Biscottea Gluten-free Earl Grey Tea, Chai, and Blueberry Tea Shortbread Review

April 17th, 2009 yum Posted in Biscottea, Cookies, Gluten Free Product Review, tea No Comments »

This week when I checked my mail I found a package of gluten-free cookie products from Biscottea, a company that was inspired by the absence of a good snack that went well with tea. Frankly I had forgotten all about them asking if I’d like to try one, and so it was a pleasant surprise.

They perfectly match my passion for tea and innovative gluten-free products. I love the fact that you get two in a neat package so that they don’t go stale after opening, unlike a whole bag of cookies. This is a fine example of a quality gluten-free gourmet baked good that doesn’t taste inferior to its gluten equivalent in any way. What I want to know is why they aren’t in every tea shop in the country- and why they haven’t been picked up by retailers like Starbucks or Peet’s coffee. The flavor of the shortbread is wonderful, and buttery without being cloying, unlike Pamela’s gluten-free shortbread cookies (yuck).

The Nibble picked them as a top pick, saying:
We have eaten many gluten-free cookies, feeling sorry for those with gluten allergies. They will be very happy to discover that Biscottea’s gluten-free cookies are almost as tasty as the regular wheat flour. They are a bit less sweet (we wish the sweetness were on par with the regular cookies), but the excellent tea flavors are virtually identical. Made with gluten-free all purpose flour and sorghum flour, they are a real find for anyone in need of a gluten-free treat. The gluten-free flavors include Blueberry, Chai, and Earl Grey.

For the record- I hate the Nibble’s review. The whole pitying thing- totally unnecessary. There might be some crummy prepared GF cookies out there, but there are also some delicious ones produced by Whole Foods Gf bakehouse and GF bakeries and the ones I make at home are awesome, so I don’t need anyone mourning MY loss, thank you very much. ;) That aside- I don’t know how sweet the gluten version is, but personally I prefer a cookie that isn’t super-sweet, and saying that they are ALMOST as tasty as gluten-free? Let’s not even go there, people. Nevertheless, I guess any publicity is good publicity, and I’m for anything that increases the gluten-free yummy options in my life!

That aside, whenever a company tries to produce gluten-free products alongside a gluten-line, I get a little worried. The allergen line on the cookie says “Made with Gluten-Free Ingredients: Produced on Shared Equipment, In a Facility using Nuts and Tree Nut Products.” I wondered what that meant- and what the equipment was shared WITH, since they didn’t say.

I emailed the company, and this is what they had to say:
All of the ingredients purchased to produce the shortbread are gluten-free and stored separately from products containing gluten. All equipment used in the baking process is thoroughly washed down and cleaned at the end of the work week. All gluten-free products are produced first at the beginning of the work week before the equipment has been exposed to any products containing gluten. Finished gluten-free product is fully packaged, specially marked, and stored separately before production of any products containing gluten can begin.To ensure the safety of our consumers who purchase BISCOTTEA gluten-free shortbread cookies, we send random samples from every batch. Test results are linked to the batch by lot number and batch code. Our products are released for sale with results of less than 5 parts per million. ” – correspondence from Derek Still of Biscottea.

Of course I prefer a dedicated facility, but if you’re going to have a shared facility, their precautions sounded good enough for me- at least until proved otherwise. So, I got up my courage and bit into my first gluten-free Biscottea…

earlgreytea2earlgreyteaBiscottea Earl Grey Tea Shortbread: I started with their intriguing Earl Grey Tea Shortbread cookie. This delightful shortbread cookie has great texture and crunch, with a mild buttery flavor that is beautifully complimented with the Earl Grey flavoring. You must like Earl Grey (and its bermagot flavoring) to enjoy this cookie, as it is thoroughly infused. I would almost call the flavoring “soapy” but again, it is the bermagot and not any fault of the product. I had one in the interest of taste-testing… and then I gobbled up the second one because I just couldn’t resist it. It is rare that I find a gluten-free packaged cookie that tempts me, or one that I feel that I would actually buy on my own, but these shortbread cookies are wonderful, and yes, I would actually buy them myself. In fact, I really want to know where I can buy more…
Texture: 9/10
Flavor: 9/10 (providing you like bermagot)
Overall Impression: 9/10 I will go out of my way to acquire more.

