortbread is made with a simple combination of butter, sugar and flour and can be made with the minimum of skill.
The BEST gluten free shortbread recipe? Maple Shortbread!
The flour blend is important
This Gluten Free Maple Shortbread contains no rice flour whatsoever…
The recipe has been through a number of tweaks and amendments to get it just right. It aims to be a little healthier than your average gluten free shortbread and not over-sweet. It uses my home-mixed Gluten Free Alchemist rice-free flour blend (click the link) which I keep in a topped-up airtight container in my larder. It’s an amazing blend and well worth the minimal effort to make it. I am a lover of home-mixed gluten free flour, for versatility, texture and results as well as cost, health and fun.
If you can’t be bothered to mix your own flour, these shortbreads should work with other no/low-rice flours, including the Free From Fairy plain flour blend, but I haven’t tested it.
Gluten Free Maple shortbread uses Maple Syrup (of course…)
Most shop-bought gluten free shortbread is (in my humble opinion), decidedly too sweet. But this shortbread recipe is special… It replaces white sugar with maple syrup as a more natural sweetener. Maple syrup may be more expensive, but it is entirely unrefined and apparently, is high in anti-oxidants, zinc, calcium and potassium (as well as being lower in calories than honey). Ok… it’s still sugar, but it has such a divine and unique flavour, that using it makes these shortbreads extra delicious, with a smooth, caramel hit from the maple within. Definitely not too sweet!
Butter or dairy free spread? Vanilla Paste or Vanilla Extract?
I grew up in a butter-filled world. And I grew up thinking that shortbread should have ‘all butter’ on the label. It’s just how it was and how we liked it! So unsurprisingly, I made this amazing gluten free shortbread recipe with butter. Of course, if you are either vegan or dairy intolerant (or perhaps you just prefer baking with non-dairy fats), make a simple switch and replace the butter with your favourite alternative soft dairy free spread.
But always use vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla extract, to ensure the dough maintains a firm consistency.
Does this gluten free shortbread need xanthan gum?
At development stage, I did test the biscuit dough without using xanthan gum. But whilst it held together and baked fine, the shelf life was slightly limited by a greater crumbliness. Having said that, if you find that xanthan gum doesn’t sit well with you, just leave it out or replace with a little ground psyllium husk for stability. Once baked… these biscuits should stay fresh for well over a week, providing they have been kept in an air-tight container.
The consistency of the dough is what allows for pretty patterns…
Like any good shortbread recipe, this cookie dough is sturdy enough to allow for imprints and patterns. The dough consistency however, is critical if you want a pretty surface. I tested a number of ‘fails’ in the quest to achieve. Deviate from the recipe at your peril!
I rolled my dough using a beautifully-crafted embossed rolling pin from Pastry Made. It took a few goes to ensure the right pressure for optimum markings, but I am absolutely in love with it. There are now a number of embossed rolling pins out there, but be aware they vary considerably in quality.
If you like sugar sprinkled on your shortbread, go ahead… That seems to be the traditional way, although I decided to keep mine as simple as possible.
Rules for making the best gluten free shortbread :
So how do you make the best gluten free shortbread? There are a few basic rules that are helpful to get them perfect…
A shortbread is a tightly structured biscuit…. it doesn’t need baking powder or bicarbonate of soda as this will cause it to be too light and will lose any markings you choose to add (whether by rolling pin or press) and will distort the shape. Don’t use self-raising flour.
Equally, when you cream the butter/spread with the sugar/syrup, you are aiming to combine it rather than make it ‘fluffy’. Don’t over-mix. If it is too light and fluffy, the final shortbread may be too crumbly.
Be patient. The nature of gluten free flours is that they need time to absorb moisture and to settle. When you add the flour to the mix, beat slowly and firmly, pressing it together little by little, so that it has time to blend well and stabilise. When the dough starts to clump, use a floured or gloved hand to bring together and knead gently until smooth.
