FODMAP Friendly Christmas Recipe – Shortbread Biscuits

Gluten free & low FODMAP shortbread - yum

It’s that time of year again! Crack out the tinsel, put on your Chrissy hats and get ready for temptation from all corners. Fa la la la luck. At times like this, I just have to remind myself what will happen if I tuck into a traditional mince tart and walk around with blinders on.

Christmas is my favourite time to bake. Not only do I get to make gingerbread (one of my favourite things, ever) or other types of biscuits (cookies), I get to spend time decorating them and generally being crafty. I love it but I was concerned that going wheat free would ruin my fun.

Fear not, though, as shortbread will come to your rescue. This recipe will produce buttery, crumbly, sweet biscuits that taste and look just like the real thing. Your family and/or co-workers will be none-the-wiser when it comes to your Christmas party contribution.

Oh and here’s a nifty trick – use this as a gluten free biscuit pastry base for any sweet tarts you’d like to make, just roll it out to 5 mm thick and blind bake for approx. 10 minutes at 190 C, until lightly golden. Easy!

FODMAP Notes

  1. Be sure that you use BOTH a gluten free flour blend (or spelt flour, if you can tolerate it) and white rice flour – both their properties are required in this recipe, so using 100% white rice flour wouldn’t give the best results.
  2. Use coconut oil instead of butter for a dairy free biscuit.

Low FODMAP and Gluten Free Shortbread

Makes approx. 30-40 biscuits, depending on size.

  • 1 cup dextrose or 3/4 cup castor sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups/300 g softened unsalted butter/coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup gluten free flour blend
  • 1/2 cup white rice flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup gluten free flour
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum or 1 tbsp. ground chia seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Sieve the sugar, 3/4 cup gluten free flour blend and 1/2 cup white rice flour into the bowl of your stand mixer and add in the butter, then beat on a low to medium speed until smooth.

Meanwhile, sieve the second cup each of gluten free flour blend and white rice flour, the xanthan gum (or ground chia seeds), baking powder and salt into a separate bowl.

When the wet mixture is smooth, scrape down the edges and add in the egg. Beat on medium until it is smooth once more, before adding in the rest of the dry ingredients and mixing thoroughly for 5 minutes. Wrap the mixture tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour before you want to bake them.

When you’re ready to bake, pre-heat your oven to 190 C/375 F and line two or three baking trays with baking paper before rolling the dough out to approx. 2 cm (3/4 in) thickness. Cut the biscuits into 2 cm by 4 cm rectangles, or use your favourite cookie cutters to make fancier shapes and use a fork to poke holes, if you wish.

Shortbread

Bake for approx. 15 minutes, until the bottoms have browned slightly but the biscuits are still soft to the touch while warm – they will harden as they cool. I normally bake in shifts, with no more than two trays in my oven at the one time, or the heat will not circulate properly – if your oven has a fan mode, you might be able to back more at once. Just do whatever works best for your oven.

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Once the biscuits have cooled to room temperature, store them in airtight containers in the pantry for up to five days, until they are required. They do last longer but will taste a little stale – it’s best to serve them before the five day mark.

Enjoy them with a nice cup of tea and seasonal fruit – in Australia this would mean fresh summer berries, as the closest thing we have had to a white Christmas was an hail storm on Christmas morning 2006 that left a nice covering of white hail stones all over the ground. In Seattle, you might be lucky enough to get a white Christmas but they unfortunately don’t come with seasonal low FODMAP fruits – apples, anyone? – so we’d have to spread on some preserves like a strawberry freezer jam.

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Chocolate Coated Fudgey Peanut Butter Balls – Low FODMAP, Gluten Free & Grain Free

Chocolate Coated Fudgey Peanut Butter Balls - Low FODMAP, Fructose Friendly, Gluten Free, Vegetarian,

I have a confession – I am not a cookie baker. Everyone tells me how easy they are to make, which might be true; they are easy enough to mix together… but then you have to bake them. They’re not like cakes, into which I can stick a skewer and check if it’s done. There’s no fail safe method (that I know of) to judge the perfect balance of done-ness, so that the biscuits will firm up as they cool, yet remain chewy without getting too dry. It’s IMPOSSIBLE, I tell you. I think I have managed it once in my life but only after baking three separate batches of the same chocolate chip cookie dough. I’d made Stephanie Alexander’s recipe gluten free, (drools) and was *this close* to giving up and just eating the raw cookie dough. I suppose, with practice, I could get it right consistently but then I’m sure I’d bake biscuits more often and that is something my waistline does not need.

