Posts Tagged ‘Biscuits’

Hard Biscuits, the Easy Way

March 26, 2010

This is one of the simplest cracker recipes I’ve ever come across.

Not that I guessed they were crackers at first – I had to read the recipe and instructions a couple of times before I realised that’s what they are. Yippee.  I love crackers!

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INGREDIENTS – To every lb. of flour allow 2 oz. of butter, about 1/2 pint of skimmed milk.

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Although, I’m pretty sure Mrs Beeton never tested this recipe herself, if her line ‘ the above is the proportion of milk which we think would convert the flour into a stiff paste’ is anything to go by (my italics).

This really is one of the most delightful doughs I’ve ever worked with, so to speak.  The liquid and dry quantities were absolutely perfect, resulting in a smooth, silky dough that rolled out just beautifully.  Using the head of a small glass jar to form circles, I managed to get 85 biscuits out of just half this quantity of dough.

A word of warning, though, which the recipe instructions don’t mention – prick each biscuit before you bake it, if you don’t want to end up with bubbly-looking discs.  Unless, of course, you’re into that sort of thing.  I’m a firm believer in the ‘a rose by any other name’ maxim, and I left my UFO-style biscuits in their original air-bubbled state.

It’s a blessing to have a recipe not overloaded with salt and butter (the latter of which Mrs Beeton can sometimes be heavily guilty of, in my opinion!)

Regarding cooking times – I found that the 6-10 minute guideline wasn’t enough.  I tried it on 170 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes, then upped it to 200 degrees Celsius for the next batch, and gave it 12 minutes in the oven. A generous 12 minutes, let’s say.

These biscuits are fairly plain in flavour – in fact rather attention-shy – but I guess that’s the point – they’re designed to carry a topping, not stand out in their own right.  In a world where we’ve been conditioned to expect crackers to be full of salt, preservatives and ‘flavourings’, I think it’s good to be reminded sometimes that plain is just as important as fancy.

Simple Hard Biscuits (Recipe 175): http://www.mrsbeeton.com/35-chapter35.html#1750

Rice Mice

March 15, 2010

They are rather cute.

With the working week looming ahead, I always like to have a nice little stockpile of biscuits for us to nibble on throughout the week.

I’ve come across several references to ‘rice flour’ in Household Management.  It’s not something I can remember using before, so this time, instead of waiting until a particular recipe called for it, I decided to be a little smarter and buy this ingredient ahead of time.  I had a bit of trouble finding it at first, until I happened across the ”Gluten free” section of the local health food store.

Luckily, this purchase coincided with the biscuit-baking urge, so I scanned through the recipes to find something that would happily unite the two.

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Rice Biscuits or Cakes:  INGREDIENTS – To every 1/2 lb. of rice-flour allow 1/4 lb. of pounded lump sugar, 1/4 lb. of butter, 2 eggs

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I eat a lot of rice cakes, but I could tell as soon as I looked at the list of ingredients that Mrs Beeton was referring to something different.

As there are only two of us (excluding our ever-scavenging cats), I halved the quantities and fetched a biscuit (or “cookie”, as my boyfriend calls them) cutter from the kitchen drawer.

The first ingredient I noticed was the butter.  Butter.  Butter.  And more butter.  Everything I’m making out of Household Management these days seems to demand a seemingly large quantity of butter!

Whether it was all the butter, or the rice flour itself (and to be fair, I think it was the rice flour), the dough was extremely delicate to work with.  It fell apart at the slightest provocation, meaning that it took twice longer than usual to get it into the oven.  Quite a lot of extra flour was also needed to keep the dough from sticking to the bench or the rolling pin.

Despite halving the quantity, I made approximately 30 biscuits, despite the recipe suggesting I’d get 9 or so from this amount of dough.

Mrs Beeton says to cook the biscuits in a ”slow oven” – by the third batch, I estimated this to be approximately 150 degrees Celsius (I slightly overcooked the first batch at 180 degrees, and the second at 170 degrees).

