Biscuit Christmas Tree

Biscuit Christmas Tree by The Fat Foodie

The chatter about Christmas has been well upon us since the start of October, so it’s given me quite a lot of time to think about what I like to cook around Christmastime. I tend to always make a Christmas  cake at the end of November, albeit a FODMAP friendly version that’s very light on the dried fruit, but not everyone enjoys fruit cake so it’s nice to have an alternative to hand when people come to visit, such as this biscuit Christmas tree.

Initially, this bake might look complicated, but I can assure you, it really isn’t. It’s just layers of decorated biscuit that are stacked on top of one another. I cut my star templates out of different sizes of card and just cut out my biscuit shapes with a knife before transferring them onto a greaseproof-papered baking tray, but you can actually buy star-shaped biscuit cutters in varying sizes that will cut out the different sized biscuits to make this tree.

I really like the visual impact of this stunning biscuit Christmas tree which makes it a real dessert centre point for the dining table after a family meal, but it also tastes great too. The chocolate biscuits are generously decorated with rich dark chocolate, so you really feel as though you’re eating a proper chocolate biscuit and the fruity Skittle ‘baubles’ which adorn the tips of the tree’s ‘branches’ make every mouthful taste like fruity chocolate.

The additional Maltesers which hold each level of the tree up from one another also add a delicious crunch to the biscuit layers, but because Maltesers aren’t vegan you could use vegan marshmallows if you’d prefer. Also Maltesers aren’t gluten-free because they’re made from barley, so although you might get away with eating a couple if you’re on the low FODMAP diet, if you’re celiac you’ll need to use an alternative sweetie, such as marshmallows, to hold the biscuit levels up. Let’s not kid the troops, my friends, this biscuit Christmas tree isn’t the healthiest thing you could eat, but it’s certainly a lovely festive treat to have at Christmastime!

Ingredients:

200g gluten-free flour (I use Dove’s Farm G/F flour because it’s made with low FODMAP ingredients whereas many other gluten-free flours are made with high FODMAP options.)

100g custard powder

100g caster sugar

A pinch of salt

2 tbsps of cocoa powder

140g butter (or coconut oil)

1-2 tbsps water

For decoration:

100g dark chocolate

A bag of Skittles

A large bag of Maltesers (or vegan marshmallows)

Method:

Cut out six paper star templates, ranging from large to small and keep to one side. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.

Preheat your oven to 200C/180C Fan/400F/Gas Mark 6.

Melt your butter and then simply put all of your ingredients into a large mixing bowl and mix it all together.

Add as much water as necessary to bring the mixture together into a firm dough and chill in the fridge for an hour.

Once the dough is cold, roll it out between two sheets of greaseproof paper until it is around half a centimetre thick.

Using your templates or star-shaped biscuit cutters, cut out your stars and place them on the baking trays. (You might need to re-roll the biscuit dough to get enough dough to cut out all of the stars.)

Important note! The biscuits are very delicate when they’re freshly baked, but they go hard once they’re cool, so leave them to completely cool down on the baking trays before you remove them.

Bake in the oven for 12-14 mins and then leave them to cool on the baking trays until they are completely cold.

Once they’re cold decorate them with melted chocolate and Skittles and place three Maltesers or vegan marshmallows in the centre of the five largest biscuits.

Once the chocolate has hardened, stack the biscuits on top of each other, from the largest to the smallest, and serve.

Biscuit Christmas Tree by The Fat Foodie

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Dark Chocolate Gingers

Dark Chocolate Gingers by The Fat Foodie

I love ginger. I think it’s such a variable spice. It adds a gorgeous fragrant, warming note to curries and noodle bowls while providing a delicious-tasting background heat. However, although I more than appreciate the merits of ginger in savoury recipes, I think ginger really comes into its own when used in sweet dishes. What would an autumnal bonfire night be without thick slabs of sticky gingerbread that are topped with a creamy spreading of real butter? Or a rainy October afternoon stuck inside the house while you watch black and white old movies with a steaming hot cup of builder’s tea and a couple of gingernut biscuits lying at its side? Sheer bliss.

For all that I love a biscuit that’s solely flavoured with ginger, I think the spice is really elevated when paired with dark chocolate. There’s something about the spicy heat of the ginger being tempered by the creamy bitterness of dark chocolate that makes me appreciate the humble dark chocolate ginger biscuit. I’ve also added a little bit of lemon extract to the biscuit dough which helps to keep the flavour fresh and not too heavy. (You could use the zest of a lemon if you don’t have lemon extract.)

These dark chocolate gingers are crisp, buttery rounds of crumbly biscuit that are infused with the background heat of ginger and are generously slathered in a coating of thick, creamy dark chocolate. They’re very quick to make and are ideal for accompanying a cuppa on a rainy afternoon.

Ingredients:

100g cornflour

150g gluten-free flour (I use Dove’s Farm G/F flour because it’s made with low FODMAP ingredients whereas many other gluten-free flours are made with high FODMAP options.)

