I saw these in a local bakery, but they were filled with butter, gluten and sugar, so I couldn’t buy them. I went home and tinkered with a few gluten-free shortbread recipes I had in my files and came up with my own version using almond and cassava flours, dairy-free butter and healthier sweeteners.
It took me a few tries to get the the shortbread dough to bake properly, making the “fingers” look wrinkly as, I’d imagine, witches’ fingers would be. The cookies don’t contain any leavening, so they won’t rise, but they need to crinkle, or they’ll look puffy and smooth. Hardly scary.
Most shortbread recipes include only three ingredients: flour, butter, sugar and a teensy bit of salt. But gluten-free cookies need more help. I added vanilla, xanthan gum and a little non-dairy milk to this recipe to help the cookies hold together better. You want to enjoy eating whole fingers, not a dusty pile of crumbs!
As I’m always trying to eliminate refined sugar, I used coconut sugar, xylitol/erythritol and stevia in this recipe. The lack of refined sugar does change the texture of the shortbread a bit, making it more crumbly.
Refined sugar adds body and crispy heft to baked goods. It’s too bad it’s so terrible for all of us, because it does, in small doses, taste great. Coconut sugar is not significantly better for you (it has a fairly high glycemic index) than refined sugar, but I find it almost impossible to make desserts without a natural sweetener.
I use whole almonds for “fingernails” on these cookies. You can also use blanched almonds, as they did in the bakery, which look more like real fingernails. Chocolate or dark icing adds to the effect. If you make these cookies right, they look a bit creepy. But that’s the idea on Halloween.
Gluten-Free Shortbread Witches' Fingers
Gluten-free shortbread witches fingers are simple to make and scary to look at. Perfect for Halloween. Paint the fingers with dark icing or melted chocolate for a creepier look and more flavor.
- 3 cups gluten-free flour mix (I used 1/2 almond flour and 1/2 cassava flour)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons guar or xanthan gum
- 1 cup coconut sugar
- 1/3 cup xylitol or erythritol
- 1/8 teaspoon pink salt
- 3/4 cup dairy-free butter
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1-2 teaspoons dairy-free milk (I used almond milk)
- 1 teaspoon liquid stevia
- Raw, blanched almonds
- Icing or melted chocolate (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
Cover a baking sheet with parchment, and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour mix, guar or xanthan gum, coconut sugar, xylitol or erythritol and salt.
Add the butter and coconut oil, and, using two knives or a pastry cutter, blend until the dough resembles small pebbles.
Stir in the vanilla, dairy-free milk and stevia until the dough forms a ball.
Pinch off pieces of dough, and gently roll them into long finger shapes, and place the fingers on the prepared baking sheet.
Press half a blanched almond into the thinner tip of each "finger" to resemble a fingernail.
Bake at 325 degrees F for 25-35 minutes.
Watch carefully after 20 minutes, to make sure the cookies are browned on top, but not burned on the bottom.
Remove from oven, and allow cookies to cool.
Add icing or melted chocolate as desired.
Transfer to a sealed container. Cookies will keep on the counter for up to three days.
For a more ghoulish look, paint the almond "fingernails" with melted dairy-free chocolate. Add mini-chocolate chips to the shortbread dough for added flavor, texture and "age spots."
Stir together dry ingredients.
Cut in the butter and coconut oil with a pastry cutter or two knives.
The mixture should resemble sticky sand. Stir in the milk, stevia and vanilla, and squeeze the dough into a ball.
Break off pieces of dough, and roll by hand into finger shapes. Press whole almonds into one end of each cookie to create “nails.”
Bake at 325 degrees F for 25-35 minutes. The cookies should be browned when done.
Allow the cookies to cool thoroughly, then add icing or melted chocolate for a more ghoulish look. Here, I used orange-flavored icing.
The cookies will keep in a sealed container on the counter for up to three days. Store in a single layer.