I am probably going to disappoint when I say this. I’ve deliberately held off sharing this with you. Um. So. Without further delay. Here it is: I am not good with baking. I know! Biscuits, cakes, desserts and other gooey confections are the very cleavage of food blogging. My repertoire of sweet things starts at a (non-baked) cheesecake, and ends (one recipe later) at muffins. After a couple of years of compulsory high school home ec (and a memorable pineapple upside down cake that disintegrated on the way home on the back of my bike), I realised I have no affinity with sweet things. Don’t get me wrong – I would ride a bicycle through a Saharan sandstorm with neither navigational aids nor protective clothing for a measly square of proper chocolate. I just haven’t been a fan of cooking sweet things. Maybe I can trace this reluctance back to discovering creamed butter and sugar and sneaking vast quantities of it? Or perhaps it’s my general aversion to precision with quantities and temperatures. Anyway. I hereby declare my recalcitrance over. I am thirty-something, and it is time to learn how to bake. Flying the wholefoods/good fats/unrefined sweeteners flag. And starting with a flavour combination I fell for a couple of years ago in muffin form, and recently dreamed about whilst pining for a mid-morning coffee… pecan and date, with a crumbly background of ginger spice. I imagined a cafe-sized rustic ‘drop’ biscuit (may as well start big) and searched long and hard for a basic biscuit recipe to add to. I also borrowed a technique from the Tassajara Tibetan barley bread recipe, for toasting the flour, which gives a lovely crumbly/sandy texture and deep nutty tones. (More on toasting flours over at Chocolate and Zuchinni). I think I pulled it off! Not a very pretty result for my first sweet thing. But the boy was very pleased!
The toasted barley flour lends deep nutty tones and a crumbly texture. You could use all wholemeal flour instead. Or perhaps try buckwheat flour? You could also substitute olive or coconut oil for the butter. Don’t be tempted to overcook… whisk them out of the oven just as they start to colour and they’ll firm up in a flash.
1 and 3/4 cups wholemeal flour
1/2 cup barley flour, toasted
1 tsp baking powder
small 1/2 tsp finegrain sea salt
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp each of allspice and nutmeg
1/2 cup butter (at room temperature)
1/2 cup raw sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1 cup chopped pitted dates
Heat oven to 220 degrees celcius. On the stove, heat the pecans in a dry pan over a medium heat, shaking the pan often, for a few minutes or until they start to smell toasty. Place aside. Toast the barley flour in the same dry pan over medium heat, moving around the pan often, for about five minutes or until the flour starts to steam and take on a slightly golden tinge. Combine dry ingredients. Cream butter and sugar and slowly mix in the eggs. Mix the wet into the dry ingredients. Add dates and pecans and mix until everything’s well combined. Drop oversized tablespoons of the mix onto baking sheets and bake at 220 degrees for about 8 minutes or until barely coloured. Rest trays on top of oven for a couple of minutes to firm a bit before transferring to racks to cool.
Makes about 20 large biscuits (and just as many friends!).