Gluten free shortbread (nut free, gum free)

Without a shred of modesty, I am a huge fan of my recipe for gluten free brown butter shortbread. It took a lot of experimenting and the brown butter adds such a lovely nuanced flavour. I am aware, however, that some people are happier with a more classic shortbread. As such, today we’re chatting regular ol’ gluten free shortbread.

This gluten free shortbread recipe is nut free, gum free and egg free. It’s as simple as making regular shortbread, too.

A close up of gluten free shortbread on a baking tray. The shortbreads are dipped in chocolate around the edges and the two in the centre have a light sprinkling of sea salt flakes. Some of the shortbreads are made with brown butter.
Gluten free shortbreads and gluten free brown butter shortbreads

Flours and starches for your gluten free shortbread

Although I generally try to minimise starches in my recipes, I can concede that they are absolutely necessary when it comes to gluten free shortbread. As with regular shortbread, a combination of a wholegrain flour (in this case, white rice flour) and a starch creates that airy, ethereal buttery texture.

There’s not much to say about rice flour except that it should be finely ground and as fresh as possible. Rice flour has an obvious taste and smell when it goes rancid, which seems to be quite quickly. If you can, buy some from a bulk food store – it is much more finely ground and better tasting than the bags/boxes at the supermarket.

A close up of circular gluten free shortbread on a white speckled ceramic plate. Two of the middle shortbread have an edge dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt flakes

Starches – which variety to choose?

All starches have a little binding capacity, although some more than others. TLDR? I found that glutinous rice flour was the winners here.

Glutinous rice flour is made with sticky rice – the variety that makes mochi. It is easily purchased at the supermarket in Australia in the Asian section. It is generally always Erawan brand in a clear package with green writing. Normally it is located down the bottom of the shelves.

To me, glutinous rice flour has that extra binding capacity that makes it really helpful in recipes without gums. It is still light and airy, but holds everything together. I found that glutinous rice flour made for a lovely shortbread that didn’t spread.

Tapioca flour is probably more common to many of you, given how often I use it. I found shortbreads made with tapioca flour were a real mixed bag. Some of them worked without incident and others spread. Not astronomically, but more than the glutinous rice version and more than I wanted. I would say you could try tapioca if you’re desperate, but you should expect them to spread. Texturally, they’re also not my first choice.

Cornflour is my last choice here, with a caveat. The batches I tested with all cornflour had an ethereal melt in your mouth quality around the edges that I loved. However, I found that the innards of each cookie were weirdly crunchy and almost honeycomb like in texture and structure.

I do plan to try potato starch, just to round out the experiment. I haven’t yet, though, as I’m grappling with a house full of shortbread.

My dream combination, if you are so inclined? Half cornflour with half glutinous rice flour. I found this combo was the best for binding, lightness and crispiness, all in one. The half tapioca and half cornflour version spread, so I don’t recommend that.

A moody photo of a stack of gluten free shortbread against a black backdrop. There is a single cookie leaning against the stack to the left of the image. The stack is being sprinkled with icing sugar and a hand extends out with a small sieve above the cookies

Ingredients notes

Beyond the flours, there are a few ingredients worth chatting about quickly.

I use pure icing sugar in these gluten free shortbread. Regular icing sugar is mixed with tapioca starch, whereas pure is 100% sugar. Given that the tapioca version of the shortbread spread, I use pure icing sugar. If you don’t have any you can try using regular icing sugar, although I can’t say if your shortbreads will spread.

In terms of butter, I always like to use salted butter. It adds a lovely nuanced balance to the shortbread.

The vanilla bean paste is an optional inclusion. The shortbread still taste lovely without it, but it is a nice way to add extra flavour. If you don’t have any, simply add a little extra milk to compensate. You could also use vanilla bean extract (which is liquid) – just add less milk accordingly.

Gluten free shortbreads on a white speckled plate set against a white marble backdrop. Two of the shortbreads are dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with some light sea salt flakes. Surrounding the plate are water glasses, a white ceramic plate, a baking tray and another plate of shortbreads

Cookie fiend? Try these other gluten free cookie recipes

A side on shot of a stack of gluten free shortbread. The shortbread are being dusted with icing sugar from the top right of the image. A single shortbread leans against the stack to the left of the image.

Gluten free shortbreads

Nut free, gum free, egg free
No ratings yet
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 25 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 250 g salted butter, at room temperature
  • 125 g pure icing sugar (soft icing sugar contains tapioca flour, while pure is 100% sugar) sieved
  • 160 g (1 cup) fine white rice flour
  • 120 g (1 cup) glutinous rice flour OR 60g glutinous rice flour and 60g gluten free cornflour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 1/2 – 1 tablespoon milk only as necessary

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 170C/338F. Line two large baking trays with baking paper.
  • Place the room temperature butter in the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Add the sieved icing sugar and beat on a medium high speed until pale, light and creamy. This can take as few as 3 minutes or as long as 20. Persist until you have the right texture – creamed butter is critical for airy, light shortbread. Scrape down the bowl as often as necessary.
  • Once the mixture is creamed to your liking, add the flours, salt and vanilla. Process on a slow speed to fully incorporate, then scrape down the sides and turn the mixer to high. If the mixture comes together in large balls without any liquid, don't add any more. If it doesn't, add a teaspoon at a time until it does.
  • Take a small ball of mixture and roll it in your hands. If the balls crumbles and falls apart, you need to add more liquid. If it’s easy to roll, you’re good to go.
  • Scrape the dough into a ball and place it on a clean, dry and floured bench. I use tapioca flour for this purpose. Gently thump the dough down with your rolling pin to flatten it, then begin to roll. Keep picking the dough up as you roll to ensure it doesn't stick. If it crumbles completely as you pick it up, you haven't added enough liquid.
  • Roll the dough to about 1/2 centimetre (0.19 inches or 1/5th of an inch) and use a circular cutter to cut out your shortbreads. How many you get will depend on the cutter you use. I get around 25 with a 6cm (2.3 inch) circular cutter.
  • Gently transfer the cut shortbread onto the lined baking tray. If you haven’t floured the bench enough you might need to use a thin spatula to pick them up off the counter.
  • Re-roll any extra pieces until you have used all the dough.
  • Bake each tray for 20 minutes or until just lightly golden. They are more fragile as they cool so leave them on the tray to cool completely. Store leftovers in an airtight container.

Notes

You can easily make a half batch of this recipe if you don’t need this many shortbread. Simply halve all the ingredient quantities.
 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating