Baking generally feels like alchemy: the magic that happens when eggs, sugar, butter and flour are bound together and heat is applied. So, if anything, gluten-free baking feels even more magical. It’s not, of course; in fact, it can be trickier, because gluten is often what holds things together and keeps them springy. To prevent gluten-free bakes from being on the crumbly or short side, we need to reach deeper into our box of baking tricks. I love cooking within so-called restrictions: it makes me discover new ingredients, or new uses for ingredients I already know. Adding powdered fruit pectin to scones (not just to the jam that goes on top of them), for instance, is a revelation, and helps to bind the crumb and keep in the moisture. Cookies, scones and tarts that everyone can eat: now that really does feel like alchemy.
Caramelised white chocolate and macadamia cookies (pictured above)
Caramelised white chocolate is exactly that: white chocolate that’s been caramelised until it tastes of fudge, toast, brown butter and malt all rolled into one. Heaven. It is on the pricey side, but is readily available online. Don’t worry if you can’t get any, though: any white cooking chocolate will also work here. The raw cookie dough can be made up to three days ahead, rolled into balls and kept in an airtight container in the fridge, ready to be baked whenever the mood strikes.
Prep 20 min
Cook 15 min
300g softened unsalted butter, cut into 2cm cubes
300g soft dark brown sugar
75g caster sugar
20g vanilla bean paste
1 whole egg plus 2 egg yolks
175g cassava flour
150g jumbo oats, blitzed to a very fine powder
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¾ tsp table salt
1 tsp flaked sea salt
100g macadamia nuts, toasted and roughly chopped
200g caramelized white “blond” chocolate (we use Valrhona Dulcey 32%), or regular white cooking chocolate, roughly chopped
Weigh out half the butter into a small saucepan and place on a medium-high heat. Cook, whisking often, for about five minutes, until the butter turns amber and smells nutty.
Meanwhile, put the remaining butter, both sugars and the vanilla bean paste into a large bowl, then pour in the hot butter, stir to combine, then set aside for five or so minutes, until the rest of the butter is completely melted. Add the egg and egg yolks, and mix for about 30 seconds, until well combined and emulsified. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix until all traces of flour disappear. Cover the surface with clingfilm or similar, and refrigerate for about an hour and a half, until firm.
Heat the oven to 190C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6 and line two or three large baking trays with greaseproof paper. Using a spoon, scoop out a 50-55g piece of cookie dough, roll it into a ball and place on a lined tray. Repeat with the remaining dough, spacing the balls well apart – you should be able to fit about eight cookies on each tray.
Bake for seven minutes, then rotate the tray, and bake for three minutes more, until the cookies are lightly golden at the edges and the centres are puffy and pale. Remove and leave to cool on the tray for eight to 10 minutes before eating, assuming you can wait that long.
These are perfect just as they are, or split them while they’re still warm, slather with butter and serve with soup or as part of a breakfast or brunch. They’re best eaten on the day, but if you have any left over, they’re brilliant split and fried in butter to go with scrambled eggs.
Prep 20 min
Rest 30 min
Cook 1 hr
80g whipping cream, plus extra for brushing
115g full-fat Greek yoghurt
250g gluten-free plain flour, plus extra for stamping out – we use Doves Farm
2½ tsp gluten-free baking powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp powdered pectin
1 tbsp za’atar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 tbsp caster sugar
100g cold unsalted butter, cut into 2cm cubes
3 tbsp (15g) finely chopped chives
½ tsp finely grated lemon zest
125g feta, roughly crumbled
60g cheddar, finely grated
1½ tsp sesame seeds, to finish
Line the base and sides of an 18cm square x 4cm deep baking tin. In a small bowl, whisk the cream, yoghurt and egg, then put in the fridge to chill.
