How about some gluten and diary free Girl Scout cookies? Oh, yeah, have we got the recipe for you!
I have two Girl Scouts in my house. I am also a Girl Scout leader (twice over, as I co-lead both my girl’s troops). As Girl Scout members, we are participants of the Girl Scout cookie sales that happen every year. The problem? Both the girls and I can’t have dairy or gluten. I have another Girl Scout in my older troop who has a peanut allergy. There is not one cookie those kids (or I) can have.
Children now, more than ever, are being diagnosed with food allergies. Progress is being made within food manufacturers and restaurants to make them more aware about this issue. However, there is a LONG way to go before children and their parents can truly feel at ease eating out or consuming many manufactured foods. I believe Girl Scouts can really set a Girl Scout example of inclusion by stepping up to the cookie plate and offering a gluten and allergen free cookie.
Girl Scout Cookies are manufactured at two facilities: ABC/Interbake Foods and Little Brownie Bakers. There IS an allergen link on the Girl Scout FAQ page here but it simply sends you to another window where you can find the ingredients and nutrition facts labels. Still have questions and click on FAQ? Then you are sent back to the page you started at looking for the allergen link. Ugh! Scrolling further down, however, there is one question addressing why there isn’t a specialty cookie:
“Q: Why don’t you offer cookies that are whole-wheat, wheat-free, non-dairy, dairy-free, vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free, organic, low-carbohydrate, low-calorie, low-fat, non-fat, fat-free, etc.?
A: The demand for specialty cookie formulations is simply not great enough to make it economically feasible to offer a variety of specialty types. Of all the different possible formulations, sugar-free seems to be the most popular, yet in the past, even the sugar-free Girl Scout cookies that have been offered have had to be discontinued due to lack of demand. (“Sugar free cookie” is not synonymous with a “diabetic cookie” labeling.) Our bakers continue to experiment and develop formulations that balance the best tasting cookies using the healthiest ingredients.”
Little Brownie Bakers (where we get the cookies from in my area) has this on the Frequently Asked Question section of their site:
“What is your allergen labeling policy?
If you or a loved one has food allergies, we understand your need for clear, understandable labeling.
The top eight allergens that account for 90% of the food allergies in the US are peanuts, tree nuts, egg, cow’s milk, wheat, soybean, fish and shellfish.
On each of our cookie packages, we label for the top 8 allergens directly below the ingredient statement on the Nutrition Facts side panel. For peanuts and tree nuts, we have chosen to include cautionary labeling in the form of a “may contain” statement. This indicates that the product shares processing equipment with another product that contains peanuts or tree nuts.
If the allergen in concern is not listed below the ingredient statement, we are confident that the product is safe for consumption.
Beyond the top eight allergens, all ingredients are declared within the ingredient statement. If you are concerned about a specific ingredient, please review the ingredient statement for the ingredient in question.
We do not take any risks with our consumer’s health. You can always trust the label.”
“Do you have any gluten-free cookies?
At this time, we do not offer any cookies suitable for consumers on a gluten-free diet.”
ABC/Interbake Foods does a better job at describing their efforts to reduce allergens. From their FAQ page:
Over a decade ago, ABC partnered with Food Allergen and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) to learn more about life threatening food allergies and the impact of ingredient labeling and allergen warnings. We have also worked with the Food Allergy Research & Resource Program in association with the University of Nebraska to review our sanitation, handling and training procedures. Prior to FDA guidelines requiring labeling for potential allergens, ABC adapted what is known as “product specific” allergen labeling. Product specific labeling enables the allergy-affected consumer to make an informed decision based on information specific to that particular product. While broad “across the line” statements such as “this product may contain traces of peanuts” meets the current FDA requirements, it is limiting to the increasing number of allergy sufferers across the country.
Product specific labeling requires strict compliance to good manufacturing practices to prevent cross contamination such as:
- Segregation of known allergens from the general production environment
- Color-coding of storage units and utensils
- Color-coding of employee uniforms
- Curtained off production areas
- Designated lanes for transportation of known allergens
- Swabbing and testing of allergen shared equipment
In addition, we call out all allergens on our packaging and order cards and provide specific warning if a product is made on a line that also produces product with a common allergen such as peanuts. ABC’s proactive approach to allergens is an example of our commitment to producing the best quality Girl Scout Cookies possible for the millions of valued consumers who support Girl Scouting every year.”
Well, super… However, celiac disease is four times more common now that it was in the 1950′s with about 100,100 currently diagnosed with Celiac disease and about 1 in 25 (that is approximately 12 million people in the United States, 4% of the population) have food allergies with and one in 17 under the age of 3 have food allergies. That is a lot of up and coming Scouters and their families. Not to mention the Girl Scout cookie customer base.
The Girl Scouts of America need to look toward developing a cookie that is gluten free and free of the top 8 allergens if they want their cookie program to stay competitive. Frankly, as an allergen heavy family, I may want to write a check directly to support my local troop, but as a leader I know that it will not help support my local council or the organization as a whole as the cookies do. I have seen more and more of that sort of donation happening due strictly to food allergen concerns.
