Gluten-free Vegan Holiday Cookies: Hazelnut Espresso Shortbread

Hazelnut Espresso Shortbread (That's pre-slicing, not one big piece, though one could hardly blame you for hoping.)

Gluten-free Vegan Christmas Cookie Series, part 1 of 3: Holiday Hazelnut Espresso Shortbread

Forgive me for crowing about this one a little, but this is a triumph. Just the other day, while working on a biscotti recipe, I was lamenting how difficult it can be to convert recipes to gluten-free AND vegan at the same time; one at a time,  often manageable enough, but together, they can create some serious issues, texture in particular. (I eventually worked out the biscotti, as you’ll see in the next post.)

This heavenly shortbread, originally discovered on Epicurious, had been a regular in my holiday lineup for years until I gave up the gluten in 2008, and I can’t say how pleased I am with this version, rendered gluten, dairy and egg-free. I love the way this comes together in the food processor, too.  If you try only one of our holiday recipes this year, please try this one*.


3/4 cup hazelnuts
1 cup almond flour
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
1/2 cup teff or coconut flour
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup potato starch
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon plus one teaspoon instant espresso powder OR espresso roast beans, ground as finely as possible (setting is often listed as “Turkish”)**
1 cup Earth Balance margarine. chilled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons hot water
1/4 cup semi or bittersweet chocolate chips (check your brand to make sure it’s dairy-free, such as Enjoy Life or Ghirardelli)

Preheat oven to 350. Toast hazelnuts on a baking sheet for about 15 minutes, until very fragrant and skins are a deep, dark brown. Transfer nuts onto a dishtowel, gather up the ends and rub the hazelnuts against each other to loosen the skins; they should mostly just flake right off (and drive yourself mad, they don’t have to be 100% cleaned, you just want to remove most of them). Allow nuts to cool a but as you measure out the other ingredients.

Transfer nuts to the work bowl of your food processor and pulse until finely chopped (but be careful not to turn it into hazelnut butter – err on the side of caution).  Remove and set aside. Add flours, brown sugar, potato starch, 1 tablespoon of the espresso, xanthan gum and salt and pulse to just combine. Add Earth Balance and vanilla and pulse until the mixture starts to look like coarse sand. Add the cooled hazelnuts, reserving a heaping tablespoon or so for garnish. Pulse a few more times, until all is well-incorporated.

Transfer to a clear surface and knead just a few times, then divide it into two rounds.. Press each round evenly into two 8 inch tart pans (the kind with removable bottoms). Bake for about 25 minutes, until a deep rich brown. Place on a wire rack to cool for five minutes, then remove the sides – the easiest way to do this is to  center them carefully over upside-down ramekins and then just let the sides drop away. Cut into 16 wedges and allow to cool completely, but keep in their round forms.

Mix reserved espresso, hot water and chocolate in a small saucepan and heat over low to medium low heat, just until chocolate is almost melted, stirring continuously, then remove from heat and keep stirring until it melts the rest of the way. Drizzle over the cooled rounds and then sprinkle the remaining finely-chopped hazelnuts over the top.


Some other vegan shortbreads:

Vegan, Soy-Free Shortbread from Go Dairy Free: I’m intrigued by the use of hempseed oil here.
Pine Nut and Rosemary Shortbread from 101 Cookbooks: I absolutely ADORE rosemary in a sweet setting – this combination sounds incredible – I WILL be making these. Oh yes.
Vegan Lingonberry Shortbread Bars from Christine Cooks: Love the layers on these beauties – I’ll bet other berry types are delicious too.

Some other gluten-free shortbreads:

Pecan Shortbread Cookies from Elana’s Pantry: I trust any recipe from Elana inherently; these are just beautiful.
Gluten-Free Chocolate Shortbread from Gluten-Free Girl: Don’t you love the evocative title (and her writing as always)? I could use some crisp, buttery bites on this here wintry night.
Shortbread Digestives from The Curious Baker: This, too, is going right on my to-do list. I love the crumbly, oaty goodness of this kind of digestive biscuit.

*I hereby reserve the right to contradict myself in the future. I contain multitudes.

** If coffee is verboten even in decaf form, you could try this product called Pero, which I found courtesy of Confessions of a Mormon Foodie. Proceed with caution, flavor-wise, as I haven’t vetted this variation myself and thus cannot vouch for it. But it might be worth a try!

— posted by Anne



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