Gluten Free Basics: Biscuits

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gluten_aGluten-free baking can be complicated, fraught with trial and error (emphasis on the error) and frustrating. However, I am happy to report that making gluten-free biscuits need not be as difficult as some would have you believe.

I have found that gums such as xanthan and guar are not necessary in gluten free biscuits, just some type of gluten-free flour and a starch mixed with baking powder and salt. I like my biscuits white and fluffy, so I prefer superfine white or brown rice flour, but if you want to use another type of gluten free flour such as millet, sorghum, quinoa, etc. or any combination thereof, then go right ahead. For starch I prefer to use either tapioca or potato starch, but you could also use cornstarch or arrowroot powder. Again, you can also use a combination of starches if you prefer.

After you pick the type of flour and starch you want to use, it is simply a matter of adding some fat and liquid. The type depends on your taste and dietary needs. Personally I like to use butter for my fat and milk for my liquid, but Earth Balance, shortening or even bacon fat and any type of dairy-free milk works really well for dairy free biscuits. Just make sure your fat and liquid are cold.

Once you have made all your decisions, the thing to keep in mind is to use a light hand, don’t overwork the dough. The less you work it, the lighter and flakier the biscuit. And when you add the fat to the flour make sure you keep some larger chunks in there, this is also important for flakiness.

When it comes to adding the liquid, start with less than the recipe calls for and add just enough to form the mixture into a dough, various factors such as humidity can affect how much is needed. You may even need a tad more than the recipe calls for. You can roll and cut out your biscuits or drop them by spoons onto a baking sheet. I prefer to pat out my dough rather than rolling it out with a rolling pin. It is easier and there is one less thing to wash.

Gluten Free Biscuits

Makes 12

1½ cups superfine white or brown rice flour plus more for rolling
¾ cup tapioca or potato starch (not potato flour)
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher or fine sea salt
6 tbsp cold fat (such as butter, Earth Balance or shortening), cut into small pieces
¾ cup milk (any kind including dairy free)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Whisk together the flour, starch, baking powder and salt. Cut the fat into the flour either with a pastry cutter, two knives, or by rubbing the fat into the flour with your fingers. Make sure you leave some larger pieces of fat.

Add the liquid, starting with ½ a cup and gradually adding a little more at a time, mixing until the dough comes together. Put a little flour on a work surface and dump out the dough. Knead 3-4 times then either roll or pat it out to about ½-inch thick. Cut into biscuits using a 2-½ inch cookie cutter. You can gently reform the dough to cut more biscuits.

Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm.

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