These gluten free sweet biscuits are very very close cousin to my gluten free scone recipe. In fact, they’re exactly the same. Flaky, buttery and light, these biscuits are everything you could ask from a gluten free dessert. While I originally developed them as scones, why mess with perfection?
A note to all my Australian and British followers: these are not biscuits as we traditionally think of them. If you’re after a biscuit recipe, try:
- Gluten free shortbread biscuits
- Anzac style biscuits
- Gluten free Graham Crackers
- The gluten free Tim Tam style biscuits in Intolerance Friendly Kitchen
Gluten free biscuits (American style)
These biscuits are gluten free and nut free. They are made without eggs and low FODMAP with the appropriate dairy products, too. Made with a simple mix of white rice flour and tapioca flour, they are flaky and fluffy without being crumbly or dry. The biscuits are held together by both psyllium husk powder and xanthan gum. Together, these help create structure and stability, enabling the biscuits to develop flaky layers and retain their height.
These biscuits can be made with buttermilk, which is handy if you’re on the market for gluten free buttermilk biscuits. Yoghurt, full fat heavy/thickened cream and sour cream are all suitable here, too. They can be made sweet or savoury. I have read that sugar isn’t traditional to an American biscuit, so I have a recipe for both a sweet and savoury option.
Gluten free biscuits – ingredient notes
These biscuits are made with rice flour and tapioca flour in equal parts. I have not tried other flours – this blend works to create a light yet solid scone without any alternative flour flavours. As I test more flours, I will update the post.
In Australia, oats are not considered gluten free, so I have not tested this recipe with oat flour.
Sugar adds flavour and colour but is also a wet ingredient. I have tested these scones with slightly less sugar (50g) and they worked well.
I have only tested this scones with dairy butter. There is a vegan, gluten free and xanthan gum free scone recipe in my cookbook, Intolerance Friendly Kitchen.
Cream, sour cream and yoghurt all work as the dairy option in this scones. You can use a lactose free variety if you need to.
Both xanthan gum and psyllium husk powder are critical in this recipe. They hold in the liquid and create structure so that the scones rise and hold their shape.
Weighing the ingredients is the only way to go here. I give cup measurements you can eyeball if you have enough flour before baking. A good gluten free scone is ruined in a heartbeat with cup measurements. It’s annoying, I know, but it’s true. A scale (which doesn’t need to be expensive) is key to success in gluten free baking.
How to make these gluten free biscuits sweet or savoury
This recipe was originally tested with sugar, because that’s how scones are made. I realised towards the end of testing, though, that biscuits are generally savoury, rather than sweet. Correct me if I’m wrong, my American readers?
Either way, this recipe can be made sweet or savoury. You can use 50-75g (1/4 – 1/3 cup) granulated sugar for a sweet version, or you can make savoury gluten free biscuits as follows:
- Omit the sugar
- Add 3/4 teaspoon (4.5g) fine salt
- Use slightly less dairy until the dough is moistened
The science of good gluten free biscuits
I think it’s important to discuss the science behind a biscuit so that you are clear on what each ingredient needs to achieve. The most critical ingredient here is the butter, but we will go into each ingredient below.
- The flour blend forms the backbone of biscuit. Rice flour provides a sturdy base and tapioca flour provides lightness, fluffiness and a bit of elasticity.
- Psyllium husk powder and xanthan gum work together to give the biscuits structure and absorb moisture so that they are not dry or crumbly. The structure enables the biscuits to rise, both from the baking powder and the butter.
- The cream (or sour cream or yoghurt) and milk provide moisture and a rich mouthfeel and flavour. You cannot use all milk in gluten free biscuits because they don’t have enough structure and they need more moisture. Using all milk will result in a flat tray of scones.
- The sugar provides flavour, browning and moisture. See the section below for substituting the sugar (I have read it is not traditional to biscuits).
- The butter: the most critical ingredient of them all. Butter is laminated into the biscuit dough to create little pockets of firm butter within the dough. When the dough hits the hot oven, the moisture in the butter evaporates and pushes the dough upwards. Cold butter chunks and good lamination are critical to gluten free biscuits that rise.
What is lamination?
Lamination is a technique whereby butter is rolled into dough to create small pockets and layers of butter. Biscuits are often casually laminated, but this recipe makes the lamination quite purposeful to ensure you get maximum lift. The word lamination shouldn’t scare you off – it’s quick and simple and makes for incredible biscuits.
