Crunchy and lightly sweet, these gluten free candy cane biscotti are your classic twice-baked cookie, but all dressed up for the holiday season. And they’re naturally dairy-free!
How to bake with crushed candy canes
Because candy canes are mostly sugar, they act like a liquid in baking as they melt. That just means that we have to be more creative than simply replacing the almonds in our vanilla almond biscotti and otherwise following that recipe as is.
The first thing you’ll notice about baking with these candy cane pieces is that they turn your biscotti dough, well, pink. The final cookies aren’t quite pink, but are clearly festive!
The candy cane pieces will melt during baking, and then of course will become firm again once they cool. Although biscotti are meant to be crunchy, it’s best to work with a wetter dough that makes biscotti that are slightly more tender inside lest they become rock-hard and unpleasant as they cool.
To crush the candy canes or peppermint Starlight mints, place them in a heavy duty zip-top bag, enclose the bag in a cotton tea towel, and crush them using a meat tenderizer or mallet. Candy canes are more difficult to crush than the Jolly Rancher candies in our stained glass sugar cookies, but take care as you crush them because you want distinct pieces of candy, and not candy cane dust.
My favorite candy canes are made by Spangler, since all of their candy canes (and even most of their products) are Top 8 Allergen free and are always great quality. Spangler also makes the fun flavored candy canes (like Sour Patch Kids and Jelly Belly flavored candy canes). If you can find gluten free starlight mints (the round white candies with the red starbursts), they taste great and are easier to crush than candy canes.
How to make these candy cane gluten free biscotti cookies
Once you’ve crushed the candy for these cookies, the dough comes together very quickly. First, whisk the flour, starch, baking powder, salt, granulated sugar, and the candy pieces, and then add the eggs and flavoring extracts.
The dough will be very sticky. The best way to combine cookie dough in a bowl is to press down the mixture with the back of the spoon periodically as you mix. That will help moisten the dry ingredients and get the to incorporate into the wet.
I like to divide the dough into two portions so that it bakes all the way through without browning too much in the first bake. Shape each into a rectangle about 3 1/2-inches long x 3-inches wide x 1-inch thick, and space the portions about 4-inches apart from one another as they will spread during baking.
Bake the loaves at 350°F for about 25 minutes or until they spring back when pressed gently in the center. Allow them to cool for about 10 minutes before slicing by cross-section on the bias. I even like to chill the cooled loaves in the freezer for 10 minutes to make them easier to slice cleanly.
Line the slices up, one flat side down, on the baking sheet and bake at 300°F for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, carefully flip the cookies over (they will be a bit tender so work gently with a light touch), and bake to brown the other side, about another 10 minutes.
If you want to ensure that your biscotti isn’t too crunchy, bake for less than 10 minutes. When the cookies from come out of the oven, they will still be tender, but they will crisp as they cool.
Ingredients and substitutions
Eggs: The 2 eggs in this recipe are responsible for nearly all of the moisture, and they’re the most important binder. Although there are only 2 eggs, which is usually the most eggs for which I feel comfortable suggesting an egg replacement, I don’t think this recipe is a good candidate for making egg-free.
Flavoring oils and extracts: The candy canes in this recipe provide plenty of mint flavor, but it’s mixed in with their sweetness so I do like to add peppermint extract (I like McCormick brand, but there are other good ones). Peppermint extract does tend to be quite strong, though, so resist the urge to add more. I find that a combination of 1 teaspoon peppermint and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract is just right.
Cornstarch: In place of cornstarch, I like tapioca starch/flour in this recipe, but I imagine potato starch or arrowroot would work just fine, too.
White chocolate: White chocolate is not naturally dairy-free in most forms, if that’s important to you. I do have a recipe for vegan white chocolate that most certainly is dairy free, and is better than any store-bought white chocolate I’ve ever had.
You can, of course, leave the biscotti plain, or use a simple water-and-confectioners’ sugar icing like we used in our recipe for iced oatmeal cookies. The flavor of a little white chocolate drizzle is really the perfect pairing for these biscotti, but a simple glaze is more stable once cool. White chocolate will remain somewhat soft, so keep that in mind if you’re traveling with these biscotti.
Candy canes: Please see the full discussion above, but the short story is that Spangler brand candy canes are top 8 allergen free, made in a dedicated facility, and always taste great.
Gluten Free Candy Cane Biscotti
1 1/2 cups (210 g) all purpose gluten free flour (I used Better Batter), plus more for sprinkling
3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
2 tablespoons (18 g) cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (100 g) finely crushed peppermint candy canes (or starlight mint hard candies)
2 eggs (100 g, weighed out of shell) at room temperature, beaten
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
White chocolate, melted, for drizzling (optional)
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper and set it aside. If you haven’t already crushed the candy canes or peppermint Starlight mints, place them in a heavy duty zip-top bag, cover with a cotton tea towel, and crush them using a meat tenderizer or mallet.
In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and sugar, and whisk to combine well. Add the crushed candies, and whisk again to combine. Add the eggs, vanilla extract, and peppermint extract, and mix to combine well. The dough will be thick and very sticky. Sprinkle your hands with additional flour and knead the dough lightly with your hands until a bit smoother. Divide the dough into two equal portions, and, with lightly floured hands, shape each into a loaf that is about 3 1/2-inches long x 3-inches wide x 1-inch thick. Place the loaves about 4 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.
Place the baking sheet in the center of the preheated oven and bake until lightly golden brown and firm to the touch, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the loaf to cool for at least 10 minutes, or until only slightly warm to the touch. For easier slicing, place the loaves in the freezer for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 300°F.
Using a large serrated bread knife, slice each loaf in cross-section on the bias into 5 to 6 pieces, each about 1/4 inch thick. Place the pieces, one flat side down, back on the prepared baking sheet, spaced about 1 inch apart. Return the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Working quickly with a light touch, flip each of the cookies over on the baking sheet. Return the baking sheet to the oven one last time and finish baking until the underside of the cookies is lightly golden brown (about another 10 minutes – less if you want less crunchy cookies). Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature. The cookies will crisp as they cool.
Drizzle the cooled cookies with the melted white chocolate, if using, and allow the chocolate to set at room temperature. Store leftover cookies in a sealed glass container at room temperature to maintain crispness.