These gluten free cinnamon shortbread cookies are a wonderful addition to your Christmas cookie collection: easy to make, wonderfully buttery and with a nice ‘snap’ to them, packed full of cinnamon and incredibly pretty thanks to being rolled in cinnamon sugar before baking. They don’t require any chilling and keep their shape beautifully in the oven.
Hi friends. Don’t you just love Christmas baking?
The scents of cinnamon and molasses and toasted nuts making your kitchen smell simply divine, the (over)abundance of cookies, the decorating and the icing – it’s the most wonderful time of the year indeed.
This year, Christmas will look different for many of us. Still, I hope you find joy and comfort in blasting your favourite Christmas tunes at the highest volume, in getting your hands all sticky with cookie dough and in eating warm cookies straight off the baking sheet. It’s the little things, right?
Today’s offering is packed full of sugar and spice and everything nice: gluten free cinnamon shortbread cookies. In the shape of stars – because Christmas. (Though you could make them in whichever shape you like.)
They’re wonderfully buttery with a pleasantly crumbly texture, while also having a nice ‘snap’ to them – just like a proper shortbread should be. I’ve optimised the recipe to give cookie dough that doesn’t have to be refrigerated before you roll it out and cut out the individual cookies. At the same time, the cookies keep their shape in the oven, without spreading out.
Just before baking, the cookies are rolled in a cinnamon-sugar mixture, which serves two purposes: it amps up the cinnamon flavour (there’s cinnamon also in the cookie dough – but, honestly, there’s no such thing as too much cinnamon) and it gives them a pretty sparkle, as fitting for a festive cookie.
I adapted this recipe from my go-to gluten free shortbread biscuits recipe that’s included in my book, Baked to Perfection, which is now available to pre-order. In the book, I share all my experience with and knowledge about gluten free baking, and it includes numerous fundamental recipes that every successful gluten free baker should know (including an extensive bread chapter). You can get more info about the book and all the pre-order link here!
Before we get to the bits and bobs of making these wonderful cookies – if you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date on the latest recipes and tips!
Note: the whole recipe, including the ingredient quantities, can be found at the bottom of this page – just scroll down to the bottom, or click the ‘Jump to Recipe’ button at the top of this post.
How do you make gluten free shortbread cookies?
Making gluten free shortbread cookies seriously couldn’t be easier:
- In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, mix together the softened butter, superfine/caster sugar and vanilla bean paste until combined. (Don’t cream the butter – just stir it all together until you get a homogeneous mixture.)
- Sift together the gluten free flour blend, cornstarch, cinnamon, xanthan gum and salt, and add them to the butter-sugar mixture. Mix well.
- Initially, you’ll get a VERY CRUMBLY dough – and you’ll be 100% convinced it will never come together in a ball. (See the left photo below.)
- Knead the cookie dough by hand until it comes together – this might take around 5 minutes, but it will eventually come together, don’t worry. (See the right photo below.)
Then, roll out the cookie dough between two sheets of baking/greaseproof paper. This will prevent it from cracking during rolling. You want the dough to be about 5mm thick.
How do you make cinnamon shortbread stars?
Once you’ve rolled out the dough to a thickness of about 5mm, cut out the cookies using a star-shaped cookie cutter.
Then, press one side of the cookie into a mix of ground cinnamon and superfine/caster sugar. Flip it around and press the other side into cinnamon sugar as well (be gentle: the cookies are fairly delicate). Transfer to a lined baking sheet and repeat with the rest of the cookie dough (re-rolling the scraps as you go along until you use up all the cookie dough).
And then: bake!
Why are my gluten free shortbread cookies too crumbly?
There are a couple of reasons for why your cookies might be too crumbly.
Firstly, gluten free flour blends can vary widely between different brands, and their composition has an enormous influence of the texture of your cookies. It could be that your particular blend gives crumblier cookies, in which case you’ll have to slightly increase the amounts of xanthan gum and/or butter.
Secondly, you didn’t add xanthan gum to the cookie dough. Xanthan gum gives gluten free bakes some elasticity and flexibility, effectively acting as a gluten substitute. Without xanthan gum, the cookies will be very crumbly – so I really don’t recommend omitting it or trying to replace it with something else.