The outcome is a light, delicate biscuit, greatly enhanced by a cup of tea or coffee to go with it.

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Rice Biscuits or Cakes (Recipe 1746): http://www.mrsbeeton.com/35-chapter35.html#1746

Fat Coconut Ballerinas

March 5, 2010

“See.  Look what happens when you don’t listen to me?  Haven’t you learned yet that I’m always right?”

“Hadeha.  Not all the time.”

“Well, most of the time then.  Foolish girl.  Don’t you ever learn?”

This was followed by smug little tut-tuts and a playfully self-satisfied grin.  Had he not been helping with dinner, I would have booted him out of the kitchen.

This foreseen little boast-fest took place over a tray of slightly flattened coconut macaroons.  Only slightly flattened.  During the baking process, some of the egg and sugar liquid seemed to have migrated southwards.  The overall effect was of a sea of plump little coconut ballerinas with tutus way too big and fluffy for their diminutive frames.  But cute all the same.

The run up to the above went something like this:

Me: “What can I bake tonight?  (as I flicked through Household Management).  Maybe I could try out these Cocoa-Nut Biscuits in Mrs Beeton.”

Him:  “What’s in them?  Anything good?”

Me:  “Well, there’s 10 ounces of sifted sugar…”

Him:  “That’s good!”

Me:   “…3 eggs…”

Him:  “OK…”

Me:  “…and six ounces of cocoa-nut.  What’s sifted sugar?  Is that powdered sugar?  Anyway, I guess I can make it from raw sugar.  I’ll get the rolling pin. ”

Him  “Are you insane?  It’ll never work.  They won’t stick together.”

Me:   “Of course they will.  Trust me.”

Him:  “I’m telling you, you’re wrong!  And I’m not even going to help you.  It’ll be too embarrassing for you when you see I’m right.”

Me:  “Oh please just shut up and let’s give it a try.”

First of all I tried putting the sugar in a bag, figuring that I could roll it cleanly without making a mess.  Unfortunately, a hole soon formed, so I tipped the sugar onto a baking sheet and rolled it on that instead.  Despite the smug tutting in the background, it did actually work – to an extent.

In the meantime, I had my boyfriend take turns with me to whip up the egg (we divided all ingredients by 3 and made just a third of the stated quantity), then add the sugar and lastly coconut.

As I rolled them into little pyramids, he was still clucking away about the sugar.  “It’ll never work. You even added extra coconut, I saw you!” (OK it’s true – I did add an extra tablespoon or two to make the mix stiffer). “I told you so!”

Well.  In 15 minutes, I had myself some delightful, sturdy little pyramids.  Somewhat squishily plump and unevenly brown, I grant you, but passable enough all the same.

As he shoved one into his mouth, he managed to utter a faint “Well…” which I hastily interpreted to be a humble, partial admission of error.  Not that I could get him to admit it, of course.

“Hey,” I wondered aloud as I re-read the recipe later on.  “Cocoa-nut.  Coconut.  I guess cocoa-nut is the old spelling for coconut?”

“Um, are you sure that’s what she meant?  What’s chocolate made out of?”

“Cocoa beans… cocoa nuts?”

“So were you supposed to make them out of cocoa powder?”

Gulp.

On reflection, I think my interpretation was correct.  But I’m going to do some research before I go making any claims out loud – otherwise, he’ll undoubtedly hold it over me for future teasing if I’m wrong.

Either way, these coconut (or cocoa-nut) biscuits are pretty damn good.  Half of them have miraculously disappeared down my boyfriend’s throat, so I can safely assume that none of this has affected his sweet tooth in any way.


Cocoa-Nut Biscuits (Recipe 1740): http://www.mrsbeeton.com/35-chapter35.html#1740

Day 31: The Battle of the Hausfraus

December 18, 2009

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: http://www.mrsbeeton.com/35-chapter35.html#1745 (Numbers 1743, 1749 and 1748 respectively)