It’s about time I put up a new recipe. Life has been somewhat chaotic of late and I feel guilty for not trying anything new for a while. So as I was running out of ideas, I decided to treat myself to a copy of Simply Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free by Grace Cheetham. I bought my copy from http://www.lovelactosefreelife.co.uk/ – she sells ‘dairy free books’ as well as chocolates. So I popped one in my ‘basket’ last time I put in my ‘Zac chocolate’ order.
It is a great book, full of inspiration and is relatively simple – which is what I think is really lacking. A lot of the gluten free, dairy free recipes look a bit complicated to me with too many alien ingredients and far too many steps. As I said, I have been a bit pre-occupied of late and hadn’t even had much of a look at it, until this weekend when my six year old daughter saw it and started having a look. She is a bit like me and loves ‘looking’ at beautiful food and seems to enjoy flicking through cookery books. I think her eye was initially caught by the beautifully shot little cakes on the front cover, but it was the ginger biscuits that she asked me to make – thank goodness. As I am a bit rusty, I thought it best to start with a biscuit rather than a pretty little fairy cake.
I didn’t have the exact ingredients, but for those of you who know me, I am always happy to experiment and very likely to improvise and see what happens! When I was at school, one of the first things we made in my school Home Economics class was ginger biscuits or ginger snaps as they were called, and I remembered they were easy enough, so felt relatively confident approaching this little challenge.
The Grace Cheetham recipe was as follows:
175g/6oz dairy-free margarine – I always use Pure sunflower (widely available)
125g/4 and a half oz – caster sugar
100g/3 and a half oz – rice flour – I didn’t have any, so used 100g Doves Farm gluten free plain flour
50g gram flour and 50g maize flour – I didn’t have any, so used 100g Doves Farm gluten free self raising flour
2tsp ground ginger
half a teaspoon gluten free baking powder (have had some in my cupboard ages and never had the guts to try a recipe that needed it – until now!)
small half teaspoon xanthan gum (I love this stuff, it is what stops the powdery crumbs)
1cm piece of root ginger, peeled and grated – I didn’t have any – used it all up in a curry last week, so I added an extra sprinkle of the ground ginger.
I also added on extra ingredient – a heaped teaspoon of golden syrup – this was a key element in my school ginger snaps recipe, and I was feeling nostalgic.
So having tweaked the recipe quite a lot I was a bit anxious. The method was simple enough and I did follow that to the letter-ish.
Preheat oven to 180/350 and line two baking sheets with parchment. I never remember this, but Sophia got a baking set for Christmas and there was a silicone baking sheet in that, so I plopped that on my baking tray and hoped for the best!
Put the dairy free spread and sugar in a saucepan and heat gently until the spread has melted, the sugar dissolved and it looks and smells syrupy. That is when I added my extra dollop of golden syrup. It all looked and smelled like caramel or something. Yum.
While that is gently ‘cooking’, sift the flours into a bowl and stir in the ground ginger – I forgot to sift, but the end result was ok, so I am not sure that it makes that much difference. I just know it is less messy and there is one less thing to wash up. Next add the baking powder and xanthan gum and the root ginger – but as I mentioned I didn’t have any, and it was still ok. Then add the melted ‘butter’ and sugar mixture to the ‘flour’ blend and stir well. It makes a big ball of golden looking ‘play doh’. Next you spoon the mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time onto the baking sheets and mould them with your hands and the back of a metal spoon – and try to make them look like biscuits. I must have got it a bit wrong somewhere because my mix was falling apart in my hands and took a lot of moulding to make anything that looked like a biscuit. My hopes were not high! I did wonder if I had time to run to the shop to buy a packet of biscuits, but the kids were determined to witness the whole escapade from start to finish and there is no fooling them these days!
Once your ’rounds’ look about 3mm thick you can put them in the oven to bake. I didn’t measure mine, to be honest, I daren’t touch them as they looked so fragile, but I was getting stressed so just flung them in the oven and said a little prayer! The recipe says to bake them for about 10 minutes. My oven is fan assisted and fierce! So I was checking after five mins and they were already turning, so I probably took them out after eight. I gave one a little push with my finger and it looked like it would collapse into a heap of crumbs if I tried to move it. But then I re-read the recipe and realised I have been making the same mistake over and over when baking biscuits. I take them out of the oven, think they look undone and put them back in and then take them out and then they cool and then they break your teeth.
So I re-read the recipe and spotted where I have been going wrong – take them out and then LEAVE THEM ALONE… for about five minutes. And then transfer them to a wire rack and let them go cold. There must be some science that happens, that I never really understood, because after that crucial five minutes, they had somehow glued back together enough for me to be able to move them. I didn’t have a rack either so put them on a plate. I only got about eight out of my mix, so that seemed ok to me. So it seems patience is a virtue, because if you have the strength to wait until they are cold, they turn into a ‘biscuit’ or in this case – the exact same ginger ‘snap’ I remember from my school ‘Home Ec’ class and I don’t think anyone would ever know how much I had messed around my my teachers recipe or Grace Cheethams! The children are who I do this for, and I am happy to report they loved them. I think the golden syrup was a big factor here. It added a great colour and aroma to the biscuits – and possibly helped glue them together, who knows?
Here are the photos – my proof. They don’t really look much like the ones in the recipe book, but they were edible and didn’t ‘survive’ the night, so as far as I am concerned, I got a result. Best of luck.