That being said, there are literally no low FODMAP biscuit/cookie options at our local supermarket. All the gluten free versions – maybe four or five brands – contain inulin, honey or agave syrup etc. I haven’t tested inulin out specifically but it’s generally in foods with other higher FODMAP ingredients, anyway, so it’s probably not much use. Besides, most of those packaged biscuits also contain a tonne of sugar and are ridiculously expensive, as well. Five dollars for a packet of gluten free biscuits that would cost no more than three dollars if they were made with wheat? No, thank you.

I decided to try my hand at a healthier cookie recipe. I chose peanut butter and chocolate because, even though I can’t stand Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups, peanut butter and chocolate is an awesome flavour combination that I can’t get enough of, when done correctly. I’ll also kid myself that the choice of peanuts and almonds makes this “healthy” (combined, they’re low in sugar and high in copper, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorous, riboflavin and vitamin E) and conveniently forget the maple syrup, which, although technically an unrefined sugar, is still a sugar. Shhh! Though, to be fair, I’ve used less than half of what might be found in your typical store-bought biscuit. No sugar-induced headaches here.

What resulted is a baked cookie ball that is delicately sweetened and peanut buttery, with a decadent fudge-like texture. The perfect after dinner treat with a cup of tea or coffee.

FODMAP Notes

  1. Peanuts are a legume but are generally well tolerated, FODMAP-wise, in small (2 tbsp.) portions.
  2. Almonds are low FODMAP in servings of 10 nuts – stick to 1-2 of these balls and you should be fine.
  3. Maple syrup is low FODMAP, with a ratio of 1:1 fructose/glucose. Make sure you buy pure maple syrup, without any additives, to prevent sneaky sweeteners from getting in.
  4. Eggs are FODMAP friendly but can be an allergen/irritant in their own right.
  5. Pure vanilla extract is low FODMAP, check for additives.
  6. Dark chocolate is low FODMAP in servings of 30 g, see here.

Chocolate Coated Fudgey Peanut Butter Balls

Makes approx. 26-30 balls, depending on size.

Peanut Butter Cookies

  • 1 cup of natural, unsweetened smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup or brown rice syrup
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch table salt

Chocolate Coating

  • 1 cup dark chocolate, chips/chunks/smashed
  • Finely chopped roasted nuts (I used peanuts and pecans)

In a bowl, beat the peanut butter, maple syrup, vanilla, table salt and egg until smooth, then add in the almond meal. Mix until well combined and then cover and chill in the fridge for 10-15 minutes. During this time, preheat your oven to 150 C/300 F.

Fudgey Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

Place 1 tablespoon balls of the cookie dough about 2.5 cm/1 in apart on a lined baking tray; you could gently flatten them with a fork, making a crosshatch pattern if desired. Bake for 10 minutes, swapping the trays halfway through, until golden brown at the edges. Let sit for a couple of minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack until they reach room temperature. Repeat with the remaining dough. As you can see below, I tested out both a flattened cookie shape and a ball shape and (obviously) decided that the balls were what looked best.

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Let the cookie balls come to room temperature before melting dark chocolate (lactose/dairy free if required) using your preferred method (stove top double boiler, microwave etc), stirring until the chocolate is silky smooth. Fair warning, it is really easy to overheat and burn chocolate, so low and slow is the way to go.

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Dip the peanut butter balls halfway into the chocolate. Next, while the chocolate is still slightly soft (but not dripping), dip the coated part into a mixture of finely chopped nuts and leave to set on a baking tray. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to two weeks – if they last that long. Don’t forget to enjoy them with a nice hot cuppa.

