Bourbon Biscuits

Bourbon Biscuits, Gluten Free, the Plain Kitchen

I love a chocolate biscuit: and one thing I really missed in the early years of adopting a gluten free diet was a Bourbon biscuit. You can buy chocolate “free from” biscuits from shops, of course you can: they don’t taste of much, and somehow have a grainy quality to them, which thankfully these don’t have. You could give these to someone not on a gluten free diet and I really don’t think they’d notice the difference. When left all by their lonesome selves, they make for a frugal tea time snack. However, when paired with another, sandwiched together with the chocolate icing, they become a decadent treat. Up to you what you want to do: this recipe makes 40 singles, or 20 doubles.

Remember too: if you are not GF, all you need to do is replace the flour with normal flour, and omit the xanthan gum.

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees Celsius

Line baking sheets with baking parchment


250g salted butter, at room temperature

180g caster sugar

350g plain flour (I use the Dove’s gluten free)

60g cocoa

1 tsp xanthan gum

30g golden syrup

 For the filling:

125g butter

125g icing sugar

25g cocoa

Bourbon Biscuits, The Plain Kitchen


Put all of the biscuit ingredients in a food processor or mixer and mix thoroughly until a dough forms.

Roll the dough into small balls (just smaller than golf balls), and then using the back of a dessert spoon, flatten each biscuit gently. Dip the back of the dessert spoon into caster sugar between each flattening, as it helps the spoon not to stick, and gives the biscuits a lovely sprinkling of sugar.

Bake for 12 minutes, and leave to cool on the trays for at least 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool properly.

While they are baking, make the icing: I don’t even use a mixer for this: if the butter is soft enough, I juts mix all of the ingredients in a bowl with a spoon until you’ve got your icing: and then I sandwich the cooled biscuits together.

These are delicious served with with vanilla ice cream for pudding.

Bourbon Biscuits, The Plain Kitchen

Buckwheat Blinis

The Plain Kitchen Buckwheat Blinis

These are a complete Christmas tradition of ours: we have them, at about 11 o clock, with fizz and other things I’ve made: somehow, like the duck, and the red cabbage, they just taste right at Christmas time. The blinis are best made just before serving: the batter can be made beforehand, and brought to room temperature before cooking, but please fry them just before you need them.


Makes 15 little blinis


To serve:

200g smoked salmon

Salmon roe, caviar or similar

150g sour cream

Fresh dill, if you have to hand

Parsley, chopped and lemon

For the blinis:

100ml full fat milk

40g butter, melted

70g buckwheat flour

Pinch baking powder

50g self raising gluten free flour

Pinch table salt (better than Maldon)


Whisk all of the ingredients in a bowl.

Butter a non stick frying pan, and bring up to a fairly high heat. Drop a tablespoon full of the mixture onto the hot pan: fry each side for 4 minutes on each side, and you’re done.

Wait until cool: and top with the other ingredients.

Buttermilk Rusks

Buttermilk rusks the plain kitchen

Another South African number for you, and just in time for these wonderful crisp Autumn mornings we are having. They are a sort of large biscotti, crisp and vanilla scented, and are for dipping in hot cups of tea and coffee. This recipe is not a gluten free recipe; rather, it’s a combination of my mother’s recipe, and an authentic “beskuit” recipe, which uses yeast. I’ve made so many rusks in my time- not as many as my mother made though, and I’m always in search of a recipe that tastes of my childhood. Recipes labeled “quick and easy” rusks omit the yeast, as of course there is no leavening involved. Instead, these quick and easy recipes rely on baking powder- they’re perfectly fine, of course, but the rusks then don’t retain their crunch as well as the yeast ones do. Again, traditional beskuit are not very sweet at all, relying on the sweet tea or coffee they are dunked in to give the rusk its sweetness. We are a family who don’t sugar our tea, but of course we still want a little bit of a sweet treat- so I’ve upped the sugar content in my recipe. I’ve also use a combination of self-raising flour and yeast, and added vanilla paste, for a wonderful vanilla, slightly caramel scented rusk. Dunked into a hot hot cup of tea, these rusks will ensure you’re kept happy until lunch time. In fact, we often have them for breakfast too. And an afternoon and pre-bed snack, come to think of it!

As you can see in the image, my rusks are quite dark on the outside: this is due to a longer initial baking time of 40 minutes, If you want a paler rusk, as some people prefer, bake to the suggested time of 25-30 minutes. The crucial thing with rusks is the drying out time: please ensure that once you have broken up or sliced the rusks, you need to dry them out for about 7-8 hours (ideally, overnight) in a very low oven (80-100 degrees). My oven, with the door closed, keeps the steam in the oven, and therefore doesn’t crisp the rusks up, so I leave the oven door ajar while they are drying out. These keep in an airtight tin for ages. Because the drying out time is so long, I tend to make a large batch of rusks: this is why the recipe is quite a large one; it makes sense to use the heat from the oven on a large batch rather than a small one.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius

Butter 4 loaf tins very well


2 sachets (20ml) quick yeast

440g granulated sugar (brown or white- but not caster, the larger granules are needed here)

760ml buttermilk

260g salted butter, melted

Extra pinch of table salt

2 tbsp vanilla paste

1.4 kg self raising flour


Mix the vanilla paste, melted butter, yeast and buttermilk together and set aside. In a very large mixing bowl, sift the flour and add the sugar and salt. Make a well in the centre and pour in the liquid ingredients. Mix very well, either in the bowl, or on a surface. Pop the dough back inside the bowl, cover, and leave in a warm place to prove until doubled in size (this should take about an hour, depending on the environment). Then knock the dough back slightly, and roll into about 12 balls- place three large balls in each loaf tin, and leave to prove for a second time, again for an hour or so.

