Leo’s Classic Sugar Cookies


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes


    Large or 24 Medium Cookies

Appears in

I named these sugar cookies after my son because he’s the one who insisted that I make calaveras mexicanas, sugar cookies shaped like a skull and bones, for Halloween (they’re traditional in these parts for the Mexican Day of the Dead). Well, how can anyone refuse such a request? The beauty of these sugar cookies is that they actually hold their shape throughout the baking process. Some recipes survive through time for a reason: because they are unflinchingly satisfying and unapologetically comforting, and most of all, simply sublime. Will this gluten-free version of the classic join the ranks? Only time will tell . . . but I humbly beseech you to see for yourself.


  • ¼ cup sorghum flour
  • ¾ cup glutinous rice flour
  • ¼ cup tapioca flour, plus more for dusting
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 2 teaspoons guar gum
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable shortening, preferably nonhydrogenated
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 2 large egg whites
  • teaspoons pure almond extract
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Royal Icing

Special equipment

Ateco plain stainless steel tip No. 5


In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine all the dry ingredients and mix on low speed to blend.

Add the vegetable shortening and butter and mix on low speed for about 5 minutes, or until blended. Add the egg whites, almond extract, and vanilla and mix on medium-high speed until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a nice ball.

Empty the dough onto a work surface dusted with tapioca flour. If the dough appears sticky, sprinkle the top with some additional tapioca flour, and knead until smooth. Shape the dough into two disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or preferably overnight.

Position an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Let one of the disks sit at room temperature for 10 minutes to soften slightly. Lightly dust a work surface with glutinous rice flour and roll out the dough, rotating and turning it to keep it from sticking. Roll out the dough to a thickness of just under ¼ inch; any thinner and the cookies will not hold their shape.

Using cookie cutters, cut out the cookies and transfer them to the prepared pans. Bake one pan at a time for 7 minutes, or until the edges begin to color. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

To ice cookies, paint a thin layer of Royal Icing over each cookie. Allow base icing to harden, about 15 minutes. Using a pastry bag fitted with a No. 5 tip, draw the designs you desire on each cookie.

Cookies can be stored after the icing has set in an airtight container for up to 1 week.