Thirdly, you changed the ingredient ratios in the recipe (for whatever reason). These cookies contain a rather small number of ingredients, so their relative proportions are absolutely crucial. Changing any of the ingredient quantities can throw off the whole recipe, and can result in either too crumbly cookies or cookies that spread in the oven.
This brings us to the second potential problem…
Why do my gluten free shortbread cookies spread out in the oven?
This is probably because your ratio of butter to all the dry ingredients was too high – and it definitely shouldn’t happen if you follow the recipe to a T.
I’ve optimised the recipe to give cookies that keep their shape beautifully in the oven without any chilling required – at the same time, the cookies are deliciously buttery and have a nice ‘snap’ to them.
Listen, I know that the initial cookie dough (before kneading) is incredibly crumbly and that can be scary. BUT don’t go adding more butter or any liquids to it, in the hope that will bring it together in a ball more easily. Adding more butter or liquids will most certainly give cookies that spread out in the oven.
And that’s it, friends. You now have all of the knowledge to make the cutest, most delicious gluten free shortbread cinnamon stars. They’re the perfect addition to your Christmas cookie collection – incredibly fun to make, and even more fun to eat. (Yes, I’m speaking from extensive experience here.)
If you like what you’re seeing, subscribe to my newsletter to keep up to date on the latest recipes and tips!
Gluten Free Cinnamon Shortbread Cookies
For gluten free cinnamon shortbread:
- 100 g (¾ stick + 1 tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
- 50 g (¼ cup) caster/superfine sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
- 170 g (1 ⅓ cup + 1 tbsp) plain gluten free flour blend (I used Doves Farm Freee plain gluten free flour blend, which doesn't contain added xanthan gum. You can also mix your own blend with 50% finely ground white rice flour, 30% potato starch and 20% maize flour by weight.)
- 40 g (⅓ cup) cornstarch
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp xanthan gum (Omit if your GF flour blend already contains xanthan gum.)
- ¼ tsp salt
For cinnamon sugar:
- 75 g (3/8 cup) caster/superfine sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- Adjust the oven rack to the middle position, pre-heat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC) and line a large baking sheet with baking/greaseproof paper. Tip: You will bake the cookies in several batches, so you can line 2-3 baking sheets if you have them on hand. Otherwise, just re-use the same baking sheet, but make sure to cool it completely before you place the next batch of unbaked cookies onto it.
- Sift together the gluten free flour blend, cornstarch, cinnamon, xanthan gum and salt, and add them to the butter-sugar mixture. Mix well until combined. Initially, you’ll get a VERY CRUMBLY dough – that's okay.
- Knead the dough by hand until it comes together in a ball – this might take up to 5 minutes, but the dough should come together eventually. (See post for photos.)
- Roll out the cookie dough between two sheets of baking/greaseproof paper to a thickness of about 5mm. Tip: Rolling out cookie dough between two sheets of baking/greaseproof/parchment paper prevents it from cracking during rolling. It also eliminates the need for dusting your work surface with extra flour, as you don't want to incorporate more flour into the cookie dough.
- Once you’ve rolled out the dough to a thickness of about 5mm, cut out the cookies using a star-shaped cookie cutter (I used a cookie cutter about 6cm/2½ inches in diameter, which gives a total of 30 cookies.)Tip: You can use a small offset spatula to lift the cut cookies off the baking paper. Be gentle with them as they're fairly fragile.
- Mix together the sugar and cinnamon for the cinnamon sugar, and place the mixture into a shallow bowl or a deep plate.
- Press one side of a cookie into the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Then, flip it around and press the other side into cinnamon sugar as well (be gentle: the cookies are fairly delicate). Transfer to a lined baking sheet and repeat with the rest of the cookie dough (re-rolling the scraps as you go along until you use up all the cookie dough). You don't need to space the cookies widely apart, as they don't spread significantly during baking. I usually fit around 20 cookies per baking sheet.
- Bake at 350ºF (180ºC) for 16-18 minutes until light golden brown.
- Allow to cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
- Storage: The cookies keep well in an airtight container in a cool dry place for 1-2 weeks.