Spelt Anzac Biscuits

With Easter a not so distant chocolatey memory, those of us in Australia and New Zealand, turn our attention to Anzac Day this coming Friday. Anzac stands for ‘Australia and New Zealand Army Corp’ and this important national holiday marks the anniversary of the first military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces in World War I.

Anzac Day has become a day to commemorate those brave soldiers who fought in the battle of Gallipoli in 1915 and also serves as a way of remembering all of our soldiers who lost their lives in World Wars I, II and and all military operations since then.

This brief description fails to convey the intangible ‘spirit of Anzac’ that is ingrained in the psyche of both our nations. It speaks of courage, humility, humour, mateship, understatement and facing unbeatable odds. The humble Anzac biscuit imbues this spirit and is a much loved biscuit, especially on Anzac Day.

A little bit of Anzac bikkie history, according to Alexa Johnston’s ‘Ladies: a Plate’. This biscuit wasn’t actually sent to New Zealand soldiers at Gallipolli as popular legend has it, at least, not under this name. Professor Helen Leach of Otago University researched the history of this biscuit and discovered that is wasn’t named until the year after World War I ended.

My adapted version is a little more like the recipe published in the 1933 Ideal Cookery Book, published by the Plunket Society. A Mrs Wyvern Wilson (strangely my mothers maiden name but no relation, I think!) used a well known formula of wholemeal flour and walnuts without oats. She also used much less sugar than today’s regular recipes. I do use oats and avoid nuts so they can be sent to school. If you have no spelt flour, it is just as good using wholemeal plain flour.

Not overly sweet, these biscuits have caramel undertones. The initial bite is crunchy but morphs into a delicious chewiness as you munch your way through it. The smell of them baking cries ‘childhood’ and ‘eat me now!’

Even though I consider myself somewhat of a pacifist, I am thankful for the sacrifices these brave men made to ensure the freedom of many. There exists a photograph of my maternal grandfather from World War II. He is on a horse, in Egypt. A young, handsome New Zealand soldier version of Lawrence Olivier. My other Pop worked on the railways back in New Zealand as he was unable to enlist due to health reasons.

Both of these men contributed to the war effort, as did all those left at home who assisted in other meaningful and valued ways. How lucky we were that our Pop came back. (Well, otherwise, I wouldn’t be here and that would really suck.)

Lest we forget.

Spelt Anzac biscuits

YOU NEED
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup desiccated coconut
3/4 cup wholemeal spelt flour (or wholemeal plain flour)
2/3 cup coconut sugar (or raw caster sugar, rapadura sugar)
115g butter
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp boiling water

WHAT YOU DO
Preheat oven to 180C (350F) and line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper. If you like, pop the trays into the fridge to get them cold, this does help the biscuit (somehow!) but I don’t always do it.
In a large bowl, combine the rolled oats, coconut, flour and sugar.
Place butter and golden syrup in a small saucepan and stir with a wooden spoon until they have melted together.
Put the baking soda in a cup, add the boiling water and mix to dissolve the soda before pouring it into the mixture in the saucepan.
Stir with a wooden spoon then tip it into the dry ingredients and mixture to a crumbly mixture.
Drop heaped teaspoonfuls on the trays, or roll into balls for a more even shape, leaving 3cm of space around each biscuit as they do spread.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until they have spread out and are a dark golden colour. I like to give them 8 minutes then turn the trays around to ensure even baking.
Cool on a rack, Make sure they are fully cooled before storing as this helps to keep them crisp. Store in an airtight container.
Makes 18 biscuits.

A cheergerm adaptation from ‘Ladies, A Plate. Traditional home baking’ by Alexa Johnston

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Ginger cat crunch

Kid 2: In the olden days did they use to eat ginger cats?
Me: Ummm no, dear, why?
Kid 2: Oh, what about when they needed ginger?
Me: Well, ummm, actually, ginger is from a plant.

His relief is palpable. For those of you who were also concerned as to the true origin of ginger, you can all breathe a sigh of relief.

The lads adore this Ginger Crunch. A crisp and crunchy biscuity slice topped off with a spicy thin layer of icing. I have made two small changes to a recipe from a beloved cookbook that the mothership once gave me. The book, ‘Ladies: A Plate’ is a gorgeous conglomeration of classic New Zealand baking recipes.

Ginger Cat Crunch

WHAT YOU NEED
The Base
80g coconut sugar (or raw caster sugar, rapadura)
200g wholemeal flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp baking powder
115 g butter

Icing
55g butter
1 tbsp golden syrup
2 tsp ground ginger
55 g icing sugar, sifted

HOW YOU DO IT
Base
Preheat oven to 180C and line a shallow 30 x 21 cm tin with baking paper.
Put all the dry ingredients into a food processor and pulse briefly to combine them. Drop in the butter and process just until the mixture forms fine crumbs. (You can do all this by hand, rubbing the butter into the flour but this is easier!)
Pour the crumbs into the tin, spread them out evenly and press down firmly using your fingers to compact them slightly. They will stick together properly as they bake.
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until the mixture is a pale golden brown.

