The idea for these pastries came from watching a film clip on the original Walnut Whip chocolates being hand-piped and filled. I recalled that I hadn’t really done much with the Quick Chocolate Puff Pastry, other than show you the method, and since I’d recently acquired some cream horn tubes, I was all set!
Which meant I had to devise a way to get my tubes to stand upright in order to form the tapering cones of the walnut whip shape. I won’t bore you with ALL of the trials and tribulations, and the various failed attempts, but I did eventually achieve success combining two differently-shaped ice-cream cones and balancing the metal shapes on top. I’ve seen a few suggestions out there that call for just covering wafer cones with foil, but that doesn’t work (caveat: doesn’t work well enough for me to recommend). To cook properly, all the way through, the pastry needs the high temperature that the metal will get to in a hot oven. Foil never gets hot enough to cook the inside of the pastry thoroughly. I tried.
This is another Lego™ recipe, in that it’s made up of bits and pieces from other recipes, mixed with some new things. I’ve already mentioned the Chocolate Puff Pastry from a few weeks ago. I’ve also used the Bavarian Cream from the Sicilian Seven Veils Cake, and swapped the chocolate flavouring for coffee. The NEW bits in this creation are the candied walnuts and the Crunch Shortbread biscuit used for the base.
I’m going to be straight with you – the pastries have a pretty high FQ (Faff Quotient™) – I only got a dozen usable pastry ‘shells’ from a whole batch of the chocolate pastry (mainly due to my own clumsiness, I’ll admit) – so if it all sounds too much like hard work, just have a bash at the biscuits: they’re seriously good all by themselves!
To make the complete pastries involves making several separate elements, and then assembling them at the end. The whole process can be spread over a few days if necessary. I suggest shaping/baking the pastry as the last task, so that it retains its crispness.
Walnut Whip Pastries
The four elements that need to be made first are:
- Chocolate Pastry
- Candied walnuts
- Bavarian Cream
- Crunch Shortbread
I know I said to bake the pastry last, but you should MAKE it first, so that it can thoroughly chill in the fridge, and thus be a bit easier to roll out/work with.
1. Chocolate Pastry – click HERE for the recipe and method.
2. Candied Walnuts.
150g caster sugar
- Sprinkle the sugar into a non-tick pan and place on a low heat to melt. Do not stir, as this will cause the sugar to crystallise.
- If the sugar is melting unevenly, swirl the contents around to mix.
- While the sugar is melting, pick out the best-looking walnut halves and skewer each half with a cocktail stick, ready for dipping.
- When all the sugar has melted, and is a deep caramel colour, it’s time to dip the walnuts.
- Remove the pan from the heat and lay a sheet of parchment paper alongside.
- Dip each walnut into the caramel and allow the excess to drain off.
- Place the walnut on the parchment and gently twist the cocktail stick free. The caramel should still be liquid enough to flow over the hole left by the cocktail stick.
- Allow to cool, then wrap in parchment and keep in an airtight box. The dipped nuts will become sticky if left exposed to the air.
3. Coffee Bavarian Cream
Bavarian cream is basically a custard with added gelatine, with flavourings and cream folded through. If you want to break down the process because of lack of time, it can be made in two parts. The first part is the custard base, the second adding the flavourings and gelatine when ready to use. If you do this, then warm the custard slightly before trying to stir in the soaked gelatine.
1 large egg yolk
2tsp Espresso coffee powder
2 leaves (4g) gelatine
300ml double cream
- Soak the gelatine in cold water to cover for 10 minutes.
- Heat the sugar and the milk until almost boiling.
- Whisk the cornflour, vanilla and egg yolks together, then gradually whisk in the sweetened milk.
- Return the mixture to the heat and continue heating and stirring until thickened.
- Remove custard from the heat.
- Drain the gelatine and stir into the warm custard until fully dissolved.
- Cover with clingfilm to prevent a skin forming.
- Whip the cream to firm peaks, then fold through the cooled coffee custard.
- Cover with cling film and chill until required.
