Christmas cookie swap: festive caraway and cinnamon biscuit recipe

Christmas Cookies - Ink Sugar Spice

This year I’m participating in the festive cookie swap run by the wonderful (and award winning) blog “Jul’s Kitchen“, and thanks to a Twitter invite by the lovely Lucy Antal. Juls has stated that 230 people worldwide have participated this year, from countries as diverse as Taiwan and Argentina. Bakers only have to swap with those in their own country though.

If you’d like to read Jul’s blog post for the 2019 challenge you can here, though it’s now too late to join up for 2019. Perhaps set yourself a reminder for early November 2020 your calendar to get involved next year? Jul’s Kitchen is a collaboration between Giulia Scarpaleggia, a Tuscany-based food writer, photographer and tutor and her partner Tommaso Galli, who runs the communication, marketing and assists with tutoring.

The premise is to share the festive love! Bake a couple of batches of biscuits and dispatch them across the country, and you’ll receive cookies back. What’s not to love?! Sharing, having an excuse to bake, feeling festive, giving and receiving gifts and connecting with others.

If you want to look out for what the 230 participating people have shared then search for the hashtags #cookieswap2019 #julskitchen

I was delighted to receive some gorgeous Lancashire tosset biscuits from Lucy Antal and some Calzoncelli biscuits (in a little jar, with a cute pot of lemon curd!) from Katlin Stevens. Thank you ladies!

Here’s my Christmas biscuit recipe that I’ve developed and used for this cookie swap. It produces a relatively dry biscuit, as they did need to get posted. So, this recipe is idea for gifting – through the post or wrapped beautifully and hand delivered with love.

Notes

  • Makes about 35
  • Instead of dusting with icing sugar, for extra luxe dip in melted chocolate to finish

Equipment

  • Saucepan
  • Large bowl
  • Two baking sheets, lined
  • Fine sieve
  • Wire cooling rack(s)
  • Wooden spoons, scales

Ingredients

  • 70g of olive oil – I used Filippo Berio’s Classico (your choice of oil to meet your taste preference, but anything from a mild to an extra virgin will work: anything more special/rich/highly flavoured will affect the taste too much)
  • 112g black treacle
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 345g plain flour, preferably tipo 00
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 80g soft brown sugar
  • 1 medium – large egg
  • zest of one orange
  • plus you may need 15-20ml milk (depending on the size of the egg you used and humidity/dryness of other ingredients)
  • Icing sugar to decorate

Method

  • Warm your oven to 190° C fan / 210° C conventional or 400° F and set the shelves to the middle of your oven
  • Prepare two baking sheets with greaseproof paper or baking parchment
  • Weigh the black treacle and the olive oil both out into the saucepan and then add in the caraway seeds
  • Warm the treacle and oil over a low heat, while stirring with a wooden spoon, until the treacle softens and you can stir the two together (they naturally do not want to combine until warmed). Do not turn the heat up or the treacle will bubble
  • Once mixed, turn off the heat – do not keep on the heat longer than necessary
  • Weigh out all the other ingredients into your mixing bowl: flour, baking powder, all three spices, cocoa, vanilla extract, orange zest, sugar and egg and roughly mix them together
  • Using a sieve over the mixing bowl, pour out the oil and treacle mix so that the caraway seeds are captured in the sieve. (They’ve flavoured the oil and treacle but are now not needed)
  • Mix all the ingredients together
  • You may need a little extra milk if your ingredients feel powdery and are not coming together (this is normally due to a smaller size egg, but other things like lack of humidity in your kitchen etc can effect this). Add 15 ml of milk at first, and see if that is enough. Add a little more in tiny increments until you are satisfied – the mix should be robust but clump together well
  • Take a walnut-sized amount of dough (if you wish to be more precise, 20g of dough is a perfect size) and roll it in your palms to make a rough ball
  • Slightly squash the dough ball, so it becomes more disc-shaped and place on the baking tray
  • These biscuits do not spread much, so you can place them about 1-2 cm apart
  • Bake in the middle of the oven for 12 minutes
  • Transfer to wire racks to cool and dust with icing sugar when completely cooled
Christmas Cookies - Ink Sugar Spice

Chocolate-hazelnut spread sandwich biscuits

Gorgeous and deceptively easy to make sandwich biscuits. I normally waffle on for ages before my recipes, but there’s little to say except go make these! They only take about 20 mins of actual preparation (ignoring the rest-in-the-fridge time and cooling) and bake even quicker.

Use any gianduja, Nutella or similar spread for this. It’s unlike me to not make everything from scratch, but I needed a quick show-stopper cookie and a jar of pre-made saved a lot of time.