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Spelt Shortbread Pastry – FODMAP & Fructose Friendly

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After discovering that I could tolerate spelt pasta, I looked into buying the flour to use in recipes in place of gluten free flours, for both price and performance reasons – although I have figured out my own gluten free flour blend, because I don’t want to push myself too much with spelt and rye flour in case I go too far. At approximately $3/lb the white spelt flour (Vita Spelt) from Amazon is much cheaper than pre-made gluten free flours, although the average of the flours that I bought to try out my own gluten free flour blend was about $2.50/lb, much better than King Arthur gluten free flour’s price of $7/lb!

After researching online, it appears that spelt tends to perform the same as wheat in most circumstances (breads might be a little tricky as spelt has different gluten than modern wheat) but a shortbread pastry shouldn’t pose a problem so I fructose friendlied up a shortbread pastry recipe from my Beechworth Bakery cookbook, Secrets of the Beechworth Bakery. My book is about ten years old, so I’m not sure what recipes are in the current edition. But if you can have spelt or are proficient at making normal recipes gluten free, I highly recommend it. If nothing else, it is an enjoyable read as the recipes are mixed up with some humorous stories.

Notes:

  1. Spelt is an ancient form of wheat, called Triticum aestivum subsp. spelta. It contains gluten, although the ratio of gliadin:glutenin is higher than that in normal wheat. It behaves in much the same way as modern wheat does in baking.
  2. Spelt contains gluten, so it is not suitable for those with coeliacs disease.
  3. Spelt does contain fructans, although less than modern wheat. It isn’t tolerated by every fructose malabsorber but there are quite a few out there, myself included luckily, who can eat it without issue in varying amounts. Unfortunately it is something you will have to test for yourself.
  4. I increased the ratio of rice flour to spelt in this recipe to lower the fructan content even more.
  5. If you can’t find white spelt flour, just buy whole spelt flour and sift out the whole grain bits.

Shortbread Pastry

Makes 80 mini tart shells that are approx. 4-5 cm in diameter.

  • 1 cup dextrose or 3/4 cup castor sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups/300 g softened unsalted butter/coconut butter
  • 3/4 cup white spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Sieve the sugar, 3/4 cup spelt flour and 1/2 cup rice flour into the bowl of your stand mixer and add in the butter, then beat on a low to medium speed until smooth.

Meanwhile, sieve the second cup each of spelt and rice flour, the xanthan gum, baking powder and salt into a separate bowl.

When the wet mixture is smooth, scrape down the edges and add in the egg. Beat on medium until it is smooth once more, before adding in the rest of the dry ingredients and mixing thoroughly for 5 minutes.

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Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour before rolling it out for use.

Preheat your oven to 190 C/375 F. Roll out the pastry dough; the thickness that you roll it out to will be determined by the diameter of your pie dish. For these mini tarts I kept it at about 3 mm thick but for a bigger tart I would probably go up to 5 mm thick. Grease your tart dish of choice and then carefully lay the pastry down.

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Blind bake the pastry (with baking paper and pie weights/uncooked rice). These small tart shells were perfect after 9 minutes in the oven but a larger tart shell might need a minute or two longer. As this is a biscuit pastry, you don’t want the shells to be completely firm when they come out of the oven or they will be like rocks when they have cooled. If they are slightly soft to the touch then they will cool down to be deliciously crumbly.

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Fill your tart shells with some delicious fillings. The photo below includes my fruit and custard, chocolate hazelnut and passion fruit blueberry fillings. The passion fruit filling is my personal favourite.

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FODMAP Friendly Christmas Recipe – Gingerbread House & Biscuits

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One of my favourite things about Christmas – apart from friends and family – is getting to play with food.

Not in the way your Mum always told you off for but by being creative. I’m not a talented creative person like some of my friends are but I like to dabble in sewing and one day I will finish that scarf I started to knit… So yeah, an excuse to make something pretty with a deadline means I get to play but also will get it done. Win, win.

Gingerbread is one of my favourite things – combining ginger, golden syrup and biscuits = the best thing ever. Since I’ve been doing my best to cut down on sugary baked goods, I haven’t baked much over the last couple of months except when required to for an event but it’s Christmas so whatever – screw the diet for the next two weeks and I’ll deal with the aftermath later 🙂 We’re dog-sitting two extra dogs at the moment, so I’m going on my fair share of dog walks, anyway.