95g icing sugar

125g salted butter (or a non-dairy version)

1 tsp lemon extract

2 tbsps rice milk

1 tsp ground ginger

100g dark chocolate (for coating the biscuits)

Method:

Preheat your oven to 200C/180C Fan/400F/Gas mark 6.

Lay greaseproof paper out onto two baking trays.

Measure all of your ingredients into a plastic jug or mixing bowl and then mix it all together with an electric whisk. (If you want to make it by hand then just rub the butter into the dry ingredients before adding the liquid ingredients and mixing together.)

Add more rice milk if you feel the dough is too dry. (Gluten-free flour can be notoriously absorbent.)

Take small handfuls of biscuit dough and roll into a ball before flattening between your palms and placing them on the baking trays. Continue until the mix is all used up.

Bake the ginger biscuits in the oven until they are golden brown and then place them on a cooling rack to cool down.

Once cold, melt the dark chocolate and spread a thick layer over the top of the biscuits. Leave to cool until the chocolate has solidified and then serve.

Dark Chocolate Gingers by The Fat Foodie

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Strawberry Shortcakes (makes 12)

Strawberry Shortcakes by The Fat Foodie

I live in a small village called Cambusbarron which is in Stirling, Scotland. Every summer when the sun beats its rays down and encourages nature to bloom Cambusbarron is carpeted in tiny native wild Scottish strawberries, the majority of which grow no bigger than my pinkie nail, but are blessed with the perfect combination of sugary sweet and fruity tart flavours.

Last summer I took a walk up to the old quarry behind Cambusbarron and I was astonished to discover that these tiny wild strawberries completely covered the gravelled land on the approach to the water. I couldn’t put a foot down without stepping on them, so tightly and thickly were they spread across the ground.

Cambusbarron Quarry

Tiny Wild Scottish Strawberries

My Finger Showing the Scale of the Wild Strawberries

This year we’ve cleared a lot of unnecessary trees and shrubs from our garden (well, my Dad has cleared them for me, to be honest!) and as a result wild strawberries have sprung up all over the garden. They’re beautiful plants, providing steady, long-lasting greenery that is dotted with bright crimson coloured tiny fruits. I certainly have no intention of getting rid of them, as I would with any other invasive plant life.

When I first started seeing them appearing in the garden I resolved that I would make something with them for the website and after giving it some thought I decided on strawberry shortcakes. The shortcakes are made of two pieces of crisp, buttery lemon shortbread biscuit that sandwich a rich smooth buttercream icing that is interspersed with the tiny wild strawberries from my garden and topped with a dot more buttercream and fresh baby mint leaves. You could just use slices of fresh strawberries though, if you’re not blessed with living in Cambusbarron.

I’m absolutely over the moon with this strawberry shortcake recipe and the shortbread it’s made from is most definitely now my favourite gluten-free biscuit recipe. The soft, smooth-textured cornflour makes the biscuits really crumbly while the butter adds a lovely crisp shortness to the overall crunch of them. You’d never in a million years believe they were gluten-free. As I optimistically said to my partner after I’d tried them for the first time, “Oh my God! They’re definitely going in the cookbook!”.

Ingredients for the shortbread biscuits:

100g cornflour

150g gluten-free flour (I use Dove’s Farm G/F flour because it’s made with low FODMAP ingredients whereas many other gluten-free flours are made with high FODMAP options.)

95g icing sugar

125g cold salted butter (cubed)

1 tsp lemon extract

2 tbsp cold water

 

Ingredients for the buttercream icing:

50g soft butter

110g icing sugar

2 tsps of rice milk

1 tsp lemon extract

 

For decorating:

Caster sugar

Fresh strawberries

Fresh mint leaves

Method:

Preheat your oven to 210C/190C Fan/400F/Gas mark 6.

Lay greaseproof paper out onto two large baking trays.

Weigh the cornflour, gluten-free flour, icing sugar, lemon extract and butter into a large mixing bowl.

Rub the butter through all of the dry ingredients until it resembles fine sand. Add the water and mix until a smooth dough is formed.

Leave the dough to rest in the fridge for half an hour. (The cold temperature makes it easier to roll out.)

In the meantime make the buttercream by putting the icing ingredients into a jug and whisking together until light and airy. Place in a piping bag.

Once the shortcake dough is cold, use a rolling pin to roll it out on a floured surface until it is approximately 1/2 a centimetre thick. (I roll it out on floured greaseproof paper so it doesn’t stick to my work surface.)

Use a biscuit cutter to stamp out your biscuits and then lay them on the greaseproofed baking trays, leaving a generous gap between each.

Bake in the oven for 12 to 15 mins or until light golden brown.

Using a fish slice to lift gently them, lay the shortcakes on a cooling rack and scatter with caster sugar.

Once the shortcakes are cool, decorate the base with dots of the buttercream icing, strawberries and fresh mint leaves and then top them with another shortcake biscuit. Serve.

