Grace and her friend decorating gluten-free spritz cookies earlier this month.

Grace and her friend decorating gluten-free spritz cookies earlier this month.

Hanukkah just began and Christmas Eve is just a week away.  You may still have some cookies to make with your friends, neighbors or family in time for your holiday celebrations.

In our house I usually only make gluten free cookies, but we had a cookie exchange with some church friends and I decided to make my husband’s favorite spritz cookies (I actually made gluten-free spritz first and then my husband’s gluten-full cookies).
It has been some time since I made something with regular flour and was a bit shocked with how that flour really flies around, no matter how much I tried to keep it under control.
Which brings us to today’s topic.  I received this question earlier this month from reader, Laura.

“I have a large group of college friends who get together a couple times a year at one of our homes to hang out, play games, update each other on our lives, etc. We’re having a cookie decorating night in about a week. This is the first Christmas that I’ve been GF, and I’m wondering if I need to be worried about getting glutened at the party since they’re making, baking, and decorating cookies the whole time.
Do you think I’ll be ok going, or can I even decorate some cookies and then wash my hands really well afterwards? I’d really like to take part in the decorating (since that’s the main point of the party), but even if I can’t do that I’d still like to go just to socialize and catch up with all of my friends. What do you think??” – Laura

Should you go to a non gluten  free cookie event?

What to do?  First of all, I am not going to give a resounding YES or NO on this question.  It is totally up to the individual.  But here is how Laura and I discussed it.
I explained that this first year of being gluten free (in particular) there will be situations where she will have to decide if it is worth it to test the waters and see how it goes, how sensitive she is, and whether any of it is worth the trouble and possible worry.  I told her if it were my gluten-free child I would avoid the floury mixing and rolling out the dough part of the cookie making.  But I wouldn’t be as worried if my child were just decorating cookies.  When she was finished, she would wash her hands — really well.  In fact, we did this at a work family party the Christmas after her diagnosis. There were hundreds of cookies out for decorating.  I sat with Emma who was almost 2 years old at the time as she decorated.  I made sure hands didn’t go in the mouth and we washed up really good afterward.

I did caution Laura about the flour flying around with the mixing of the dough.  I said, “You might be just fine if you stay away from the thick of it in the kitchen….let them make the cookies and you help decorate. But again, I don’t know how sensitive you are.”  Jane Anderson at covered the topic of  whether you can get “glutened” from flour in the air.  Click here to read what she had to say.   In fact, just this week I read a story about how a baker in Willmar, Minnesota has to shut down her bakery because she found out she can’t tolerate gluten.

But Laura isn’t working in a bakery.  She just wants to go to a cookie-making event for one evening.  I explained to Laura that balancing her gluten-free life with everything happening around her is important.  Does she want to miss out on everything for fear she’ll get sick?  No.  Maybe she won’t get sick, but maybe she will.  Is it a rational fear for people with celiac disease?  Yes.  You need to know what you can mentally and physically tolerate.  And then go forward making decisions based on that knowledge. — In my opinion.

Grace, my non-GF daughter decorated regular cookies at a cookie decorating and exchange event recently

Grace, my non-GF daughter decorated regular cookies at a cookie decorating and exchange event recently

After that discussion, Laura told me her plan was to go, but only decorate the cookies.
Monday she got back to me with an update.  “The party was this past Saturday, and I did some cookie decorating (stayed out of the rolling out process, though), and I’m not feeling any effects whatsoever. Thanks for your tips!”

Problem solving

There are some areas of caution when it comes to cookie baking and decorating of gluten-filled cookies. I would not recommend gluten-free children be left alone to decorate gluten-filled cookies.  Because too many fingers, cookies and frosting end up in the mouth, for example.
I also wouldn’t spend more than a few hours in this situation.  A full day in your mother-in-law’s kitchen filled with regular flour– might be a bit much.
One way to problem solve this:  If you have a tough time even being in a room with any gluten, consider hosting a cookie decorating event at your house and you do all gluten free cookies!  Get all the supplies, buy some wine and coffee and invite your girlfriends over.  This could be a safe way to have fun and get a bunch of safe-to-eat cookies out of the deal!
These are just ideas for you to consider. You know yourself, your concerns, what you’re getting into and whether it is worth the risk.  Only you can make this decision.
*I am not a medical professional.  This advice is an idea for you or someone in your family.  It certainly is not a requirement.  If you have additional questions about this topic, please consult your physician.

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One Response to “Reader Q: I’m GF. Is it safe to take part in non gluten free cookie baking and decorating?”

  1. Another option would be to bring your own baked GF cookies and frosting and keep your work space and tools separate.

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