Notes:

  1. Gingerbread recipes tend to use one or a combination of different syrups – golden syrup, maple syrup, treacle, molasses or even corn syrup (mostly from American websites that I’ve seen). Pure maple syrup is hard to find and quite expensive in Australia but treacle and golden syrup are easy to get – people tend to tolerate these quite differently, though, so I am listing them as possibilities and you can use whichever you know is safe for you.
  2. Gluten free flours are expensive, so if you are not cooking for a coeliac then I recommend making the recipe in halves – half GF and half normal flour. This will save you some money and, if you use the normal flour as the walls of the house, it will give the structure added strength.
  3. If you can’t tolerate wheat because of the fructans but you can still have gluten, I would recommend using gluten powder, rather than xanthan gum, to really add some strength – this is more important if you are making a house, rather than gingerbread biscuits. I would try 1/2 a cup of gluten powder to replace the same amount of flour and work from there. Possibly a combination of xanthan gum and gluten might be best but I haven’t tried this.
  4. If you have any cracks in the slabs of gingerbread that you cut, just use royal icing or melted chocolate to either stick them back together or as a reinforcement along the inside face of the slab.
  5. Royal icing involves uncooked egg whites, so if you are making this for a pregnant woman or an immuno-compromised person, I would stick to melting dark or milk chocolate for assembling the joins of a house. Other sources recommend using meringue powder in this situation but having never used it, I don’t know what the ingredients are and how fructose friendly they would be.
  6. If you malabsorb lactose, then I would stick to the royal icing, rather than the chocolate… unless a lactose free chocolate exists that can melt well – I honestly haven’t ever looked into it.

Gingerbread

Adapted from Ruby M. Brown’s Cakes, Muffins and Loaves to suit my tastes and be a little more fructose friendly.

  • 250 g unsalted butter/coconut butter, softened
  • 175 g castor sugar (or 200 g dextrose)
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup golden syrup
  • 700 g GF plain flour
  • 1-2 tsp. xanthan gum (add in 1, then the second if consistency isn’t correct) – alternatively, substitute 1/2 cup of GF flour for 1/2 cup of gluten powder
  • 11/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 pinch salt

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add in the eggs, vanilla and syrup of your choice. Mix until well combined and smooth. Sift the dry ingredients into a separate bowl and then gradually add them in, alternating with mixing, until the batter is complete. This will be much stiffer than a cake batter, more like a cookie dough but not quite.

To make your life easier, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes before rolling it out.

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To make biscuits

Preheat your oven to 190 C/375 F. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured bench until it is approx 1 cm thick and then cut with a knife or cookie cutters. Place them on a lined baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and firm yet soft on top – if you bake them until they are hard on top then they will be like rocks once they have cooled.

To make a house

Preheat your oven to 190 C/375 F and lay out baking paper on the bench (if your biscuit tray has raised edges like mine does) or if you have a completely flat baking sheet, just lay the baking paper on that. Spread a column of the batter along the length of the tray and place wax paper on top, then roll it out to make it as rectangular as possible. Believe me, the more accurate you are with this, the more of the end product you can work with to cut out the walls and roof pieces later on.

You can see from this picture that I didn’t do a particularly good job of it and I had to make another half batch to make the front and back walls.

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Bake for 20 minutes, until golden brown and firm-ish in the middle – a little bit of softness is okay, as it will continue to harden while cooling – but you don’t want it to be completely hard while baking or it will be a crumbly rock once cooled. Have paper cut outs of your house pieces ready to go, because it is easier to cut without cracks forming when it is fresh from the oven and still retains some softness.

Let the pieces cool for a day to harden completely, otherwise they might crack while you are trying to assemble the house. Other shapes to try could be a Christmas tree or a bell shape, with four pieces.

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Royal Icing

The following gave me plenty of icing to construct and decorate my house, however the rule of thumb is 1 egg white to 1 cup of icing sugar.

