The first time I met Alanna, I’m pretty sure we spent upwards of 5 hours together making, styling and photographing these chilaquiles. I met her grumpy-adorable cat, Catamus, learned about camera lenses, admired her props cabinet, we chatted about our mutual contact (my food photographer uncle) and a bunch of other topics–one of which was potential book deals.
A second and a third visit brought a dinner party with the incredibly talented Pang, Sarah and Lucas, and a visit to Alanna and Jay’s favorite local Mexican spot. I’m pretty sure the third visit was when she not only fed me a slice of an incredible banana tart chilling in her fridge, but also some chestnut financiers she was testing for the cookbook–and then sent me home with a bag full of raspberry swirl biscuits that for some reason or another hadn’t turned out quite right (in Alanna’s mind, anyway. My family and I promptly consumed her generous offering and I proceeded to dream about the “not-quite-perfect” biscuits for the next 8 or so months).
Now that Alanna’s BEAUTIFUL new cookbook is out, I had to honor it and her with those same biscuits. Alternative Baker celebrates alternative flours in gluten-free recipes where the focus is really on how delicious flours like chestnut, mesquite, oat and corn can be rather than the fact that gluten is missing.
I’ve made five recipes from the book so far, recipe testing included–the apple, buckwheat and gruyere pancake, chocolate zucchini cake, chocolate cranberry pecan tart with Alanna’s amazing cocoa buckwheat tart crust, pluot poppy muffins and buckwheat pear galettes with walnuts and salty caramel. All of them, without fail, were so much more delicious than any gluten-free recipe I’ve tried in the past. I am really tempted to bake my way through her entire cookbook because each photograph is more beautiful than the last and promises amazing results.
I can’t recommend her cookbook enough, whether you adhere to a gluten-free diet or simply want to expand your baking horizons with completely unique, beautiful and incredibly delicious recipes. Congratulations Alanna–your book is an absolute work of art!!
Alanna makes these biscuits with raspberries, but I was out both times I was ready to make them–one time I subbed strawberries and 1/3 cup of chocolate chips and the other I added 1 1/4 cups of cranberries tossed with 2 tablespoons of sugar (pictured). The optional glaze was a bit sweet in conjunction with the chocolate, but well-received with the tart cranberries. A couple tasters noted a slightly bitter taste in the dough that I didn’t detect, but just something to note–this might totally be resolved by just using raspberries as Alanna wisely advises.
These biscuits have a moist, open, slightly coarse crumb that crisps beautifully at the edges. The fun thing about these is that the texture varies widely with temperature–cold, the dough takes on a sandy consistency that I’m kind of addicted to–warm, the dough is soft, yielding and slightly sticky. Alanna recommends using Bob’s Red Mill’s flour since alternative grains can vary widely in consistency depending on the grind and I found this out the hard way–the first time I made these biscuits with flour that I had (lazily) ground in my nutribullet, the biscuits turned out slightly lumpy and craggier than I remembered. After I ground the flour more finely in the Blendtec for the second round of biscuits, the dough turned out much more smoothly, the rolls of my dreams.
- 1 cup (155g) sweet white rice flour
- 1⁄2 cup (65 g) millet flour
- 1⁄2 cup (50 g) oat flour, plus extra for dusting the surface
- 1⁄4 cup (50 g) organic granulated cane sugar, plus 1 tbsp (10 g) for sprinkling
- 1 tbsp (12 g) baking powder
- 1⁄2 tsp fine sea salt
- 6 tbsp (85 g) cold, unsalted butter, sliced, plus 1 tsp, softened, for greasing the pan
- 6 tbsp (90 ml) whole milk, plus up to 4 tbsp (60 ml) more as needed
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 11⁄2 cups fresh raspberries (about a 6-oz [170-g] package)
- For Brushing Biscuits
- 1 tbsp (15 ml) whole milk
- 1 tsp organic granulated cane sugar
- Vanilla Buttermilk Glaze
- Seeds from 1⁄2 vanilla bean
- 1⁄2 cup (40 g) powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp (15 ml) well-shaken buttermilk or milk, or enough to make a pourable glaze
- To make the biscuits, in a large bowl, combine the sweet rice, millet and oat flours with the 1⁄4 cup (50 g) sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the 6 tablespoons (85 g) butter and blend with a pastry cutter or your fingertips until the butter is broken down into the size of small peas. Chill this mixture until cold, 10–20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the 6 tablespoons (90 ml) milk, the egg and the vanilla extract in a measuring pitcher. Chill until needed.
- Remove the flour mixture from the refrigerator. Gradually add the milk mixture, working with a flexible silicone spatula until the dough holds together when you give it a squeeze. Stop adding liquid if the dough seems overly wet; we want it to be firm enough to roll out. Conversely, if the dough is dry or floury, work in 1–4 more tablespoons (15–60 ml) milk until it comes together. The amount of liquid needed will vary depending on the temperature and humidity of your kitchen, so add as little or as much as you need to make a firm but hydrated dough. Knead the dough about 20 times in the bowl to bring it together in a ball (unlike wheat biscuits, these gluten-free biscuits require more kneading to bring the dough together, so don’t be shy). Cover and chill the dough for 15 minutes or up to several hours.
- While the dough chills, rinse, dry and slice the berries in half.
- When ready to bake, position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 350F (175C). Grease the bottom and sides of an 8-inch (20-cm) round or square cake pan with the remaining 1 teaspoon softened butter and line with parchment paper.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place on a large piece of parchment paper dusted
- lightly with oat flour. Use your hands and a rolling pin to pat and roll the dough out into roughly a 10 by 14-inch (25 by 35-cm) rectangle, dusting the dough as needed to prevent sticking. If the dough cracks or breaks at any point, don’t worry, just pinch and squish it back together. When the dough begins to stick to the parchment, top with a second sheet of parchment and, grasping both pieces of parchment and the dough, bravely flip the whole thing over. Gently peel away the
- top piece of parchment and continue rolling out the dough.
- Sprinkle the halved berries evenly over the dough, use your palms to press them gently into the dough and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon (10 g) sugar. Starting with a long end, use the parchment to help roll the dough into a log, rolling it as tightly as possible and ending with the seam side down. Use a sharp chef’s knife to cut the log into 8 equal pieces (if using a round pan) or 9 pieces (if using a square pan), cutting straight down in an assertive manner. Place each round with a cut side up in the prepared pan, using a thin spatula to help transfer the biscuits if needed. Gently press the tops of the biscuits to flatten them slightly. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the 1 tablespoon (15 ml) milk and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar to encourage browning.
- Bake the biscuits until golden and cooked through, 40–55 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely, 1 hour; their texture improves upon cooling.
- To make the glaze, whisk together the vanilla seeds, powdered sugar and enough buttermilk or milk to make a pourable glaze until smooth. When the biscuits have cooled, drizzle with the glaze. Use a knife or small offset spatula to coax the biscuits out of the pan.
- The biscuits are best within a few hours of baking, but extras will keep, airtight at room temperature, for an additional day.