Monday, 12 March 2012

Allspice - Grain Free Hot Cross Buns GF SCD


Used by the Mayan Indians to embalm their dead and by the Aztecs in their chocolate drinks, Allspice (Pimento dioica) was reportedly discovered by Christopher Columbus in the late 15th Century, when he was searching for new sources of pepper. Its botanical name is derived from the words pimenta (Portuguese) and pimienta (Spanish), which mean pepper
, due to its similarity in appearance to peppercorns. Allspice was so named because of its powerful aroma and flavour, which resembles cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon but with some peppery heat.

Allspice is the dried berry of the pimento tree, an evergreen indigenous to the West Indies, Central and South America. The green berries are harvested between July and September and change to purple and then brown as they are dried in the sun. Allspice is the only spice which, in the past, has been grown exclusively in the Western Hemisphere and two thirds of the world's supply is grown in Jamaica. Saplings which were taken to Ceylon and Singapore in the early 19th Century failed to flourish but it is now cultivated in parts of India and is quite a popular spice in North Indian cooking. 

Medicinal Uses

The healing qualities of allspice are derived mainly from the oil of the berries and the leaves and in particular from the phenylpropeneeugenol, found in its oil. Also present in cloves, this chemical has antiseptic, anaesthetic, analgesic and antioxidant properties. Consumed in the form of a tea as a tonic and used externally for the relief of aches and pains, this pungent spice and its leaves are also believed to help the following ailments :

  • colds and flu
  • toothache
  • rheumatism
  • arthritis
  • indigestion
  • neuralgia
  • nervous exhaustion
  • menstrual cramps
  • fatigue

Apparently, in the 19th Century, Russian soldiers used to keep their feet warm by sprinkling allspice in their boots! 

It is not advised to consume allspice during pregnancy and if you are breast feeding. I've also come across some references which suggest that allspice should not be consumed by people with Ulcerative Colitis, stomach ulcers and Crohn's Disease but it is on the SCD legal list and the recommendation for its use is here.

Nutritional Benefits

Allspice is a good source of :

  • calcium
  • manganese
  • vitamin C
  • iron
  • magnesium
  • potassium
  • copper

and contains traces of 

  • vitamin A
  • folate
  • vitamin B6
  • niacin
  • phosphorous

Cooking with Allspice

Allspice is used widely in Europe as an ingredient in sweet recipes and festive baking as well as in mulled wine. A main ingredient in the Carribean jerk seasoning, it is also added in the production of Benedictine and Chartreuse. Try a small amount on cooked or roasted root vegetables or with spinach and sprinkle a small amount into vegetable soups. Ideally, allspice should be ground just before it is used but we don't seem to be able to buy the whole spice easily in the UK. There are some pictures of the whole spice here, if you're curious and some cooking tips below :

  • allspice can inhibit the activity if yeast in amounts over ¼ teaspoon per cup of flour 
  • 6 allspice berries = ¼ - ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice = ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon +  ¼  teaspoon ground cloves +  ¼ teaspoon ground ginger + a little ground black pepper

Hot Cross Buns GF SCD

Grain Free Hot Cross Buns sliced

I tried several variations of the recipe below before I was satisfied, including using flax eggs instead of eggs. One flax egg is made by mixing 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds with 3 tablespoons of boiling water, whisk well with a fork and allow to cool. The texture was slightly chewier but we still enjoyed them. I also tried them without oil and there was only a small difference so you could try them without oil if you wish. Please bear in mind that grain-free breads will never have the same texture as those made with grains.

Even though the SCD legal list states that allspice is legal in cooking, you may wish to replace the allspice and cloves with cinnamon, mace or nutmeg and ginger or just reduce the amount in the recipe.

320g ground almonds
50-80g organic sultanas or other dried fruit
60ml honey (or other liquid sweetener - not for SCD)
2 eggs (or 2 flax eggs and 1 tblsp organic cider vinegar - not for SCD)
2 tblsps extra virgin olive oil
grated rind of 1 unwaxed lemon
grated rind of 1 unwaxed orange
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp mace (or nutmeg if you don't have mace)
¼ tsp ground ginger
⅛ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
large pinch of salt

Set the oven to 180°C. Measure the ground almonds, spices, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a bowl.

Dry Ingredients for Grain Free Hot Cross Buns

Whisk together with a balloon whisk. Add the sultanas or other dried fruit. Wash the lemon and orange, then had the zest to the bowl and mix together well. Choose unwaxed lemons and oranges if you can since it's very difficult to wash the wax off the fruit and choose organic if possible to avoid adding unwanted pesticides.

Whisk together the dry ingredients for Grain Free Hot Cross Buns

Whisk the eggs (or flax eggs), honey (or other sweetener) and extra virgin olive oil until light and fluffy, preferably with an electric hand whisk.

Wet Ingredients for Grain Free Hot Cross Buns

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well together with a spoon.

Mix the batter for Grain Free Hot Cross Buns

The mixture is quite sticky, don't be put off by this. Add a little more almond flour if you feel its too wet. I added an extra 10g just because I added a tiny bit too much honey. Wet your hands with a little cold water and roll the mixture quickly into six or eight balls, then place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.

Uncooked Grain Free Hot Cross Buns

Place into the oven, cook at 180°C for five minutes then turn the heat down to 150°C and cook for a further twenty to twenty-five minutes. Cover with some foil towards the end of the cooking time if they appear to be getting too brown. The buns are ready if they sound hollow when tapped underneath.