Notes

  • These biscuits get a little extra ‘snap’ with the addition of semola/semolina flour (made from hard durum wheat). However, you can just use ALL plain flour instead (so use 270g plain flour) or you can substitute rice flour for the semola
  • I cut out the little shaped holes in the biscuits before baking, but I also re-cut them after they had just been baked (when still warm) to give a sharp definition as these biscuits do spread a little
  • If you don’t have a tiny cutter for the centres on the top halves, then you can use the large end of a piping nozzle.
  • Makes about 13-14 finalised sandwiches (about 26-28 actual single biscuit shapes)
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Equipment

  • 2 large baking sheets, prepared with baking parchment/greaseproof paper or silicon sheets
  • Rolling pin
  • Small palette knife (or use the back of a spoon) for spreading
  • Large palette knife or fish slice (for lifting)
  • Large biscuit/cookie cutter – mine is 2.5 cm x 7.5 cm (3 Inch x 1 Inch), but use what you have available
  • Smaller cutter for the middle cut-out (I used a small flower shape but any small cutter, approximately 1.5 cm in diameter will do, or substitute a piping nozzle)
  • Wire cooling rack

Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter – 200g
  • Caster sugar – 100g
  • Plain flour or Tipo 00 flour – 220g – plus extra for dusting
  • Fine semolina flour (semola) – 50g (see notes above: can use all plain flour or substitute rice flour)
  • Salt 1/2 tsp
  • Vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract – 1 tsp

Plus:

  • Choc-hazelnut spread (gianduja or Nutella or similar) – about 200 – 250g

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the biscuit dough together (all but the choc-hazelnut spread). Aim for a smooth dough but don’t overwork it
  2. You’ll need to dust both your work surface and your rolling pin quite liberally with flour for these biscuits (due to the high quality of butter in them)
  3. Roll out the dough to about 4mm thick and cut out the biscuit shapes with your cutter
  4. Make the biscuits in pairs: one solid biscuit and one biscuit with a little cut-out, using the smaller cutter (or piping nozzle tip)
  5. Re-roll any scraps (including those produced by little cutter) and cut out more shapes until you’ve used all your dough.
  6. You need to have an even number of biscuits to make the sandwiches, but don’t worry if there’s one rogue one, it can be eaten on its own or replace one that may have snapped!
  7. Make sure that for every complete biscuit there is a biscuit with a little shape stamped out
  8. Using the large spatula/fish slice gently place them on the prepared baking trays
  9. They will spread a little (especially if you miss out the next step of chilling) so leave some space between them
  10. Chill for 15 minutes, and while they’re chilling put your oven on – fan oven at 180˚C, or 200˚C conventional or 400˚F
  11. Bake in the bottom or centre of the oven for about 14 minutes. They should just be starting to brown at the edges
  12. Leave to cool for one minute – no more – and while they are still in the trays, use your small cutter to go over the cut-out shapes to sharpen them up. Leave tidying up these trimmed bits until the biscuits are fully cooled or you may risk denting the biscuits
  13. Leave to cool in the trays for a further 15 minutes and then transfer to the wire rack. Ensure they’re fully cooled before filling so they won’t melt the spread

To assemble

  1. Firstly, gently poke out any bits of biscuit within the cut-out areas to smarten them up
  2. Spread a thick layer of the chocolate-hazelnut spread over the bottom half biscuit (ie a biscuit with no hole in it) with a small palette knife or the back of a spoon
  3. Gently place one of the tops (a biscuit with a shape cut out) onto the biscuit base you’ve just covered
  4. Repeat for all of the biscuits and place on a baking tray or in any container and chill in your fridge for at least 10 minutes (this stops the spread melting into the biscuit and making it soggy, and helps with storage)
  5. You can keep them in the fridge, but they’ll also keep in an airtight container well providing it’s not in too warm an environment (otherwise the spread will start to melt)
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Mini Easter egg biscotti

Mini Easter egg biscotti biscuit recipe - Ink Sugar Spice

Biscotti, I’m sure you know means ‘twice baked’ in Italian, and that’s exactly what you have to do with these lovely little biscuits. They make wonderful gifts packaged up in waxed paper, placed in gift boxes or wrapped in raffia.

I’ve also given two options on the second cooking time, 7-8 minutes will produce a marginally softer end biscuit, as I know some don’t like the hardness of a traditional baked biscotti. However, if you do want that typical hard biscuit to dip into your cappuccino or mocha, then just leave them in for the full 12 minutes.

You could use large chocolate chunks, or something like M&Ms, instead of mini eggs for biscuits that will go down a treat at any time of year, not just Easter.

