Shop bought gluten free, dairy free biscuits are a bit of a waste of time and money, in my opinion. They are usually quite tasteless, explode into a cloud of crumbs when you bite into them, always overpriced and half the packet is usually broken before you get them off the shelves.
Last week, I took delivery of my first ‘free from’ cookbook. Until now, I have been working things out for myself, but I have struggled with baking, particularly bread and biscuits, so decided it was time to call in the professionals. www.lovelactosefreelife.co.uk is selling Pippa Kendrick’s The Intolerant Gourmet for only £12.99 (£20 in most bookstores) – so last week I took the plunge and bought a copy.
It is a beautiful book – gorgeous photography and page layout. Definitely at the gourmet end of cooking, but also has some good basic, entry level recipes for all sorts of essentials, including biscuits and bread. Take a look at the website and you will see what I mean. http://www.theintolerantgourmet.com/
I had been promising the kids some ‘cooking’ for ages and when the rain came yesterday afternoon, I decided to get the aprons and cookie cutters out and keep my word. Last year, Sophia received a fabulous kids baking set for Christmas. She is better equipped than me, and whenever I do any baking, I often borrow her mixing bowl and whisk. The cookie cutters that came with the set are great and a test flight was long overdue.
So, I turned to page 224 and had a look at the Basic Biscuits recipe. Minimal ingredients and minimal steps – always a winner with me. I have little patience for fiddly things and usually mess it up if it gets complicated.
I was surprised to see that there was no xanthan gum listed in the ingredients. In the short time I have been an ‘intolerant’ baker, I have discovered that xanthan gum is quite a crucial ingredient. It does the work of the missing gluten and improves crumb quality.
I have made free from biscuits, once before. Adapting a ‘normal’ recipe and the end result was disastrous and I assumed it was because we needed xanthan gum. Even though Pippa Kendrick did not list it, I decided I would add some anyway. Just a quarter of a teaspoon. I am glad I did because the finished article was definitely borderline. Some of them were extremely powdery and fell apart as I lifted them from the baking sheet. I had followed the recipe to the letter, so assumed that if I hadn’t added the gum, then they could have been worse. I don’t know. Next time I make them, I will add more and see what happens. Then I can be sure if it was my fault or Pippa’s.
Here is the recipe and method. Easy enough to follow.
125g Pure dairy free sunflower spread
75g soft light brown sugar
150g Doves Farm gluten free plain flour
75g Doves Farm gluten free self-raising flour
Preheat the oven to 170/325 or gas mark 3 and line two baking sheets. I used a silicone sheet(the one from Sophia’s kids baking set), as I always forget to buy baking parchment.
In a large bowl (or Sophia’s one with pictures of cute gingerbread men on the side) you need to cream together the margarine and sugar. Sift in the flours, add your extra ingredients and work the mixture until it is a clumpy dough, that you can mould and work with.
Pinch off small amounts to roll into balls and flatten them with your palms until they look like biscuits. I just kept reworking my big clump of dough and inviting the kids to pick a cookie cutter and make their favourite shapes. By the end we had a teddy bear, heart, star and little man. The little man and the teddy bear were struggling to keep their heads on their shoulders as my children are somewhat heavy handed with their cutters, but I had high hopes for the hearts and stars.
They went into the oven for about twenty minutes. As soon as they looked golden and smelled like biscuits, I took them out of the oven and left them to cool on a rack. Minutes later the small people appeared begging to sample their own creations. Once they were cool enough not to burn little mouths, I allowed them to dive in. Even though they were extremely crumbly, and as I suspected the little men lost their heads, the children loved them. Result. Will definitely make them again, but will probably add a whole teaspoon of xanthan gum this time – just to see.