Chai masala biscuits for Easter (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

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Marzipan-topped chai masala biscuits for Easter. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Rich, short, lightly fruited biscuits with a hint of spice, this is a spring bake that takes me back to my childhood. Easter just wouldn’t be Easter without them. Traditionally the biscuits are dusted with white sugar before baking to give them a crusty top, but I love marzipan and it makes a delicious topping for these biscuits. Using a chai masala mix instead of the usual ground spice blends adds a delicate citrus note to the flavour. I think this Indian spice mix tastes lighter and more fragrant than the more familiar blends used in baking.

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Ready blended chai masala mix. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

You can buy ready mixed chai masala for putting in your bakes (or tea!) (Steenbergs organic chai masala), but if you have selection of traditional spices, it is easy enough to put together your own blend. Making your own means that you can experiment by adding more of your favourite spice to personalise your mix.

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Whole spices: root ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves and cardamom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To make your own chai masala, mix together 4 level teaspoons ground cinnamon, 2 level teaspoons ground cardamom, 1 level teaspoon ground ginger and ½ level teaspoon each ground nutmeg, ground cloves and finely ground black pepper. As with all spices, store in a sealed jar out of direct sunlight, in a cool, dry place. I keep small vitamin supplement jars for keeping spice mixes in as the glass is often brown or dark green, and so perfect for keeping out the light. Make up the blend in small batches  to insure fresh flavour every time you use it. Chai masala can be used in any recipe where a ground mixed spice is called for.

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Blending together ground spices for chai masala. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Here’s the recipe for my Easter biscuits.

Makes: 14

  • 100g vegan margarine, softened (use butter if you prefer)
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp non dairy milk
  • 200g gluten-free plain flour blend + extra for dusting (such as Dove’s Farm)
  • 1 ½ to 2 tsp chai masala
  • 65g mixed currants and chopped cranberries
  1. Line 2 large baking trays with baking parchment. Put the margarine  and sugar in a bowl and whisk together until smooth and creamy. Whisk in the milk.
  2. Sift the flour and spice on top and add the fruit. Mix all the ingredients together until well combined, then bring the mixture together with your hands to make a softish dough.
  3. Dust the work surface with flour and knead the dough gently until smooth. Roll out thinly to a thickness of approx. ½ cm. Using a 7cm crinkle-edge round cutter, stamp out 14 rounds, re-rolling the dough as necessary. Arrange the rounds on the baking trays, spaced a little apart. Prick with a fork, and chill for 30 minutes.

    Biscuit_dough_rolling_and_shaping
    Preparation of the biscuit dough. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  4. Preheat the oven to 200°C (160°C fan oven, gas mark 6). Bake the biscuits for about 15 minutes until lightly golden round the edges. Cool on the trays for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

    Baked_chai_spiced_Easter_biscuits
    Freshly baked chai spiced Easter biscuits. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
  5. The biscuits are delicious left plain but if you are a marzipan fan, dust the work surface with icing sugar and roll out 200g marzipan thinly. Using a 6cm diameter crinkle-edged cutter, stamp out 14 rounds, re-rolling the marzipan as necessary. Brush each biscuit with a little smooth apricot jam and secure a marzipan disc on top of each. Score the marzipan with a knife and lightly toast the tops with a cook’s blow-torch if liked. Happy Easter eatings!

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Marzipan-topped Easter biscuits. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

Chocolate Haggis for a Burns Night supper (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

Chocolate_biscuit_cake_wrapped_in_marzipan_shaped_like_a_haggis
Chocolate haggis wrapped in marzipan. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

January 25th is a Scottish celebration day, commemorating the birth of Scotland’s National poet, Robert Burns. Not wanting to offend my non meat-eating friends, I thought better of posting anything about the traditional savoury supper served on this day, and instead turned my thoughts to something I devised a few years ago, the Chocolate haggis. Much more appealing to all, I think, and perhaps, a wee bit more fun.

My recipe is simply a twist on the classic biscuit or refrigerator cake. You can add any combination of biscuit, fruit and nuts that you fancy. I use Scottish heather honey for the sweetness and flavour, but golden syrup or maple syrup will work just as well for my vegan friends. If you eat butter, you can use this instead of coconut oil. It’s a very versatile mix. Adding a wee tot of whisky is for the celebration; it’s fine without, so I’ll leave that up to you! By the way, I love marzipan, but if it’s not for you, you can achieve a similar effect by using an ivory coloured fondant icing.

Makes 1 haggis – 12 generous slices

  • 125g free from plain chocolate
  • 75g coconut oil (or butter)
  • 2 tbsp golden or maple syrup (or heather honey)
  • 150g free from plain granola or coarse oatcakes, crushed
  • 150g free from shortbread or plain biscuits, crushed
  • 75g currants
  • 2 tbsp whisky (optional)
  • Icing sugar to dust
  • 250g natural marzipan

1. Break the chocolate into a heatproof bowl and add the coconut oil and syrup. Sit the bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water until melted. Remove from the water and cool for 10 minutes.

2. Mix the granola, shortbread and currants into the melted chocolate and stir in the whisky, if using. Leave in a cool place for about 45 minutes to firm up, but not set completely.

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Chocolate haggis preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

3. Line the work top with a large, double-thickness, square of cling film and pile the chocolate mixture into the centre. Mound it up it to form a fat oval shape about 12cm long. Wrap the cling film round the mix tightly and twist the ends to seal, making a fat sausage shape. Chill for at least 2 hours until very firm.

4. Lightly dust the work surface with icing sugar. Roll out the marzipan to a rectangle approx. 18 x 28cm, and neaten the edges. Unwrap the chocolate haggis and place in the centre of the marzipan. Fold the marzipan over the top to cover the chocolate haggis completely, and then pinch at either end to make the distinct haggis shape. Tie the ends with twine if liked.

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Chocolate haggis, ready to slice. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

5. Cover loosely with cling film and leave at room temperature for about an hour before slicing to serve, accompanied with a wee dram or two. Slàinte!

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Chocolate haggis, sliced and ready to serve. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Happy Burns Night! Image: Kathryn Hawkins