Make sure your dough is firm and pliable, but not sticky and be certain to chill it in the fridge before you start rolling it. This will make it easier to work without it getting too warm. When ready to roll, cut into thirds and roll each, one at a time. It is fine to re-knead and re-roll, but make sure that you chill the unbaked biscuits again before cooking.
So there you have it… The best Gluten Free Maple Shortbread recipe…
If you have made my gluten free shortbread recipe, I’d love to know if you loved it too! Share your thoughts in a comment below, contact me direct or tag me on social media (links at the top).
More Favourite Biscuits & Cookies on Gluten Free Alchemist :
- Ginger Biscuits/Cookies
- Baci di Dama
- Chocolate-Espresso Puddle Cookies
- Strawberry-White Chocolate Hearts
- Chewy Toffee-Apple Cookies
- Viennese Whirls
- Melt in the mouth Hazelnut Biscuits
- German Gingerbread Cookies
- Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
- Peanut Butter Cookies
- Nutella Thumbprint Cookies
- Oat Choc-Chunk Cookies
- Almond Shorties
- Jam Thumbprint Cookies
- Dark & Chewy Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies
- Soft Italian Amaretti Cookies
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Best Maple Gluten Free Shortbread
- Kitchen scales
- large mixing bowl
- electric whisk
- mixing spoon/spatula
- cling film
- baking trays
- baking paper
- Rolling Pin
- cookie cutter(s)
- 240 g butter (softened)/ soft dairy free spread
- 140 g Maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla paste
- 300 g gluten free flour blend (rice free) tested with Gluten Free Alchemist rice-free mix B (see link in notes)
- pinch fine sea salt
- ¼ tsp xanthan gum
- melted chocolate/nuts optional decoration
- caster sugar optional decoration
- In a large bowl, beat the butter/spread until smooth.
- Add the maple syrup and vanilla paste and beat to combine. Be careful not to over-mix.
- Mix the flour, salt and xanthan gum together and then add to the wet mix. Beat with a firm silicone/wooden spoon until it comes together into an even dough.
- With floured hands, knead gently to complete the blending process and bring together into a ball. If the mix is too sticky, sprinkle a little more flour onto the dough and knead in until you have a good consistency. If you have used a flour which absorbs more liquid and has made the dough dry/crumbly, add a little more maple syrup.
- Wrap the dough in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.
- Prepare 2 to 3 baking trays by lining with baking paper.
- When ready to roll, lay a large sheet of baking paper down and sprinkle with flour. Cut about a third of the dough, place it on the floured baking paper, sprinkle the top with a fine layer of flour to prevent sticking and roll to a thickness of about ½ to 1½ cm (as you prefer).
- Carefully cut your shortbread dough into shapes using a cookie cutter and place on the prepared baking trays. Chill for half an hour before baking.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas 4.
- Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the shortbreads are golden at the edges (they may need a couple of minutes extra for thick shortbread). Rotate the trays half way through to ensure an even bake.
- Once baked, either remove from the oven and allow to cool (they should firm up as they do so) or if you have made thicker shortbreads, you may choose to leave them in the oven (turned off) to cool as the oven cools (this ensures they dry into a really crisp biscuit). If you are sprinkling with sugar for a traditional finish, do so before they cool.
- If you choose to decorate (although they are perfect without decoration), make sure they are completely cool before dipping in melted chocolate and adding sprinkles.
- Store in an airtight container. Should stay fresh for well over a week.
Gluten free AND Vegan (or thinking of heading that way?) – check out my post on Gluten Free Vegan – Surviving Veganuary and Beyond
Updated Maple Gluten Free Shortbread shared with :
- Fiesta Friday #311 with Angie and Food for the Soul
- Funtastic Fridays with Olives & Okra
- Cook Blog Share with Lost in Food
- Baking Crumbs with Apply To Face Blog
This post was originally published on 12.02.2019 and updated on 17.01.2020
Previously shared (2019) with : Baking Crumbs with Apply to Face Blog and Jo’s Kitchen Larder; Cook Blog Share with Everyday Healthy Recipes; Fiesta Friday with Angie; Cook Once Eat Twice with Searching for Spice