Icing
While the base is cooking, put the butter, golden syrup and ginger into a saucepan and heat gently, stirring. When they are melted and combined, tip in the icing sugar mixture and mix to a fairly runny consistency.
Remove the base from the oven and immediately pour on the icing. Spread it evenly over the surface with a spatula.
Cut the mixture into fingers or squares, leave to cool then break it apart along the cuts and store in an airtight container.
Makes 12 squares or about 16-20 fingers.

Note, to make it really crunchy you can make it thinner than I did. My mixture didn’t quite fill the whole pan so the slice was more, ummm, slicey than super crunchy.

Recipe slightly adapted from ‘Ladies: A Plate. Traditional home baking.’ By Alexa Johnston

Please note, no ginger cats were harmed in this recipe


Healthy err gluten free brownies

First things first. Today marks the start of Coeliac Awareness Week in this vast land of thongs and Vegemite.  I for one, am very aware. The Silly Yak seemed to lack some awareness yesterday, when he ordered some salads for his lunch and one of them was couscous. (He has made a mental note to himself, couscous contains gluten, I must not eat gluten). Have a happy coeliac kind of week! 

Back to the healthy err brownie. Don’t get me wrong, I love a decadent chocolate brownie. Loads of butter, unctuous dark melted chocolate, a caramel swirl, a sprinkle of sea salt…burble…stay tuned for that recipe folks.

However, sometimes the inner health food hippy wins out. (That hippy would also like me to dress in long tie-dyed swirling skirts, multiple jangly bangles and a braided leather head band but I keep a sartorial lid on her, mostly.) 

These brownies are dialed back in the fat and sugar content and the addition of dates adds some texture and natural sweetness. It is a gluten free adaptation of a fave little Bill Granger recipe I have been using for a few years. No nuts have been used so the Kidlets can still take them to school. Try changing the dates to apricots or figs if you are not a fan of the date. (Don’t blame yourself if you aren’t, we all have our little oddities). 

They are actually better the next day, you know, a little more moist and all that.
 
Healthy err chocolate brownies

YOU NEED
60g (1/2) cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup gluten free plain flour
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
1tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp xanthum gum
50g (1/3) cup coconut sugar or brown sugar
100g (2/3 cup) chopped dried dates
90g unsalted butter, melted
80ml (1/3 cup) low fat milk (or whatever milk you got)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla paste (1 tsp vanilla extract)

METHOD
Preheat oven to 160C
Lightly grease and line the base of a 20cm square non stick baking pan.
Sift the cocoa powder, gluten free and buckwheat flours, baking powder and xanthum gum into a large mixing bowl.
Whisk together the butter, milk, eggs and vanilla.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
Spread the mixture (it’s quite thick) into the tin and bake for 15 minutes or until just set.
Cool in the tin before cutting into squares. Dust with icing sugar (or don’t). (I did).

Adapted from Bill Grangers Healthy Chocolate Brownie recipe


Gluten free lime slice and what the heck is teff flour?

MORNING
It’s Saturday morning, I am lying abed…reading, sipping tea and pondering the real meaning of life. (In other words, procrastinating the inevitable getting up and starting the day.) I have a vanilla soy candle burning and all is quiet and still….until…two small boys come bounding into the bedroom like Labrador puppies. Arms and legs flailing, falling over one another. ‘What’s that delicious smell?’ they cry. ‘We can smell it through out the whole house,’ ‘Is it something good to eat?’

‘Fraid not me laddies. It’s just the delightful scent of the candle you gave me for Chrissy, smells great hey?’ Disappointment radiates from every inch of their wiry beings. The sproglets gallop around the room once or twice. Any sadness at the lack of good things to eat is somewhat tempered by Kid 1 snarfling the TV remotes and taking off downstairs, I presume to watch something enlightening and educational on the Cartoon Network. 

Thoughts of this day now encroach. Yes, vanilla pervades my senses but I remember the big bag of luminous limes in the fridge. Lime slice with a hint of vanilla methinks. Gluten free, with buckwheat, teff flour…butter, now you are talking.

WHAT THE HECK IS TEFF FLOUR?
A brief ramble regarding teff flour, if I may. This gluten free ancient grain is teeny tiny but chock full of nutrition. Native to Ethiopia, it is believed that teff originated between 4000 BC and 1000 BC. I have used brown teff flour which is higher in protein than wheat and has a high concentration of nutrients such as calcium, thiamin and iron. Research has shown that the iron from teff is easily absorbed into the body. It is high in fibre and can help control blood sugar levels.

