Recipe: Colourful (Gluten Free) Swirl Cookies

Recipe: Colourful (Gluten Free) Swirl Cookies

The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree:  the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.  ~Burton Hillis

The best thing about this Christmas, was having our three children, with their spouses and our grandchild stay overnight with us on Christmas Eve. We spent the latter part of the evening sharing beverages, stories and laughter in front of the Christmas Tree. In the morning, everyone was up early to open their gifts and then we all sat down together to a lovely breakfast of eggs, sausages, fresh hash brown potatoes, some GF Cheese Scones and Mimosa (orange juice and sparkling wine). For us, it was the perfect start to a special family day.

Christmas 2011
and then it was over
Did you enjoy the Holidays? I sure hope you did!

As you can tell by my lack of postings, I took a break from blogging to spend some much-needed time with family. It was time well spent but now I feel like it has been months since I posted my last recipe and oh, do I have a wonderful lineup of treats to share with you! It’s a bit of a shame I didn’t post this recipe for Colourful Gluten Free Swirl Cookies before Christmas. I had intended to but…aww well, now I get to tell you how delightful they looked on my Gluten Free Hostess Trays (more about that in my next posting) and how everyone “oohed and awed” over the treats and how some exclaimed “I can’t believe these are gluten free”.

From the first moment I spotted the Colourful Swirl Cookies on Our Italian Kitchen blog, I knew I had to make a gluten free version of those beauties. I’m posting this too late for you to use the recipe for Christmas but how about putting together a chocolate and vanilla swirl for New Years? Or a red raspberry and chocolate swirl for Valentines Day? I plan on adding some fruit purée to the cookie dough to make some nice pastel coloured Swirl Cookies for Easter weekend.

I’m not crazy about using commercial food colouring in my baking (see my Recipe for Red Velvet Doughnuts). I intended to make my own all natural food colouring from fruit purée but after mulling it over, doing some online research and mixing a couple of tablespoons of cranberry purée into some of my cookie dough, I realized the colours from the purée would be much less intense than the bright Christmas colours I could get from commercial food colouring. I’ve decided I will wait until Easter before investing more time in experimenting with all natural food colouring.
I liked the look of the sprinkles on the outside of these cookies but I wanted to try some other coatings too. I tried coconut flakes but the coconut on its own didn’t stick very well and the small amount that did stick, browned, dried up and fell off during baking. A mixture of coconut flakes and sprinkles worked better but my favourite coating is the one I made with chopped pistachio nuts, dried cranberries and coconut (see picture on left). It was a bit tedious chopping the nuts and fruit by hand but the green, red and white contrasting colours were worth it and I preferred the more natural textures and flavours to the candy sprinkles.The original recipe on Our Italian Kitchen blog, calls for a slice and bake, sweet sugar cookie dough. Super, I thought, I was going to use the same Soft Sugar Cookies (Gluten Free) Recipe I used to make my Melting Snowmen Cookies. That Soft Sugar Cookie dough was easy to work with but when I looked back on my notes, it reminded me that I found the Snowman Cookies had a slightly gritty texture, so I’ve changed up the flours in this recipe. If you prefer, you can use the old recipe, or a GF All Purpose Blend. I also added some xantham gum to add extra structure to the dough. If you use a GF All Purpose Blend, that already has xantham gum, do not add the gum called for in the recipe.This GF Sugar Cookie recipe makes such a large batch, I decided to divide the dough into quarters so I could play with the colours and the coatings.How To Make Cranberry Puree

  • 1/2 Cup cranberries, fresh or frozen
  • 2 Tbsp water
  1. In a medium saucepan, cook cranberries and water until the berries are soft and start to split open (about 5-10 minutes). Remove from heat, set aside, allow to cool.
  2. In a blender or a food processor, pulse and process the cranberries along with the juice or liquid until smooth.