I’ve used a mild olive oil for these, so there’s no need to waste your expensive extra virgin oil (and also the taste of the higher quality oils aren’t needed here)

Notes

  • It doesn’t matter if you use sugar-coated mini eggs or just solid chocolate ones. Equally use your favourite chocolate, whether that’s milk or dark (white is a bit too sweet for this bake)
  • Makes around 30 biscotti
  • Takes 10 minutes to prepare and around 40 minutes to bake in total (this includes cooling for 10 minutes in between the bakes)
Mini Easter egg biscotti biscuit recipe - Ink Sugar Spice
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Equipment

  • Large bowl
  • Two large baking sheets (or multiple small ones/cook in batches)
  • Baking paper/parchment (if it’s not reliably non-stick, wipe a kitchen towel moistened with olive oil over it)
  • Sharp knife, a heavy one is most useful
  • Spatula/slices (for lifting)
  • Wire airing rack

Ingredients

  • Plain flour or Tipo 00 flour – 270g
  • Baking powder – 1 teaspoon
  • Salt – 1 teaspoon
  • Eggs, medium/large sized – 2
  • Caster sugar – 120g
  • Olive oil – 95ml
  • Vanilla extract – 1 teaspoon
  • Mini chocolate Easter eggs – 2 x typical 80g packs

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 160 C fan or 180 C conventional (325 F)
  2. Line your baking trays with the parchment
  3. Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, eggs, caster sugar, olive oil and vanilla extract and bring this gooey dough together in the bowl
  4. Now gently mix in the eggs
  5. Have your worktop/table covered in a light dusting of flour
  6. Take the mix out of the bowl and divide into two
  7. Shape each piece of dough into a long, slightly flattened log about 6cm in width
  8. You may want to press in a few additional eggs into the top of the dough, so they are seen after baking
  9. Bake for 20 mins until just starting to brown
  10. Take the bakes out of the oven, but do not turn your oven off
  11. Leave the bakes to cool, still sat on their baking trays
  12. After about 10-12 minutes they should be cool enough to slice
  13. Using a sharp knife, cut off 1 cm / 0.5 inch slices and lay them on their sides on the baking trays (like in the image below)
Mini Easter egg biscotti - on Ink Sugar Spice
  1. Place the sliced biscuits bake in the oven
  2. Leave them for 8 minutes for a shortbread-like consistency or for 12 minutes if you would like hard biscotti to dunk in your coffee
  3. Leave to cool and store in an airtight container for 3 – 4 days (up to a week if you baked them harder)
Mini Easter egg biscotti biscuit recipe - Ink Sugar Spice
Mini egg biscotti - Ink Sugar Spice
Ink Sugar Spice blog https://inksugarspice.wordpress.com/

Sticky crumble topped gingerbread

imageSearching for a gingerbread recipe can be a bit confusing – for a start gingerbread can be a rich loaf cake, a pain d’epices, or it can be a crisp biscuit for gingerbread houses or little iced biscuits (see my own recipe for Gingerbread foxes). This is neither! Inspired in part by Grassmere gingerbread (a Lakeland classic) this is a gooey, soft biscuit with a spiced crumble topping and perfect for a Christmas treat.

Notes

  • Makes about 22 triangular biscuits, but you can chop them into any shape.
  • This is a double bake recipe, that is you need to bake shortbread first, then use this shortbread as part of the main bake.
  • These make awesome foodie Christmas gifts.

Equipment

  • small saucepan
  • small baking tray (about 18 cm x 24 cm)
  • parchment/baking paper/silicon mat
  • large bowl and a smaller bowl or cup
  • scales, measuring spoons
  • wire cooking rack
  • wooden spoon

Ingredients for the shortbread base

  • Plain flour – 145 g
  • Ground almonds – 30 g
  • Caster sugar – 70 g
  • Unsalted butter at room temperature – 110g

Other ingredients

  • Light brown sugar or demerara – 70g
  • Ground ginger – 2 teaspoons
  • Ground cinnamon – 1 teaspoon
  • Golden syrup – 40 g
  • Treacle – 30 g
  • Unsalted butter – 50 g
  • Crystalised ginger – 55 g
  • Lemon zest – zest of half a lemon