The only downer is that here in Australia, it hasn’t been easy to get. My last bag was Bob’s Red Mill Teff Flour from a local health food store and they have been out of stock for a few months now. Only a tiny bit remains, so this great hunter will soon set off once again to track down the teff. Will keep you posted on it’s whereabouts.

Overridingly this slice is all about the lime, with a touch of vanilla. (This post may give a small insight into the intricate, um, cough, workings of a Cheergerm mind.) The Yak says it has a caramel flavour, possibly from the coconut sugar. The slice is a little crunchy on the outer edge but more tender in the middle. Being a citrus lover, it’s my cup of tea. And that is exactly how it was enjoyed by The Yak and myself, alongside a cup of good, strong brew.

YOU NEED
Slice Base
150g buckwheat flour
50 g teff flour (or brown rice flour, millet flour or plain GF flour)
1 tsp baking powder
100g coconut sugar (feel free to use rapadura or raw caster sugar)
115 g butter
1 heaped tbl lime zest (3 small limes lost their zest to aid this recipe)
1/2 tsp vanilla paste

Icing
40 g butter
2 tbl lime juice
60g pure icing sugar, sifted

METHOD
Preheat the oven to 180 C and line a shallow 30cm x 21cm tin with baking paper.
Put the dry ingredients into a food processor and pulse briefly to combine.
Pop in the butter, lime zest and vanilla paste, process until the mixture resembles fine sand.
Tip the mixture into the tin, spreading out evenly and pressing down firmly with your fingers. It may seem crumbly but don’t freak out. It will all stick together once it’s baked.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until the mixture is golden brown.
Whilst the slice is in the oven, put the butter and lime juice into a saucepan and stir over low heat. Once the mixture is melted, add the icing sugar and mix. It will be a runny consistency.
When the base is removed from the oven, pour the icing over and spread it out evenly. Let it sit for a few minutes.
Cut the mixture into squares and leave to cool. You can break it apart once it has cooled completely and store in an airtight container. Makes 12 largish square pieces.

A Cheergerm recipe


Gluten free rhubarb and berry bumble

Kid 1 is a crumble maniac, it all started at an early age. Back when he was a wee lad, he was unable to say ‘crumble’, instead it came out as ‘bumble’. His fave combo’s are rhubarb and apple or rhubarb and pear. However, he won’t say nay to the odd berry mix either. Usually I make two different crumble topping mixtures. One containing oats for Kid 1 and myself and a gluten free topping for the Yak.

Gluten free bumble toppings in the past have contained various combinations of buckwheat flour, brown rice flour, tapioca flour, almond meal, quinoa flour (gag) and teff flour (yum but hard to get.) It’s always a bit of ‘let’s see what happens this time’ scenario.

Anyhoo, today was a day of ‘I can’t be, ummmm…bothered with two different toppings’. So I went hardcore on just the one gluten free bumble. I was curious to see if Kid 1 missed the texture that the oats provide.

Turned out to be a happy experiment, yes indeedy. This tart rhubarb and raspberry bumble, combined with the earthy buckwheat and almond flours, the crunch of the nuts and the warmth of the spices is bloody delicious.

The only sound heard from Kid 1’s direction was that of a 9 year old boy eating with his mouth open. Chomp, chomp, gobble, swallow. ‘More please Mum?’. This mean old mumma said ‘No sorry, not tonight’. The kid replied with ‘Go on, its not gluten free, so only you and I can eat it anyway.’

Oh, you poor misinformed and cheated wee bairn. Mission accomplished, sorry kiddo but it is GF and the Yak will probably fight you to the death for the leftovers.

We take our bumble seriously in this household.

YOU NEED

1 bunch rhubarb, chopped into 2cm lengths
2 tbls coconut sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 cup raspberries (frozen or fresh, blueberries are yummy too)
Crumble topping:
100g buckwheat flour
50g almond meal/flour
60g cold butter, chopped into small pieces
1/3 cup coconut sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/4 cup walnuts or pecans, finely chopped

METHOD
Preheat the oven to 180 C.
Place the rhubarb, coconut sugar and vanilla paste in a medium size saucepan, add a few splashes of water. Cook on low to medium heat for about 20 minutes, until the rhubarb starts to collapse. Stir regularly to avoid the rhubarb sticking. Add a bit more water if needed.
Once the rhubarb is cooked, stir in the raspberries and place into a buttered 1 litre ovenproof dish.
Mix the buckwheat flour and almond meal in a medium size bowl.
Rub the butter through the flour mixture with your fingertips until the mixture resembles pea sized chunks.
Mix the coconut sugar, baking powder, spices and walnuts in a small bowl.
Add the sugar mixture to the flour mixture, stir and sprinkle over the fruit.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown.
Serve with a big dollop of yoghurt, ice-cream or cream. This also makes a great breakfast dish served with yoghurt.