Think of making puff pastry. You roll and fold the butter into the dough, creating hundreds of layers of butter that puff up in the oven. This is what we want to achieve with these biscuits. I promise it is easier than it sounds!
How to make gluten free biscuits
Making the biscuit dough
These biscuits are made a little differently than traditional ones. I find this makes the process easier, and keeps more butter chunks in the scones.
Begin by freezing the butter so it is cold enough to grate. Next (surprise!) grate the butter, using the large holes on the cheese grater. Return the butter to the freezer in it’s grated form, spread out across the plate or chopping board it was grated on.
Next, mix the dry ingredients together and add the cream and most of the milk. I generally use a spoon to start, and then get my hands in. The dough should be shaggy and look a little dry but feel moist. At this stage, there should be a few bits of dry flour on the bottom of the bowl, but not many.
Now, add the frozen butter, handful by handful. A light touch is used to mix the butter into the dough without dispersing it or warming it too much. This process is repeated until all the butter is incorporated. From there, assess: are there bits of completely dry flour on the bottom of the bowl? If so, add a tablespoon more milk. Is the dough just holding together without any dry spots? If so, perfect! Cover the dough and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Things to note:
Make sure you use the largest side of your cheese grater. A microplane or the ‘parmesan’ side of the grater will not work here.
The butter needs to stay cold and as in tact as possible to create lift. If you are working in a hot kitchen or the butter starts to melt, but the dough straight into the freezer to chill.
I have not tried this method with plant based butter.
There should be lots of visible strands of butter throughout your dough. They should be evenly dispersed.
If you do not see any visible bits of butter in the dough, you have rubbed them in too much. This will mean the scones are more likely to be flat and oily. Use a gentle quick touch to ensure the butter stays in tact.
This dough does not need to look or feel super wet. It needs to hold together when you press it into a rectangle, but it should not be a batter.
Laminating the biscuit dough
The next stage of gluten free biscuit making is the lamination. To laminate the dough, flour a long piece of baking paper with tapioca flour. Using baking paper here ensures you can pick up the dough without much fuss if it gets stuck. It also means you can easily transport it to the fridge if the butter starts to melt.
Roll out the dough into a rectangle just long enough it can be folded into thirds. Next, fold the top third of the dough down onto the middle third, then the bottom third up over the middle third. This is known is a business letter fold. Repeat this process three times, with a little trick before the last fold.
The dough will most likely break apart the first two folds – this is to be expected. It will hopefully stay in tact as you fold it on the final turn, but don’t stress too much if it doesn’t. You have still folded lots of little butter chunks into the dough.
Onto our little trick: just before you fold the dough for the third and final time, flip over the rolled out rectangle of dough. The bottom will be rough and bumpy, but that’s fine. Dust it off for excess flour, then lightly brush the entire rectangle with milk. Gluten free dough doesn’t stick to itself very well, and I find that it can result in biscuits that are disjointed and not attached to each other. The milk helps glue all the layers together so that the biscuit grows upwards instead of sliding sideways. Next, we can complete the last fold and have a sturdy rectangle of dough.
Now that your gluten free biscuit dough is laminated, it is time to chill it again before cutting the biscuits.
Cutting the gluten free biscuits
Once the biscuits have thoroughly chilled, it is time to cut them. Lightly flour the bench or a clean piece of baking paper with tapioca flour. Place the chilled slab of dough onto the baking paper, and very gently begin.
Use a floured rolling pin to flatten the top of the dough into a smooth surface. A biscuit with a rough surface before baking will bust out at odd angles as it rises. This may impact the lift and rise of your biscuits, and they might slide sideways. So, ensure a nice smooth top of your scone. The biscuit dough should be about 2 inches tall at this stage. The biscuits grow in the oven, but not so much that you can start with a tiny scone and expect miracles.
Cut the biscuit into whatever shape you prefer. If you want to see the beautiful flaky layers, I find a square scone to be best. If you like a circular biscuit, Use a floured cutter to cut straight into the dough in a single movement. Do not twist the cutter, or you might damage all the layers you have worked hard to create.