Purchase Gluten-Free Earl Grey Tea Shortbread Cookies with ShopOrganic
Amazon’s Page for Biscottea Gluten-Free Earl Grey Tea-Infused Shortbread Cookies

chaishortbread chaicookieBiscottea Gluten-Free Chai Shortbread:
The very next morning after I had the first Earl Grey GF shortbread, I opened a package of their Chai flavor. I had heard on Twitter that the chai tasted a bit like bean flour, so I was a little nervous. But, when I actually tasted it, I thought the shortbread was quite lovely and did indeed taste like Chai. I noticed that the chai spices did not include tea itself, so I was a little disappointed by that as I felt the black tea might have added an additional punch of flavor. However, I couldn’t personally detect bean flour- just cardamon. I gave the DH a bite and he said very happily that it was like eating Chai and didn’t taste gluten-free at all. This Chai shortbread was a real winner and thoroughly enjoyable, although it didn’t have the strong tea-infused flavor I fell in love with in the Earl Grey Shortbread. I loved that it didn’t overdo the cinnamon like some lower quality Chai blends. I could really taste the ginger and cardamon.It would be perfect for any lover of chai tea- and I found it an extremely pleasant snacking cookie that I might buy again- especially if I could get it in an assorted pack of gluten-free shortbreads. (Hint, hint…)
Texture: 9/10, everything a shortbread cookie should be
Flavor: 7/10- lovely but would be even lovelier with black tea as an ingredient!
Overall Impression: 8/10 Good and enjoyed by the non GF DH- I would possibly buy this again. If there was more of a tea flavor likelihood would go up even more..

Biscottea Gluten-free Chai Shortbread Cookies at Shop Organic
Biscottea Gluten-Free Chai Tea-Infused Shortbread Cookies on Amazon

blueberrycookie2 blueberrycookieBiscottea Gluten-Free Blueberry Tea Shortbread Cookie: This blueberry tea cookie was out of stock everywhere I checked, so it may be a popular variety. I never tend to drink fruity caffeinated teas (although I love Celestial Seasoning fruity herbal tea). I was intrigued by the fact that it was made with white tea, and greatly looking forward to trying this cookie, although sad that it would be my last sample of Biscottea. *sniff* When I bit into the shortbread, I could definitely taste the authentic blueberry flavoring. I’m very leery of artificial flavors and this cookie had a real, natural, concentrated blueberry flavor that I enjoyed. The cookie did somehow seem a little more dry than the other flavors, and try as I might I couldn’t detect any trace of the white tea used in the cookie. I ate the first one and enjoyed it, but the nicest part was when I bit into the second cookie and got a burst of blueberry essence. I could see enjoying this shortbread with white tea or some other nice tea, but I don’t know that I would buy it again just because to me it didn’t reach the same special gourmet flavor level that the other gluten-free, tea infused cookies achieved. But, maybe this is just the snob in me that doesn’t care for fruity caffeinated beverages… This shortbread may be perfect for those who love fruit flavors and aren’t looking for a strong tea flavor in the cookie.
Texture: 7/10, this pack may have been less fresh as the cookie was a bit dry.
Flavor: 6/10, good for those that enjoy fruit flavors in their cookies or tea, less interesting if you want a strong tea flavor.
Overall Impression: 6/10 A fine cookie, but I wouldn’t personally buy it again unless it was in a multi-flavor package…

Biscottea Gluten-free Blueberry Tea Shortbread Cookies at Shop Organic
(currently out of stock)
Biscottea Gluten-Free Blueberry Tea-Infused Shortbread Cookies on Amazon

If you haven’t had a gluten-free Biscottea with your tea yet- it’s high time to try it! Now, if you will excuse me, I’m going to go pine over my tea cabinet and try to wish myself another gluten-free Earl Grey shortbread cookie. *sigh*

Another Review of Biscottea at Gluten-free is Life

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Alternative Daring Baker Challenges: Gluten-Free Lemon Vanilla Tuiles with Vanilla Custard Recipe

January 29th, 2009 yum Posted in Cookies, Dairy, Daring Baker, Dessert, Valentine Day, Vanilla, custard 16 Comments »

This month’s challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

After last month’s exhausting and extraordinarily rich yule log recipe, I was really relieved that this month’s recipe was much simpler, and also lower in calorie. Our instructions were as follows:
- use one of the batters given to make a tuile
- shape it either prior (using a stencil) or right after baking and
- pair it with something light; fruit, sorbet, a mousse, or maybe even a fruit soup, think glazes or dips…..
-And finally, bend it, shape it, anyway you want it!