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 °C fan / 200 °C conventional
  2. Place some greasproof or baking paper in your baking tray
  3. Crumble the ingredients for the shortbread together in a bowl, mixing it in with your fingers until you get fine sand
  4. No need to roll out the shortbread – you are going to bake this as crumbs
  5. Tip the crumbed shortbread dough onto your baking sheet and spread it out so it’s in one thin layer
  6. Bake for 13-14 minutes until it’s starting to go a nice golden brown
  7. Remove and leave to cool a little
  8. Do not turn off your oven
  9. Crumble the cooked shortbread back into the bowl – leave the baking tray with the greaseproof paper to one side as you will use it again (and there is no need to lay a new piece of paper down)
  10. To the bowl, add 1 teaspoon of ground ginger, 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and the light brown sugar
  11. Mix thoroughly and ensure there are no large pieces of shortbread
  12. Spoon out about 25% of this crumble and put it to one side in a separate small bowl or cup
  13. Into the remaining shortbread crumble mix (still in the bowl) add in another teaspoon of ginger and the zest of half a lemon
  14. Finely chop the crystalised ginger and add that to the bowl as well
  15. In a saucepan, melt the additional 50 g butter with the treacle and golden syrup
  16. When melted (don’t let it bubble or boil) tip this into the crumble mixture in the bowl and mix it all together
  17. Pour this mixture out onto the lined baking tray and press it down so that it makes an even layer
  18. Bake for 10 minutes
  19. Remove the tray from the oven, sprinkle the reamining crumble (that you kept aside) all over the gingerbread. Even it out with your fingers or a fork and then press the crumble down slightly into the gingerbread (with your fingers or the back of a spoon)
  20. Bake for a further 4 minutes
  21. Leave to cool and cut into triangles or squares

image

 

Honey, orange and hazelnut biscuits 🐝

IMG_0398 copy

I have been a bit behind this month with my website and social media, though this sort of break is good for your sanity. For the most part this hiatus is due to my working on some sets of illustrated gift tags and leather bee key fobs (those in the pic above), and that I have opened an Etsy shop (click on Shop in the menu above) to start to sell some of these items.

Listing on Etsy may not seem much, as it’s pretty much there to make selling easy and to hand hold sellers, but it’s a big deal for me. I’ve put off selling my illustrations and crafts for too long because I have a little problem with numbers, muddling them up sometimes and that has lead me to be terrified of anything financial. I can’t say for sure that it’s dyscalculia (the ‘number version’ of dyslexia) as I’ve been able to work round it I’ve not needed to seek a label for it. Some days I’m fine, others I get confused: for instance, I could give you my phone number 100% correctly on one day, but the next day you might get the numbers in all the wrong order from me. My worse thing is choosing between similar numbers, such as in lists, questions or when comparing prices.

I have read into dyscalulia a little, after eventually discovering that it is a ‘thing’ and recognising myself a little in it. It appears that it can be very bad, causing fundamental problems such as not even being able to work out which is the higher denomination between two numbers. Imagine not being able to tell if you’re handing over a few pounds or hundreds or even if you’re getting out of the right floor from an elevator? Of course, there are all shades of difficulty in between mild and such extremes. As little as I experience it, I get teased and giggled at, so it must be acutely embarrassing for those who have a worse experience. People don’t get teased for being dyslexic anymore, they get help and understanding, but I’ve never heard of anyone getting help with number difficulties.

What I’m driving at with all of this rambling about numbers is not just because I’ve finally ignored my terror of having to do a tax return is that this little recipe is in my maths comfort zone and includes some geometry.

You may remember my (still) very popular spiral marble cake ‘cake and maths‘ post some time ago in which I gave diagrams and instructions to create a very graphic cake?spiralcake4

I continue to need the use of geometry – it’s one of the few areas of maths learnt at school I regularly use. Despite my issues with numbers I did understand the concepts and formulas of maths. I managed a C in ‘O’ Level Maths because I was bright enough to understand it all yet I made some howling errors through writing things down incorrectly. I rely on geometric principles to create many of the images in my day job as a graphic designer and I use geometry to develop stencils and plans for my crafts and baking.

This little craft make is dead simple! And, if you really want ease, you can just make these biscuits with any cookie cutter shape if you’re not fussed with keeping to the honeycomb hexagons.

Notes

  • Makes 12+ biscuits depending on the size of your hexagon stencil
  • You don’t have to make hexagons, but they’re a lovely nod to the honeycomb shape as you’re using honey rather than processed sugar granules for these biscuits
  • Instead of dip-icing,  you can pipe and flood the icing if you prefer – this will produce a smoother finish but of course takes a lot longer
  • Monin syrup is usually found in the tea and coffee aisle in a supermarket or deli, as it’s traditionally a coffee flavouring, although I only use it for baking and for flavouring cocktails 🍸
  • To crank the icing up a notch, you could paint black stripes across the biscuits to mimic a bee’s colouration
  • You could use chopped hazelnuts, but I like the large chunks of hazelnuts that are kept if you roughly crush whole nuts for this

