Recently, I’ve had a hankering for baking powder biscuits that my Mum would make in our pre-SCD and gluten-free days. Still warm from the oven, they’d be slathered with butter – sometimes sprinkled with a bit of salt or drizzled with honey. Anyway, to the present day: for the longest time I’ve been posing this hankering subtly, saying that it would be a great thing to make for my siblings – never mind me – but it wasn’t until last week that I did it; my reward was eating biscuits that tasted as I remembered them. Right now, if there was a plate of wheat baking powder biscuits and another plate with my gluten-free ones, I honestly would not be able to tell the difference between the two.
There’s a great deal of stress put on the importance that being gluten-free does not always mean to recreate everything we could have used to eat before with flour, etc. but often when we do manage to recreate them we are joyful: being able to taste the familiar in a new way and eat it, too. Even more often, the gluten-free version is superior in a way – sometimes more than one – to the traditional wheat version.
When I first made these, they were gone within a flash. I made a bigger batch – the first one had been a halved amount anyway – and the pattern repeated itself. Both times the biscuits smelled amazing, just like the ones made with wheat all-purpose flour, as they baked, especially in the last six or five minutes before they were pulled out of the oven. Then it fell to tweaking the recipe, altering ratios of flours and learning how to use baking powder again.
While I have not experimented with as wide a range of gluten-free flours yet – I’ve yet to use sorghum flour, for example, outside of a cake mix – I have found consistent results with rice flour, cornstarch, and millet flour that successfully mimic wheat all-purpose flour in smell and taste. I tweaked the ratios of the flours; a scant cup of cornstarch was initially 150 grams but I scaled it down to 120 grams, as well as the millet flour and brown rice flour. (I write about these differences in an upcoming post with a recipe.) I include measurements for cups as that’s what I initially used, though I would measure it with grams now since that’s how I fine-tuned the recipe and if you have a scale, you should too. This dough is more pliable, soft, and has a greater likeness to wheat dough than the one with the slightly higher ratios of flours.
And if you haven’t guessed already, these are once again another great kid-friendly activity; my brother happily volunteered his assistance, saying how it was like making papier mache or working with play dough.
When I made the biscuits with baking powder, they puffed a little more and let me tell you: it’s magical stuff to be working with, especially when yours truly has not used baking powder in her baking since the change in family diet. I’ve been using baking soda since and it was always a relief to me to find a recipe that just used soda, not the powder (saved me from tinkering with that factor). I had to get baking powder again, though, once I was wooed by the package design of Whole Foods’ 365 brand.
The packaging is so pretty and stylish in a vintage way. Just my style, it makes me feel inspired. That’s how I roll. Will I be using baking powder more now that I have it? Probably – once I’ve found some more recipes to use it in!
On another note, check out Shirley’s awesome Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger post if you haven’t already. She adopted me for January and I am so honoured and humbled at once. I also love the Martha Stewart versus Maxine email. 😉
Baking Powder or Soda Biscuits
These biscuits are traditionally made with baking powder but when I first made them that day I used baking soda and they were just the same, the only difference was they didn’t puff as much or had as fluffy a crumb but that’s okay. Use baking powder or baking soda; whichever you prefer or have on hand. Flavour is not affected.
While initially made with xanthum gum, I forgot to add it once and the results are delectable.
There is virtually no difference. Well, there is one difference: they have a lighter crumb and aren’t quite as sturdy as soon as you slice them in half. They’re still good, though. Of course, if you want to use xanthum gum you can do that, too, or replace it with chia seeds (something I have not personally tried yet but am intrigued to since reading Lexie’s post on the matter – I’m too young, though, for any thoughts of associations with chia pets ;)). I include instructions for both.
While I used only my hands to put the dough together – and that is what I instruct – you can use a whisk to blend the flours and cut in the butter or substitute and a spatula or wooden spoon to stir in the milk, if you prefer. I just like using my hands sometimes because there’s something pleasing about it and in the end, I only have a bowl, measuring cups and spoons (only three total), and a glass to wash! And if I weigh the flours, even less clean-up.
Makes 12 to 14 biscuits
120 grams (1 scant cup*) cornstarch or tapioca starch/flour (tapioca starch and tapioca flour are the same thing)
112 grams (1 scant cup*) millet flour
60 grams (1/2 scant cup*) brown rice flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder or 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. salt (use if using baking powder to activate; otherwise optional)
1 1/2 tsp. xanthum gum (optional, see head note)
*Differences even in scant cup measurements can vary based on how you measure your flour, pack it (or not), etc. This is a topic that I discuss in an upcoming post. Although I have made this with cup (volume) measurements, I’d really recommend going with grams and using a scale, if you can, as I cannot see how you’re measuring your flour and it could be different from how I measure mine. See above paragraph before the recipe header about ratios.
65 grams unsalted butter, room temperature, cut in pieces or Earth Balance
1/2 cup plus about 1 1/2 tbsp. to 1 cup unsweetened almond or rice milk, or other non-dairy milk of your choice (if you’re not using the gum, use the lesser amount of milk)
Preheat oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet or cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Mix the flours, xanthum gum (if using), baking powder or soda, and salt with your hands. Add butter and work the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers, until crumbly and resembles the appearance of small peas. Pour in the milk and use your hands to stir it in the flour and butter until dough. Form dough into a ball.
Place the ball of dough on a flat surface lined with plastic wrap or wax paper and cover with another sheet of plastic wrap or wax paper. The dough without the gum is a bit softer, so you may want to chill it a bit in the freezer to make it firmer before rolling and cutting out. Roll out the dough to 1/2-inch thickness and cut into 2-inch rounds with an overturned glass or biscuit cutter.
Place biscuit rounds on prepared sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool slightly.
Smother with butter or whatever you wish, have on the side with stew…Enjoy!