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract – optional
  • 2 cups of icing sugar (or 3 3/4 cups icing sugar, 1/4 cup dextrose)
  • Food colouring of choice – optional

Softly beat the egg whites and vanilla extract in the bowl of your stand mixer and then add in the icing sugar gradually until the mixture becomes smooth and shiny. Beat it on a high speed for at least 5 minutes, until the mixture is able to form stiff peaks. Transfer it to an icing bag (or a zip lock bag with the corner snipped off) to pipe the icing accurately. It stores well in an air tight container for 1-2 days, after which I find it is too hard to use anymore. If you just need to leave it on the bench for an hour or so, cover it in a damp cloth to help it retain its moisture, as it forms a crust and hardens when it is exposed to air.

Softly beaten eggs.

Softly beaten eggs.

Royal icing.

Royal icing – you can see the stiff peak that has formed.

Assembling a gingerbread house

  • Gingerbread shapes
  • Royal icing
  • A large, flat platter to build the house on
  • 2 sets of hands, preferably

Pick one side wall and one end wall and pipe icing onto the base of each piece and also the corner that will meet. It makes life so much easier if there is one person to pipe icing and another to hold the pieces in place until the icing has set but it’s not crucial.

Continue to construct the house. You should start with a side wall and the rear facing wall and then let them dry completely. Next, ice and stick the bottom and adjoining side of the front panel and hold it in place until the icing has set. Make sure the joins are all at right angles, so that all the pieces fit together as they should. Finally, ice and stick the remaining side wall in place and let the walls completely dry for a couple of hours before contemplating sticking the roof pieces in place – houses can collapse.

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I mentioned in the notes section that you can reinforce pieces with either royal icing or melted chocolate allowed to set – this can be quite useful for the inside faces of the roof pieces, as they will have quite a bit of downward force going across them eventually, both from gravity and all the lollies you will be decorating it with. Now, as I was doing this to a roof piece that had a visible crack running through it from moving while still warm and soft (my bad), I carelessly wiped the spatula away from me and pulled the piece in two… whoops. I glued it back together with the icing and threw in a couple of wooden skewers cut to size for good measure. This roof isn’t going to collapse on my watch.

Whoops. This is why you should be careful.

Whoops. This is why you should be careful.

Reinforced roof piece

Reinforced roof piece.

Once the walls are dry and you have reinforced any possible cracks (and let that dry as well), pipe icing along the tops of the wall pieces and lay the roof slabs down. The shallower the angle of your roof, the less likely they will be to slip down before the icing dries.

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Once more, let this dry completely before you use the remaining icing to decorate and stick on the lollies of your choice. The photos I’m posting are of the last two houses I made – in Australia Christmas 2010 and in Seattle Christmas 2013. You can see the difference in lolly varieties in the two countries and also an improvement in my icing skills, although they still leave much to be desired.

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Melbourne – Christmas 2010

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Melbourne – Christmas 2010

Seattle - Christmas 2013

Seattle – Christmas 2013

Finally, demolish the house. The best part of all!

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Strawberry Pepita Muesli Bars – FODMAPs, Fructose Friendly, Paleo & Gluten Free

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At the request of someone who cannot eat almonds – hence the last muesli bars I made were unsuitable – I promised to attempt an almond free version.

Well, here it is… and isn’t. I submitted the recipe to Yummly, a recipe/food/cooking website that I absolutely love for the reasons I listed here. It is like a big community of professional food writers, chefs, cooks and the likes of us. If you make your own account, you can start searching for delicious recipes with ingredient filters and saving them to try later… because of course you’ll be making these beauties first!

These are lower GI than your store bought muesli bars, and wont have any nasty preservatives in them. I kept mine in the fridge, in a sealed container and they lasted one month until I had finished them without spoiling.

