Gluten-free & lactose-free Christmas treats [with Vegan Baci]

escape-healthier-christmas-treats-making-baci-2-george-aquilina

Vegan Baci.  Photo taken during a live tv show by George Aquilina

Gluten-free, lactose-free and reduced sugar diets are hot topics these days. The drive for ingredients to suit a large number of food intolerances comes from consumers and with such a large choice in the market, guests no longer have to feel they are a burden to their hosts and be apologetic about their intolerances.

Adjusting recipes to make them suitable for everyone is much easier than making special dishes to cater for individual requirements. These Christmas recipes are free from lactose and gluten and are sweetened with unrefined sugars in reduced quantity.

Vegan Baci

You will need:
2 packets gluten-free plain biscuits
4 tbsp cocoa powder
100g finely chopped hazelnuts
2 tbsp ground hazelnuts
3 tbsp agave
4 tbsp coconut or ground almonds
2 tbsp brandy/rum
100ml coconut milk
To cover:
200g dark chocolate with no added sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
50g whole hazelnuts

Crush the biscuits very finely by grinding them in a food processor.

In a bowl mix together the biscuits, cocoa powder, finely chopped hazelnuts, ground hazelnuts, coconut or ground almonds, agave, rum and almond or hazelnut milk. Mix well.

Bind the mixture into very small balls. On top of every ball place a hazelnut in the centre.

Leave to set for 4 hours or overnight in the fridge before you cover with melted chocolate. To melt the chocolate, break it up into small pieces and place in a bowl. Put the bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds. Mix the chocolate with a plastic spatula. If necessary place in the microwave for another 10 seconds and repeat until the chocolate completely melts. Add the olive oil and mix with the spatula. Dip the baci chocolates into the melted chocolate and place them on a dish covered with baking paper. Leave to set overnight in the fridge. Remove from the dish and trim the bottom of each chocolate neatly before serving.

Christmas Biscotti

You will need:
1 cup prepared mincemeat [mince pie filling]
2 cups gluten-free self-raising flour
1 cup almond flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
a pinch of salt
1 tbsp cornflour
4 tbsp vegan spread
1 cup sugar or stevia (optional)
4 eggs
1 pod vanilla
200g glace cherries cut in half

Sift the flour twice. Leave the vegan spread out of the fridge for an hour to soften up before use. Cut the spread into pieces and add it to the flour. Rub in the spread into the flour using your fingertips. When the mixture is consistent and looks like fine breadcrumbs, add the bicarbonate of soda and cornflour. Add the almond flour, pinch of salt and vanilla. Mix with a large metal spoon.

Add the eggs, one at a time, and use your hands to bring the mixture together to form a dough. If necessary, use extra water and add a spoonful at a time to form a stiff dough.

Wrap the dough cling film and place in the fridge for an hour.

Divide dough into two to four portions depending on how large you want the biscotti. Shape each portion into a cylinder and pat down gently to flatten the top. If you want small biscotti make a longer, thinner cylinder.

Place the rolls on a baking tray covered with baking paper. Brush with egg wash and stud the surface of the long cylinder with glace cherry pieces. Slightly press down the cherries into the surface to secure into the dough. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 160°C until they are light gold in colour.

Allow to cool completely.

Cut the rolls into 1 cm thick slices and bake again until golden and crisp, again at 160°C for about 7 minutes on each side. Allow to cool completely before serving.

Christmas Cake with Olive Oil or Corn Oil

Photos: George Aquilina, CJ Baldacchino

You will need:
500g dried fruit (mix of currants, raisins, sultanas)
250g ground almonds or almond flour
50g nuts of your choice (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts)
50g cherries
2 apples
200g dates
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp cinnamon powder
Vanilla
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1 tbsp apple organic vinegar
Grated zest of an orange
3 tbsp olive oil or corn oil
4 eggs
a pinch of salt
50g flaked almonds to sprinkle on the surface before baking.
You will need a 20cm round cake tin

Preheat the oven to 150°C. Cover the cake tin with baking paper or brush the tin lightly with olive oil.

Peel and grate the apples and keep aside.

Place the eggs, grated orange zest, olive oil and apple organic vinegar in a large bowl. Mix well with a fork until they are well blended. Add the grated apples and mix again.

Chop the dates into small pieces and place in a large bowl. Add the ground almonds, nuts, cherries, spices and vanilla and finally the bicarbonate of soda and baking powder. Toss the mixture so that it is consistent and all the fruit and nuts are well coated.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients.

Use a large metal spoon to fold in the mixture gently until it is consistent; do not overmix.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake dish.

Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes in a pre-heated oven. Check the cake after 50 minutes of baking time as each oven is different.

Once the cake is cooked all the way through, remove from the oven and leave it to cool in the container.

Store the cake in an airtight container preferably in the fridge if you are keeping the cake for more than a few days as it contains no refined sugar that guarantees preservation.  This cake is also delicious served with some warm custard as a dessert.

This is a gluten-free and lactose-free recipe. The cake has no added refined sugar, no butter and no flour. The texture should be the same as a regular Christmas cake. If you like very sweet cakes, add 2-3 tbsp of stevia to the ground almond mix.

Trade Enquiries:
Doves Farm Gluten Free Flour and Baking ingredients by Good Earth
Olive Oil by Filippo Berio, Vegan Spread by Pure at Rimus Group
Soft brown sugars, agave by Silver Spoon and Billington and Stevia by Truvia at Borg & Aquilina
Golden Drop Sunflower Oil by Quality Foods Malta
Saxa Salt and Birds Custard by Premier Foods at George Borg Ltd