I have been baking biscuits a lot lately. One of my kitchen resolutions a year (or two?) ago was to overcome my fear of baking biscuits, and I think I have leaped over that hurdle nicely.
In fact, I’ve realised that because biscuits are so fast to make — whiz up all the ingredients in a food processor, or melt-and-mix them in a saucepan with a wooden spoon, before popping them in the oven for mere minutes — they’re well suited to mid-week after-work baking, done because the cupboard is bare and you can’t wait til the weekend to replenish it. Or because you know your weekend will be full of good weather and gardening work, and you won’t want to be inside in the kitchen at all. Or, just because.
The baking part of biscuits was my stumbling block in the past. With a cake, it’s easy to tell when it’s done, or when it needs an extra five or ten minutes safely. With a biscuit, there’s a big difference between ‘12-15 minutes’ (have you noticed that can be a standard biscuit baking time? or is it just my recipes?). Twelve can mean soft and cakey, 15 – heck, 13 – can mean short and crisp, or hard and crunchy.
Which are all desirable outcomes on the spectrum of biscuitness* but, well, sometimes the close proximity of those times flummoxes me. Especially when a biscuit may be soft and pillowy to the touch when straight from the oven, but once cool, sets hard and crisp. Trusting that transformation is something I am still getting used to. Sometimes I want a jaw-breaking ginger biscuit, but a matter of a minute less in the oven means I get a chewier version. As I said, that’s not always a bad outcome; I just need to adjust my expectations slightly.
I’ve made these two recipes a few times lately, and each time they’ve come out differently. And it’s not just due to the baking time, I’ve realised, but whether the eggs from mum’s chooks are small or large (I may use two super-small bantam eggs for one normal egg), how many walnuts I feel like, how much glace ginger I have left in the pantry, and whether I think ‘one teaspoon of golden syrup? Bah! That’s not worth having!’. Yep, maybe all these variations have a lot to do with it as well … I feel like each time batch is a mystery batch, but I am learning not to mind. All variations go well with a cup of tea, and that, I think, is all that matters.
*Ask people how they like their Anzac biscuits, and they’ll fall into two camps: chewy versus rock-hard. It’s an ongoing debate in Australia.
Wholemeal cocoa biscuits
Adapted from a great book of mum’s, ‘Australian Quick n Easy Muffins, cakes, biscuits, slices, loaves, scones’. I’ve made these cakey as well as short and dry, like a good shortbread.
- Prep a couple of baking trays and preheat oven to 190. Or 180, which is what I do sometimes.
- Gently melt 125 gms butter with 1/2 cup light brown sugar in a saucepan. Remove from heat when done and allow to cool a little.
- Using a wooden spoon, beat in 1 egg. Then sift and stir in ¾ cup plain flour, ¾ cup plain wholemeal flour, 1 ½ tbspns cocoa and 1 ½ tspns baking powder.
- Now the next measurement is imprecise, but the quantity of walnut pieces I have used has varied each time according to what’s in the pantry, what looks right on the day, and just what I feel like. So stir thru anywhere between ½ to 1 cup of walnut pieces. Sorry.
- Take walnut-sized spoonfuls, roll into balls and place on baking trays, flattening slightly. Bake biscuits for about 15 minutes. Cool on trays for a few minutes before transferring to racks to cool completely.
Adapted from the Women’s Weekly ‘Best Ever Collection’. These can turn out cakey or hard, though I have noticed they seem to get harder after a few days (no, not stale!).
- Prep a couple of baking trays.
- In a food processor, whiz up 2 cups plain flour, ½ tspn bicarb soda, 1 tspn ground cinnamon, 2 tspns ground ginger, 1 cup sugar and 125 gms cold butter.
- Add 1 egg, ½ tbspn golden syrup, and 1-2 tbspns chopped glace ginger, depending on your ginger preferences (and pantry supply!). Whiz til combined.
- Now turn out into a bowl and use your hands and give a couple of squeezes to bring the dough together.
- Take walnut-sized spoonfuls, roll into balls and place on baking trays, flattening slightly (fork indentations, as seen in the photo above, are purely decorative in that old-fashioned way). Fridge these for around 20 minutes or so while you do the washing up and tidy away the kitchen, and start preheating your oven to 180.
- Once the biscuits have chilled a bit and your oven is preheated, bake biscuits for about 20 minutes or until nicely golden brown. Cool on trays for a few minutes before transferring to racks to cool completely.