These wonderful Croatian bear paw cookies are a Christmas favourite in our house – buttery, sweet, rich and so incredibly aromatic! A gluten free variation on a traditional Croatian cookie recipe, their taste will knock your socks off and leave you craving more.
Here’s a fun fact: the longer you keep these cookies in a closed container, the better they get. (Where “better” means they go from “damn delicious” to “too good to be true”.)
Another fact: they never last long enough to get to the “better” stage.
These lovelies are high up on the must-definitely-bake-at-Christmas list in our house. They are called bear paw cookies and they’re a traditional Croatian treat – and also absolutely. To. Die. For.
I’m not even kidding. Give me a choice between a plate of triple chocolate chip cookies and a plate of these beauties, and I’ll choose the bear paw cookies every single time. And taking into account my (teeny tiny) obsession with chocolate… that’s a compliment and a half.
It’s actually a surprisingly simple recipe, but it ticks all the boxes.
The cookie dough is made from the usual suspects – butter, sugar, vanilla, eggs, (gluten free) flour and salt. But what makes it extra special is a whole heap of ground walnuts. They take a simple cookie and transform it into a masterpiece. Add to that a pinch of orange zest and you have yourself a winner.
After these lovelies are baked, you have to remove them from their moulds and toss them into powdered sugar as quickly as possible. The quicker you do it, the larger the quantity of powdered sugar that sticks to them. And when there’s a choice between slightly burnt fingers and a thicker sweet sugary crust… the choice is obvious.
Honestly, there’s nothing not to love about these amazing cookies.
And why bear paw cookies? Simple, it’s their shape, which they get from the fluted moulds in which they’re baked. Apparently, the ridges reminded people of bear paw (“šape” in Slovenian and Croatian).
Regardless of what they’re called, once you have a taste of the sweet, buttery, nutty deliciousness, these Croatian bear paw cookies will undoubtedly become one of your favourite Christmas cookies. Of course, that’s not to say you can’t make them at other times… like, you know, every day.
Gluten Free Croatian Bear Paw Cookies
- 1 1/2 stick (170 g) unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup (170 g) caster sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- zest of 1 orange
- 2 eggs
- 1 3/4 cups (220 g) ground walnuts
- 3 cups (360 g) plain gluten free flour blend (I've used a simple store-bought blend of rice, potato and maize flour with no added xanthan gum)
- 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup (110 g) powdered sugar, sifted (for rolling the baked cookies)
- fluted cookie moulds (if you don't have the moulds, you can shape the cookie dough into balls and bake them in that manner)
- Pre-heat the oven to 355 ºF (180 ºC).
- In a bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, vanilla extract and orange zest.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well after each addition.
- Add the ground walnuts and mix well.
- Sift together the gluten free flour, xanthan gum and salt. Add them to the bowl and mix well until you get a smooth, if slightly sticky cookie dough with no clumps of flour.
- Transfer the cookie dough into the fluted cookie moulds so that the cookie dough fills them completely. Smooth out the surface of the cookie dough. The top of the cookie dough should be level with the top edge of the fluted cookie moulds.
- Transfer the filled cookie moulds onto a baking sheet and bake in the pre-heated oven at 355 ºF (180 ºC) for about 20 minutes or until the cookies are slightly risen and golden on top.
- Allow the cookies to cool for 2 - 5 minutes, then remove them from the moulds, and roll them in the powdered sugar.
- Allow to cool, and enjoy!
- The gluten free Croatian bear paw cookies keep well in a closed container in a cool dry place for about 1 month.Note that the longer you keep these cookies in a closed container, the better they get.
Looking for more gluten free holiday treats? I’ve got just the thing(s)!