Easy to work with cookie dough that makes soft and sweet gluten free sugar cookies ready in no time, and perfect for decorating!
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Christmas sugar cookie traditions!
I’m sharing such a special recipe with you today. It’s been on the blog since the very first year I was writing, but it was time for a refresh with updated step by step photos, as well as a huge update to the list of naturally dyed decorating products that are available these days! The actual sugar cookie recipe itself hasn’t changed, because, as they say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” It is a fantastic, very easy to work with cookie dough, and I think it will make those holiday cookie days a lot more fun for you!
Let’s start with some tips for making sugar cookies with kids!
Because I’ve totally been there, dear momma. I know it seems like a disaster waiting to happen, and hours of messy clean up. I have some thoughts for you, as well as some tips to make it easier. By the time your kids get to my girls’ ages, they’ll be making them all by themselves, including the clean up!
TIP #1: Take it one step at a time.
In fact I highly recommend with really little ones not to do everything all in one day. Since the dough has to chill, and cookies have to cool before decorating, there is a lot of time to break up so the kids don’t feel like they are waiting “forever.” They definitely can be done all in one day, but you’ll want to have some other things planned during the dough chilling and cookie cooling wait times. It can be fun traditions such as decorating Christmas cards for grandparents, watching a holiday movie, or other holiday kitchen recipes!
TIP #2: Show them how to do the task first.
Whether pouring flour, cracking an egg, using a cookie cutter, or frosting a cookie, show your little ones an example first. This is specifically helpful with the decorating. While I want them to decorate them how they wish, I like to show them how much frosting is appropriate for spreading 😉
TIP #3. Use small amounts of dough for the ones that want to try rolling it out.
Listen, I am just as much of a perfectionist as anyone else – it can be hard for me to stay back and let them learn how to roll dough out nicely! I have learned that letting the dough warm up so it feels a little more pliable like a play-doh but not so warm that it squishes, as well as using smaller amounts, makes it easier for them to roll it out neatly. Be patient but it does come, and they will forever remember you trusting them enough to let them do it.
TIP #4: Choose the right size cookie cutters
I fell in love with mini cookie cutters when my girls were really little. Let’s face it, little kids want to eat one of every shape! If the cookies are bite-size, they can pick 2 cookies instead of one without the sugar crash. I use more of a medium sized cookie cutter now that my girls are older.
TIP #5: Set out easy to manage decorating ingredients.
If the sprinkles, for instance, come in a big bottle with no shaker top, either put them in a old shaker container, or put a small amount on a plate or bowl that they can pinch and sprinkle onto the cookies. If using dried fruit or chopped nuts, use little bowls that they can scoop from. Small spreading knives make the frosting easier to spread for all size hands.
TIP #6: Realize attention span grows with age 🙂
A toddler’s attention will last about 1 or 2 cookies before they want to eat one and are done. Embrace that age and just roll with it! Eventually they be older, and you will have no cookies to decorate for yourself! Even at age 2 or 3 those memories are beginning to build, and they will cherish that you spent time with them to do something so fun.
Ok! Let’s make some sugar cookies!
To get your sugar cookies started, you’ll need to make the dough and let it chill. Just mix up the simple ingredients, wrap it up, and let it chill in the fridge for a good hour. I have used Namaste Gluten Free Flour Blend as well as King Arthur Gluten Free Flour blend for these cookies successfully. Our Costco is carrying the King Arthur blend right now, so that is what I used in this post.
Rolling out the sugar cookie dough
Once the dough has rested in the fridge, let it come to room temp for a bit, until it is pliable to knead. Dust the counter and roll the dough out to about a quarter of an inch.
Cut out the sugar cookies!
This is a very forgiving cookie dough. If you mess the cookie up or run out of space, just roll the dough back up and cut it out again.
Bake the sugar cookies
Place your cookie cut-outs on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake them off until they are just starting to get golden. Once the cookies cool, you can make the frosting and decorate!
Let’s make the frosting!
