The buttery biscuit base in a cheesecake, slice and tarts is my favourite bit of the cake to be honest, but how can you achieve this when your diet is gluten, dairy or soy free?
There are 2 main parts to making the biscuit base :
- The biscuit which adds the bulk of the volume, the crumbly texture and some sweetness and
- The “buttery bit” which adds that fatty buttery taste and also binds it all together.
So if you’d like to make a biscuit base for a dessert slice, cheesecake or tart then try some of the following ideas:
- Commercial biscuits: This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t realise how many commercial options are available for the food sensitive nowadays. In the cheesecake episode I (Lisa) use Orgran Essential Fibre Rotondo biscuits, Anne uses Freedom Foods biscuits, basically there are so many options now you can find one which suits your needs be it gluten, dairy, soy, egg or nut free and or vegan friendly.
- Homemade biscuits: This too may seem obvious, but you can make your own free-from friendly biscuits and use those for the base. Our gluten and dairy-free vanilla shortbreads are quite yummy here (you can find the recipe in The Little Book of Allergy-Friendly Christmas Recipes 2nd Edition). My advice is to roll your biscuit dough out thin so the biscuits are crisp when they’re cooked. This will give a better texture in the base.
- Wholefood options: When it comes to whole food options you have 4 main options and they are: Nuts, Seeds, Grains and Homemade biscuits made from a combination of these.
- Nuts: in the Cheesecake Episode Hayley uses almonds instead of biscuits for her biscuit base. The nuts work a double purpose in the recipe by adding some fat as well as the body of the biscuit crumble.
- Seeds: in place of nuts, you could also grind seeds to a crumbly texture to use instead of biscuits or nuts. Because seeds also naturally contain fats, like nuts the fat will help to add to the texture of the resulting biscuit.
- Grains (including gluten containing grains or gluten-free grain alternatives): Many of the gluten-free grain alternatives are technically seeds, but for the purpose of alternatives, they’re used in most recipes as a grain replacement than as you would use a seed. In the Cheesecake Episode Glenys uses buckwheat groats in her biscuit base. Gluten free grains, and whole grains which contain gluten, are usually lower in fat than nuts and seeds are so you’ll need some extra moistness in the mix.
- Homemade biscuits made with the nuts, seeds, grain alternatives and other whole food options.
There are quite a few ways to achieve the buttery taste and texture in your alternative biscuit base they are:
- Commercial butter alternatives: These will taste the most like butter and margarine and include things like NuttelexTM which Anne uses in her baked cheesecake.
- Coconut oil: Coconut oil is the oil expressed from coconuts. Like butter it is usually a soft solid at room temperature, and also like butter, when heated or warmed it melts and becomes runnier in consistency. Unlike butter, coconut oil also adds a slight coconut flavour to the recipe as well, so it works well in desserts where it is combined with sweet flavours although coming up in Season 2 we’ll have some ideas for how it can be used in savoury recipes too. If you don’t like a coconut flavour, use a refined cooking coconut oil which is tasteless.
- Nuts & Seeds: Nuts and seeds are naturally high in fat and so by grinding the nut and or seed you naturally get that fatty taste and texture.
Binding it all together
Usually, the biscuit base is set when the melted butter and biscuit mix is put in the fridge to set (eg. the melted butter turns back into a soft solid), but here are a couple of options if butter is not suitable for your diet:
- Commercial butter alternative or coconut oil: The butter alternative and coconut oil will bind the biscuit base together just as butter does in traditional biscuit base recipes.
- Fruit : the stickiness of dried fruits like medjool dates or sultanas (like Glenys and Hayley use in their Cheesecake bases) can also be used to hold the base together. It also removes the need for adding extra fat when you’ve used nuts for example.
- You could of course omit the butter and just leave the biscuit base as a little crumble at the base of the cheesecake. This is delicious too! The choice is yours.
More flavours and combinations?
There are lots of ways you can create different flavours for your cheesecake recipes eg:
- Using different flavoured biscuits – like chocolate, or ginger for example.
- Using different nuts – eg like macadamia or hazelnut
- Using different fruit – eg like semi dried apricot
- Adding some spices – eg like Glenys does in her base eg cinnamon, Chinese five spice etc.
- Adding fruit zests – eg like I do in my base by adding lemon zest, you could add orange if that suits your diet.
There are so many ways you can combine some simple ingredients to create a biscuit base that suits your taste buds and your dietary needs.
If you’d like to get some great tasting dairy-free cheesecake recipes check out
The Little book of Allergy-Friendly Dessert Recipes.
Updated: March 2021