My childhood is told in a recollection of biscuits, cookies, and shortbread. Kingston biscuits dipped in china cups of sweet black tea. Almost damp Monte Carlo’s carefully wiggled apart so that the filling would stick to one side and you could nibble around the sweet jam and coconut until you had a perfect section of biscuit and filling to savour for as long as your patience lasted. Chocolate Marie biscuits that Mum would pack into my school lunch box. Shortbread fingers that Dad would break out on the weekend; we would sit outside with him during one of his breaks from tinkering about in the shed and enjoy them while sitting in the sunshine with cold paving stones pressing against the backs of our summer-tanned legs. The custard creams and orange creams that would linger a little longer in the biscuit barrel, but by the end of the week would surely have disappeared into hungry after-school bellies and Dad’s lunchbox. The store bought gluten free versions of these look similar, but are never as satisfactory. So, in need of a saucer-side cookie I ventured into the Thoroughly Nourished kitchen to create my own.
These coffee and vanilla biscuits are perfect for afternoon tea, or for packing into lunch boxes. They would sit elegantly on a tiered cake stand for the most formal of occasions, and are just as at home in a container in the refrigerator that is the source of midnight snacks and little illicit nibbles. They are also particularly delicious alongside a cup of tea and a dusty old novel on a cloudy spring afternoon. And, because they are gluten free, everyone can enjoy them.
Coffee-Vanilla Sandwich Cookies (gluten free)
These biscuits are gluten-free so be sure to check the ingredients in items such as icing sugar and cornflour are free of gluten-containing substances too. Some companies use wheat in their cornflour or icing sugar to help with thickening and stabilisation. You will need a 4.5cm fluted (or other shape) cookie cutter for this recipe, and a rolling pin.
120 grams unsalted butter, softened
100 grams icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
100 grams buckwheat flour, and extra for dusting the bench
50 grams hazelnut meal
25 grams cornflour
35 grams brown rice flour
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
Preheat fan-forced oven to 160C (320F) (this would be about 170C/340F in a conventional oven) and line two cookie sheets with baking paper. Mix milk with coffee granules and set aside to dissolve fully.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl beat together butter, icing sugar, and vanilla essence with electric beaters until fluffy and light in colour.
Weigh out the buckwheat flour, hazelnut meal, cornflour, and brown rice flour. Add to butter along with the milk. Mix in gently with a wooden spoon until fully combined.
Dust the bench and rolling pin with a light shower of buckwheat flour. Gather dough into a ball and place on the bench. This is a very soft dough, so if it appears to be too delicate to handle just wrap in two layers of plastic and place in the fridge for half an hour.
Roll dough out to 0.5mm-0.8mm thickness. Using a 4.5cm round or fluted cookie cutter cut out cookies and place on lined cookie sheets. Leave about 4cm between cookies.
Place cookie sheets in oven and bake for 10-12 minutes. Rotate the sheets halfway through cooking time. Be careful as they may burn on the edges if left in too long.
Remove cookies and place on a cooling rack until completely cooled. Fit a piping back with a star tip and pipe approximately half a tablespoon of frosting onto half the biscuits. Top with remaining biscuits and press down lightly to ensure they stick together well.
Serve and enjoy. These cookies will keep in the fridge for about 3 days.
For the vanilla frosting:
In a medium-size mixing bowl beat together 1.5 cups icing sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, 50 grams softened unsalted butter, and 1 tablespoon of milk until light and creamy. Place in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm up, and once cookies are cooled use to sandwich them together.
New York holds special memories for me. My darling Casey and I had an amazing adventure there five years ago (can you believe it’s been five years Case?) and since we left, I have held the memory of tall buildings blocking out the horizon, eternally busy side walks and subway stations, and millions of lives lived side-by-side in a special place in my heart. We ate peaches, the juice dribbling down our chins as we walked along the upper reaches of Broadway, and bought souvenirs, and ate rice soup for lunch and then splurged on dinner at Gordon Ramsay’s ‘The London NYC‘ and drank cocktails in the lounge of the Algonquin Hotel catching sight of the hotel cat before we returned to our upper west-side hovel of a hostel.
New York seems a lifetime ago: hot sticky days where the warm air blowing out of the subway vents seemed almost cooling; hours wandering around every museum we could find (still missed out on the Guggenheim though…); trying on clothes in the department stories we had dreamed of for a long time (I’ll be back one day Saks); picnicking in Central Park (crème brulee and raspberries from Dean & Deluca is really the only way to do it); dinners at the Barking Dog Restaurant (if I lived in New York this would be my local diner) – and the myriad desserts and baked goodies that we discovered in our two week adventure. Oh the cupcakes, the blueberry shortcake with ice cream, the toasted pecan and toffee ice cream, the molten chocolate cakes, the chocolate-cardamom truffles….
Casey and I in the city that never sleeps
The crumb cake or streuselkuchen was originally made by European immigrants and over time has become synonymous with New York coffee shop foods. I honestly cannot remember if we ate crumb cake while we were in New York, however it seemed as though we delighted in every other baked good, so it is entirely probable that we did. My love is for the streusel, the crumb, itself. This cake features a buttery, cinnamon fragranced crumb followed by a layer of chocolate and then a slightly dry vanilla cake beneath – perfect for pairing with a morning cup of coffee, or for a slightly more indulgent treat, try a mocha cappuccino – trust me.
New York Style Chocolate Streusel Crumb Cake
I can’t really think of anything to say about this cake other than: make it and share it and you will have friends forever. Perfect to take to work for those potluck morning teas.
Ingredients for crumbs:
1 cup plain flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Ingredients for cake:
1 3/4 cups plain flour
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
2/3 cup chopped chocolate, or chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF). Grease the sides and bottom of a 9 1/2-inch round springform pan. Line the bottom with baking paper.
Melt butter in the microwave. In a separate bowl whisk together all other ingredients for crumb. Stir in melted butter with a fork until mixture is crumbly.
In a medium-size bowl whisk together plain flour, caster sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Measure out sour cream into a measuring jug and then whisk in eggs and vanilla bean paste.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and add sour cream mixture. Beat until smooth.
Pour batter into the pre-lined baking tin. Sprinkle chopped chocolate or chocolate chips over the batter, then spread crumb mixture evenly over the top of the chocolate.
Slide cake into the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean (there may be some melted chocolate sticking to the skewer, but no cake mixture).
Allow to cool for 15 minutes before removing the cake from the tin and then allow to cool to room temperature before serving.
Tell me dear reader, do you have any favourite holiday spots that you can’t wait to return to? Any favourite food memories from vacation?