I’m determined to get ahead for Christmas this year.
Shopping and wrapping done by mid way through December. Not at 3am on Christmas morning. Anything that can be cooked or baked in advance, done so with calm Christmas cheer. Not frantic festive fervour. (The whole idea is hugely unlikely but this year I’m aiming high).
Since we are a family of allergies (and I’m not a fan of many a free-from-aisle “treat”, especially at Christmas) that’s quite a lot to do.
First on my list: Sort out a fabulous, totally allergy-friendly sweet shortcrust pastry. With no gums or additives or generally things-you’d-only-find-in-a-factory in. (E-415 anyone?). But one that I’d be proud to give to a non-allergy-afflicted omnivore. A fussy one at that.
This pastry is slightly sweet, perfectly short, crisp and crumbly-in-the-mouth-not-the-hand. Which for a gluten-free pastry with no egg or gums is pretty fabulous, in my opinion.
Its also free from dairy, nuts, egg and soy. Oh yes and refined sugar. That’s right.
I don’t think I did anything particularly special. I just happened upon the perfect blend of fats, flours and sweetener. Coconut oil for shortness. Sunflower spread to balance that shortness. Rice flour and cornflour for softness, gram flour and cornmeal for crunch. And maple syrup.
Using a liquid sweetener such as maple syrup (I guess you could use agave too) means three things. One, it seems to hold it all together. So no more worrying about what kind of binding agent to use. Because ground flax and chia are great in savoury pastry but not a sweet one, you don’t want such a wholemeal texture. And psyllium husk just seemed to make it too tough.
Two, there’s no refined sugar. Three, you don’t have to worry about how much water to add. There isn’t any.
Anyway, the ultimate test for any shortcrust is to see if it tastes good on its own. As a biscuit. So I did. And it does. I nearly didn’t have enough for a photo, the very-nearly-two-year-old and I were eating them so fast.
And then to make them look pretty I covered the remainder in icing, silver balls and gold sugar.
Sorry about that. It’s nearly Christmas after all.
Here’s the recipe…
- 100g rice flour (brown and white blend, I used Dove’s Farm)
- 60g gram flour
- 50g fine cornmeal (I used Natco)
- 40g cornflour
- 1/4 tsp coarse salt, ground fine
- 40g maple syrup
- 50g refined coconut oil (you could use extra-virgin if you are happy with a coconut flavour coming through)
- 50g dairy-free spreadable margarine (eg Pure sunflower)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- Warm the coconut oil until soft, add the margarine, syrup and vanilla, mix well.
- Add the dry ingredients and mix well to a soft dough.
- Wrap the dough in cling film and rest in the fridge for half an hour or so.
- Roll out between 2 sheets of greaseproof paper to about 2mm thickness.
- To make the biscuits, cut out shapes and place on a lined baking sheet, then bake at 170C or 150C fan for 10-15 minutes (or until they smell toasty but have no more than the tiniest tinge of brown at the very edges)
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool after 5 minutes.
- Decorate as you wish!
- To ice like these: make a thick paste with icing sugar and a little water. Add a blob to the centre of four* of the biscuits and drag the icing across into the corners of with a toothpick or the tine of a fork. Then add gold sugar or silver balls of course. Repeat until you have iced as many as you want..)
*Decorating four at a time means the icing won’t have formed a crust by the time you come to drag it, and the silver balls and glitter will stick and not roll off all over the worktop. (Yep, mine did that.)
So I just found out about Our Growing Edge monthly blogging event. This month hosted by Lauren from Sweet and Southern Lifestyle with a theme of Holiday Baking. “Learning and Experimenting”, “real passion and conscious effort” – I’m in!