4. Crunch Shortbread
This is a crumbly, buttery shortbread, but with added feuilletine and ground almonds for two different yet complimentary crunch textures. If you don’t have any feuilletine, use a few crushed crepes dentelles or cornflakes.
135g butter – softened
45g icing sugar
25g ground almonds
- Mix the softened butter, sugar, salt, flour, cocoa and ground almonds in a bowl until well combined.
- Lightly stir in the feuilletine. Try to keep the pieces a reasonable size, so that they can still be discerned in the cooked biscuit.
- Turn out the mixture onto parchment and lay some clingfilm over the top.
- Roll the mixture out to between 5-8mm thick and place in the freezer to harden for between 15 and 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- Cut the chilled paste into 4cm-ish rounds (I used the rim of a small glass) and arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Bake for 11-12 minutes and cool on a wire rack.
5. Chocolate pastry shells
I suggest working with just half of a batch of pastry at a time, since the strips of pastry will be quite long and potentially tricky to handle.
- Roll the pastry out thinly (5mm), keeping the shape as straight and rectangular as possible. Try and achieve a length of 40-45cm, so that you can make each shell using just a single strip of pastry.
- Cut the pastry into 1cm wide strips. I find a pizza wheel works best for this, as it doesn’t ‘drag’ the pastry as a knife would. Also, your pastry might be getting a little soft by this stage, with all the rolling. If you think it’s too soft, pop it back into the fridge or freezer to firm up.
- Grease your cream horn tins.
- Pre-heat the oven to 220°C, 200°C Fan.
- Dampen the strip of pastry you’re about to use, with a pastry brush dipped in water. This will help the pastry stick to itself on each ‘turn.’
- The Fiddly Bit: Starting at the bottom of your cream horn tins, wrap the strip around to form a level base for your shell, then continue around the tin, overlapping the pastry slightly at each turn. You want to pull the strip a little, to ‘stretch’ it, then wrap it quickly around the cone. As it contracts, it will pull close to the tin and make for a better shape. Don’t pull so much that the pastry breaks! (Tricky to begin with.)
- Finish your pastry shell about half-way up your cone: you want the top to be about as wide as a walnut, once cooked.
- Stand your cones in the cups of a cupcake tin, for a little extra stability.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes until the pastry is fully cooked.
- Leave to cool on the cones.
- Once cool, ease the shells gently from the cones and set aside.
150g dark, 70% chocolate
- Melt the chocolate in a bowl over hot water until completely liquid and smooth.
- Spoon the Bavarian Coffee Cream into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm plain nozzle.
- Lay a sheet of parchment onto a tray that will fit into your fridge (to chill the assembled pastries).
- Lay a piece of clingfilm on the bench in front of you.
- Have the pastry shells, the biscuits and the candied walnuts to hand.
- Stage 1 assembly. For each pastry:
- Take a biscuit and brush the top with melted chocolate (to prevent sogginess from the cream filling).
- Take a pastry shell and set it upside down onto the clingfilm in front of you.
- Pipe the coffee cream into the pastry shell until completely full.
- Use a knife to smooth the cream across the bottom of the pastry shell.
- Spread melted chocolate over the bottom of the pastry shell and the coffee cream, and, turning the pastry shell over, set it onto the chocolate covered biscuit, where the chocolate should ‘glue’ them together.
- Paint melted chocolate over the top of the pastry shell, and set a candied walnut on top.
- Chill in the fridge.
- Now you could stop here if you like – all the ‘pieces’ are assembled. However, I decided to neaten the pastries up by dipping the bases in the melted chocolate. The biscuit is then completely covered, and the ‘seal’ between the pastry and the biscuit itself has been recinforced with another layer of chocolate.
- If your chocolate has cooled too much, set it over the pan of hot water until it is melted again.
- When all the pastries have chilled for at least 20 minutes in the fridge, remove them and dip them in the melted chocolate.
- Use a pastry brush to even out the chocolate coating.
- Set onto parchment and chill in the fridge until required.
I’m on a bit of a using-up-egg-whites roll at the moment, having made a lot of egg-yolk-heavy recipes recently, and so here is a variation on meringue that is ideal for lunchboxes, mid-morning snack or afternoon energy boost.
