Thyme and lemon biscuits

thyme and lemon biscuits

A little while ago I went on a crusade to find a good replacement for butter. After plenty of searching, numerous palm oil woes, and debates with myself about using biodynamic butter, I pretty much decided to just avoid it where I can, using olive oil instead, or coconut oil if I’m feeling rich.

In the process of reaching this conclusion however, I came across a certain product by Melrose, which I think ethically is not too bad, though obviously pretty processed and quite far from being actual food. It tastes alright (but not amazing), and goes fine on toast. The jelly-like consistency did irk us all a bit though, so I made the call that it definitely wouldn’t work to bake with this stuff. Fast forward about 9 months, and the poor little tub is still sitting in the fridge; forgotten, but otherwise fine.

It really needed to get out of our lives, however being one to avoid wasting anything, I decided to give baking a go.

Biggest. Mistake. Ever.

Heating this spread seemed to just compound its not-amazing flavour, and ruined a batch of what would otherwise have been quite tasty biscuits. I was saddened by this defeat, but was sure that these biscuits could actually be quite good. Herbs in sweet biscuits – what a delicious paradigm shift!

Determined to eat these biscuits, I tried again with old mate nuttelex. It may not be the greatest solution to my butter woes, but it came through with the goods. I was rewarded with golden, sugary discs of thyme and lemon, and the realisation that I probably just need my own cow.

thyme and lemon biscuits 2

thyme and lemon biscuits 3

Thyme and lemon biscuits

Makes about 20

4 tablespoons butter/margarine
1/4 cup raw sugar
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
1/2 cup plain flour

Preheat oven to 180C, and line a baking tray with grease-proof paper.

Grind thyme to a pulp using a mortar and pestle. Whisk butter/margarine and sugar in a medium bowl, then add thyme and lemon rind and mix to combine.

Sift in flour and mix to form a dough. Roll out dough between two sheets of baking paper to approximately half a centimetre thick. Cut into rounds (or the shape of your choice) using a biscuit cutter, and transfer to prepared tray. Sprinkle lightly with raw sugar.

The baking time will vary with your oven, but will be around 7-12 minutes. You might need to rotate the tray halfway through if your oven cooks unevenly (like mine). Just keep watch – they’re done when they’re lightly golden. Allow to cool, then eat.

Vanilla chai biscuits.

A few years ago I travelled to India. Of all the things I brought back with me, possibly the coolest but least-useful items were wooden stamps.

On the odd occasion, I’ve felt really creative and dusted them off to create stamped gift cards or decorated book covers and such. But I have never been so excited when I thought of using them to stamp food. “Such genius!” I told myself, as my mind raced with possibilities.

I have to confess that stamping biscuits has quite possibly become my new favourite activity. I thought that a vanilla chai flavour would be quite fitting for the Indian stamps, though the flavour seems somewhat less important than the fact that these just look really cool! The biscuits themselves are flavoured with spices, with the vanilla flavour coming from the icing on their bottoms.

Might I suggest enjoying these with a cup of tea?

Vanilla chai biscuits

1 egg white
1 egg yolk
1/8 cup sugar
1/8 cup olive oil (or other oil)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
approx 10 cardamon seeds, ground (or a small pinch of ground cardamon)
1 tablespoon ginger powder
1 cup plain flour

1 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
dash of water

Preheat oven to 180C.

Whisk the egg white until fluffy, then add in sugar. Whisk the yolk with the oil, then add to the egg white along with the spices.

Fold in the flour until combined.

Roll teaspoon-sized quantities of dough into balls, then space evenly on a lined baking tray. If you have a stamp, now is the time to get funky. Push the stamp into the balls of dough to flatten. If you don’t have a stamp, try using a fork or a spoon.

Bake for approximately 12 minutes or until solid and turning golden. Meanwhile, mix the icing sugar, vanilla essence, and enough water to form a just-runny mixture (which will fall from a spoon, but not in a continuous stream).

Cool the biscuits briefly, then dip the base of each in an icing mixture. Allow to dry on a cooling rack. Tasty!

 

 

Ginger and pistachio oat biscuits

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You know those times when you just do completely stupid things? Absentmindedly going about your business, then realising the major mistake you just made? I’m generally a fairly switched-on person, but the other day my brain was evidently on holidays.

It was Wednesday, and I was baking a belated birthday cake for my sister. It was a dairy-free version of this red wine pear, polenta and ricotta cake recipe (which was pretty rad), and I’d spent all day labouring over what to use instead of ricotta. Would tofutti do the trick? Or maybe I could make my own ricotta out of various strange ingredients? I decided on firm silken tofu, and was pretty stoked to find it was a brilliant substitute. Due to my recent quest to avoid processed foods, I had even made a special trip to the shops to buy nuttlex.

After several hours in the kitchen, I was pretty pleased with the results. Success! In the morning however, as I opened the microwave, I discovered 125g of re-solidified nuttlex in a glass jug. My heart sank a little as I realised that my brilliant culinary creation of the previous night was less than perfect, being deprived of a somewhat essential ingredient. On a more positive note, the cake suddenly seemed a little bit less unhealthy. Silver lining?

To make a long story short, I now had a jug of nuttlex without a use, and I don’t really use it much in baking anyway so I was a bit lost. But necessity is the mother of invention, and I was quite pleased to prove this adage to be true.

And here is the result! I took to the kitchen armed with my nuttlex and half a bag of Food Forest pistachios I had found in the cupboard, with a vague plan to make biscuits. Add in a little bit of inspiration from the August issue of Bona Food on making your own flour, and I was set. I can tell this one was a baking victory, as my family has been nibbling away all day. Hurrah!

