Day 31: The Battle of the Hausfraus

One of my colleagues told me today about a serious custom linked to this time of year.

Towards Christmas, housewives across Germany battle it out to produce the most applaudable Weihnachts Plätzchen (Christmas biscuits).  They each exchange biscuits with other women and compare their own to everyone else’s.  Reputations are rapidly destroyed or founded over the festive season.

As you can imagine, the competition is intense.  Rivalry is savage.  Reviews can be deadly.

Although I’m nowhere near as established here in Germany yet to even consider taking part in all of this, I thought I’d make my own small contribution by looking into what Mrs Beeton has to offer, biscuit-wise.

I initially thought of making mince pies (OK they’re not biscuits, but they sure are festive – and unknown here in Germany).  But when I saw the amount of prior preparation involved (…“press the whole {mincemeat}into a jar, carefully exclude the air, and the mincemeat will be ready for use in a fortnight”), I opted for something decidedly more convenient.

Lemon Biscuits

Seed Biscuits

Savoy Biscuits

(See recipe links below)

When I was younger, my mother used to subtly hint that I couldn’t bake biscuits to save my life (Mother: ”You can’t bake biscuits to save your life”).  Although I can cook pretty much anything else, successful biscuits in those days often eluded me.  I like to think that I’ve improved over the years, but sometimes it’s still a close call.

Lemon Biscuits: This was the quickest recipe of the 3.  25 minutes passed between getting the mixing bowl out of the drawer and putting the baked biscuits on the cooling rack.  Light, slightly crispy and tasty.

Seed Biscuits: This was also pretty fast.  They have a slighty savoury taste, with the taste of the caraway seeds coming almost as a surprise when you bite into them.  The dough was stiff enough to allow me to use some cutesy animal-shaped biscuit cutters.  If you can’t go a little crazy at Christmas, when can you?

Savoy Biscuits: Or, Savoy Disaster more like.  Before even starting on them, I knew the process wasn’t going to be so easy.  A lot of whisking is required – an automatic whisker would save a lot of trouble, but I decided to do it manually as I had quartered the quantities – not enough for a machine to do.  That was my second mistake (the first was attempting the recipe to begin with, given my track record).  Whisking the mix to a stiff, light froth is key – and I stunningly failed to do, as my arm got tired after 15 minutes of beating and I began to give up.  I then decided to cheat and put the mix (slop) into a small baking dish, as it was too runny to separate into individual biscuits.  I’ll cut it up later, I thought.  Only when it was in the oven did I realise my 3rd mistake – I hadn’t put the flour into the mix.  At that point I completely gave up and switched off the oven.

Sitting here now with some tea and biscuits, I have to say that I’m really quite happy with the first two recipes.  But as for the third – perhaps my mother was right.

Lemon Biscuit. Seed Biscuit and Savoy Biscuit Recipes: (Numbers 1743, 1749 and 1748 respectively)


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