As I mentioned in my last post about muesli bars, low GI is important not only when you’re not doing anything – to avoid a blood sugar spike, years of which can lead to insulin resistance and put you at risk of Type II Diabetes – but to help you maintain energy levels while you’re exercising, or even during the day if you eat one of these as a breakfast bar. Once reason I don’t eat any cereal other than whole oat porridge is because I was tired and hungry within an hour or two. Just ask Ev what I get like when my blood sugar drops… very grumpy 🙂

Notes:

  1. Use pure maple syrup, which shouldn’t have any extra sugars or sweeteners in there that could potentially elicit a FM reaction.
  2. I used raw nuts and seeds but you could use roasted for a little extra crunch.
  3. Strawberries are a FODMAP suitable fruit, with fructose concentration of 3.0g/100g and a glucose concentration of 3.1g/100g. Monash University lists them as safe.
  4. Most seeds are safe in moderate amounts, however they can affect some people because they are high in fibre. These bars will pack a caloric punch – they are intended for workout/hiking food, not for dieters – so you won’t need more than a single serving, anyway.
  5. Almonds have been listed by some as higher in FODMAPs, so to play it safe I excluded them.
  6. You could add in a quarter cup of dried cranberries if you can tolerate them – just watch for any juices used to sweeten them.
  7. Nuts are not safe for dogs, so please don’t share them with your furry hiking buddies.
  8. If you want a nut free version, simply remove the nuts and then add in the same volume of seeds. I still wouldn’t be sharing them with your dogs, though. We normally take chicken jerky for the dogs when we go hiking, as well as extra water.

The recipe is over on Yummly’s blog, please head over and have a look! I like to eat these as a breakfast bar with plain yoghurt and some berries. They are quite filling and keep me going until lunch time. Enjoy! Let me know what you think in the comments section below.

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Hedgehog Slice – Fructose Friendly & Gluten Free

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During my two years of VCE – years 11 and 12 of secondary school in Victoria – I swear I kept the canteen running from my addiction to Hedgehog Slices. Jam doughnuts were a close second. Very close. This dwindled out when I started my B. Science and Monash Uni’s Cafe Cinque Lire had ah-MAZING citrus tarts. Seriously amazeballs. It made 8 am starts with 2 hours of biology and chemistry bearable – I wasn’t to know that, by 2nd year physiotherapy, 2 hours was a walk in the park; try 5 hours. However, when I moved to Melbourne Uni to start my physiotherapy degree, Thresherman’s Bakehouse near Lygon St had cheap and delicious custard tarts.

You can tell I’m a bit of a pastry fan 🙂

After moving to Seattle and having to deal with not only HFCS – for those of you back home in Australia it’s corn syrup that has been chemically altered to change over half of its glucose to fructose – but an increase in my sensitivity to wheat as well, I had to cut baked goods from my life unless they were homemade. Combine this with the fact that I haven’t even seen a hedgehog slice in the US, last summer I decided it was high time that I made my all-time favourite slice.

Notes:

  1. This contains coconut. While coconut is no longer listed as a FODMAP by Monash University, some people are sensitive for other reasons. I use unsweetened desiccated coconut.
  2. The biscuits used can either be store bought GF/FF plain biscuits – think Arnott’s Marie biscuits from Aus – or roll the almond meal pastry mixture flat onto a baking tray and completely blind bake it to form plain biscuits which can then be crumbled and used instead.
  3. A serving of 20 almonds or more is considered high in FODMAPs. If you limit yourself to one or two pieces of this, you should be right, unless you are particularly sensitive to GOS’s.
  4. Butter could be replaced with the same amount of coconut butter.
  5. Although I use dark chocolate and cocoa powder, which has less lactose than milk chocolate, be aware that this might cause a reaction in those who are sensitive to lactose.
  6. This mixture uses raw eggs. They are added to the hot butter mixture, so they will cook but not at length in an oven. To be safe, I would say this is not safe for consumption by pregnant women or infants. If you can tolerate it, condensed milk would provide the same binding properties that eggs would. Just be sure that, if you buy the sweetened version, you know what it is sweetened with.
  7. The original recipe called for 1tbsp. dark rum, instead of maple syrup. You can swap it back if you’d like.

Hedgehog Slice

Adapted from Stephanie Alexander’s, ‘The Cook’s Companion’ to be FF/GF.

