Iced Hanukkah Sugar Cookies, Gluten Free

Hanukkah Butter Cookies with Royal Icing, Gluten Free. Dreidels you can share at a party.
Hanukkah 2012 begins in just a few more days.  Hanukkah 2012 is safely ensconced in the month of December.

Gander a sneak peek at next year’s holiday calendar. Hanukkah 2013 begins the evening of November 27th. Thanksgiving is November 28. Benjamin Harrison had just been elected President the very last time the curious intersection of Than-ukkah occurred. For those of you who just ran out of fingers while counting, the year was 1888.  Or the Jewish year 5649.

Next year in Jewish households all across America that crackling sound you’ll hear are turkeys alongside latkes sizzling in the deep fryer.  Also, menorah lighting will commence followed by a hearty dessert of pumpkin pie. A winning combination to be repeated by no one ever.

But don’t panic just yet. I have cookies. Decorated cut-out gluten-free sugar cookies with royal icing – perfect for any Hanukkah celebration. Even one during Thanksgiving.

Hanukkah Butter Cookies with Royal Icing, Gluten Free. No one can eat just one!

The great thing about this recipe? It’s built in stages over a few days. Prepare the dough and refrigerate overnight. Make the cookies, let them sit on a rack overnight. Add the royal icing and let them sit on a rack overnight. Again.

Really, again.

The flavors develop and the icing gets perfectly (royal-icing) stiff and the cookie tastes terrific. I call this the no-rush cookie. You can even divide the dough in half and freeze some to use later on. You know. For other holidays coming up where cut-out cookies might come in handy.

Since Hanukkah begins this coming weekend, you might want to mix up the dough today so it can start its journey to a party plate.

A couple of useful tips about holiday cookie baking with GF dough – time and cold are your friends.

  • Most GF doughs do well with a rest so that flavors develop and all the flour/starch particles hydrate. Give the dough a chance to be the best it can be.
  • Chilled dough is easier to handle, roll and cut-out.
  • Also, chilling the raw cookie cut-outs right before baking (on the baking sheet) will help make sure your shapes don’t blob while baking.
  • Make room in the freezer or refrigerator for baking sheets when you begin baking cookies and your baking day will be happier.
And if anyone comes up with a Than-ukkah cookie cutter for next year, let me know! And who knows. Perhaps Whole Foods or Safeway will offer Than-ukkah take-home feasts – because everyone loves a little latke and kugel with their turkey and cranberries, right?

Hanukkah Butter Cookies with Royal Icing, Gluten Free. Six points of royal icing, yay!