Place the tins in the preheated oven (I bake the tins two at a time, just because my oven is rather small) for 3-40 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes. Turn the baked dough out, and then either break the dough up roughly, or, using a serrated bread knife, slice the dough into slices. I’ve included a picture for you- just so that you can see the aesthetic difference. Then place these individual rusks onto baking sheets, and allow to dry out in a very low oven(80-100 degrees) for about 7-8 hours.

Once completely cooled, store in an airtight container.

Cheese Shortbread

Gluten Free Cheese Shortbread, The Plain Kitchen

This is an adaptation of one of my mum’s recipes: I’ve added a bit of Cayenne to up the nostalgia factor, and also increased the amount of butter slightly, as I have used gluten free flour, and I think it benefits from the extra fat. It’s always difficult to find gluten free snacks, or canapés, or something savoury (other than crisps) to have with drinks: and these are perfect. I made two different types from the mixture: one round tin, sliced into traditional shortbread wedges, and then another baking tray of small biscuits: we had the wedges with soup, as they were quite substantial, and we had the biscuits as little snacks.

The shortbread is very popular with children, too.

Makes one tin (about 12 cm in diameter) of wedges, and one baking tray of about 15 little biscuits

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius

Line a baking sheet with baking parchment, and line and butter a 12cm diameter tin with baking parchment: I ensure the baking parchment comes up the sides of the round tin a little bit, as it helps to lift the shortbread out after baking.

Gluten Free Cheese Shortbread, The Plain Kitchen


2 cups plain flour (I use the Dove’s gluten free)

2 cups grated cheddar cheese

170g cold salted butter, grated

1 scant tsp Cayenne Pepper

1 tsp Maldon Salt

Slight grinding of black pepper

¼ cup cold water


Mix all of the ingredients, except the water, in a bowl: use the rubbing method you would use for scones: rub the butter into the flour as best as possible: remember, the cheese will still stay in grated form, and that’s ok. Once everything is mixed well, add the water, and form a dough. I use my hands: it really is far preferable to a spoon. Once you have a good, solid round of dough, break it into thirds: I used two thirds for my round tin of shortbread, and a third for the little biscuits.

Press the two thirds of the dough into the round tin, ensuring the surface area is flat and the edges are pressed right to the edges of the tin. Then prick the surface area with a fork, all over.

Using a little extra flour, roll out the remaining third of the dough onto a work surface, and, using a very small cutter, cut small circles from the dough, and lay each circle on the tray lined with baking parchment. Prick each circle with a fork.

Bake the round tray of shortbread for approximately 25 minutes, and the tray of little rounds for 12 minutes.

Let the round tin of shortbread cool for about 4 minutes, before cutting it into wedges: but leave it to cool properly in the tin for at least another 25 minutes before removing. The little biscuits can be removed from the tray almost immediately, and eaten pretty swiftly too.

Gluten Free Cheese Shortbread, The Plain Kitchen

Chocolate Crunchies

The Plain Kitchen Chocolate Crunchies Gluten Free

This is an adaptation of my paternal grandmother’s recipe, which I found in her little recipe book labelled “Special” recipes, each one painstakingly handwritten in her perfect capital script. Granny used to write to me every week when I was at boarding school: she used to send aerogrammes, which cost less to send, and she always ensured every little inch of paper was filled with her sentences. She was a very, very good grandmother to us all- eccentric, giving, full of love, very, very bossy, and she loved making, creating and cooking. I suppose that’s where we all get our enjoyment of craft from: Granny turned her hand to anything and everything- from pewter work to baking, she was a hugely creative woman. And, as with most things in life, I don’t think we appreciated just how clever she really was: we were young, and she was just “Granny” to us.

Crunchies are sort of South African flapjacks- I say sort of, because they tend to be a little bit harder (”Crunchier”) than flapjacks. These are the chocolate version: I will post a recipe soon for the plain version too.

Preheat Oven to 180 degrees Celsius

Makes about 20 squares

Line a 20cm x 30cm or so tin with baking parchment


250g butter

2 cups self raising gluten free flour (I use Dove’s)

4 tbsp cocoa

1 cup caster sugar

½ cup soft brown sugar

1 cup porridge oats

2 tbsp golden syrup

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda


Mix the sugars, oats, cocoa and flour together in a bowl.

Melt the butter and golden syrup in a medium sized saucepan. Once melted, add the bicarb, and let froth a little. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, mix well, and then press the mixture into your lined tin.

Bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove, let cool only for a minutes or so before slicing into squares. The crunchies go hard quite quickly- if you leave it to cool too long, you wont be able to cut through them very well.