Put all the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter, chives and lemon zest, and pulse seven or eight times, until the butter is about the size of small peas. Pour in the cream mixture and pulse again until the “crumbs” are moist but not quite coming together, then tip out on to a clean work surface and use your hands gently to flatten the mixture into a rough, 15cm-long rectangle without compressing it too much. Sprinkle the feta and most of the cheddar evenly over the top and gently fold over the sides to bring the dough together into a round; don’t work it too much, because you want some of the feta to stay intact.
Now switch to a rolling pin. Gently roll out the dough into a roughly 15cm circle about 3cm thick, rotating the dough as you go. If it starts cracking around the edges, use the palm of one hand gently to squeeze it back together again and smooth out the cracks. Have ready a bowl of flour, to dip the cutter into between each stamp, which will ensure a clean cut. Using a 6cm plain round cutter, stamp out about four scones, then bring together the scraps, roll out and repeat – you should end up with nine scones in total and about 80g pastry left over – bake this separately for a cook’s treat. Arrange the scones in three rows of three in the lined tin and refrigerate for 30 minutes, to rest and firm up.
Ten minutes before you are ready to bake, heat the oven to 210C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7. Brush the tops of the scones with the extra whipping cream, sprinkle over the reserved cheddar, and top that with the za’atar and sesame seeds. Bake for 15 minutes, rotate the tin, turn down the oven to 190C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6 and bake for another 10 minutes, until the scones are nicely browned and the middles spring back when lightly touched. Remove, leave to cool in the tin for five minutes, then carefully transfer to a cooling rack. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then serve.
The lime sugar in this dish reminds me of a margarita on a sunny day. If you’d like to get ahead, you can bake the base and make both the caramel and the lime sugar the day before.
Prep 15 min
Infuse 30 min+
Cook 50 min
Chill 30 min
For the base
1 egg white, lightly beaten
150g desiccated coconut, lightly toasted
50g caster sugar
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla paste
For the custard
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk (at least 80% coconut extract)
1 x 400ml tin coconut cream
1 tsp vanilla paste
7 makrut lime leaves (5g net weight)
50g coconut oil
80g custard powder
2 whole eggs plus 2 egg yolks
For the caramel and the lime sugar
160ml coconut cream
1 tsp vanilla paste
2 limes, zested and juiced
2½ tsp caster sugar
Heat the oven to 170C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4. Line a 23cm x 23cm square cake tin with a removable base with greaseproof paper. In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients for the base with an eighth of a teaspoon of flaked salt. Press this mix evenly into the base of the tin, bake for 23 minutes, until golden all over, then remove and leave to cool.
While the base is baking, put all the custard ingredients except the eggs and custard powder in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil, then take off the heat and leave to infuse for at least 30 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk the custard powder, eggs and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt until well combined, then set aside. Bring the milk mixture to a simmer on a medium-low heat, then lift out and discard the lime leaves. Pour a quarter of the milk into the custard mixture, whisking constantly to avoid any lumps. Return the remaining milk to a medium-low heat, then sieve the custard mixture directly into the milk pan (discard any solids caught in the sieve). Cook for 10 minutes, whisking frequently to prevent any lumps forming at the bottom of the pan, until the mixture thickens and starts to fall off the whisk in thick ribbons.
Pour the custard on to the cool base, then refrigerate for 30 minutes, to chill.
For the caramel, put the 160g sugar and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt in a large pan, set it over a medium heat and cook for about eight minutes: resist the urge to stir it, and instead swirl the pan around until all the sugar has melted. Continue swirling slowly until the sugar turns a dark amber, then add the coconut cream and vanilla, and mix well: take care, because it may splatter. Add a teaspoon and a half of lime juice, then pour into a small jug or bowl and set aside.
In a small bowl, use your fingers to rub together the caster sugar, lime zest and half a teaspoon of flaked salt.
Unmould the chilled and set tart, and transfer to a platter. Drizzle over some of the caramel and the lime sugar, then cut into squares and serve with the remaining lime juice spooned on top.