I suspect you are much like me in that you know several people who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivities and adhere to a gluten-free diet. The raised awareness of these conditions in the last five years or so has helped so many people who may have struggled with health issues that previously could not been explained. As an avid baker and someone who loves to share the joy of baked goods with friends and family, I’ve really made an effort to learn as much as I can about gluten-free baking. I still want to be able to share classics like cookies, cakes, and brownies that are just as tasty as their “normal” counterparts with my gluten-free friends! (Trust me; it’s totally possible! Keep reading!)
Because of that, I’ve spent some time researching gluten-free baking and perusing gluten-free cookbooks. Recently, I was looking through some gluten-free recipes from America’s Test Kitchen, and I came across a recipe for sugar cookies. Can’t really get any more classic than that! Sugar cookies are such a simple and basic cookie, but they are so good! Because they are so basic, making them gluten-free can prove to be a bit challenging, though. Not a lot of room for modifications! But, leave it to ATK! Through several experiments and recipe iterations, they landed on a wonderful gluten-free version of this classic cookie.
I couldn’t just leave it at that, though. Because it’s summer, and because citrus always makes me think of warm weather, I decided to switch the recipe up a bit and create a Gluten-Free Lemon Sugar Cookie. With just a few tweaks, the timeless sugar cookie is taken up a notch to result in a fresh, light, chewy cookie that is a great summer treat!
You’ll notice this recipe uses a number of “gluten-free” flours. While some gluten-free cookie recipes attempt to limit the number of gluten-free flours in their mix, very often, the result can be either too starchy, too gritty, or both. I’ve found that a combination of gluten-free flours usually provides the most authentic results, and apparently ATK agrees! If you follow a gluten-free diet, chances are good you already have these flours in your arsenal. They’re all fairly standard and (now!) can be found in your everyday grocery store. What a change from a few years ago when most could be found only online! If you’re new to gluten-free baking, all of these flours may seem overwhelming, but they should become staples if you plan to bake gluten-free on a regular basis.
One of the ingredients that lends to the authenticity of these lemon sugar cookies is cream cheese. You typically wouldn’t see cream cheese in a “normal” sugar cookie, but the simplicity of a standard sugar cookie does not equate on a one-for-one basis with a gluten-free version. The amount of butter that typically would be used in a standard sugar cookie recipe needs to be reduced so the cookies don’t come out too greasy, but then the cookies lose the richness that butter often provides. Cream cheese to the rescue! A rich and creamy fat to take butter’s place! And while we don’t like to admit it, we NEED fat in our cookies!
Not missing a beat, this gluten-free version of the classic sugar cookie has the crackly top we’ve come to expect from our sugar cookies. I rolled mine in sparkling sugar because I love how it looks with the crackly tops, and it adds some texture to the cookies. You definitely can use regular sugar, though, and nothing will be sacrificed in the least!
If you are looking for a summery gluten-free cookie, your search is over! These Gluten-Free Lemon Sugar Cookies are light, chewy, and oh so tasty! A great dessert for your next picnic or BBQ!
- 1 cup white rice flour
- ¾ cup plus two tablespoons almond flour
- ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon brown rice flour
- ¼ cup potato starch
- 2 tablespoons plus scant teaspoon tapioca starch
- 1 ¾ teaspoons dry milk powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
- 3 ounces cream cheese softened and cut into 8 pieces
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter melted and still warm
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup granulated or sparkling sugar for rolling cookies
Whisk flours, potato and tapioca starches, dry milk powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside.
Place 1 ¼ cup sugar in cream cheese in a large bowl. Pour melted butter over sugar and cream cheese and whisk to combine.
Whisk in lemon zest, lemon juice, egg, and vanilla extract and continue to whisk until smooth. Stir in flour mixture with rubber spatula and mix until combined and soft dough forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. (30 minutes is 30 minutes. Try not to go shorter or longer.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
Place ½ cup sugar in a small bowl. Using a #30 disher (about 2 tablespoons), place dough ball in sugar and roll until coated. Repeat with remaining dough and place on baking sheets, spacing dough balls at least 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Press dough balls to ½-inch thickness using bottom of a measuring cup.
Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until edges are set and just beginning to brown, 12-14 minutes. Rotate baking sheet halfway through baking.
Let cookies cool on sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire cooling rack.
Store in an airtight container up to 1 day.