These biscuits are my newest favourite, and that is due equally to the texture, the flavour(s) and the potential to vary (infinite).
They are a development of the shortbread-like Viennese Whirls, where inclusion of cornflour makes them delightfully crumbly and moreish.
Whereas Viennese Whirls are piped, these can be rolled between the palms in order to produce interesting swirly patterns as the different doughs are mixed together.
Alternatively, if neatness is important and you have a silicone small-hemisphere baking sheet, you can opt to press a mix of the dough into the holes in the sheet to make domed biscuits.
Another option would be to scatter small lumps of each dough over your work surface, use a rolling-pin to roll them into a smooth sheet with a marbled effect, and cut out your biscuits with regular cutters.
So the method you choose is whatever suits you. What IS important, is that each biscuit has a mixture of all three doughs, especially if they are also flavoured differently as well as contrasting visually .
If you like things simple, you can go: Very chocolate/mildly chocolate/vanilla – which is lovely, delicious and has widespread crowd appeal.
However, ever the tinkerer, I decided to experiment with some alternative flavour combinations the best of which I am going to share with you now.
- Very chocolate/mildly chocolate/orange: adding orange zest to the palest dough for a classic combination. Would make great Christmas baking/gifts.
- Very chocolate/coffee/vanilla: mix it up a little with a little mocha combo, ideal if you don’t want to have to choose between coffee and chocolate.
Both of these combinations I found equally delicious, but the absolute best flavour combination I put together tops all of the above (she says modestly), and it is this:
- Very chocolate/coffee/cardamom: the richness of the cocoa, the bitterness of the coffee and the heady aroma of cardamom are amazing together.
I used to drink coffee Turkish-style, flavoured with cardamom, when I worked in the Gulf, so perhaps I’m a little biased, but I strongly urge you to try this combination for a real, to quote Peter Kay, TASTE SENSATION!
Chocolate Swirl Biscuits
This makes a large quantity of biscuits, so divide the quantities in half if you think they might be too much for you, just don’t blame me when they’re all gone in two days and you’re turning on the oven at 10 o’clock at night to make a new batch.
Whichever flavour combination you choose, use the following. Each amount will flavour 1/3 of the dough quantity below:
- Dark chocolate: 2tbs cocoa powder
- Light chocolate: 1tbs cocoa powder, 1tbs flour
- Coffee: 1tbs espresso powder, 1tbs flour
- Orange: zest of orange, 2tbs flour
- Cardamom: ¾tsp ground cardamom, 2tbs flour
- vanilla: ½tsp vanilla extract, 2tbs flour
250g unsalted butter, softened
125g icing sugar
120ml vegetable oil
1tsp baking powder
280g plain flour
2tbs cocoa powder
1tbs espresso coffee powder
¾tsp ground cardamom
- Remove 3 tablespoons of flour and set aside.
- Put the butter, icing sugar, cornflour, oil and baking powder into a bowl and mix gently until thoroughly combined.
- Gradually add the flour until the mixture comes together in a soft dough.
- Divide the dough into three and add the flavourings, using the reserved flour for the two lighter doughs. If using a mixer for this, start with the lightest colour dough and finish with the chocolate, to avoid smudging the colours.
- Roll each dough into marble-sized balls. Due to the baking powder, they will grow slightly during baking, and with each biscuit being formed from six balls of dough, you want to err on the side of caution, sizewise.
- Decide on the style of your biscuits:
- If you’re cutting out your biscuits, scatter the different balls of doughs over your work area, cover with a sheet of clingfilm and roll into a marbled sheet. Use cutters of diameter 5cm.
- To make the swirled biscuits (top left and bottom right in the pic) arrange two balls of each flavour in a circle either 1,2,3,1,2,3 (top left) or 1,1,2,2,3,3 (bottom right). Gather them together until they form a drum shape (similar to biscuit on the bottom left of the pic), then roll this between your palms, with your hands moving in opposite directions, for 6 or 7 rotations until swirled together. Flatten slightly to finish. NB: I adore the swirl this produces, but a word of advice: if you are a perfectionist, do not choose this method. I made 6 or 7 batches of this dough, experimenting with flavour combinations and wotnot, and I can count the number of perfectly swirled biscuits I managed to create on two hands. I definitely got better with practice, but my husband’s work colleagues had to munch a LOT of biscuits in the process. Which is how the silicone mould method evolved, and beautifully neat and dainty top-right style is now my favourite (as well as being so much quicker).