Ginger and pistachio oat biscuits

Makes approximately 20 biscuits

1 cup rolled oats
plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
125g margarine/butter/nuttlex, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted pistachios (approx)

Preheat oven to 180C, and line a tray with baking paper.

Blitz the oats in a food processor until it resembles flour. Place back in a measuring cup and add plain flour to make up 1 1/2 cups in total (- for me this was was about 3/4 cup plain flour).

Place flours in a large mixing bowl, and add baking powder, soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt. Chop pistachios and add them to the dry ingredients, then mix it all together with a whisk.

Add sugar to melted butter and mix together, then add to dry ingredients. Mix it all together with a spoon. Make 2-teaspoon sized balls of mixture, then flatten and place on prepared tray, leaving adequate space for them to spread. Bake for around 20 minutes, then allow to cool and harden up.

Yum!

Sunday feast.

I am not one to buy into days designed to get people buying stuff. I really despise the culture of consumerism that has become inherent in Mothers’ Day (and Fathers’ Day, Easter, Christmas etc). However, I do really appreciate that there is one day each year when we recognise the awesome role of our mothers. Of course as my Mum reminds me each year, “every day should be Mothers’ Day”, which is true – showing appreciation for the people we love is undoubtedly something we should practice daily. But each year on Mothers’ Day, my sister and I have always gone to special lengths to make it especially nice. This is usually achieved by handmade cards, flowers, and breakfast. This year, Gran was coming over for the afternoon too, and we decided to bake her some things to have with cups of tea. Queue extreme baking morning!

I decided to make crumpets for breakfast. There is absolutely no comparison between homemade and store-bought crumpets. The home-made variety are so much fresher, lighter and flavoursome, plus you can eat them straight from the pan. More on crumpets in a minute.

For Gran, we decided to make a spiced banana loaf cake (my sister’s specialty), and some sweet biscuits (my job). Dad was looking after lunch – roast chicken (as I wouldn’t be there to cause trouble with my picky pragmatic-veganism), plus roasted purple congo potatoes from the garden.

I put my hand up to provide afternoon tea, as Mum’s siblings were coming around. Beetroot chocolate cupcakes. I’d been meaning to try this recipe for ages, and with the beets jumping out of the ground, it seemed logical. Also, I’m in a bit of a chocolate phase right now (having baked ginger pumpkin brownies for a friend’s 21st the night before).

Feast!

And here are some nibbles of the feast that was Sunday. I may add the recipes in separate post later :)

Crumpets

Lemon biscuits + Choc chip caramel biscuits 

Beetroot chocolate cupcakes

(and just for fun, though not a Sunday feast item…)

Ginger pumpkin brownies

Experimenting with wholefoods

Orange/cardamon, and gluten-free choc-chip biscuits

The other day I made a fantastic recipe for Apple, Cinnamon & Quinoa Muffin Top Cookies from Oh My Veggies. The most exciting part for me (apart from eating them), was using quinoa. I’m a fan of quinoa, I’ve just never really got to the point where I’ve actually prepared it myself. Now the challenge of course was that the recipe called for 1 cup of cooked quinoa, and I, clutching my paper bag full of whole quinoa straight from the organic shop, had no idea how much dry = cooked quinoa. So I ended up just following the directions I had googled for cooking one cup of dry quinoa (yielding more once cooked), with the idea that I’d use the remainder in a salad or something.

Alas! Creativity got the better of me, and yesterday I found myself in the kitchen with a plastic container full of cooked quinoa, and a vague idea of trying to make biscuits. I’m generally more of a muffin/cupcake/bread type of baker, so I’m not sure why I thought I’d be capable of inventing a biscuit recipe. However, it actually worked out okay, much to my surprise and amusement.

Another love of mine is using chickpeas in baking. I’m not sure if I’ve already shared this, but there’s a great gluten-free cake recipe here (from The Smallest Smallholding), which uses chickpeas as the staple ingredient. I’ve also encountered some seriously delicious chickpea treats from Scullery Made, a regular at the Barossa Farmers Market (- if you’re ever out that way, seriously check them out – amazing baked goodies and beautiful teas).

So it was decided that I would embark on this adventure with both quinoa and chickpeas in tow. I really wish I could post the recipe here, but I didn’t actually measure anything out. It was a very rough experiment that I didn’t expect to actually yield anything worth sharing, but it was basically a keep-adding-stuff-in-until-you-get-the-right-consistency kind of job. If you want to get experimental too, by all means do! It is fun, and the worst that can happen is that you have to eat all your biscuit dough raw, which I’m sure we all acknowledge is not a bad thing.

So this was the result: two batches of biscuits, both dairy/egg free, and made using quinoa and chickpeas. I’ve included the ingredients (and measurements where I remembered), so you can experiment at will! I made the basic dough up all together, then divided it into two and added extras.

Basic dough
cooked quinoa (around 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup cooked chickpeas, whizzed in a food processor
rice flour (around 1/4 – 1/2 cup?)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
honey (around 1/4 cup)

Orange and cardamon biscuits (inspired by The Mindful Foodie)
5 cardamon pods, seeds removed and ground to a fine powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
zest and juice of one orange
wholemeal flour, to make up a moist dough

Mix all ingredients together. Form tablespoon-sized balls and flatten slightly on a lined baking tray, about 2-3cm apart. Bake at 170C until golden (around 20 minutes).

Gluten-free choc-chip biscuits
1/4 cup chopped chocolate, or chocolate chips
a touch more rice flour (1/4 cup?)
almond meal to make moist dough

*Note that this mixture was a lot moister/oilier than the orange biscuits. I had my doubts, but they actually worked brilliantly! Soft on the inside and crunchy on the outside :)

Mix and bake as above.

Happy experimenting!