This is an adaptation of my favourite 'shortbread squares' recipe, which comes from 'On Baking' by Sue Lawrence, to make it gluten-free. Instead of wheat flour and semolina, I used a gluten-free flour, ground rice and added a little xanthan gum. It's the shortbread part of the recipe which is so good - quick to make, as it uses melted butter, and very crisp and light after it's baked. Any type of filling can be used, such as mincemeat or re-hydrated and cooked dried apricots - just make sure it's not too wet; for this version I made the filling from dates flavoured with pomegranate molasses, cinnamon and a little rosewater.
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
3 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon rosewater
255g gluten-free plain flour
85g ground rice
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
170g butter (or hard vegetable fat such as Stork*)
85g caster sugar
*see note at end of post
Preheat the oven to 190C (170C fan)
Start by making the filling. Put all the ingredients into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Cover the pan, turn the heat to low, and simmer for a few minutes until the dates are soft. At this stage you can blend the filling until smooth, but I prefer to just mash the dates with a fork, to make a rough purée. You may also need to add a splash more water to make the purée easy to spread, if all the added liquid has been absorbed during cooking.
For the shortbread, mix the gluten-free flour, ground rice and xanthan gum in a bowl.
Warm the butter and sugar together in a small pan, until the sugar has dissolved, then pour onto the flour mixture. Stir well to combine thoroughly - the mixture will form a crumbly dough.
Put 2/3 of the dough into a 20cm (8") square shallow tin, lined with baking parchment, spread evenly and press down firmly.
Spoon over the date filling, spread evenly, leaving a small margin around the edges.
Use your hands to crumble the remaining shortbread mixture evenly over the dates to cover as much as possible, and press down lightly with the palm of your hand.
Bake for 30 minutes until pale golden in colour. Cut into squares (16) while still hot, but leave the squares to cool completely before trying to remove them from the tin, as they are fragile when warm.
My only criticism of these is that the added flavourings were a little too subtle - both the cinnamon and the rosewater could have been increased.
* Dairy-free: I made a second batch of these date shortbread squares which were dairy-free as well as gluten-free, using Stork vegetable fat instead of butter. The shortbread was a little more crumbly than when using butter, for some reason, and they didn't taste as rich, but the recipe was largely successful.