I added a couple of tablespoons of cranberry purée (see How To above) to one-quarter of the dough but it turned pale pink instead of  red. Hoping for some Red Velvet magic, I added 2 Tbsp of Cocoa powder, but the dough turned an unattractive reddish-brown. Finally, in desperation, I added every last drop of red food colouring I had. The result was the deep Red Velvet colour you see in the picture on the left.
I found the cranberry purée and liquid food colouring made the dough too soft, so I had to add about 1/4 cup of  brown rice flour to thicken the dough before chilling it.

Much like the Melting Snowmen Cookies, I made these Swirl Cookies in stages. I mixed the dough in the evening, but because GF dough is so very sticky, I allowed it to chill overnight. The next day I rolled it out and assembled the different colours of dough but found it was too warm and soft to slice and bake. Back into the refrigerator (or freezer for the softer red velvet cookie roll) until well chilled.

Finally, slice, bake and then stand back to admire the Colourful Gluten Free Swirl Cookies!

Colourful (Gluten Free) Swirl Cookies
Recipe type: Sweets
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Summary: These cookies looked delightful on my Gluten Free Hostess Trays. I’m posting this too late for Christmas but how about making chocolate and vanilla swirl cookies for New Years? Or red raspberry and chocolate swirls for Valentines? I plan on making some nice pastel GF Swirl Cookies for Easter weekend.
Inspiration for this recipe came from Our Italian Kitchen blog. Gluten Free | Vegetarian
*** Always refer to packaging labels for the most up to date allergy information
  • 1 Cup sweet rice flour (plus extra for rolling and if needed, to firm up coloured dough)
  • 1 Cup potato starch (NOT flour)
  • 1 Cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 Cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 Cup tapioca starch/flour
  • 1/2 Cup corn flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 5 tsp baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 cups butter, room temperature (3 sticks)
  • 1 1/2 Cups white sugar
  • 3 extra-large eggs
  • food colouring and/or colourful fruit purée
  • 1 Tbsp almond or vanilla extract (optional)
  • Sprinkles, coconut flakes, nuts and/or dried fruit, coarsely chopped (for outer coating)
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together sweet rice flour, potato starch, cornstarch, brown rice flour, tapioca starch, corn flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, and a pinch salt.
  2. In a stand mixer, beat butter with sugar on high, until pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat an extra minute or two after the last egg, and add vanilla (or almond extract).
  3. With the mixer on low, fold in flour mixture, and mix until fully incorporated. Remove from mixing bowl, place on floured parchment paper and form into a large disk. Divide into 2 equal parts. Note: the GF dough will be very soft and sticky. Return one portion of the dough to the mixer and add food colouring (or fruit purée). Mix until the colour is evenly spread out in the dough.
  4. If you are using fruit purée or liquid food colouring, you will most likely need to add a few tablespoons of extra flour to keep the dough from becoming too wet. Use your intuition on how much flour to add. If the dough is too soft, it will be difficult to roll out. If it is too stiff, it won’t have that soft sugar cookie mouthfeel.
  5. Wrap each piece of dough with plastic wrap or place inside a large zip-lock style bag, refrigerate or freeze until cold and no longer sticky, at least 2 hours.
  6. Lay a large piece of parchment paper or wax paper out on your counter, lightly sprinkle with sweet rice flour (or fine GF flour of choice), or if you prefer, you can roll out each portion of your dough, between two sheets of paper. Select the white dough, roll it out until it is about a 9×14 rectangle and is slightly less than 1/4 inch thick. Slide on a cookie sheet and set aside while you roll out the coloured half of the cookie dough.
    Colourful (Gluten Free) Swirl Cookies
  7. Brush the uncoloured vanilla dough lightly with water using dampened fingers or a pastry brush. Then carefully flip the coloured dough on top of the vanilla uncoloured dough so they are stacked, one on top of the other and even. Press the edges lightly with dampened fingertips to seal them together. Using a small pairing knife, trim the edges of the dough to make straight, even lines.
  8. Be sure your dough is still cold, but flexible. If needed, slide the stacked dough on to a cookie sheet and chill for a few minutes.
  9. Once it’s ready, begin rolling the long side of dough into a swirl, jelly roll style. If the outer layer of dough tears a bit, don’t worry, just pinch with dampened fingers and smooth the tears, then just keep rolling. You can seal the edge of the roll with dampened fingers or a pastry brush.
    Colourful (Gluten Free) Swirl Cookies
  10. Pour sprinkles onto a plate or platter. I found the roll of dough was easier to manage after I cut it into shorter sections. Gently lift your dough log, set it on the sprinkles and roll away. Cover the log completely with your sprinkles.
  11. Wrap the colourfully decorated log in plastic wrap twice. Depending on when you want to bake the cookies, either place the wrapped dough into refrigerator for about 3-4 hours or you can store in the freezer for up to 2 months. If freezing, allow time for the dough to defrost in the fridge overnight before cutting.
  12. When you’re ready to make the cookies, preheat oven to 350°F. Use a very sharp knife to slice your dough into 1/4-1/8 inch slices and bake for 10-12 minutes on parchment lined baking sheets.
  13. These cookies will puff up but will spread very little, so you can place them fairly close together. For even cooking results, spin the cookie sheet after about 6 minutes. Watch the cookies closely, bake only until just puffed and set, remove them if they begin to brown around the edges. This will give you a cookie that is soft and not crunchy.
  14. Let cool on the pan for a couple of minutes and then use a thin lifter to gently transfer cookies to a wire cooling rack. These gluten free cookies are pretty fragile when warm but they firm up nicely once they’re cool.
  15. Allow cookies to cool completely before serving.
~ Treat this cookie dough like a gluten-free pie or pastry dough. For extra help, Amy at Simply Sugar & Gluten Free has some great tips for making gluten free pie crust.
~ This recipe makes a large batch of dough. I ended up with about 4 dozen cookies. If you don’t need that many cookies, you can always cut the recipe in half or make the full batch and then freeze half of the dough to use for some quick Home Baked GF Goodies at a future date.

