Melting MomentsPosted: September 8, 2011
Week 4 on The Great British Bake Off was Biscuit week, and for my Signature Bake I chose to make Melting Moments.
The reasons were many:
- Underneath all the ‘bells and whistles’ decoration, they contain just five ingredients, all of which you would find in your cupboards – one of my (numerous!) pet peeves is having to make a shopping expedition in search of ingredients.
- There’s no tricky techniques – it’s practically a ‘bung everything in a bowl and mix it’ method.
- They bake really quickly – a mere 12 minutes!
- They’re crisp, yet melt in the mouth. No, seriously – they literally melt! It’s the magic of cornflour! I’m all for a nice, crisp, chunky, rustic biscuit, but every now and then something delicate and indulgent just hits the spot.
- They can be prettied up by being piped – or if speed is of the essence, teaspoonsful of mixture on a baking tray work just as well with a fraction of the faff.
- They can be kept in a tin and enjoyed plain – but also sandwiched together with jam and buttercream at short notice for a special occasion.
As luck would have it, I’d recently spent quite some time perfecting what I believed to be the perfect Melting Moment. This involved experimenting with various proportions of cornflour/butter/flour/sugar to achieve that delicate balance of crisp to bite, yet melt in the mouth crumbliness: too much cornflour, and they end up tasting almost ‘chalky’ – too much flour, and they don’t crumble, too much butter and they end up greasy.
It also gave me the opportunity to use a new recipe for a lighter, silkier buttercream that I’d found. Doesn’t that sound delicious and awesome? Stay with me though, because you might start to have doubts as I elaborate. It’s known by a variety of names, but the one that I, possibly misguidedly, chose to remember it as is: Depression Era Buttercream. Stay with me! Think silky! Think luscious!
Still here? Good. Because now I’m going to tell you it’s made using a thickened paste of flour and milk. *waits for the shrieking stampede of readers fleeing for the hills* Born in an era of economic hardship (sound familiar??), this buttercream recipe manages to stretch the expensive butter and sugar to go a little further, but what you actually get is astonishingly good and head and shoulders above a regular buttercream.
Seriously – what with the description and the name – if ever a recipe needed some MAJOR PR and spin-doctoring, it’s this one. It almost had me doubting too, when I first read about it – but if you look out there on the internet, it comes up time after time, with people raving about how great it is. I reasoned that they couldn’t ALL be delusional, so I decided to give it a go. With a bit more research and some tweaks here and there, I came up with the instructions below to ensure that the end product is stunning.
Where normal buttercream can be a greasy, gritty, yellow lump, this buttercream is light, dazzling white, and silky smooth. It’s versatile in that you can add flavour and/or colour to the milk, and not risk spoiling the end result by accidentally adding too much liquid. I used a variation of this with my blackcurrant and mint macaroons (which weren’t shown in the final edit *sob!* but which tasted lovely!).
Melting Moments – makes 12-14 sandwiched biscuits
250g plain flour
58g icing sugar
250g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Cream butter and icing sugar together until pale and fluffy. NB This will take a good 5 minutes, possibly longer. The mixture needs to be soft enough to pipe
- Add the vanilla extract and beat for a few seconds.
- Sift flour and cornflour together over the butter mixture and mix until smooth.
- Fit a large star-shaped nozzle into a piping bag. To add the touch of colour to your biscuits, draw/paint a single line of food colouring inside the piping bag, from the nozzle to the bag opening. I chose red, because I was using raspberry jam. Matching the colour to the jam is a nice touch, I feel – but any colour would do.
- Spoon mixture into the piping bag and pipe swirls on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. NB I used a template of circles drawn on a sheet of cardboard, and pinned it underneath the baking parchment. Not compulsory at all, but if you’re going to sandwich the biscuits together, it helps to keep them all a similar size.
- Place in freezer for 15 minutes to firm. This will harden the butter in the swirls, so that when the biscuits go into the hot oven, the heat will cook them almost instantly, thereby preserving the pretty pattern. You can skip this step by all means, but the result will be decidedly ‘fuzzy’ compared to the picture above.
- Turn oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Bake for 12 minutes or until they are a pale golden colour and the edges of the ‘swirls’ are just turning a light brown.
- Leave for a few minutes on the baking tray to firm up slightly before transferring to wire rack to cook.
Depression Era Buttercream Filling
This makes enough buttercream to fill and ice a regular-sized cake – more than is needed for a single batch of biscuits. Consider halving the recipe – or make twice as many biscuits!
4 tbs plain flour
225g unsalted butter
225g caster sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Heat the milk with the flour, stirring with a whisk until the mixture thickens.
- Continue cooking and stirring for 1 minute. This extra bit of heating/stirring will ‘cook out’ the flour and ensure that the buttercream doesn’t taste floury.
- Pour the mixture onto a plate, cover with cling film, to prevent a skin forming and cool. NB Don’t skip the cooling part – you don’t want the butter mixture to melt.
- Beat the sugar and butter for at least 10 minutes until pale and fluffy . NB Do not skimp on the whisking time. Obviously, a stand mixer would be ideal, but even with hand-held beaters you should persevere. This extended beating will get air into the mix, and the more air means a lighter, silkier buttercream. The mixture will become almost white in colour.
- Add thickened milk mixture and vanilla extract.
- Continue mixing until fully incorporated, pale and thick – another 10 minutes.
Seedless Raspberry Jam (or jam of your choice – whizz it in a mini food processor to get rid of any lumps of fruit)
- Spread the bases of half the biscuits with a little jam
- Fill a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle with the buttercream and pipe circles of cream onto the bases of the other half of the biscuits.
- Sandwich the biscuits together and and dust with icing sugar.
Cost: Biscuits: £1.35, Buttercream: £1.55 (September 2011)