Chocolate ginger spelt shortbread

Kid 2: I am bad at smelling things but really good at hearing.
Kid 1: I am good at everything except doing the splits and things like that.

Me, I am good at baking shortbread at Christmas time. (I am not good at the splits and things like that either.) The kids had been asking for shortbread a lot lately. Being the kind and doting parent I am, I acquiesced and thought I would bake them some.

The idea of spelt shortbread has been creeping and a crawlin around the deep dark recesses of my brain box for quite a while now. A little flavour experimentation was in order. (Cue mad scientist laughter.) Then it dawns on me. Chocolate and ginger. A culinary match made in heaven. (They got married quite a while ago but nobody asked me to the wedding.)

These biccies give you a punch of bitter chocolate with a peppery ginger hum in the background. Kid 2 loved them, Kid 1 wasn’t a fan. All other grown up human beans who consumed them were enamoured. You be the judge.

Chocolate and ginger spelt shortbread

WHAT YOU NEED
1 cup spelt white flour (I use an organic brand of spelt flour)
1 1/2 cups wholemeal spelt flour
1/4 cup rice flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3 tsps ground ginger (seems like a lot but you need it to get past the chocolate)
250g butter, room temperature (but not too soft)
1/2 cup raw caster sugar

HOW YOU DO IT
Preheat oven to 180C.
Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
Sift the spelt flours, rice flour, cocoa powder and ginger into a large bowl.
Cream the butter and add the sugar gradually, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Work in the flour gradually and with a light hand, knead to form a dough. (I do this in the bowl.)
Divide the dough in half, roll each half out to a 3-4 cm log. Wrap in clingwrap and refrigerate for half an hour.
Slice the logs into 1-2 cm thickness, depending on your fancy, place 10mm apart on a baking tray and prick each piece all over with a fork.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until crisp. It is a bit tricky telling when chocolate shortbread is ready. Also, because of the wholemeal spelt, hese little beauties needed a little more time in the oven than regular Joe shortbread.
Cool on a wire rack.

Makes about 20-25 pieces.

A cheergerm adaptation from a Margaret Fulton shortbread recipe


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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


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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