IMG_0402.JPG

Equipment for the hexagon stencil

  • Card
  • Pencil and compass
  • Craft knife
  • Ruler

How to form the hexagon stencil

hexagon

  • This is a great bit of simple and elegant geometry! You can construct a hexagon in any circle without measuring or changing the dimension of your compass point. And it works with any radius circle
  • Draw a circle with your compass, I’d suggest using a 3 cm radius (6cm total diameter) for these cookies – Figure 1
  • Without altering the compass, place the point on the circumference of the circle, absolutely anywhere (the compass point placement is represented by the green dot). Now, make an arc, intersecting the circumference at the two points the pencil crosses – Figure 2
  • Move the compass point to one of these intersecting points (again marked here by a green dot) and make another arc – Figure 3
  • Continue round until you have a six intersecting points (two will have ‘doubled up’) – Figures 4 and 5
  • Join up the six points using a ruler and pencil to create a hexagon – Figure 6
  • Cut out with a craft knife and the ruler

Equipment for the biscuits

  • Large bowl
  • Rolling pin
  • Sharp knife
  • Palette knife and/or cranked handle knife
  • Large baking tray, lined with parchment/greaseproof paper or 2 x smaller trays
  • Airing rack
  • Scales and measuring spoons
  • Citrus reamer
  • Small bowl (something low and with a wide circumference is ideal, as dipping biscuits into a small bowl is tricky)
  • Electric whisk, small balloon whisk or magic whisk

Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter – 120g
  • Honey – 3 tablespoons
  • Plain flour or 00 flour – 230g
  • Monin noisette syrup or vanilla extract – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Hazelnuts – 35g

Ingredients for the icing 

  • Orange juice – juice of one large orange
  • Icing sugar – 200g
  • Egg white powder – just under 1/2 teaspoon or 1 teaspoon of fresh egg white
  • A few drops of yellow food colouring
  • A few drops of warm water if needed

Method

  1. Crush the hazelnuts into rough pieces (a good way to do this is to roll the rolling pin back and forth over them)
  2. Put the oven on to 180 C fan / 200 C
  3. Prepare a large baking tray with baking parchment
  4. Rub the butter into the flour in the bowl until you have small particles and no lumps of butter
  5. Mix the rest of the ingredients in (honey, syrup/extract and nuts)
  6. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to about 8mm thick (about 3/8″) (you may need to lightly dust the rolling pin with a little flour too)
  7. Using your hexagon shape as a template cut out as many hexagons as you can and place them about 1 cm apart on the baking tray
  8. Re-roll the leftover dough to create as many hexagons as possible until all the dough is usedIMG_0389
  9. Bake for 12 minutes
  10. Leave to cool a little, then transfer to a wire rack using the palette knife until completely cooled IMG_0391
  11. When the biscuits are ready, mix up the icing ingredients. Sift the icing sugar into a bowl then add the lemon juice, egg white powder (or egg white), food colouring and water (if needed). Beat until it is smooth and totally lump-free. It needs to be a fairly thick but still fluid consistency, something like custard because you are dipping and the icing needs to cover the (probably) bumpy surface as the biscuits have nuts in them
  12. Dip each biscuit into the icing, and allow the icing to drip a little. Smooth off the side drips with a knife and place on a wire rack. Pop any bubbles in the icing with a toothpickIMG_0392
  13. Repeat with all the biscuits, after which you can go round the edges again to score off any drips
  14. Leave until the icing is solid, which will be at least 5-6 hours

IMG_0400 copy

Spelt shortbreads with streusel topping

SpeltBiccies2a

I love playing with different flours to change up the texture and quality of bakes that are traditionally made with wheat flour. Some flours will dramatically change the texture, crumb and consistency of a bake, but I’ve found spelt can be a direct replacement in my kitchen with very little change. The spelt flour looks slightly darker and heavier than white wheat flour, but this perception is slightly misleading.

What I’ve found is that spelt is thirstier than wheat; by that I mean it takes up more water in comparison to the same amount of white flour. This seems to be at odds with everything that I’ve read about spelt, suggesting it ought to be the opposite (that is, needs less liquid) – perhaps it’s the type of bakes that I’ve used it in. So, I’d just suggest that if you are converting recipes to spelt please bear in mind that the ratio of liquids to flour will need to be played around with to get it right, whether that’s more or less liquid.

Spelt may look heavy but it’s certainly not: it produces fluffy light bakes with a warmer, nuttier flavour and a slightly darker colour. I think it makes nice breads and is perfect for richer cakes like loaf cakes or traybakes but this is very personal – some people like spelt cakes but not bread or vice versa, or as I do just like it in anything.

It’s now very easy to get hold of spelt flours (white or wholegrain) now. I like the 100% British spelt from Craggs & Co, who are farmers based in the North East of England (this isn’t an advert, it’s just I love the quality of this flour). The spelt flakes I used in this recipe are also from here.

