Plain biscuit (Petits Fours à Thé) - Gluten-free


FOTCM Member
Just to clarify what is meant by biscuit here. Here, a biscuit is a flour based sweet baked food. Particularly in England, Wales, Ireland and the Commonwealth countries, biscuits are typically hard, flat and unleavened. In most of North America, nearly all hard sweet biscuits are called ‘cookies’, whilst ‘biscuit’ refers to a soft, leavened quick bread.

The English word biscuit comes from the 14th century Middle English word bisquite. This in turn comes from the Old French word biscuit, which itself is derived from the Latin word bis (twice) and coquere, coctus (to cook, cooked), meaning twice cooked. Similarly in modern French bis-cuit literally means again-cooked. This is because biscuits were originally cooked in a twofold process: first baked, and then dried out in a slow oven. They were most often cooked after bread, in a cooling bakers’ oven. They were hard, dry and unsweetened, and were a cheap form of food for the poor.

Once the supply of sugar became more readily available along with flour and its refinement, sweet biscuits became more readily available. Different types of biscuits became available, to all ranks of people and for differing occasions. The plain biscuits eaten today, such as digestive, hobnobs, and rich tea can be traced back ship’s biscuits, or hardtack. In the 17th century, baking underwent a revolution due to the influence of Italian, and then French, pastry makers. Not only that, the Guild system was breaking down and people began baking biscuits at home. Biscuits were mainly eaten as part of a dessert course. Once tea was introduced to the British social scene, biscuits became part of a new ritual: afternoon tea. Nowadays, digestive and rich tea biscuits are strongly identified with tea, in fact some tea drinkers ‘dunk’ their biscuits in tea, to soften them before eating. It was the Industrial Revolution that kickstarted the availability of biscuits for the masses; and by the mid-19th century, sweet biscuits were an affordable indulgence. Also, they could be easily made at home. For the middle and upper classes, a new biscuit became available, one which was difficult to describe: the petit four. In French the words mean ‘small oven’, yet was the name given to small, delicate biscuits baked in a low oven after other breads or pastries needing a higher temperature had been removed. The biscuits were often cut into intricate shapes. Sometimes they were coloured, usually decorated, and often flavoured: a classic dessert biscuit.

In fact, this gluten-free recipe is based upon a Victorian (1867) recipe: Petits Fours à Thé.

The gluten recipe for petits fours was given in Jules Gouffé’s Royal Cookery Book, which was first published in French. It was translated into English by Jules’ brother Alphonse, head of the Pastry division in the royal kitchens under Queen Victoria. The number of biscuits made will depend on size and shape.

The recipe calls for either cream or whole milk. Single cream (UK) has 18% butterfat content, and is just a richer version of milk. This recipe offers a dairy-free option using Hemp milk. As this is a stock item it will need to be made before making the biscuit.

Ingredients: (makes 24 rectangular biscuits, depending on size)
Gluten-free flour mix* 275g
Gum Arabic 1tsp
Lemon zest 1 Lemon
Butter (room temp) 70g
Sea salt 1/4tsp
Cane sugar (superfine) 140g
Whole milk or cream 50g
Egg yolks 32g (2 large)

Optional decoration (select from: Raisins, candied peel, blanched almonds, or pistachio nuts)

*Gluten-free Flour mix: 440g Brown Rice flour, 125g Sweet Rice flour, 45g Potato starch, 95g Tapioca starch, and 55g Arrowroot. Total weight: 760g

Single cream
Single cream is a pouring cream and is used in sauces, both sweet and savoury. It does not thicken when beaten, and will curdle when boiled. It is really just a richer version of milk. Single cream has a fat content of 18%.

Ingredients: (yields approx. 175g)
Butter (82% fat) 40g (sliced)
Hemp milk 180g

Place 40g sliced butter in the top bowl (1) of a double boiler, gently heat until three quarters of the butter is melted, stirring and further chopping up with a spoon.
Remove from the heat and melt the rest of the butter with a spoon. Set aside to cool.
Warm 180g Hemp milk in a saucepan (2) to finger warmth (36 -38C) and then remove from the heat.
Pour a quarter of the cooling melted butter (bowl 1) into the warmed milk (bowl 2), and combine with a whisk.
Pour the milk-butter mix (bowl 2) back into the cooled butter (bowl 1) and combine with a whisk.
Transfer the milk-butter mix (bowl 1) into a tall storage jar (4).
Blend with an immersion, hand, or stick, blender for 5 minutes, to disperse the butter fully into the milk, to produce Hemp milk Single cream. Place a lid on the storage jar.
Store in a refrigerator for 3 hours, or preferably overnight before using. It will keep in the refrigerator for 3 - 4 days. Stir before use.

Method (Biscuits):
Preheat the oven to 180°C for 45 minutes.
Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Sift the Gluten-free flour mix, add the Gum Arabic, lemon zest and mix thoroughly in a bowl (1).
In a mixer bowl (2), cream butter and salt, at a medium speed for 1/2 – 1 minute.
Scrape down sides and bottom of mixer bowl; add sugar and combine at low speed for 1/2 – 1 minute.
Add 50g flour, and combine at low speed.
Gradually add slightly beaten egg yolks, and then 50g flour, beating at a low speed until the mixture comes together. Add the whole milk or cream and incorporate.
Gradually add rest of the flour, occasionally stopping the machine to scrape down sides and bottom of the bowl, restart and mix until the biscuit pastry dough comes together (and if necessary, add 1 – 2tsp Flour mix, and allow time to combine) – it will look bitty, yet will look shiny when handled and pressed together.
Lay a piece of cling film/plastic wrap on a pastry board, place the biscuit dough on top of it, press into a 1/2in (13mm) thick rectangle and cover with cling film/plastic wrap.
Chill pastry dough in a refrigerator for 30mins minimum, or preferably overnight.
Wrap the pastry board with wax paper, or parchment paper, dust evenly and lightly with flour, along with dusting the rolling pin.
Cut pastry dough in half (place the other half back in the refrigerator); dust roller and hands with flour; then roll the pastry dough three times in one direction, evenly, gently and briskly (i.e., confidently); rotate the pastry dough a 1/4 turn (ensuring that the pastry dough is not stuck to the board, lift with a spatula and re-flour if necessary); and repeat; and repeat until the pastry dough is 5mm thick, and roughly rectangular in shape.

Use either a pizza cutter or a paring knife, score the biscuit dough into long strips, 5cm (2in) wide. With a paring knife, score the 5cm wide strip into 7cm (2 3/4in) lengths. Using a palette knife, or thin metal spatula, ease the individually cut biscuit dough off the parchment paper and place on the parchment paper lined baking tray. Collect any leftover biscuit dough and squash together to form a new rectangle; then reroll the biscuit dough as before and make new individual biscuit dough, and place on the baking tray as before.

If using the optional decoration, decorate each cut piece of biscuit dough with a raisin, piece of candied peel, or nut.

Remove the filled baking tray from the refrigerator, and place on the middle shelf of the preheated oven. Bake for 10 – 14 minutes, or until the baked biscuits are pale and golden brown at the edges. Note that the biscuits will continue cooking after being removed from the oven.
Take the filled baking tray out of the oven; carefully transfer the individual baked biscuits onto a wire cooling rack to fully cool.

The biscuits will keep in an airtight container for up to one to two weeks.


These were made for use on a Halloween cake.
lemon biscuits.jpg
Top Bottom