Homemade cookies or biscuits as we call them here in New Zealand (not to be confused with American biscuits which we call scones) are a welcome sight in our baking “tins”. I say “tins” as baking containers doesn’t conjure up the same image but, although I have three or four actual tins, I store baking in airtight plastic (yes, BPA-free) containers. I prefer clear transparent containers so the kids don’t lift a corner of each to see what is inside. Invariably they don’t reseal the container leaving the contents to soften unless I come along behind them pushing down the corners and clasps. I think that is my life long task along with closing kitchen drawers (and The Anster’s is to turn off the lights in all the empty rooms).
So back to the biscuits – many biscuit (cookie) recipes begin with cream the butter & sugar which is absolutely fine if you don’t have an aversion to dairy products. I like baking with butter but I don’t like the reaction I get from Miss M and she doesn’t like to reaction she gets from consuming butter. I could substitute the butter with margarine but margarine is a swear word in our house. I do buy dairy-free spread made with olive oil for Miss M so she can enjoy toast with “butter” and jam but I try not to use that too much in baking unless I absolutely cannot get around it.
The next best thing is to find recipes that require the butter to be melted so I can swap out the butter for oil & non-dairy milk. I have found I get the best results when I use 75% neutral-tasting oil (I use rice bran oil) and 25% non-dairy milk (which is what ever milk is in the fridge at the time: almond, coconut, rice, oat or soy).
When deciding to bake biscuits the first thing I look at is, if there is butter, what method is required: creaming (discard that recipe) or melting (worth a second look). I have been experimenting with using my 75/25 butter substitute in recipes traditionally requiring the creaming method but that is another post for another day.
On one of my second-hand/charity shop scouring trips I came across Cookie Magic: Cholesterol Free & High Fibre Recipes by Diana Linfoot for the huge price of $1.00. A quick look through the book and I found a number of recipes requiring the sugar and margarine (the author says never use butter and margarine gives a better result than oil but I am ignoring that little piece of advice as this book was produced 26 years ago and butter had an undeserved bad reputation way back then). I have never used margarine in baking and always substitute it with butter – such a rebel! But back to the blending of sugar and fats – this method will work perfectly well with sugar and my 75/25 butter substitute mix which opens up a whole lot of interesting recipes to play around with. Just over half the recipes are either blend or melt or completely dairy-free however some of the recipes have five or six variations so that leaves plenty of scope for some delicious cookie creations/adaptations. The only one I have discarded completely is the Savoury Cheese Nibbles. They do sound and look very good but cheese is kind of tricky to substitute. Maybe I’ll make them anyway and put my sunglasses on to shield me from the black looks Miss M sends my way.
Here is the first cookie recipe I converted to dairy-free and is a resounding success with all four of the bottomless-pits commonly known as teenagers that reside in our house. My changes were to swap out the margarine for oil & non-dairy milk, substitute the dates for chocolate chips, substitute self-raising flour for standard flour & baking powder (I have nothing against self-raising flour but I already have large containers of high-grade, standard and wholemeal flour as well as numerous smaller jars of coconut, oat, sorghum, quinoa, and rice flours etc etc and my-bursting-at-the-seems-pantry has the draw the line somewhere) and I used Weetbix crumbs as I have a large jar that I top up each time a box of Weetbix is consumed (which sometimes seems like every second day). None of the BLP (bottom-less pits) like Weetbix crumbs (dust) for breakfast but are quite happy to eat it when incorporated into cookies & cake which is great for the zero waste movement. On that note how do they measure how much food each household throws away each year? Do they dig through our rubbish? And what about the food I discard from our fridge to donate to our chickens – is that considered “thrown away”?
