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BISCUIT BONANZA

The first biscuit was a chunky, dry creation baked to sustain travellers on long journeys on horseback or camel. Prepared from crushed cereals, it was never sweetened. In the 7th century, Persian cooks started to make lighter, sweeter biscuits adding shortening, eggs and honey. By medieval times, spices had been added to the mix. Today the only limitation is one’s imagination.

In America and some parts of Canada, the term biscuit is applied to a scone-like mixture which is served at breakfast with bacon and eggs, or with stews. The ‘biscuits’ help mop up the juices. Hence the word cookie is favoured for sweet treats enjoyed with coffee or tea. However, cookie is now a term that has infiltrated our culinary language as well.

Because many people have been diagnosed with gluten intolerance there is an ever-increasing variety of gluten-free bakes on supermarket shelves along with recipes in cookbooks and food columns. Not all are healthy as many contain larger amounts of sugar to conceal the often rather dry texture.

The saturated-fat versus unsaturated-fat debate has also changed the way we think about baking. If you substitute oil for butter try using three-quarters of the amount. That is, if a recipe calls for 200 grams of butter use just 150 milligrams of oil.

BERRY NICE BISCUITS

I’ve used ‘Fresh As’ raspberry powder available from delis and some supermarkets.

1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt
4 teaspoons raspberry powder 
125g butter, softened
3/4 cup lightly packed soft brown sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoons vanilla essence 
1/2 cup dark Ghana chocolate chips
Topping: extra chocolate chips or bits
2 teaspoons raspberry powder

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and raspberry powder into a bowl.

Place the butter in a cake mixer or similar. Beat until fluffy. Add the sugar, egg, milk and vanilla essence. Beat until smooth.

Add the flour mixture and mix until a soft dough is formed. On low speed add the chocolate chips.
Cover the dough tightly and chill for 2 hours or up to 2 days.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line 1 or 2 trays with baking paper.

Take 35g portions of the dough and roll into balls. Place on the baking paper about 4cm apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and using the flat base of a small glass flatten the cookies until cracks form. Top each cookie with 3 or 4 chocolate chips and dust with raspberry powder.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Makes 20.

GF GINGERBREAD COOKIES

Blackstrap molasses is a versatile natural syrup sweetener for savoury and sweet dishes. Treacle could be substituted. I used a new liquid coconut oil from Olivado.

1 large egg
3 tablespoons each: blackstrap molasses, coconut oil
1/4 cup coconut sugar
1 teaspoon each: ground ginger, ground cinnamon, vanilla essence
1 1/4 cups finely ground almonds
1/4 cup rice flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Place the egg in a mixing bowl and lightly beat. Add the molasses, coconut oil, coconut sugar, spices and vanilla essence. Mix until well combined. Add the remaining ingredients mixing well.
Place large teaspoons of the mixture on the tray. With a wet thumb, make a thumb print in the centre.

Bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. Press your thumb into the centre of the cookies to deepen the thumbprint, if preferred.

Cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container for 5 days or in the freezer for 3 months. Makes about 24.

CHOCOLATE THINS

Delicious! If preferred, cut the unbaked log in half and freeze one half for up to 3 months.

1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
2 teaspoons instant coffee powder
pinch salt
200g butter, softened
1 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon each: finely grated orange rind, vanilla essence
1/4 cup coffee crystals

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, coffee powder and salt into a bowl.

Cream the butter, until light. Beat in the icing sugar, until creamy. Add the orange rind and vanilla essence. Beat well. Slowly add the flour mixture mixing until just combined.

Roll into a 4cm diameter log on a sheet of plastic film. Roll up tightly and chill for 2 hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line 1 or 2 baking trays with baking paper.

Unwrap the log and cut into 5mm rounds. Place on the baking tray. Sprinkle with the coffee crystals.
Bake for 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. Makes 50.

WHITE CHOC OATIES

Simple enough for the kids to make. The mixture could also cooked in a microwave baking dish for 4-5 minutes. Cut into squares while warm. The baked oaties are pale in colour.

3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 cup lightly packed soft brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup white chocolate bits

Beat the coconut oil and brown sugar until well mixed. Stir in the egg then the remaining ingredients.

Line a microwave turntable with baking paper. Take tablespoons of the mixture and roll into balls. Place 6 around the outside edge of the paper and flatten slightly with a fork. Microwave on high for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, depending on the microwave wattage. Don’t overcook as the cookies harden on cooling.

Remove to cool on a wire rack. Repeat until all the oaties are cooked. Makes about 30.