The frosting is super forgiving too. Make it as thick or thin as you wish. I found thicker frosting was easier to work with if you have little ones. Thinner, more “royal icing” type texture is drippy and can get frustrating for little kids. As the recipe is written, the frosting will be on the thicker side. I thinned it out for these pictures because my girls like the look of the thinner frosting, and they can handle it.
Let’s talk about the naturally dyed decorating ingredients!
My biggest recommendation here is don’t go broke buying everything in one year. Pick out some food dye for the frosting, and maybe a couple sprinkle options. You can add to your collection over the years and holidays. I also recommend that if you have toddlers, dried fruit and shaved dark chocolate are just as fun for sprinkling, and you probably already have it in your pantry. Now onto the decorating!
**Naturally Dyed Frosting!**
My goodness has natural food coloring come a long way! You can find it just about anywhere these days from online to the grocery store. No one wants to have to watch a child work through the throws of a Red 40 dye meltdown! Grab up some natural food dye for the frosting, and you’ll avoid the food dye effects. I use THIS one most often, but there are so many brands around to try.
**Naturally Dyed Jimmies & Nonpareils**
These are great to keep around for everything from these cookies to birthday cupcakes! They are naturally dyed and keep their color great. You can find the Rainbow Jimmies, Chocolate Jimmies, and Nonparaeils online.
**Naturally Dyed Sanding Sugar**
Sanding sugar that is dyed naturally is the newest “find” for me in the last year, and so exciting! Start collecting the colors as you go. They are pricey, but if you just grab up some green and red for the holidays, and then add on other colors for Easter, birthdays, etc., then you’ll have a collection before you know it.
**Naturally Dyed Holiday Inspired Sprinkles**
These are my favorite holiday inspired brand. They have some for Valentine’s Day, and every holiday in between! Here are the holiday inspired sprinkles. Again, have the kids pick out one for this year, and add another one or two next year!
When the girls were little, I used to roll out brown craft paper on the table so that all I had to do was roll it up and throw the mess away! My kids are pretty good about the mess now, but that saved me so much hassle back then. We decorated cookies at my sister’s last year and she used baking sheets for each kid to keep their stuff contained, and I thought that was a good idea too! I also like to have the kids place the decorated cookies on a wire rack so they drip and dry easily.
Can I freeze the sugar cookies?
YES! And this is one of my tricks to all of the cookies not being eaten in 2 days. We will make them a week or 2 before Christmas, and then stash them away in the freezer for Christmas Eve! Santa *big puffy heart* loves a couple sugar cookies left on the plate! When the girls were little they used to decorate a specific cookie *just* for Santa, so that gets frozen separately so it doesn’t get eaten. The sugar cookies taste great right out of the freezer, or just take about 20 minutes to thaw once they are on the counter. The taste and texture are just the same!
Gluten Free Sugar Cookies & Natural Decorating Ideas
FOR THE COOKIES ::
FOR THE FROSTING ::
- 1 1/2 cup organic powdered cane sugar
- 3 TB softened butter
- 3-4 TB milk or coconut milk
- In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar.
- Add the egg, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt, and blend.
- Add the flour and mix until smooth and combined. Cover the dough, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- Take the dough out of the fridge, and let it warm up to soften a bit on the counter. If you left the dough in the fridge for just an hour, you can start kneading right away until the dough feels pliable to roll. If you left your dough in the fridge overnight and the butter is hard, let the dough come to room temp for a good 30 minutes before kneading.
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees, and line a baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper or Silpat.
- Dust your counter with some gluten free flour, knead the dough so it is pliable, and roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch.
- Use a cookie cutter to cut out your shapes, and bake at 350 degrees for 13-15 minutes.
- Let the cookies cool completely before decorating. To make the frosting, just blend the frosting ingredients until smooth. You can add more milk if you wish for a thinner, more royal icing type of frosting. If you're using the natural dyes for the frosting, separate the frosting into small bowls, and then stir in the colors. The frosting will harden as it dries.