Variations: ***Please keep in mind that making substitutions will change the final outcome.

~ Do you have some left over dough from making your swirl cookies? I had some from trimming the edges of the rolled out cookie dough. I used it and some extra sprinkles to make GF Wreath Cookies (as pictured below).
Colourful (Gluten Free) Swirl Cookies

1) Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2) Roll out left over dough to about 1/4 inch thick.
3) Use a cookie cutter to cut out a round piece of dough. Use a smaller cookie cutter to cut out the centre of your round piece of dough.
4) Carefully transfer the wreath shaped ring to prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all the scrapes of dough are used up.
5) Bake for 10-12 minutes or until they begin to brown around the edges. Let cool on a wire cooling rack.
6) Meanwhile, measure 1 to 2 cups (depending on how many cookies you have) of icing sugar into a small bowl. Squeeze a couple of teaspoons of fresh lemon juice into the bowl and stir. Keep adding lemon juice one teaspoon at a time until you have a somewhat runny icing.
7) Ice one of the cooled cookies, add sprinkles before the icing sets. Repeat until all your cookies are decorated.


This December,
That love weighs more than gold!
~Josephine Dodge Daskam Bacon

Laureens Signature
To see a text listing of Laureen’s gluten free recipes, click here

For dairy, egg, nut and gluten free flour substitutions, click here

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Laureen Fox
Laureen is an enthusiastic amateur cook and Canadian Food Blogger from Vancouver BC. She loves spending her days creating good wholesome food in this Fox Kitchen. Evenings will find her blogging about the best that living without gluten has to offer.

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    • Laureen says:

      Amy, I’m glad you like my Swirl Cookies. I think they would have been little crumbly blobs if I hadn’t learned sooo much about GF cooking through your blog, I’m honored to have had you stop by for a visit!

  1. Alea Milham says:

    Your cookies look wonderful! I am thinking they would work weel for Valentines’ Day and St. Patrick’s Day too. thanks for sharing your lovely cookies with the Hearth and Soul Hop.

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