Notes

  • You can make these biscuits as normal rounds, but they are also nice as rings as I’ve done in some images
  • If you are making ring biscuits and don’t have a small cutter for the centre holes, a good hack is using the large end of a piping nozzle!
  • Makes about 20 – 24 (depending whether you cut out the holes or not)
  • You can get spelt flour in supermarkets, delis, health food shops and online easily
  • If you cannot get spelt flakes, then wheat or oat flakes can be substituted (but are less nutty and don’t match quite as well)

SpeltBiccies2b.jpg

Equipment

  • 2 large baking sheets, prepared with baking parchment or silicon sheets
  • Rolling pin
  • Palette knife
  • Large round cutter – about 6cm
  • Smaller cutter for the middle cut-out (something 1 – 2cm in diameter will do) if using
  • Large bowl and a small bowl
  • Pastry cutter (ideal but not necessary)

Ingredients – biscuits

  • Unsalted butter at room temperature – 170g
  • Caster sugar – 100g
  • White spelt flour – 250g
  • Salt 1/2 tsp
  • Vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract – 1 tsp
  • Milk – 20ml
  • Extra flour for dusting

Ingredients – streusel

  • Spelt flakes (or malted wheat flakes) – 4 tablespoons
  • Chopped mixed nuts – 4 tablespoons
  • Granulated sugar – 2 tablespoons
  • Ground cinnamon – 1 tablespoon
  • Unsalted butter, softened a little – 1 tablespoon

Method

  1. Put your oven on to 180˚C fan, or 200˚C conventional
  2. Weigh out the butter and flour in the large bowl and either cut the butter into the flour using your pastry cutter or rub it in using your fingers (or you could use a food processor)
  3. Mix the rest of the biscuit dough ingredients into the butter and flour. Aim for a smooth dough but don’t overwork it
  4. Rest the dough for 10 -15 minutes in the fridge, wrapped in cling film or in a food bag
  5. When the dough is rested, dust both your work surface and your rolling pin fairly liberally with flour (there is a lot of butter in these biscuits and they may well stick otherwise)
  6. Roll out the dough to about 3-4mm thick and cut out as many rounds with the large cutter as you can. Then, if making rings, cut out a hole in the middle of each (you can re-roll these centre pieces of dough to make more biscuits)
  7. Mix the streusel ingredients lightly together in a bowl
  8. Put a teaspoon of the streusel mix on the top of each biscuit and spread it to the edges with the tip of a spoon. If you find this easier you can tip the streusel mix onto your worktop and then press the biscuits into the streusel, but be careful not to disfigure the shape of the biscuit by pressing too hard – I used the teaspoon technique on the round biscuits in my photos and the pressing technique on the ring versions
    SpeltBiccies2c-beforebaking.jpg
  9. Repeat with the rest of the biscuits, placing them gently on the prepared baking trays with at least 1cm gap between them
  10. If some of the biscuits look a bit bare in places you can sprinkle what’s left of the streusel over them before they go in the oven
  11. Bake for around 14 minutes in the middle of the oven
  12. As soon as the biscuits are out of the oven, lightly press the streusel down on the biscuits with the back of a spoon (to stop it from flaking off when eating)
  13. Leave to cool fully

SpeltStreuselShortbreads1

Twisted olive oil biscuits with orange juice – biscotti torcetti con arancia e olio d’oliva

image1.JPGThese lovely biscuits have a crunchy exterior and a soft middle. They are softly flavoured throughout with orange, including the drizzled icing. The fine quality of the Tipo 00 flour gives the crust extra bite.

I am delighted that Filippo Berio has seen fit to include my recipe on their website.

Notes

  • Makes 10 large or 20 small biscuits
  • If you cannot get hold of Tipo 00 flour, the finest quality plain flour will be a good substitute. Do not use self raising flour

Equipment

  • Large bowl and a small bowl
  • Knife, orange juicer/reamer, teaspoon or honey drizzler
  • Baking sheet
  • Wire cooling rack
  • Small measuring jug
  • Rolling pin
  • Baking parchment / greaseproof paper

Ingredients

  • Tipo 00 flour – 250g (plus a little extra for dusting)
  • Caster sugar – 70g
  • Baking powder – 1 teaspoon
  • Extra virgin olive oil – 50ml
  • Fine salt – a pinch
  • Orange juice – 90ml (from two oranges or carton orange juice)
  • Zest of 1 orange

For the icing

  • Icing sugar – 120g
  • Orange juice – 27-28ml*

* you can substitute half of the orange juice for the icing with either Triple Sec or Grang Marnier liqueur

