Vegan and gluten-free shortbread, topped with luscious dark chocolate & tangy dried strawberries: little bites of melt-in-the-mouth joy!
I made these to be served with dessert for a dinner party, at which two of the guests were coeliac and one guest could not eat dairy.
I often make gluten-free dishes, and it is not uncommon for me to use dairy-free produce – but it’s quite rare for me to bake something that is both gluten-free and dairy-free.
But I love a challenge.
The best compliment paid to these gluten-free and dairy-free shortbreads was “I can’t tell the difference”: and this is precisely how it should be.
I do not accept that flavour should be sacrificed with any cooking: on too many occasions I have eaten (and indeed made!) things that were mainly “making do”. And that is so disappointing.
Don’t get me started on the horrors of gluten-free puff pastry or (most) dairy-free cheese. Honestly, if the flavour is not there, then why have a poor imitation: there are plenty of other things that taste fabulous, so go for something different.
Equally, though, there are many things that can be adapted well to become gluten-free and/or dairy-free. And shortbreads are one of them.
You can use xantham gum and the like, and I have coeliac friends who swear by xantham gum in their baking, but it is not needed here as long as you handle the biscuits carefully.
Shortbread does need to contain fat and while oil is a great alternative in many cakes, it not the way to go with shortbread – it simply does not hold everything together.
I loathe those fat spreads (dairy-free or othewise) that are pumped full of chemicals, so I was keen to avoid those. I used a Vegan butter substitute here, which came in a firm block and contains just natural ingredients.
It also had a nice flavour and was lovely when spread on toast: a far cry from certain spreads!
The chocolate not only adds that lovely indulgence, it ensures the shortbread does not break apart: when you spoon the melted chocolate over the top and let it set, it forms a “shell”, holding everything in shape beautifully.
I have eaten plenty of gorgeous Vegan chocolate over the years, and it is now quite easy to buy a very nice one.
I used a bar from the Heavenly range of chocolates: I will confess that not all of the bars made it onto the shortbreads as chunks of it kept leaping into my mouth!
The dough itself is quite easy to work with and rolling it out between two sheets of greaseproof is a god-send.
I then chill the rolled out dough so it is firm, which helps when it comes to cutting them and moving them to the baking trays.
The baked biscuits are crumbly, though, so they need to be handled carefully. I find it is far easier to make them smaller (or going thicker), and the use a palette knife to lift them up also makes life much easier.
Recipe: chocolate strawberry shortbreads: gluten-free & vegan
- 40g caster sugar
- 60g dairy-free spread (ideally one in a block)
- 80g gluten-free plain flour
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- about 150g dairy-free chocolate of choice, melted
- a few dried strawberry pieces
(1) Put the spread, sugar and vanilla in a small bowl and mix for a few moments with a wooden spoon to incorporate.
(2) Add the flour and mix to form a soft dough, using your hands to pat it together. You don’t need to be too gentle here as there is no gluten in the flour, so there is no danger of the shortbreads becoming tough. Just try not to warm the dough up in your hands, otherwise the fat with soften too much and make the dough greasy.
(3) Roll out the dough fairly thinly (about the thickness of a £1 coin) between two sheets of greaseproof. Lift it all on a flat surface such as a chopping board and chill for at least 30 minutes: this makes it easier to cut the out without the dough falling apart.
(4) Preheat the oven to 150C (fan). Use a cutter – any shape or size – to cut out discs of the dough and use a palette knife to lift them onto a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.
(5) Bake for about 12 minutes: the edges will have turned a very light golden colour. Leave for a few minutes before carefully lifting them from the trays to a cooling racks: again, the palette knife is invaluable here.
(6) Spoon the chocolate over the tops of the shortbread: I often place clingfilm or more paper underneath the rack to catch the drips. Sprinkle over a few strawberry pieces. Leave just until the chocolate has started to set and use the palette knife to life them to a sheet of greaseproof until fully set.