Repeat this process with the remaining biscuit dough. Circular biscuits always end up with awkward little dough scraps that have to be re-rolled. This re-rolled biscuit will be denser than the rest, as the butter smushes into the dough. This is just the nature of the beast. Try to roll lightly and gently.
Once the biscuits are cut, place them in the freezer in a 24cm cake tin.
Baking the biscuits
The moment of truth: baking your gluten free biscuits. First and foremost, ensure your oven is very thoroughly preheated. It helps here to check your oven temperature beforehand, because a LOT of ovens are badly calibrated. The gauge often does not reflect the internal temperature.
Because we are using a hot oven, I recommend placing the cake tin of biscuits on top of a heavy baking tray. This will stop the bottom of the biscuits from burning.
The first 15 minutes of baking your biscuits is critical. This is the time the butter evaporates and the air from that reaction pushes the scone upwards. Akin to oven spring in bread, this is when your biscuits do all their growing. If your oven is not hot enough, the butter will melt and seep outwards instead of pushing the biscuits upwards.
Once the 15-20 minute mark is hit, you can open the oven. Hopefully your biscuits have grown gloriously in size. There should not be too much butter swilling out the bases of the biscuits, either (a little bit is OK!) If there is, refer to the troubleshooting section.
Tent a piece of aluminium foil over the biscuits without touching them. Turn the oven down to 180c or 356F and bake for another 20 minutes. The biscuits should be baked through and golden on top without being burnt.
Why were my gluten free biscuits flat?
Once you have established that your baking powder is in date, the answer could be the butter. Butter is critical to rise and lift in scones, so if yours are flat, there is an issue with butter or lamination or both. Was your butter cold? Did you work quickly and with a light touch? Were there noticeable chunks of butter in the finished dough, or did you rub too much butter in? Did you transfer the dough to the freezer if your butter started to warm? These are all things to consider and improve on next time.
Another consideration is the temperature of your biscuits as they hit the oven and the temperature of your oven. Cold chunks of butter need to hit a hot oven to create lift. If your oven is just lukewarm, there’s every chance the butter will simply melt instead of pushing upward. Biscuits with empty pock marks in the sides and a sea of butter at the base of the dish are signs this has happened. Give yourself the best possible chance by freezing the cut biscuits and thoroughly preheating the oven.
Why did butter seep out of my biscuits?
Firstly: a little bit of butter seepage can happen. The butter is adding texture, flavour and mouthfeel but also providing lift, so, as with croissants, some of it might seep out. Provided your biscuits are flaky and layered, this is nothing to worry about.
This problem, and most biscuit problems, come down to the same answers as the above. Make sure your lamination is right, you are using frozen butter of the appropriate size, and the oven is hot. These are critical aspects of biscuit making that will set you on the path of flaky and fluffy scones with oomph.
Another thing? Check that you used good quality unsalted butter that was thoroughly chilled before the final bake. If you are still having trouble, try using the lesser 125g butter.
Why did my biscuits burn? Why were my scones undercooked in the middle?
This, unsurprisingly, comes down to oven temperature. If you are consistently getting burnt or undercooked results, it’s time to check your oven temperature with a thermometer. You can buy them online and they don’t cost much. Knowing what temperature your oven is really at when it says 200C is such helpful information for all your baking pursuits. It empowers you with the knowledge to turn the oven up or down as necessary.
If you take the biscuits out of the oven and find the centres are doughy, return them to the oven at 180C/356F for 10 minutes. Easy fix.
Why were my biscuits oily and dense?
In my experience, this comes down to a few things, but mostly adding too much liquid to the dough. I have made A LOT of biscuits these past few weeks, and the most dense and chewy ones were when I rushed through adding the milk and added too much. You really want the dough to be just hydrated without a drop more milk than is needed.
Other gluten free treats
- Gluten free scones
- Blueberry scones without xanthan gum
- Vegan, gluten free blueberry muffins
- Grain free brownies
Gluten free biscuits (American style)
For the biscuits:
- 125-150 g (1 stick + 1 tablespoon – 1 1/3 sticks) good quality unsalted butter, cold (see notes)
- 1 cup (160g) fine white rice flour
- 1 1/4 cup + 1/2 tablespoon (160g) tapioca flour
- 75 g (1/3 cup) white sugar
- 10 g psyllium husk powder
- 1 tablespoon (15g) baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- 200 g heavy or thickened cream full fat buttermilk, full fat sour cream or thick yoghurt (see notes)
- 1/4 cup+ (60ml+) milk of choice, only if truly needed
For the ‘egg’ wash:
- 2 teaspoons (10g) milk of choice
- 1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
To make the dough:
- Begin by freezing the butter for 10 minutes to make it easier to grate.
- Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
- Grate the butter on the largest hole size of your grater. Gently spread it out and return it to the freezer for 10-20 minutes. Freeze for 10 in winter or a cold kitchen and 20 in summer or in a hot kitchen.
- When the butter is ready, add the cream (or dairy of choice) to the flour mix and stir to combine. The dough should be shaggy with some wet spots and some dry spots. If needed, add the milk, 1 tablespoon at a time. Your ideal dough is 90% hydrated with just a few minor dry spots. It should look a little dry and shaggy and but feel mostly hydrated. If in doubt, stop adding milk – an overly hydrated scone is chewy and dense. You want the dough to be hydrated but without a drop more liquid than necessary.
- A handful at a time, incorporate the butter into the dough. Use a light touch and try to evenly disperse the butter chunks throughout the dough without breaking them down too much. Repeat until you have incorporated all the butter. The dough should just come together in a rectangle when you press it. There should be no dry bits of flour or too much hardship with bringing the dough into a ball. If there is, add a tablespoon of milk at a time until it just comes together. Cover and place the dough into the fridge for 30 minutes.
To laminate the dough:
- Flour a piece of baking paper with tapioca flour. Set down the rectangle of dough and flour the top lightly. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a long rectangle that is roughly 30cm long and 15-20cm wide.
- Take the top third of the dough, pick it up and fold it back onto the middle of the dough. Dust it off for excess flour. Now, take the bottom third of the dough and fold it up onto the middle of the dough. Press it down gently to secure. This is called a business letter fold.
- Pick up the dough and flour the baking paper. Turn the dough so that the skinny side of the rectangle faces upwards. Roll the dough out again, dust it off, and fold it up in the same way as above.
- For our final fold, we’re doing something a bit different. Roll the dough out and flip it over. The underside will be lumpy and bumpy – that’s fine. Dust off the excess flour, then use 1-2 teaspoons of milk to moisten the dough just very lightly. This will help our laminated biscuits hold together. Fold the dough in a business letter fold as you did previously, then place it back into the bowl, covered, and into the fridge for 15-20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200c or 400F.
To cut the biscuits:
- Remove the dough from the fridge and place it on a floured piece of baking paper. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to a rectangle about 2 inches tall. The biscuits don’t grow too much in the oven, so you need the dough to be tall now for a tall biscuit.
- Use a cutter or a sharp, non-serrated knife to cut the biscuits into 6-7 large biscuits. Place the biscuits into a 8-10 inch cake tin and into the freezer for 10-20 minutes, weather dependent.
To bake the biscuits:
- Retrieve the biscuits from the freezer and place them on a heavy baking tray. This will stop the bottoms of the biscuits from burning. Ensure your oven has had plenty of time to preheat and is nice and hot.
- Lightly brush the biscuits with the ‘egg’ wash, and place into the oven for 15-20 minutes. Check on the biscuits – if the tops are getting dark, it’s time to cover them. Very gently tent a piece of baking paper over the biscuits without touching them. Turn the oven down to 180C or 356F and bake for 20 more minutes or until the biscuits are cooked through.
- Remove from the oven and set the biscuits on a wire baking rack. These biscuits are best eaten on the day of baking with cream (lactose free, if need be) and jam. Leftovers store well in an airtight container and are best reheated with steam (in the microwave or in an oven with a small tin of boiling water).
1 American cup tapioca flour: 120g
- These biscuits work with 125-150g butter. You can experiment with what works for you. If you find that the biscuits are seeping a lot of butter, try the lesser 125g.
- The longer you can leave the biscuit dough to chill, the flakier your biscuits will be.
- I have tested full fat heavy/thickened cream, full fat buttermilk, full fat sour cream and full fat thick pot set yoghurt in these biscuits. Each required a slightly different amount of milk to finish achieve the right amount of moisture.
• You can use all buttermilk if you are using the buttermilk option. I needed 250g in my testing, but you might need more or less.