Baked Grain Free Hot Cross Buns

Leave to cool on a rack. They will have cracked a little. If you want to use a sharp knife before cooking and lightly cut a cross into the top, it might prevent some of the cracks. Earlier on in the week I made several batches of the buns using half the ingredients. I didn't use wet hands to roll them into a ball and I cut a faint cross in the top, this is how they turned out.

Grain Free Hot Cross Bun

Using the wet hands to roll the mixture made the buns very smooth. I made the version without eggs (not SCD legal) using half the mix and they turned out well. If you use this version, because the vinegar starts to work with the bicarbonate of soda as soon as it is mixed, work quickly to get them in the oven.

To make the marzipan crosses pour three or four tablespoons of ground almonds into a bowl and add honey (or other liquid sweetener) a teaspoon at a time to make a paste. If it is too sticky, just mix in a little more of the ground almonds. Roll out between two small sheets of baking parchment and cut a few strips.

Home made marzipan

Place two strips across each bun.

Place a marzipan cross on the Grain Free Hot Cross Bun

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  1. Great idea! These looks really tasty, I might have to work on a version of my own!

  2. Your Hot Cross Buns are so lovely. I enjoyed learning more about allspice and look forward to trying this recipe.

  3. I love the marzipan idea and I'll have to try to the wet hands trick next time I make my rolls! They're so lovely when they're smooth like that!

  4. Hello Vicky,

    Brilliant. These are gorgeous!

    Love how you incorporate nutritional info in there!

    Thanks for such a great recipe.


  5. Great post Vicky! I know you mentioned that allspice is used in Indian cooking - but oddly enough I haven't used it in mine! So after looking into this a little more I think it's because it's mostly used in meat based Indian foods which I really haven't had any of.

    Btw - kinda crazy that your recipe calls for "unwaxed" lemon. This is the first time I've seen that in a recipe but honestly think it should be in more. Don't think people realize and maybe subtle hints in a recipe will help bring awareness.

  6. Debbie - please let me know your recipe if you create one!

    Alea - thank you, the buns are very easy to make!

    Danielle - Thank you - I couldn't think of anything else other than pastry which might burn!

    Amber - thank you for popping over!

    Raj - Maybe you could try it in some of your wonderful dishes? Good point about the lemon! I just presume people do use an unwaxed lemon! Since I use the rind quite a bit maybe I'll talk about it sometime! I'll maybe add something in to this! Thank you!

  7. Vicki, these look terrific! Love the allspice addition, too. :-)


  8. Hi There Vicky,

    I made these tonight and yuuuuuummmm! These are so amazing. The flavors of fruit and berries complement each other so well (I had dried cranberries on hand and used those). I followed the recipe exactly and did add in 2 extra tablespoons of almond flour as you suggested. I'm glad you had that note in there about it being a wet batter, but not to worry. I was so excited when I saw these taking form in the oven! And the allspice - WOW! It rounds out the other flavors perfectly. I grind my own almonds and the recipe still worked great!

    We enjoyed these tonight with SCD split pea soup. Thanks for a great recipe Vicky!


  9. Shirley - thank you, the allspice definitely makes all the difference!

    Amber - So pleased you tried them - when I made them with half quantities they didn't need extra flour (and I made several batches!). Dried cranberries sound wonderful and I love split pea soup!

  10. I use allspice in my cooking all the time and this is very interesting information. Your Hot Cross Buns look awesome, great recipe! Hope you are having a great week end and thank you so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
    Happy St. Patrick's Day!
    Miz Helen

  11. Hi Vicky,

    Thank you for sharing this recipe with us this week on AFW! Be sure to check back next week for reader favorites and hostess picks. Have a great week!

    Be Well,
    --AFW Hostesses

  12. Your Hot Cross Buns look delicious. I like the idea of using marzipan for the crosses instead of bread dough! I enjoyed this post on Allspice and I must admit although I use it regularly, I learned a lot from your post. I was particularly interested in the part about more than a quarter teaspoon in a cup of flour inhibiting yeast performance. That is very good to know!

  13. Thank April! Yes, the bit about the yeast is interesting...apparently it's the oils in the spices and herbs - others you might like to watch out for are mustard, oregano, garlic, thyme, cloves and nutmeg. But not ginger, caraway and cardamom - some sources say they actually improve the activity! Maybe that is why they use so much cardamom in Scandinavian countries!

  14. Thank you for a great recipe!! I made a half batch with raisins and cranberries. I cut crosses deeply into the top of each bun and skipped the 'frosting', but put a bit of butter into each slit. They are really good and the cranberries almost look like blood. I think next time I'd cut each berry in half so they wouldn't pop when cooking.

  15. Hi! So pleased you tried them! They sound lovely with cranberries, I must try them!

  16. I have these in the oven now - our whole family has recently gone grain-free, I am dairy-free, and my daughter is allergic to eggs! Finding baking recipes that work is incredibly exciting in this house! Here's hoping these work well to satisfy the desire for hot cross buns this time of year. :)

    1. I hope they work too, I made them last year with flax eggs, try adding a little almond milk or other dairy free milk if the mixture seems a bit dry. Have a wonderful Easter!

  17. Have a batch of these in the oven right now but I subbed some of the almonds for gluten free self raising flour. Fingers crossed! If they work I will blog about them on my website and of course link back to your original recipe! Oh my, have just taken them out and they are amazing! Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. They look fabulous! Thank you for trying the recipe!

  18. I've posted on your facebook too but just wanted to say here how delicious these were! Thanks :-)

    1. Thank you Aimee and thank you for making me aware of your awesome blog, subscribed!!