17 Dec 2013

gingerbread biscuits for a happy christmas

The biscuit baking journey has reached its ultimate destination:

Happy Christmas everyone!

This is my last post for the year. Thank you again for your support, humour, advice and comments throughout 2013; I am constantly amazed and inspired by the lovely people I have met thru blogging.

I wish you and your family the Christmas of your dreams (mine: a quiet one, with sunshine). Take care wherever you are in the world, enjoy your Christmas dinner, and remember: there's always room for desserts.

e XX

Gingerbread biscuits
Adapted from a Donna Hay recipe. How many biscuits this makes depends on the size and shape of the cutter you choose.
  • Cream 125 gms soft butter with 1/2 cup light brown sugar for about 8-10 minutes.
  • Add 150 gms golden syrup (I heated mine gently in the microwave to get it pourable).
  • Add 1 1/2 heaped tspns of both ground ginger and mixed spice, and a good pinch of ground cloves.
  • Now sift in and fold thru 2 1/2 cups plain flour and 1 tspn bicarb of soda. Get your hands in and squeeze together until it forms a dough.
  • What you do next depends on your dough (and, it seems, the weather). The first time I made this (the test run), the weather was warm and so the dough was soft and pliable, so I rolled the dough out to about 4 mm thick between two sheets of baking paper, then chilled overnight (or at least half an hour). The second time I made this, the day was colder, and the dough was harder and more tempermental, so I squeezed it as best I could, chilled it overnight to give it a chance to come together, then rolled it out the next day between two sheets of baking paper.
  • When ready, preheat your oven to 180.
  • Choose your favourite cookie cutter and stamp away, flouring the cutter between each biscuit to prevent sticking (especially if you are dealing with an intricate shape like reindeers' antlers. Whose bright idea was this? Reattachment may be necessary). Transfer the individual biscuits to a lined tray. Once you have cut as much as you can from the sheet of dough, you can either re-roll the scraps and start again, or roll the scraps into small balls and flatten slightly with a floured fork.
  • Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden, rotating the trays halfway thru. Once done, remove and cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Decorate if your skills run to that area (mine don't). 

4 Dec 2013

jam roly-poly biscuits

So on my biscuit-baking journey I have now discovered what I don't want: a soft biscuit. These lovely old fashioned jam roly-poly bikkies were too cake-like, which was most disappointing as the process of making them was so pleasurable and relaxing.

It may appear like a lot of pfaffing about in stages - make the dough, then chill the dough; roll out the dough and spread with jam, then chill the dough again; then finally slice the log of dough into pretty pinwheels before baking.

But in truth, all those stages fitted perfectly around my Saturday morning chores. So it became chill the dough, do the groceries; chill the dough again, mow the lawn; bake the biscuits, put the laundry away.

But as I said, soft and cakey. I'm still enjoying crisp and short, or yikes-was-that-a-bit-of-tooth-I-just-broke hard. So what to do?

I took them to my Tuesday night yoga class, where the container sat teasingly while we did gomukhasana and my classmates whispered 'I want a biscuit now!' (I said if they were careful about the crumbs, they wouldn't be caught out. No eating before class, you see, so certainly not during).

So maybe you like a soft and cakey biscuit, like my yoga classmates? Here you go then.

Jam roly-poly biscuits
From Miranda Gore Browne's 'Biscuit'.
  • In your food processor, combine 250 gms plain flour with 1/2 tspn baking powder and 125 gms sugar. Then add 125 gms butter (cut into chunks) and 1 tsp vanilla extract, and whiz up til it resembles breadcrumbs.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg and 1 egg yolk, then add this to your food processor (while running) until the dough balls together. Remove from food processor and knead together on a very lightly floured surface. Shape into a rectangle as best you can, then wrap with cling film and chill for an hour or so (or as long as it takes you to do your groceries).
  • Once chilling time is up, take the dough and roll out - this time between two sheets of baking paper. Try to keep it rectangular in shape, and roll it out til about 5mm thick (or until your arms get tired; I think mine was a bit thicker than this).
  • Now take your favourite jam (I used strawberry jam and loganberry jam; why not?) and spread it all over the dough. You don't want it too thick, otherwise it squirts out when you...
  • Carefully roll the dough into a log. Use the baking paper to help you - kind of push it away from you to get the roll going, then peel away the paper, back towards you. Breathe patiently.
  • Chill for an hour or so (or as long as it takes you to mow the front and back lawns).
  • Preheat your oven to 180 and prep some baking trays.
  • Unwrap the log and cut carefully into slices about 1 cm thick (it is trickiest at the ends; I cut these uneven bits off and just squashed them flat). 
  • Place slices on the trays with some space around them (they don't spread too much). Bake for about 15-20 minutes (the original recipe specified 10-15 minutes but mine needed longer) or until lightly golden and the underside is firm and cooked. Remove and stand for a few minutes before cooling on wire racks.