They’re gluten-free and, although they contain sugar, the amount-per-biscuit is really quite low (about 5g), so they can also sneak in as a Paleo treat.
They’re packed with nuts and seeds for all those beneficial vitamins and minerals. You can also choose to make them even more substantial by replacing the flaked almonds with some toasted oats (steel-rolled for preference – less dust, more crunch!) if you like. Don’t feel obliged to stick rigidly to the ingredients below, just make up the overall weight with your own mix of nutty goodness: sesame seeds, poppy seeds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, etc.
Short and sweet (and crunchy!) this week. 😀
70g egg-white (2 large)
pinch of salt
70g caster sugar (or the same weight as the egg-whites)
60g flaked almonds
50g sunflower seeds
50g pumpkin seeds
30g pecans – chopped
20g flax seeds
- Preheat the oven to 100°C, 80°C Fan – although no-fan is preferable if you want to keep the biscuits pearly-white.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Add the salt to the egg-whites.
- Whisk the egg-whites on medium speed until frothy, then gradually whisk in the caster sugar, a spoonful at a time (to allow it time to dissolve before the next spoonful). You can test whether the sugar has dissolved by rubbing a little of the egg-white between finger and thumb – you shouldn’t feel any graininess.
- Increase the speed of whisking as you add the sugar until full speed by the time the last of the sugar is added.
- Continue whisking until the sugar is fully dissolved and the meringue is thick and glossy.
- Fold in the nuts and seeds.
- Drop the mixture onto the baking sheets in whatever size you desire, but bear in mind, the larger the diameter, the longer it will take to dry out. I used a heaped tablespoon and a small round cutter to give the biscuits an even and consistent shape.
- Dry the biscuits slowly in the oven for 1-1.5 hours.
- Allow to cool completely before removing from the paper. Use a thin spatula in case the middle is still a little sticky.
- Store in an airtight container.
This week I’ve got another recipe resurrection for you, but I’ll give you fair warning, it’s a little caraway-heavy. If you’re not a fan of the taste of caraway, then you’re not going to have a fun time.
The solution to that, of course, would be to substitute a different flavouring for the caraway – easy-peasy – aniseed or cumin if you want to keep it seedy, or lemon/orange zest to make it fresh but really, anything that appeals is fine.
ANYHOO – back to the cakes.
Despite the name, Tunbridge Cakes are actually a biscuit. In the mid nineteenth century, Alfred Romary set up a biscuit factory in the town and the biscuits were manufactured for over a hundred years. Queen Victoria was so delighted with them she awarded a royal warrant and the royal connection continued until the final batch was baked for the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981.
The advertisements for the biscuits described them as being “As thin as lace, of a flavour so delicate as to be indefinable. The clubs serve them with port, but they are also excellent with ices or at afternoon tea. Many people prefer them to sweets and chocolate. In two flavours, Sweet and Ginger.” Interestingly, there’s no mention of caraway, nor does it appear on the ingredients list on the tins above, which mention only flour, butter, shortening, sugar and salt. George Read’s “The complete biscuit and gingerbread baker’s assistant” (1854) makes a distinction between ‘Water Cakes with Caraways’ and ‘Tunbridge Water Cakes’, though whether these bear any resemblance to the Romary biscuits is unclear.
Tunbridge Cakes actually go back much further than mere Victorian times. Recipe books from the early half of the nineteenth century contain several mentions of Tunbridge Cakes, although, on closer examination. they all appear to be plagiarised copies of Mrs Eliza Rundell’s 1806 recipe. The earliest printed recipe I could find just snuck (What? ‘Snuck’ is so a word!) into the eighteenth century – John Perkins’ 1796 recipe for Tunbridge Wafer Cakes. However, in my favourite recipe collection, that of the manuscripts of The Wellcome Library, I found not one but four recipes more than one hundred years older than any I could find in print.
Since the recipes were so similar, with only slight variations in proportions of flour, butter, sugar, eggs and seeds, baking a batch of each was the only way they could be fairly compared. I managed to scale down the recipes to a common quantity of flour, and then mixed and baked a batch of each.
