Gluten free digestive biscuits are the lightly sweet, wheaty tasting British tea biscuits that are perfect with your afternoon cup. The chocolate’s on the bottom!
What are digestive biscuits?
The most famous “digestive biscuits” are the original tea biscuit made by McVitie’s. They’re super popular in the U.K., and were first made in the late 1800’s.
They were created, like graham crackers were in the U.S., to aid in digestion. I don’t think digestives or graham crackers are the thing you’re going to turn to when you’re looking for help digesting your food, but your mouth, your business.
What these are good for is as a companion for your afternoon tea, an after-school snack, or a late night nibble. The original biscuits are crispy and crunchy, and only lightly sweet. They’re used much like graham crackers, too, in making no bake crusts.
McVitie’s makes digestives, and something called Hobnobs. There are also other companies that make digestive biscuits, but I don’t know if anyone else makes Hobnobs. I’ve never had them, but I understand them to be like digestives but seem to be oaty and heartier.
McVitie’s makes a gluten free variety of Hobnobs, but I don’t think they make gluten free digestives, specifically. There are other companies, like Schar, that make a GF variety of digestives.
What makes digestive biscuits so good?
I’m including this question because it was one of the questions that popped up in the search engine when I was looking for information on McVitie’s. The answer snippet on the search page was really unsatisfying.
To American tastes, digestive biscuits may taste “only okay.” They’re lightly sweet, but their appeal is mostly in the texture, which is crispy and almost a bit mealy (in a good way!).
My American children (teenagers, all) are kind of split on how much they like these biscuits. One of my children shrugs and claims they taste “like nothing,” but he says that about a great many things. ?♀️
My other two children like their texture and lightly sweet taste a lot. Of course, the chocolate coating doesn’t hurt.
By the way, I feel obligated to clarify that the chocolate coating is actually the bottom of the biscuit, not the top. On the original store-bought kind, the name “Digestives” is printed on the top.
How to give gluten free baking that wheaty taste
Whenever I’m trying to give gluten free baking that chewy, hearty, wheaty taste, I also use two ingredients that I call my whole grain gluten free flour blend: 75% sweet white sorghum flour + 25% teff flour.
I never bake anything with just that blend, since I find it to be nearly impossible to work with whatever dough I use it in without the addition of a rice-based all purpose gluten free flour blend. In this recipe, just under half of the flour used in the recipe is made up of the whole grain blend.
If you don’t have sweet white sorghum flour, you can use an equal amount, by weight, of gluten free oat flour. It’s similarly hearty. I imagine that the taste, then, is probably closer to Hobnobs, but I’m American, so, you know…
Ingredients and substitutions
In place of dairy milk powder, you can use coconut milk powder for a dairy-free version. If you’re dairy-free, use an unsweetened non-dairy milk in place of cow’s milk. And replace the milk chocolate in the glaze with a dairy-free chocolate.
In place of butter, try using vegan butter. Melt brand and Miyoko’s Kitchen brand are my favorites. If you use a butter substitute, you may find that the biscuits spread more in the oven, since they will usually have at least some more moisture. Try chilling the cutout before placing them in the oven to reduce spread.
In place of cornstarch, you can use arrowroot powder or even potato starch. You need a tasteless, pure starch.
Sweet white sorghum flour
In place of sorghum flour, you can use gluten free oat flour in an equal amount by weight. It makes a slightly less crunchy biscuit.
Lyle’s golden syrup
Lyle’s is a mild tasting invert syrup. In its place, you can use light corn syrup, which has no taste, just sweetness. I don’t recommend using maple syrup (less sweet, different texture), or honey (right texture, stronger taste), but honey will work. It will just add some unwanted flavor.