Melie’s Kitchen by Amelia Ferrier (Penguin Random House New Zealand)
I have a fair collection of cook books both new and old. My favourite cook books are anything with baking or preserving (jams and jellies and such like). Some books I have never made anything from, although I want to try three or four of the recipes. Other books I have get me extremely inspired to get into the kitchen and try stuff out. Melie’s Kitchen falls into the second group – there is so much in there that is just ‘wow’ and ‘oh-my-goodness’ and ‘I’d never have thought of that’. It’s so exciting (and no, it is not sad that I find a cookbook exciting). Continue reading
A classic New Zealand biscuit (or cookie) is the Kiwi Biscuit, also known as a Highlander Biscuit after the brand of sweetened condensed milk that flavours these yummy cookies. There are many different recipes out in the world for Kiwi Biscuits and each has a little tweak according to each baker’s preferences – a little more butter, a little less sugar, twice as many chocolate chips….. Continue reading
Unpacking boxes of food items to stock my newly built pantry, I came across a jar of date molasses. Date molasses is similar to blackstrap molasses but milder in flavor (golden syrup or treacle can be used here instead). The date molasses inspired me to create a slice similar to a very popular ginger crunch that originates in Takaka (the original recipe can be found here) but using dates (obviously) to appeal to people not overly fond of ginger. I don’t completely understand how people can not be fond of ginger but I do have a couple living in my house. I try not to make the ginger version too often as I am likely to scoff the lot in a couple of days and that is not an action that fits into my everything in moderation philosophy.
The Mopp has embarked on a refined-sugar eating plan to help support a friend. This has created quite a challenge in the kitchen as I now am baking dairy-free, refined-sugar free treats. I like challenges and am having fun discovering a whole new world of recipes using honey.
This recipe is adapted from Cultures for Health Nutty Honey Yogurt Zucchini Loaf. As it contains yoghurt, it isn’t dairy-free so the daughter has missed out this time. However, with the nuts included, she’d have turned her nose up at it anyway, so no loss there. Continue reading
Dairy-free Wholemeal Double Chocolate Crinkle Biscuits (Cookies)
These chocolate biscuits are inspired by the ginger crinkle biscuit that I make regularly as they are easy to make and delicious (the recipe can be found on the Chelsea Sugar website here). There are also a lot of other super yummy recipes on that website – I used to make the Chocolate Chunk Oat Biscuits from time to time before dairy-free restrictions entered our life. It doesn’t matter that 5/6th’s of our family are OK with dairy, if I make or bake something with dairy in it, I get the evil eye from the daughter as if I am intentionally rubbing in the fact she can’t eat anything and everything anymore.
One of the recipes in a cookbook I reviewed recently was for a Welsh tea loaf where the dried fruit is soaked in hot tea. The resulting loaf is delicious, particularly when cut into thick slabs and smeared with butter. I took that concept and replaced the tea with coffee. I like my coffee strong so I used two tablespoons of ground coffee to 1 cup of boiling water.
I made the first version with raisins which was nice but as the Anster favours sultanas over raisins I switched. It helps that sultanas are less expensive than raisins. I’m fairly sure I have mentioned before that the Anster is one of those weird people who doesn’t like coffee. I can taste the coffee in this loaf but that may be because I know it is there. The Anster loves this loaf – it is his sort of food. I expressed a little surprise and asked him if he could taste the coffee and he said now that you mention it he could detect the coffee but it was subtle enough for his taste buds. Continue reading
Last year, the Anster offered to rebuild my pantry as my birthday present. It was a great idea as my current pantry was a mix-match of shelves at different heights. It worked much better than the previous version which involved banana boxes stacked one upon the other. I was forever stacking and re-stacking boxes when the ingredients I required were in the bottom box. Continue reading
Marsala Chai is a blend of different spices used to flavour many things but most commonly hot tea. The spices used vary greatly depending on personal tastes, ranging from a gentle warming flavour to in-your-face spiciness with optional additions such as vanilla, orange or basil. Continue reading
In the latest Australian Women’s Weekly issue (New Zealand edition (November 2015)), Nigella speaks about the therapy of baking. I don’t often buy the AWW as I have to limit my magazine purchases in order to keep to my assigned budget but occasionally something on the cover calls out to me. Most often it is a kiwi food writer or chef and I always buy the December issue because I LOVE the recipes. In my experience, AWW recipes are very good and so they should be, triple tested and all. I triple test my own recipes because I want them to be as “good” and fail-safe (and because the piglets in my house eat all the baking as I’ve forgotten I need to take photo’s. I still haven’t posted my Apple Caramel Slice recipe because as soon as I make it, it is demolished).