Method

  1. Turn your oven on to 180°C / 200°C
  2. Line your baking sheet and leave to one side
  3. In your bowl, measure out the flour, baking powder, caster sugar, salt, zest and mix together
  4. Squeeze out your orange juice and measure to the 90ml mark
  5. Working quickly (as the orange juice will activate the baking powder), mix the orange juice and the olive oil into the flour mixture and turn out onto a lightly floured work surface
  6. Roll out the dough to a rectangle that is about 6-7mm thick and around 15cm x 26cm in shape (about 3/8″ thick, by 6″ x 10″). The dough will be very maliable for a biscuit dough (it’s quite fun to use!)
  7. Cut thin strips about 6-7mm across (so their cross section is square)
  8. Take two strips and twist them around each other. The intertwined biscuit will be about 15cm (6″) long
  9. If you want small biscuits you can cut the biscuit in half now
  10. Place the biscuit on the prepared baking tray and repeat with the remaining strips to make more biscuits, adding them to the tray as well
  11. These biscuits puff up slightly, so leave a 2 cm (1″)  gap between them
  12. If you are left with a single strip of dough, then cut this in half and make one half-sized biscuit
  13. Place the tray towards the bottom of the oven and bake for 12-14 minutes: the biscuits will be nicely browned
  14. Bring out and cool in the baking tray for a few minutes and then transfer to a wire rack
  15. When the biscuits are fully cooled, you can make the icing
  16. Weigh out the icing sugar in the small bowl and add the orange juice (or orange juice and liqueur mix)
  17. Mix together thoroughly, and check it is the right consistency: it should run off a spoon in a ribbon after about half a second. If it is too wet, add a little more icing sugar. If it feels too dry (it doesn’t drip) then add a very small amount of additional orange juice
  18. Put the rack with the cooled biscuits back over the baking tray, so it catches any drips of icing
  19. Using a teaspoon or a honey drizzler (I find this very good at this job!) drizzle the icing back and forth over the biscuits until they have roughly the same amount of icing
  20. Leave to dry for an hour or two
  21. These biscuits don’t last as long as butter biscuits, as they are quite soft, but will keep for 5-6 days in an airtight container

Sicillian-style lemon amaretti

lemon_amarettiThese amaretti are halfway between the hard little amaretti you get with a coffee after dinner and a macaron. They are crisp at the edges and soft in the middle.

There’s a rich almond flavour as you’d expect but I have also spiked these with amaretto liqueur and lemon zest.

The ingredients and consistency are similar to some of the method for macarons, but the handling and baking are different. For instance, no having to create little ‘feet’.

Notes

If you don’t want to add the amaretto liqueur, add instead 1 teaspoon of a good vanilla extract (not essence) and 1 teaspoon of milk. This will avoid the alcohol but still give the right viscosity for the mix.

Tips for ensuring the amaretti – or other bakes – don’t stick:

  • If you have any rice paper this can be used
  • Lightly oil a scrunched-up paper kitchen towel, then rub this over the baking paper (so there is only a thin covering), followed by a sprinkling of flour

Makes about 25

Equipment

  • Blender or food processor
  • Two large bowls
  • Balloon whisk, hand mixer or stand mixer
  • Baking tray, lined with baking parchment or a silicon mat (be warned: these are very sticky so you need good quality baking paper)
  • Piping bag and large round nozzle (optional)
  • Large metal spoon or spatula
  • Wire rack, spatula or fish slice

Ingredients

  • Ground almonds – 150g
  • Caster sugar – 125g
  • Plain flour (or rice flour to be gluten free) – 2  tablespoons
  • Salt – a pinch
  • Amaretto – 1 tablespoons
  • Egg whites – 2 large
  • Zest of a lemon (a lovely, large unwaxed Sicilian lemon if you can get hold of one)
  • Squeeze of lemon juice (about 1 – 2 teaspoons)
  • Plus – a sprinkling of icing sugar

Method

    Warm the oven to 150C fan / 170C conventional (this is unusually low for biscuits, but it is needed)