I also really struggled from the start about whether we should even join Girl Scouts as the whole cookie thing seemed like a lot to navigate with our allergies. I do know of several families with allergies who have skipped joining Girl Scouts and have chosen other activities that do not require such a big yearly learning/leadership activity based on an unsafe (for them) food. I think it is a shame because I really believe my girls have gotten great things from their time in the Girl Scouts, at the same time I do understand their point of view. It can be a tough call when you have food allergies…
My proposal is that the Girl Scouts should make ALL EFFORTS to either:
a – find a manufacturer that produces allergen-free cookies and partner with them. (For example, Enjoy Life Foods produces gluten free and top 8 allergen free products. The cookie boxes are even a similar size and shape. My kids love the gingerbread spice and double chocolate brownie cookies. I’m just saying…)
or b- require their current manufacturers to produce a gluten free/allergen free cookie.
I know, I know, easier said than done. I do understand it would be hard to get a completely allergen-free cookie made and that it would take time. However, knowing they were at least exploring this option actively and not having the concern written off because there are supposedly not enough need for an allergen free cookie (12 million food allergy sufferers in America? 100,100 diagnoses of celiac? That seems like it should be “enough.”) would be a big step in the right direction.
Last year Gluten Free Raleigh contacted the Girl Scouts about the gluten free cookie issue an found that they were a “frequent topic at our Research and Development meetings.” So, it seems at least that the thought is out there… Let’s see what develops. Though, frankly, making something a topic and actually DOING something about it are two VERY different things. I encourage you to contact the Girls Scouts and let them know your concerns about their cookies and what you would like to see be developed. Let them know there are many of us gluten-free and allergen-free types that would love a chance to support their local Girl Scouts. We would also love the Girl Scouts with allergies to actually be selling a product that is safe for them. Contact the Girl Scouts here to encourage them to make a gluten free allergen free cookie. Thanks!
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As I know change takes time, we have decided to make our own. Over the next 5 weeks we will be making and posting the results of the gluten free dairy free cookie makeovers of the top 5 sellers: D0-Si-Dos (Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookie), Trefoils (Shortbread), Thin Mint, Tagalongs (Peanut Butter Patties) and Samoas (Caramel deLites). And, really? They are cookies. How fun is this going to be?!? Woo!
I am starting with Do-Si-Dos the “Naturally Good! Crisp and crunchy oatmeal cookies with creamy peanut butter filling” cookie. If you are a peanut allergic Scout, reduce the sugar slightly (Sunbutter is already pretty sweet) and use Sunbutter (if that is a safe seed butter for you) and you can have a similar cookie to try. I already have a really great peanut butter oatmeal cookie and peanut butter filling, so this seemed like an easy start on our Girl Scout cookie makeovers.
I found an interesting slideshow comparing the different nutrition facts of the Girl Scout cookies of the past to now or comparing the nutrition facts of the different Girl Scout bakers. Like most manufactured products, the serving sizes and amount of sugar in these have not improved over time. At least you can control what goes into your homemade cookie!
My oldest daughter was pretty excited coming home to a gluten and dairy free Do-Si-Do yesterday. It was her first Girl Scout style cookie ever!
- ½ cup gluten free oats
- ½ cup finely ground white rice flour (or ¼ cup white rice flour and ¼ cup sorghum flour)
- ¼ cup sweet rice flour
- ¼ cup corn starch, potato starch or arrowroot starch
- ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum or guar gum
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon gluten free baking powder
- ½ cup shortening (I use organic palm shortening)
- ¼ cup no-stir style crunchy natural peanut butter
- ⅓ cup sugar
- ⅓ cup packed brown sugar
- 1 egg (or for egg free: 1 T. ground flax seed mixed with 3 T. hot water until thick)
- ½ teaspoon gluten free vanilla extract
- ½ cup no-stir style creamy natural peanut butter
- ⅔ cup powdered sugar
- 3 to 4 teaspoons milk substitute of choice as needed (I like coconut or almond milk in this)
- In a skillet over medium-high heat, toast the gluten free oats until they start to get golden edges. Be sure to stir often, not allowing the oats to burn. Cool oats then pulse in a clean coffee grinder or blender until the texture of quick-cooking oats. Put in bowl with other rice flours, corn starch, salt, baking powder, and xanthan gum. Whisk together well.
- In the bowl of your mixer, cream the shortening, peanut butter and sugars together until fluffy. Add egg (or flax mixture) and vanilla. Blend. Add dry ingredients, mixing well. Cover dough and refrigerate for 2 hours up to overnight.
- When the dough is chilled, make dough balls with 1 teaspoon dough. Roll each teaspoon of dough in your hands until circular. Place the balls of dough at least 1½″ apart on a cookie pan lined with Silpat or parchment. Press the dough with a glass to flatten to about 3/8″ thick. Smooth edges, if desired. I poked the cookies with a toothpick 3 times in a triangular pattern. This is to make it look more authentic and to help the cookie stay more flat while it bakes.
- Bake the cookies in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 7 minutes, or until the edges are beginning to become golden. Allow the cookies to cool for a couple of minutes on the pan until it sets up a bit. Remove cookies with a thin edged spatula to a cooling rack.
- While cookies are baking and cooling, mix the filling ingredients until smooth. Add extra milk substitute one teaspoon at a time as needed to make a creamy smooth filling. The amount needed will vary depending on the peanut butter used.
- When cookies are cool place one teaspoon of filling on the bottom of half of the cookies baked. Top each cookie with filling with another plain cookie. Gently press the cookies together, allowing filling to push out to the edge.
- Like their inspiration, these cookies freeze well.