At last I’m back in business. It’s been a long time because of the moving and how hectic that has made things, but also because we got into a house with an incomprehensible oven that we couldn’t find the manual for. I was lucky to have a family friend come to visit us for lunch who – when hearing how I wanted to bake, gave me a crash course in how to at least use the fan-forced function of the oven. I’m eternally grateful to her for that because it meant I could try out my recipe for a gluten free sponge cake again. My first one was right in terms of texture but wrong in terms of flavour, and unfortunately the one I made yesterday was right in terms of flavour but wrong in terms of texture. I was able to save it, however, by turning it into a trifle at the last minute with some store-bought jelly and custard. I’m not posting that recipe up here yet or any photos because the jelly and custard weren’t mine, and I’m persnickety like that. So it’s my next big project to fix that recipe of mine and get it up here. But I wanted to share that story first because it led to my getting a lovely compliment and some sound advice from the people I shared the delicious trifle with – that a cook’s skill isn’t so much in their successes but in how they can adapt to and fix their failures. It’s a fantastic thought for all of those who are like me and are still learning their way around making their own recipes. So I hope that encourages all of you like it encouraged me.
In the meantime I did experience a tasty success only this morning when I got up – determined to make gluten free and dairy free shortbread. I had to think about it – about what flours I would use and how I would replace the butter. But then I was reminded about how well rice flour works in gluten free shortbread, and investigating a supermarket butter and margarine section reveal lard to me as the alternative for butter. It was interesting to learn that lard – also called shortening, is actually used a lot in baking. It’s something I intend to use more of in my dairy free cooking because its flavoursome and acts exactly like butter does. In fact it comes like softened butter and so doesn’t require any treatment to get it ready to cook with. But I also didn’t want my shortbread to be plain, so I thought to add some of my favourite nut meal to it – hazelnut meal. It worked beautifully, although the biscuits are very crumbly and much drier than you’d expect they still sort of melt in your mouth.
Makes: 36, Prep: up to 20 mins, Chill: 15 mins, Cook: 10 mins
- 1 cup rice flour
- 1/4 cup hazelnut meal
- 1/3 cup sugar or granulated sweetener
- 150g lard, or nuttelex
- Preheat your oven to 160°C (I used a fan forced oven) and line one large baking tray with baking paper.
- Mix together the rice flour, sugar and hazelnut meal until combined.
- Dice the lard into chunks and add to the dry ingredients. Using your hands knead the dough together, making sure all the lard is mixed through.
- On a piece of baking paper roll chunks of the dough into three or four logs about 1cm thick. Place them and the paper onto a plate and chill in the freezer for 15 mins.
- Remove the dough and cut them into several small pieces, less than a centimeter across. I did this by making small cuts into the tops of the logs first to determine that their sizes were roughly equal. Alternatively you can cut one and use it as the size template by which to cut the rest.
- Roll these pieces into small circles – making sure to keep them smooth with no cracks. if cracks appear smooth then out or compress them and start rolling them again.
- Place each dough ball onto the tray with only small gaps between each as they don’t particularly spread. Cook for 10 mins.
- Remove from the oven and then leave on the tray to cool. Once completely cool dust with icing sugar and serve.