The base Layer of Strawberry Shortcakes by The Fat Foodie

Strawberry Shortcakes by The Fat Foodie

Strawberry Shortcakes by The Fat Foodie

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Free-From Custard Creams

Free-From Custard Creams

When I first went gluten-free and dairy-free one of the free-from products that astonished me at their cost was biscuits. I mean, £3 for a Genius gluten-free loaf from Sainsbury’s is ridiculous, but £1.80 for 8 chocolate chip biscuits from the Sainsbury’s free-from range is just obscene. I know you’re paying for the convenience factor, but fresh biscuits cost next to nothing to make at home so I felt really cheated and ripped off at the cost of free-from versions from a number of shops.

These free-from custard creams are so cheap to make (I’d estimate that a batch of around 12 custard creams cost considerably less than £1 to produce) and they’re really easy to whip up in a hurry. I just measure all of my ingredients into a plastic jug and use an electric whisk to blend it together into a biscuit dough. You don’t even need to roll out the dough and cut them out because you just roll them up in your palms and flatten them out on the baking tray. You can’t get any easier, can you?

I normally sandwich my custard creams with buttercream icing, but these have a little bit more caster sugar in them than my standard custard cream recipe so they’re really nice plain without a filling, but by all means sandwich them if you like. My buttercream recipe can be found here and you can just use dairy-free butter to keep the mix free-from. Equally, you could drizzle melted chocolate over the top of them or icing sugar.

Whether you decide to use the filling or use a sweet drizzle over the top of the biscuits, they’ll still save you a huge amount of money compared to buying them ready made in a shop.

Ingredients:

70g dairy-free butter (or normal butter)

30g coconut oil

80g gluten-free flour (I use Dove’s Farm G/F flour because it’s made with low FODMAP ingredients whereas many other gluten-free flours are made with high FODMAP options.)

20g cornflour

50g custard powder

70g caster sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp xanthan gum

Method:

Preheat your oven to 200C/180C Fan/400F/Gas mark 6.

Measure all of your ingredients into a plastic jug and then mix it all together with an electric whisk.

Lay greaseproof paper out onto two baking trays.

Take small handfulls of custard cream dough and roll into a ball before flattening between your palms and placing them on the baking trays. Continue until the mix is all used up.

Press the tines of a fork onto the top of each biscuit to create the distinctive mark of a custard cream and bake in the oven for 12 to 15 mins or until they are golden brown.

Free-From Custard Creams About to be Baked

Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a cooling rack.

Once cold you can sandwich them with buttercream icing or drizzle with a topping if you like.

Freshly Baked Free-From Custard Creams

Free-From Custard Creams

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Chocolate Orange Biscuits

Chocolate Orange Biscuits by The Fat Foodie

After giving it a great deal of thought I feel ready to announce that I’ve came to the conclusion that I definitely prefer biscuits over cake. I know it’s bold and don’t get me wrong, I love a slice of good cake, but there’s that lovely unbeatable crunch that is present in a decent biscuit that is lacking in cake (unless it’s a terribly baked one!).

One of my standby baking ingredients at the moment is dark chocolate because it’s naturally dairy-free and FODMAP friendly. I think it lends itself to being used as a biscuit topping because it’s really easy to use and the flavour complements so many different types of biscuit. In my mind, one of the best partnerships in the sweet area of the culinary world is that of chocolate and orange, with the dark, rich silkiness of the chocolate providing a wonderful counterfoil to the fresh zestiness of the orange oil. Divine.

This chocolate orange biscuit recipe is really quick and easy to make and produces little crispy biscuits that are a doddle to top with melted chocolate. The inclusion of custard powder and a little bit of cornflour ensures that they have a good crunch, but still have a bit of crumble to them. I used a triangular cookie cutter which gave great results, but you can cut them out into any shape you like.

The real struggle lies in waiting for the dark chocolate to cool and harden on the biscuits before you eat them. I’ll bet you can’t.

Ingredients:

70g dairy-free butter

30g coconut oil

80g gluten-free flour (I use Dove’s Farm G/F Plain Flour)

20g cornflour

50g custard powder

70g caster sugar

The grated zest of 1 orange

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp orange flavouring

1 tsp orange juice

1 tsp xanthan gum

1/2 tsp baking powder

200g dairy-free dark chocolate (for the topping)

Method:

Preheat your oven to 200C/180C Fan/400F/Gas mark 6.

Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.

Melt the coconut oil and butter in a microwavable bowl.

Add all of the other ingredients and mix until a smooth dough is formed.

Chocolate Orange Biscuit Dough

Roll out the dough onto a floured work surface and use the triangular cookie cutter to cut your biscuits out and place them on the baking trays.

Chocolate Orange Biscuit Dough

Chocolate Orange Biscuits About to be Baked by The Fat Foodie

Bake the biscuits in the oven for 12 to 15 mins, or until they are golden brown.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely on a cooling rack.

Freshly Baked Chocolate Orange Biscuits by The Fat Foodie

Once the cookies are cold, melt the dark chocolate in a bowl in the microwave (stirring very frequently so that the chocolate doesn’t burn).

Generously spread the chocolate over the cookies and leave to harden before serving. Or dive right in and get your chin and fingers covered in melted chocolate. It didn’t happen to me, you understand, it was a friend one time…

Chocolate Orange Biscuits by The Fat Foodie

Chocolate Orange Biscuits by The Fat Foodie

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