I loved the butterfly example that we were given to inspire us, and perhaps next time I’d make butterflies, but since Valentine’s Day is coming, I thought it would be fun to make heart shaped cookies. After all the chocolate last month, the idea of making them with delicate lemon and vanilla flavoring really appealed to me. And, when I started thinking of light sauces or creamy desserts, somehow vanilla custard called my name. Luckily I had a lot of beautiful whole vanilla beans thanks to a Costco find. The wonderful thing about working with fresh vanilla is that it makes the whole house, and your skin smell absolutely delicious. The cookies were quite easy to convert to gluten-free simply by subbing a gluten-free flour, and I didn’t even really feel the need to add xanthan gum. The only trouble I ran into is that after taking the whole (half batch) out of the oven, I was only able to shape about half of them as the rest cooled and hardened. Next time I’d probably cut the parchment paper so I could take half out and leave the rest in to stay warm. The stencil part was pretty easy and fun too- I caniballized half of a (huge) silicon baking sheet that I had to make my hearts. I’d always hated the baking sheet and found it way too big to work with. Now I still have a smaller baking sheet, if I want to use it, but I also have a sheet of cute heart stencils as well. Yay! And it didn’t cost a dime. For my shaping tools, I folded cardboard in half to make triangle shaped cooling racks. It worked fine, at least while the tuiles were still warm. I used some strawberry jam as a red fruit element for topping the custard- it wasn’t as smooth as I might have liked, but it was fun to play with.

The DH proclaimed the cookies a huge success. They were definitely easy enough to make again. I have lots of ideas for the future as far as flavoring goes, too. There is a scrumptious sounding savory option I’d love to try.. but for sweets, I think I’d enjoy trying to make lavendar-vanilla tuiles. Honey, almond, or anise flavorings would be lovely as well.

Unlike some Daring Baker Challenges, this is really one that is very doable and fun, and yields impressive results. I’d love to try making cone shaped tuiles, basket shapes, or even fortune cookie tuiles like some of my Daring Baker peers. I hope you’ll take the time and look at some of our other Daring Bakers’ creations- there are so many interesting, creative approaches to the challenge!

Check out my other completed Daring Baker Challenges:
GF Yule Log
GF Vegan Pizza
GF Eclairs
GF Danish
GF DF Cheesecake Pops
GF Vegan Party Cake

Vanilla Custard Recipe
2 cups low-fat (1%) milk
1 3-inch piece vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 large egg

Put milk in a heavy saucepan and add the seeds from your vanilla bean and then the whole bean. Heat but do not let come to a boil. Combine sugar and cornstarch in a bowl and whisk together until smooth. Whisk egg in and then begin adding hot milk, whisking it in slowly. When it is entirely added into the pan, pour it back into the pan and bring to a boil on the stove and let thicken. Chill and enjoy.
Gluten-Free Lemon Vanilla Tuile Recipe

Yields: 20 small hearts/6 large (hearts are just an example)
Preparation time batter 10 minutes, waiting time 30 minutes, baking time: 5-10 minutes per batch

65 grams / 1/4 cup / 2.3 ounces softened butter (not melted but soft)
60 grams / 1/2 cup / 2.1 ounces sifted confectioners sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar (7 grams or substitute with a dash of vanilla extract)
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
65 grams / 1/2 cup / 2.3 ounces sifted Gluten-free flour mix such as Bette Hagman’s Gourmet Blend*
1 tsp. lemon flavoring
Butter/spray to grease baking sheet

Oven: 180C / 350F

*Bette Hagmans Gourmet Blend, mixed in bulk:
3 cups white rice flour
1 cup potato starch
1/2 cup tapioca starch flour

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed) and cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Add the lemon flavoring. Be careful to not overmix.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter/spray and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil/cardboard template such as the heart. Press the stencil on the bakingsheet and use an off sided spatula to spread batter. Leave some room in between your shapes.

Bake butterflies in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from bakingsheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm, you might want to bake a small amount at a time or maybe put them in the oven to warm them up again. (Havent tried that). Or: place a bakingsheet toward the front of the warm oven, leaving the door half open. The warmth will keep the cookies malleable.

If you dont want to do stencil shapes, you might want to transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip. Pipe the desired shapes and bake. Shape immediately after baking using for instance a rolling pin, a broom handle, cups, cones.

This was a recipe taken from a book called The Chocolate Book, written by female Dutch Master chef Anglique Schmeinck.

To make my heart stencils, I traced a heart shape onto half of a silicon baking sheet (that I didn’t like) and cut them out.

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