26 September 2012

Ginger biscuits: gluten-free, dairy-free

I resisted trying the gluten-free, dairy-free thing, I really did. It seems far too fashionable and faddy.

But I am a migraneur, you see - flash title - but I get hit by migraines at least a couple of times a week and it's a horrible handicap. These days they are mostly aborted by a good drug, rizatriptan, but it takes a couple of hours to work, it doesn't always work and I'd really rather not have them at all, thank you.

The convincing suggestion that a gluten and dairy free diet might help me came from a book called 'Healing Headaches' by an Auckland pain specialist, Jim Bartley. He reckons all migraineurs should try it for a month, because in the odd case it actually works. If it does work it's because the proteins (gluten and/or whatever it is in milk, I feel too lazy to look it up) leak into the bloodstream from the gut, which they shouldn't until they're broken down further, and they somehow make the neurons (nerves) more sensitive/on edge. Migraine is a nerve disease. The damn things are too reactive.

So for the past week it's been a matter of finding things I like to eat. There have been some low points: 

My home-made pita breads (no, not sections of a dried out lake bed!)

They tasted OK, just a bit like cabin bread. I managed two and the chickens got the rest. The truth is, I messed with the recipe and they may well have been good if I'd trusted it.

I've had some divine food - little chocolate puddings, especially. Dahl is great.

One of the best discoveries so far has been ginger biscuits. If you've ever tasted Celtic Cuisine's gluten free shortbread, made with rice flour, you'll have a hint of what they're like. The Celtic Cuisine lady sells at the Hamilton Farmer's market, and her baking is amazing. Her customers actually prefer the gluten free shortbread to the normal stuff, she tells me.

I messed with the ginger biscuit recipe too, to the point where I don't feel it's plagiarism to share it with you. The true recipe calls for dairy free margarine, but as we purposely never have marg in the house, I used coconut oil. However, I soon learnt that dissolving sugar in coconut oil is surely quite a different thing to dissolving it in margarine - it just never worked. Instead I got toffee sunk under the oil.

My husband is a fat scientist (but he's not fat! he has studied it quite a lot though!) and tells me it's because margarine has about 15% water in it, and I suppose that's what the sugar would dissolve in. The children were chuffed though, when I poured off the oil and they got to eat the toffee. 

This is the recipe I used. They are really delicious, but I can only eat one at a time, otherwise they feel too fatty in my stomach.

The last ginger biscuit of my batch. I had to bite it to take a tempting
photo for you, but I only got one photo before I ate the whole thing.

Ginger Biscuits
Adapted from 'Simply Gluten-free & Dairy-free' by Grace Cheetham
Makes 16

160g coconut oil (deodorised so it doesn't taste like coconut)
1/2 c caster sugar
1/2 c white rice flour
1/2 c gram flour (also called channa flour or chickpea flour)
1/3 c fine cornmeal
2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp xanthan gum

1. Preheat oven to 180oC
2. Melt the coconut oil until it is completely liquid, then use a hand whisk to beat in the sugar.
3. Sift all remaining ingredients except xanthan gum, then stir the xanthan gum into the sifted dry ingredients.
4. Thoroughly mix together the wet and dry ingredients.
5. Drop spoonfuls of mixture, which is quite sloppy, onto a tray covered with baking paper so that they look roughly biscuit-shaped.
6. Bake until lightly browned (about 15 minutes, perhaps a bit longer).
7. Remove from oven, let sit for 5 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.

The divine chocolate puddings I made were from the same book. Happy eating!

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