An original Cheergerm recipe


Christmas Ginger Muffins

It’s 10.30 am and the temperature outside has already hit 32 degrees celsius. Perfect baking weather. The smell of ginger and spice wafts through the kitchen. Little boys wander in on a break from the continual games of Trouble, chess and various Trash Pack and Lego scenarios.

‘What’s for morning tea Mum?’ Yup, school holidays have begun. ‘Christmas muffins,’ is my inspired response. ‘Fantastic!’ they cry. Add the word ‘Christmas’ and anything sounds good. Christmas spinach and brussel sprout pie anyone?

I adpated these wee beauties from an old muffin recipe book, giving them a bit of a ‘health makeover’. They exude a warm ginger glow and are not overly sweet. It’s worth baking them just for the smell of the spices alone. (Although perhaps on a cooler day than this.) Today I used wholemeal flour, they are equally as good using 1 cup of wholemeal and 1 cup of wholemeal spelt flour.

Speaking of spices, my very favourite to use are Herbie’s. You do pay a little more but the quality is worth it. On saying that, this cheergerm is not a food elitist and will happily use the cheap and cheerful supermarket brand as well.

Get these down ya my lads, then bugger off! I mean, go and play dear sweet children of mine. It’s mumma muffin and coffee time.

YOU NEED
2 cups wholemeal plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup coconut sugar (or rapadura, or brown or caster)
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp mixed spice

2 tablespoons golden syrup
80ml rice bran oil (or grapeseed oil)
2 eggs
1 cup milk (I use low-fat milk)

METHOD
Preheat oven to 200C. Line a 12 hole muffin pan with paper cases.
Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl.
In a microwave dish or saucepan, gently warm the oil and golden syrup. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Add eggs and milk to oil mixture and beat well.
Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix lightly.
Bake for about 15 minutes or until the centres spring back when pressed.

Adapted from Marvellous Muffins by Alison Holst

Some magnficient muffin tips: I always use paper cases because I am lazy and it lessens the washing up. Try to get your ingredients to room temperature before baking. Sieve your dry ingredients. Add all the liquid and extra ingredients at once. Fold the dry and wet ingredients together with as little mixing as possible.

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Gluten free chocolate date loaf

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In honour of my 6 year old (Kid 2) being given his first phone number by a girl….I present to you my low fat gluten free date loaf. (I trust it will be many years before my youngest progeny goes on an actual date…). I adapted this from a recipe called ‘Uncle Bill’s Date Loaf’ given by a friend a few years ago.

I like to experiment with different gluten free flours in a continual search for an enjoyable texture and for health purposes as well. The Yak can too easily get stuck chowing down on food containing too much starchy flour such as white rice flour or tapioca flour.

In this version, I have combined buckwheat flour and almond meal, mixed with store bought gluten free plain flour. What’s so great about buckwheat flour you ask? Glad you did….there are too many benefits to list here but in short, diets that contain buckwheat have been linked to a lowered risk of developing high cholesterol and high blood pressure. It is actually not a grain but is a fruit seed, related to rhubarb and sorrel.

I also bake a version of this recipe using wholemeal wheat and spelt flour. (I shall post this some time in the future). I add the cocoa powder to distract my 9 year old (Kid 1) from the dates, anything chocolatey keeps that kid happy.

Coconut sugar and I have been having a passionate love affair for some time now (shhh…please don’t tell The Yak). There are many health claims attached to this sugar, it is meant to contain nutrients that cane sugar doesn’t have and is said to be a low GI alternative to cane sugar as well.

Basically, I ain’t a scientist…just a humble home cook. I like the taste and the possibility of it’s potential health benefits. I guess that stuffing oneself with too much sugar, no matter what it’s origin,  may not be the healthiest choice. But everything in moderation I say! (If you don’t have any coconut sugar use soft brown sugar and Bob’s your uncle, or is that Bill?).

YOU NEED
1 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups dates
1 teaspoon bi-carbonate soda
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1/2 cup coconut sugar (or soft brown sugar)
1 egg
2 tbl cocoa powder
3/4 cup gluten free plain flour
1/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup almond meal
2 tsp gluten free baking powder
pinch salt
METHOD
Heat oven to 180 C
Grease a loaf tin and line the base with baking paper.
Chop dates finely and place in a bowl, pour boiling water over. Add bi-carbonate soda and stir. Set aside until cool.
Sift cocoa powder, plain flour, buckwheat, baking powder and salt together. Stir in almond meal.
Put butter and sugar into a bowl and beat until smooth.
Add egg and beat well.
Add date mixture and flour, stir until combined.
Preheat oven to 180 C.
Pour into tin and bake for 35- 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
Totally delicious when served hot and with butter or whatever your favourite spread is.