  1. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the caster sugar for the meringue
  2. Put the almonds, (the remainder of the) caster sugar, salt and flour in the blender or food processor and pulse until very fine. This may seem excessive if you are starting with ground almonds, but it gives a much smoother surface that these amaretti call for
  3. Whip the egg whites into stiff peaks, adding in the tablespoon of caster sugar you put to one side at the end, and a quick squeeze of lemon. Then mix it all through
  4. Tip the ground-up, dry ingredients into a large bowl and take about a third of the meringue and fold it in. Use a small amount of meringue to start with to ‘loosen’ the mix and make it easier as a whole
  5. Take another third of the meringue and now more carefully fold the meringue into the mix. It’s best to use a large metal spoon, or failing that, a good flexible spatula and use a figure of eight movement. You’re aiming to keep ‘fluffiness’ from the meringue whilst mixing it all thoroughly. This is a balancing act and you will end up knocking quite a lot of air out but the trick is limiting this as much as possible and making sure there are no lumps of meringue or dry mix lurking. This is the same process for any mix that uses separately whipped egg whites, such as macarons, a Japonaise or Dacquoise, for example
  6. When it’s all incorporated fully up to now, add in the remaining meringue and add the amaretto (or the vanilla and milk) and the lemon zest and again swirl in
  7. If you want to, you can now transfer the mix to a piping bag with a large nozzle and pipe rounds of the mix onto the prepared baking trays. Alternatively, you can just use a spoon to put rounds of mix on to the tray
  8. Place the tray(s) in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes
  9. The edges will start to go a golden colour when ready (don’t panic and think this is far too long for biscuits: because of the gentler-than-normal oven temperature these do need at least 25 minutes)
  10. Leave to cool a little in the tray (they will bend and squash if you remove too early) then transfer with a fish slice or spatula to a wire rack to fully cool

Praline flavour soft cookies

caramelcookies

I’ve been tinkering with these biscuits for a couple of weeks – I think now I have this recipe just about as good as it can get. My twin lads now basically hover in the kitchen waiting for a batch to be just cooled enough to eat. So I’m thinking that might be a good endorsement!

Notes

Makes about 22 – 24 biscuits, each about 5 cm diameter.

Chill the biscuits before you bake them to ensure they stay thick and slightly crunchy. If you pop them in the oven straight after making they will flatten, giving you a very different biscuit altogether (still highly edible but thin and crisper).

I have made these biscuits with a proprietary gluten free flour – they need about a minute more in the oven, but came out otherwise roughly the same.

Please do make these with the sugars listed below – demerara/soft brown and golden caster. I do believe that the browner sugars have a slightly nuttier taste, because there is just a little of the molasses left in the sugars – or I have read actually added back in to some white sugars after it is initially extracted/centrifuged out. Is it me or does that sound insane (and how do I find out which brown sugar this is?)?  This nuttier taste then adds significantly to the caramel-ly flavour of the finished biscuits.

Also, it’s not just the flavour – the two different sized sugar crystals (demerara being larger and more boxy) provide different profiles to the bake. The soft brown sugar will melt quicker – if you used all of this smaller granulated sugar the biscuits would be smoother and well, more ‘biscuity’ rather than like a proper soft cookie. If you don’t have these sugars you can substitute demerara for granulated and soft brown for normal caster; well… if you have to.

Purchase the caramel syrup in the coffee aisle in a supermarket. You know the ones that they add into coffee to flavour it? I have used both Monin and Vedrenne makes for this (I ran out of one after a first test then only found the other to purchase). I can’t tell the difference between them.

Equipment

  • 2 large baking trays (or cook in two batches if you only have one)
  • A third, smaller baking tray or ceramic oven proof dish
  • Bowl
  • Small ice cream scoop if you have one (this ensures the biscuit dough is the same size for every one)
  • Baking parchment/greaseproof paper
  • Wooden spoon (no mixer is needed for this recipe)

Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter at room temperature – 120g
  • Demerara or soft brown sugar – 100g
  • Golden caster sugar – 50g
  • Egg, medium – 1
  • Ground almonds – 30g
  • Plain (or gluten free) flour – 150g
  • Baking powder – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Hazelnuts, roughly chopped – 70g
  • White chocolate drops – 60g
  • Salt – a pinch
  • Caramel syrup – 1 1/4 teaspoons

Method

  1. Put the oven on to 120C fan, about 140C for a conventional oven
  2. Pour the hazelnuts onto the smaller tray/dish and bake in the oven for about 10 minutes gently until they start to turn a light toasty brown (don’t let them burn)
  3. Remove and leave to cool
  4. When the nuts are cool, roughly chop them
  5. Line the two baking trays
  6. Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl (as best as you can – the larger particle sugar will stop you getting as creamy a consistency as you would with just caster)
  7. Mix in the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, salt, caramel and egg
  8. Add in the nuts and white chocolate drops and mix gently until they are distributed evenly throughout
  9. Make about 24 small balls with the dough using the small ice cream scoop, or use a tablespoon measure, and place with at least a 2cm gap between them on the trays
  10. Flatten them very slightly
  11. Refrigerate for 15 minutes
  12. Preheat your oven to 180C fan/ 190C conventional
  13. Put in the oven for 12 -14 minutes
  14. They are done when they are just about to go golden brown at the edges. They will be slightly soft, but do check they are not underdone in the middle (if a biscuit looks a bit translucent in the middle it still needs a couple more minutes baking). They will firm up a little more as they cool
  15. Let them cool on the tray – if you lift them onto a wire rack while they are warm you risk breaking them