- If using a hemisphere mould silicone sheet, proceed as above but instead of rolling the dough between your hands, press it into the mould (bottom left). For the biscuit pictured top right, put the balls of dough in pairs, then arrange them side by side, like the pattern of a six on a dice. Press into the mould.
- Heat the oven to 170°C, 150°C Fan.
- Arrange the biscuits on baking sheets liked with parchment, leaving space between them to allow for spreading.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes, until crisp and slightly risen. NB: If using a silicone mould, the biscuits may take a little longer, as the silicone shields most of the biscuit from the heat. Before removing from the oven, sample a biscuit, break it apart and check that it is cooked all the way through.
- Cool on a wire rack.
- Store in an airtight container.
These biscuits are delicious! Crunchy, chocolatey, rich and rounded caramel flavour, they are light and crisp and decidedly moreish.
They are, perhaps a little surprisingly, also free from gluten and dairy products.
I made these for a friend who has dietary restrictions and have such a wonderful texture and taste, I didn’t want to label them as “allergy only”, since this tag can be offputting.
These biscuits are everything you’d want in a biscuit, they just happen to be gluten and dairy free.
My own priority as regards recipes and food in general, is flavour; how a dish tastes. Which is probably why my presentation has a tendency to veer towards the C-minus-could-do-better grade. (I’m working on it!) If a dish tastes good, you can always improve the appearance to make it look attractive, but if it tastes mediocre or bland, then all the bells and whistles in the world aren’t going to make it a success.
Apart from being common sense, this attitude probably stems from an experience I had, back in the mists of time, whilst backpacking in Nepal. (Bit of a crunching of the gears, topic-wise there, but try to keep up.) Kathmandu used to be something of a culinary beacon in the old overland backpacking route, since after months of rice and dal, weary travellers were treated to shimmering visions of mile high cakes and gateaux and froths of pie confections to entice the palate. Whilst in Pokhara, I was tempted by a stunning display in a tea shop and opted for a slice of their magnificent layered cake. Alas, the analogy of a mirage proved all too accurate, since it turned out to be all style and no substance. Sawdust-textured cake and greasy buttercream, it was as if someone had made it from a picture, with no reference to how it was supposed to taste. Quite possibly, this is exactly what happened. It served to emphasise to me, the importance of taste. It’s food, not art. It all looks the same in your stomach. So make the effort with taste, not appearance.
OK, maybe make a little effort with appearance; we’re not completely uncivilised.
For the batch of biscuits in the photo I used dairy-free chocolate chips I found online, but I have also made these by chopping up the dairy-free chocolate bars (see pic below) I found in Morrisons (also available in Sainsbury’s and Waitrose).
Chocolate Chip Biscuits
This recipe has been adapted from Alton Brown’s Good Eats recipe, to make it dairy-free and suitable for use with ingredients available in the UK. I like the dark, caramel flavour that the sugars bring, but if you prefer a more delicate flavour, change the dark brown sugar to soft, light brown.
115g coconut butter
160g Doves Farm wholemeal gluten-free bread flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
30g Demerera sugar
115g soft dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
170g dairy-free chocolate chips, or bars, chopped
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda. Set aside.
- Melt the coconut butter in a heavy-bottom saucepan over low heat. Once melted, pour into a bowl.
- Add both of the sugars and whisk together for 1 minute.
- Add the egg and vanilla extract and mix until well combined.
- Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined.
- Add the chocolate chips and stir to combine.
- Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 1 hour until firm.
- Preheat the oven to 180ºC/160ºC Fan.
- Shape the dough into 30g balls. An ice-cream scoop can help. Mine has a diameter of 4cm and makes a perfect 30g hemisphere of dough. If your scoop is large, just cut each ‘scoop’ in half and roll each piece into a ball.
- Chill again in the fridge for 15 minutes of so, to firm up. This will help keep them from spreading too much.
- Place on parchment-lined baking trays, 8 per pan. On a half-sheet (30cm x 45cm) pan, I set them out in a 3-2-3 formation. The cooked biscuits are approximately 10cm in diameter, so you want a decent 3cm space all around the ball of dough to allow for spreading during baking.
- Bake for 10 minutes, rotating the trays after 5 minutes to ensure even baking. If you’re baking 2 trays at a time, be sure to swap the baking trays between shelves as well as rotate them. If you like your biscuits chewy, you should try a test bake with just once biscuit and a shorter cooking time. Remember to allow to cool before you taste as they do crisp up when cold.
- Remove from the oven and allow the biscuits to cool on the baking trays for 5 minutes to firm up.
- Move the biscuits to a wire rack and cool completely.
- Store biscuits in an airtight container.