Slice Base

  • 350-375 g/12.5-13 oz GF/FF Arnott’s Marie style biscuits or almond meal pastry biscuits.
  • 100 g/3.5 oz chopped walnuts
  • 125 g/4.5 oz unsalted butter
  • 3/4 – 1 cup dextrose/castor sugar – dextrose isn’t as sweeet as sucrose so more might be necessary to your taste
  • 1/3-1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder – I’m a chocaholic so I add the 1/2 cup
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten or approx. 1/3 cupcondensed milk for an egg free version, you can add more later if necessary

Chocolate Icing

  • 130 g/4.6 oz dark chocolate
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup – optional
  • 50 g/1.75 oz unsalted butter or coconut butter
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut to top, more if you wish

Grease a baking tray’s base and sides and set aside – should be around 20 cm/8 in square with edges but if it’s a little bigger, like mine was, don’t worry.

Put the biscuits in a marinade bag and smash them with a rolling pin. You want chunks, not powder, so don’t crush them too much. It’s very cathartic, so I recommend making this if you’re angry – chocolate and stress release in one!

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Melt butter and dextrose until well combined, then add in the cocoa powder and mix until completely smooth. Add in the lightly beaten eggs or condensed milk and mix until smooth once more.

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At this point, you can either let the mixture cool before adding the biscuits and walnuts, or mix them in anyway – it will just mean the mixture takes longer to set later on. If you feel more condensed milk is necessary (i.e. the mixture is too dry) add it now.

Once the dry and wet ingredients are mixed though, you can press them into the greased tin you prepared earlier. Condense the height and even it out with a spatula. I only had a large baking tray and it worked without any issues.

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To prepare the icing, melt the dark chocolate, butter and maple syrup (or rum) in a double boiler until smooth and creamy. Pour over the slightly cooled base, being careful if you used a bigger pan than necessary, as I did. You don’t want to lose the icing on the uncovered portion of the baking tray.

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Sprinkle with as much shredded desiccated coconut as you’d like and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before cutting them into 5 cm/2 inch squares.

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These are best made the day before eating, so they can really firm up in the fridge.  Store them in the fridge for no more than a week, due to all the dairy and the potentially uncooked eggs.  They go really well with a cup of Earl Grey tea. Enjoy! And if you use the condensed milk option, let me know how the slice turned out.

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Almond Meal Pastry – Low Fructose, FODMAPS & Gluten Free

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This isn’t so much a pastry (well, it is, I suppose) as a biscuit base that multitasks perfectly as a shortcrust base for tarts and pies. It is designed to be a slightly sweetened, plain pastry so that your filling of choice can take the spotlight.

If you would like to add in different flavours, such as ground ginger or lemon zest, to complement your tart them go right ahead; and if you can’t be bothered refrigerating and rolling out a finnicky pastry like the GF sour cream pastry, then this is a great alternative for tarts and pies that don’t need a pastry layer on top.

Almond Meal Pastry

  • 2 cups almond meal/flour
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter or coconut butter (maybe a little more) for FODMAPS
  • 3 tbsp. dextrose or castor sugar
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Savoury variation – omit the sugar and spices and add in an extra 1 1/2 tsp. salt and 1 tbsp. suitable herbs (to match your filling), such as oregano, rosemary or thyme.

Put everything in your stand-mixer or food processor and mix with the paddle until thoroughly combined.

After oiling a pie or tart dish, break the dough into quarters and gradually press them into the tin. This takes a little bit of time to do neatly and make sure you have no weak spots (or filling leaks out and the tart will stick in the tin) but it’s quite relaxing to do, almost cathartic. Make sure it’s no thicker than 5 mm thick at the base for proper cooking.

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Your options for cooking include:

  1. Completely blind bake it. This takes up to 30 minutes at 150 C/300 F, depending on your oven. Check it every couple of minutes after the 20 minute mark to be safe. It should end up a nice, golden brown and firm. It will continue to harden as it cools, though, so beware of over-cooking.
  2. Partially blind bake it for 10 minutes at 150 C/300 F and then add your filling and continue to bake until the filling is completely cooked and the pastry golden brown.

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This is great for not only tart shells but also small biscuits – I baked some left over pastry for 20 minutes at 150 C/300 F and then ate them warm with fresh raspberries and a teaspoon of whipped cream on top. Yum!