Healthy snacks are hard to come by. They are hard to find in cafes, even harder to find in supermarkets or convenience stores and seemingly hard to make yourself. It is for this reason the title of this post - healthy custard cream biscuits - probably seems like some kind of un-amusing joke. You've probably never felt less enthused or more hopeless about something in your life. However, having mastered several other gluten, dairy and refined sugar free shortbread recipes, you should feel comfortable in my hands. I've only made these biscuits three times. Once as an experiment, once again to share around my agency (IMG Models) during London Fashion Week, and then a final time on demand, requested by Laney Crowell, who flew all the way to London from New York just for one bite (and kind of to oversee a shoot; but mainly in pursuit of the custard cream close ups I'd teased her with on instagram a few weeks beforehand). She just needed them. And I may not know you well, but I do know you need them too.
The biscuits are one of my favourite things I've ever made. I almost wish they would develop some kind of flaw, as, when I make them, I can't stop eating them, and when they're gone, I can't stop thinking about them. The biscuit is completely gluten free, made with buckwheat flour and ground almonds (although you can leave the almonds out if you want to make a nut-free version). The filling is incredibly easy too, and made with cashew and coconut is full of healthy fats (omega 3 fatty acids), protein, fibre and antioxidants. If you make one thing for guests or one thing for someone who refuses to believe healthy food can be delicious, make it a batch of coconut and cashew custard creams.
Makes Roughly 45 Biscuits (20-25 finished biscuits using 2 either side of the filling)
180g Coconut Oil
1 Teaspoon Tahini
50-60g Coconut Palm Sugar
4 Tablespoons Agave
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract, Bean Paste or Fresh Vanilla Seeds from a Pod
200g Buckwheat Flour
4 Tablespoons Ground Almonds
Makes enough for 45 Biscuits
1 Bar Creamed Coconut, melted
30g Raw Cashew Nuts (you can replace theses with another bar creamed coconut for a nut-free alternative)
3 Tablespoons Solid/Soft Coconut Oil
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Bean Paste or Vanilla Seeds from a Fresh Pod
Pinch of Himalayan Pink Salt
2 Tablespoons Solid Coconut Milk - optional
1 Teaspoon Coconut Sugar, Nectar, Agave, Date Paste or Raw Honey
Lets start with the biscuits. Preheat the oven to 160c. Use a chunk of solid coconut oil to grease 2 flat baking trays.
I'll warn you now that the biscuit dough seems to hold together differently every time i make these. I think it depends on the heat of my hands, the moisture, the texture of the coconut oil and just generally how the dough is feeling. If it isn't cooperating, it can be quite frustrating. That said - every single time i have made these, they have worked impeccably.
Start by using an electric whisk to beat together the coconut oil and the coconut palm sugar. Make sure the coconut oil is soft not melted, and not rock hard. To soften it if it is too cold, place it in a plastic sandwich bag and wrap the bag in a flannel or towel soaked in hot water. Squeeze and massage the oil until it becomes slightly softer.
Once the oil and coconut sugar have come together into a light, fluffy mixture (it will be darker than the usual cake batter you are used to, due to the coconut palm sugar) add the salt, agave, tahini and vanilla before gradually adding the buckwheat flour and the ground almonds.
Continue to whisk and when the mixture becomes too doughy to whisk, use a wooden spoon or you hands to combine everything. Once all of the ingredients are coming together, use you hands to knead the dough slightly, and form into a large ball. Squeeze and massage the dough until it holds together nicely. If it is too dry or too crumbly, add a little more agave. If it is really too dry, add a tiny bit of extra coconut oil. If it is too oily, wet or sticky, add more buckwheat flour. For me, I notice that the biscuits cook best with more flour, however dry the mixture may seem. So try to keep the mixture quite dry, working it with your hands as much as possible to encourage it to bind. It may take a few minutes of kneading to get it to where it needs to be.
Leave aside for 10-20 minutes in a tightly squeezed ball. Don't place it in the fridge as the coconut oil will cause it to stiffen rapidly.
Lightly flour a dry surface and roll out half or a quarter of you dough at a time. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out, using a lot of pressure to encourage the dough to stick together, until it is no more than 4mm in depth. Use your cutter of choice (I use the lid from a jar of coffee which is more or less the perfect rectangular shape. You can also use a knife to cut out shapes, although this is rather laborious and time consuming).
+ Use a thin, sharp knife or a metal spatula to peel each biscuit off of the surface if it become stuck.
Place each raw biscuit onto your prepared baking tray. Place in the over for 10-15 minutes. This will depend on your dough (i.e: if you felt inclined to add more flour or more agave). Check the biscuits after 10 minutes, and then again after 12, as if they don't seem ready after 10 minutes, they can cook incredibly quickly. Although they taste perfectly fine a little over cooked, this isn't ideal.
Whilst the biscuits are cooking, make the cream filling. Keep an eye on the biscuits though, as, like i said, they can become overdone quite quickly. Place the bar of creamed coconut in a bowl or jug of boiling water. Make sure the plastic that it comes in isn't pierced or broken. Leave for 3-5 minutes to melt completely, and as the water cools enough to touch, massage the packet to help disperse the chunkier bits.
Place the melted creamed coconut, raw cashew nuts, salt, vanilla, coconut milk, if using, and the coconut oil into a high speed blender. Blend for 1-2 minutes, starting on a low speed, and going to the highest. A tamper is really useful for getting the mixture going, if you have one. If it is not blending smoothly enough, add a little more coconut oil and/or coconut milk. Don't add melted coconut oil or water though as the mixture will separate.
+ Add a teaspoon of agave or coconut sugar to taste, if you have a sweeter tooth.
Scrape the cream into a bowl and set aside until the biscuits have cooked and cooled. Don't place it in the fridge as it will solidify and will be impossible to work with. Keep stirring the mixture whilst the biscuits cool.
Remove the biscuits from the oven when they begin to turn a golden brown. They will probably become darker than you imagined but this is normal. If they are still soft to touch, don't worry - they will become incredibly crunchy as they cool, so don't be tempted to put them back into the oven unless they are still really soft and pale.
Leave to cool before sandwiching the cashew coconut cream between them. Simply take a small teaspoonful of the cream and spread it gently onto the centre of one biscuit. Then place another biscuit on top, press the two together gently and place in the freezer to set.
Repeat until all of the biscuits have been used up, and place them all in the freezer to allow the centre to solidify slightly. You can enjoy them at room temperature too.
+Store in the freezer or fridge in an airtight container.
+ Add ground or fresh grated ginger to the biscuit mixture for a Ginger Crunch Cream variation.
+ Add cacao to the biscuit dough for a Bourbon Biscuit or Oreo Variation
+ Add cacao and 1 tablespoons Agave to the cashew cream for a Bourbon Biscuit variation or just for a more chocolately treat in general.