Iced Hanukkah Sugar Cookies, Gluten Free
Like many Jewish holidays, this cookie making takes place over a few days. The efforts each day are small, but the result is a terrific and pretty cookie all dressed up for Hanukkah. See the note below for how to use a quicker version of icing.
Butter Cookie
  • 260 grams AP GF flour (130 grams superfine brown rice flour plus 65 grams each superfine white rice flour and tapioca flour/starch) (2 cups)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 150 grams superfine granulated sugar (3/4 cup)
  • 172 grams unsalted butter, chilled room temperature (12 tablespoons)
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 1 extra-large egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon pure orange or lemon flavoring
Royal Icing
  • 440 grams powdered sugar sifted (4 cups) plus a few tablespoons more for dusting parchment sheets while rolling dough
  • 4 tablespoons meringue powder or Deb-El just whites
  • 140-170 grams warm water (about ½ to ¾ cups)
  • ½ teaspoon almond or clear vanilla extract
  • light blue gel color (I use India Tree or Wilton)
  • Any GF nonpareil, colored sugar or sprinkles of choice
Butter Cookies
  1. Dough must be refrigerated at least 3 hours and overnight is best. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment. Makes about 36 three-inch cut-out cookies.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor pulse flour, salt and sugar until combined. Cube butter and add to the processor bowl and pulse until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. In a small bowl mix egg, yolk, vanilla and orange or lemon flavoring together. Add to processor and pulse until dough forms a ragged ball. The dough will be very squishy and soft at this point - don't panic and don't add more flour! It will transform itself into a respectable rolling dough while it chills out in the refrigerator. Remove to plastic wrap. Carefully remove blade. Smoosh (yes, a technical term) dough together and divide in half. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least three hours and overnight is best. The dough freezes well.
  3. Remove half the dough at a time and leave the rest in the big chill. Unwrap and place on one of the sheets of parchment which has been very lightly dusted with powdered sugar. Cover dough with plastic wrap that is larger than the parchment piece. Using a rolling-pin, hit the dough to loosen it up - if you begin rolling it will crack - but if you hit the dough a bit it gets slightly loosened up enough to roll. Roll dough a generous ⅛ inch thick. If the dough is warm or too pliable, slide the parchment onto the baking sheet and freeze for about 10 minutes or refrigerate for 20 minutes. Once the dough is quite chilled, make your cut-outs and using a small offset spatula lift the cut-outs onto a baking sheet lined with parchment about ½ inch apart. If the dough starts to get too warm, just give it a few minutes in the big chill again. Once the baking sheet is full, place it in the freezer or refrigerator to chill the cut-out dough before baking.
  4. Make sure your oven is fully preheated before removing chilled dough cut-outs. Bake about 5 minutes and rotate pan. Bake about 4-6 minutes more or just until the cookie is barely turning color on the edges. The bottoms should be golden but the edges should be less golden. Depending upon your oven you may need to bake them for a minute or two more. Cool and then remove to a rack and cool completely. Be very gentle - they are very fragile at this stage. But fear not. They will get more robust as they rest.
  5. Leave cookies out on the rack overnight to set. Remember, they are soft cookies and will be more fragile the first day. Repeat until all the cookies you want to bake are completed.
Royal Icing
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, stir the sifted powdered sugar with the meringue powder or Deb-El Just Whites until mixed together - about 15 seconds on low. Add the warm water slowly and mix on low and stop adding water the second the mixture begins to look like a thick glaze - like toothpaste. You will have extra water - I promise. Now add the flavoring. Mix on medium speed and then turn the mixer up to medium high and let it mix for about 3-4 minutes. You want the icing to flow but also be rather thick. Kind of like a thick custard falling off a spoon. Any thinner and it will run off the cookie and more thick - it will just blob on the surface of the cookie.
  2. If you are doing white and blue, begin with white. Place what you want in a piping bag or a piping plastic container - with either of them use a very narrow/small plain tip. Cover the remaining icing with plastic wrap so it doesn't dry out.
  3. Holding the cookie in the palm of your hand or on a flat surface, use the tip to pipe out an outline for where you want the icing to go. Then fill in the area with icing - if it is thin enough it will flow into place. As you move along the icing will thicken up and you may need a small offset spatula to help fill in the area. Think of it as coloring in the lines. Finish up with one color before beginning another.
  4. If you are moving on to the blue icing, add a drop of blue color gel to the mixer bowl and mix until it is all combined. Repeat the piping process but make sure the white icing is mostly set before adding the other color.
  5. Once done, let the cookies sit on the cooling rack so the royal icing can set - overnight is best. Don't touch! And the next day they should be perfect. They cookie will be stronger once the royal icing is applied and set.
  1. Lightly sprinkle on your choice of decoration as you apply the royal icing so the stuff adheres. If you wait too long it will just fall off so set up a system that allows you to drop the decorations on the freshly iced cookies as you go.
Royal Icing is actually pretty easy to make - it takes longer to explain than to make it. But if it seems like a pain an alternative is to buy Betty Crocker cookie icing in holiday colors - be sure to read the label. Most are gluten-free but double-check. The cookie icing comes in a squeeze container with a built-in piping tip and dries to a hard shine. Easy!

Hanukkah Butter Cookies with Royal Icing, Gluten Free. Dreidels you can eat!


  1. i love these! so festive! 🙂

  2. These look absolutely delish! I’ll add them to my baking list for this Chanukah!



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