Intrigued with vegan and gluten-free baking, I decided to give it a go. I read from many gluten-free baking sites that the use of a non-wheat or gluten-based flour gives gluten-free goods a different flavour and texture profile. Instead of wheat, gluten-free bakers use flours made from coconut, millet, rice, buckwheat, arrowroot, sorghum and others and because naturally reoccurring gluten is like a gum that holds the whole thing together and gives it structure, you have to add in a thickener when using gluten-free flours. Commercial flour mixes use xantham or guar gum but you can opt for starches like arrowroot powder, tapioca starch, corn starch or seeds like flaxseed or chia seed.
Because this is a relatively new thing for me – gluten-free baking – I didn’t want work from scratch and buy a ton of flours so I hunted around for some gluten-free flour mixes. The organic store in Dole has a very limited range so when my mother-in-law offered to take me to the organic store here in Lyon, I jumped at it. I found a bigger variety of gluten-free goodies that are also soy, dairy and egg free as well as an egg replacer powder – things I never found back in Dole. I also came across an interesting flour mix by Schär, a European company that specialises in producing gluten-free products. Called Mix Pâtisserie – Mix C, it is a flour mix developed for cakes and biscuits.
Because I’m on a no-dairy, no-soy and no-egg regime, I had to hunt high and low for a suitable butter placement as while margarines are made with vegetable oil, they also contain soy-based lecithin. I found a sunflower-based margarine which has no lecithin. The colour and flavour profile isn’t the same but surprisingly that didn’t affect the outcome of the shortbreads which turned out to be quite delicious. The unrefined brown sugar which my mother-in-law uses gave the shortbread a lovely light molasses flavour to it.
Do note that gluten-free doughs made with margarine behave differently. This turned out to be softer and less pliable due to the lack of gluten. Newbies to baking or people who always overmix will find that gluten-free baking can be very forgiving in that aspect. You don’t have to worry about gluten formation!!!! I’ll definitely make these again but will cut back on the sugar – this, I find, is a little on the sweet side even though it is perfect with black coffee or plain yogurt (for those who can take dairy or the soy alternative). In the meantime, I’m off to look at some rustic dining room tables!
NOTE: These have to cool in the pan as they are soft and crumbly when warm but will harden when cool. Good also if eaten chilled.
Vegan & Gluten-Free Shortbread
125 gms gluten free flour (my mix has maize starch, maize flour, locust bean gum)
70 gms margarine
60 gms unrefined brown sugar
Juice from half a lemon
1/2 tsp baking powder
- Preheat the oven at 180°C and prepare a baking tray by lining it with baking paper.
- Cream the margarine and the sugar for 30 seconds to a minute before mixing in the flour and baking powder.
- Add in the lemon juice and mix well until it forms a firm dough.
- Place in the freezer for 15-30 mins. When ready, roll and slice using molds OR flatten with your fingers. Do work fast as the margarine will soften.
- Place the cookies about 1.5 to 2 cm apart and bake for 10-15 mins or until golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the pan. Once cool, store in an airtight container and enjoy on its own or with coffee or crush and sprinkle them over yogurt or ricotta.