It was immediately apparent that two of the batches stood out as being superior, but for different reasons. Batch A was incredibly light and delicate, friable and crumbly in texture, whilst the flavour of Batch B had that elusive je ne sais quoi deliciousness that was difficult to place, without knowing what the ingredients were. My dilemma was: I couldn’t decide which I liked better. Batch B was very heavy on the caraway seeds, but the background spices kept me coming back to nibble. The delicate texture of Batch A was a delight.
In the end I added the extra flavourings from Batch B to the mix of Batch A and baked a hybrid that seemed to being the best of both batches. If you want to try the original recipe, simply omit the optional flavourings in the ingredients listed below.
“Yeah, but even after all the yaddah, yaddah, yaddah, they still don’t look very interesting” I hear you say. I know. They’ve not got much wow factor to look at, and if you’ve read this far, you might even be wondering why you should bother with them at all. So allow me to try and convince you. Firstly, their taste – the most basic quality for a recipe – they are delicious, and this should be reason enough. If you need further convincing, it would be their delicate texture: crisp, crumbly and friable. And lastly, and for me this is their most enchanting quality, their age. Late 17th century. To put this in context, contemporaneous events include the English civil war, Roundheads & Cavaliers, Oliver Cromwell, the Great Fire of London, Peter The Great crowned Czar of Russia and the Salem witch trials are conducted in Massachusetts. And this is a delicious biscuit from those times. As Sue Perkins so eloquently put it in her Foreword for my book (Geeze-Louise, here she is again with her shameless book plugging! Shamelessness I say!), it’s taste-bud time travel!
Apart from the flavourings, the other key aspect of these biscuits is their thinness. And I mean thin. Really, really thin. Like 2mm. Even though the quantity of dough is small, I strongly suggest working with just half of it at a time, so that you can really concentrate on getting the dough as thin as possible. It will become translucent when rolled thinly enough. The biscuits will then take only minutes to bake.
Based on recipes in The Wellcome Library dated 1650-1700
113g plain flour
23g unsalted butter
34g powdered sugar
1 large egg yolk
½tsp caraway seeds
½tsp ground ginger – optional
¼tsp salt – optional
50-70ml double cream to mix
- Put the flour, butter, sugar and egg yolk into a food processor and blitz together to mix.
- Tip mixture into a bowl and add the caraway seeds, ginger and salt, if using.
- Stir together.
- Gradually add the cream until the mixture comes together into a stiff paste.,
- Tip the paste out of the bowl and knead smooth. The texture should be like a firm shortcrust pastry.
- Wrap in plastic and chill for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- Retrieve the paste from the fridge, divide in half and put one half back into the fridge to stay cool.
- Lightly flour the work surface and a rolling pin and roll out the dough extremely thinly, until translucent and the work surface is visible through it.
- Using a fork, dock (i.e. poke holes in) the whole surface of the paste. This is a little time consuming, but infinitely better than trying to dock the biscuits once they have been cut out.
- Cut out biscuits using a plain, 8cm cutter.
- Transfer the biscuits to baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
- Bake for 4-6 minutes, until the edges are just beginning to brown. Check after 3 minutes and turn the baking sheet around if the biscuits are colouring unevenly.
- Remove the biscuits from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.
- Store in an airtight container.
This has to be one of the shortest and salty-sweetest recipes on the blog.
Deliciously simple and infinitely customisable, what’s not to love?
Salted Caramel Oat Brittle with Salted Peanuts – although it could be with anything that takes your fancy: cranberries, apricots, cashews, macadamia nuts, flax, sesame and sunflower seeds….. I could go on, but you’re already starting to doze, so I won’t.
Regular readers will know how much I love oats, and a little bit of salt with whatever you’re putting them into really brings out their toasty flavour, so salted nuts are my number one choice.
This recipe is wonderfully moreish whether you’re using the highest quality ingredients or the cheapest of the cheap from the basics range of a supermarket. I’ve tried both and the taste is awesome whatever your budget can stretch to. The world is your crustacean of choice, but 500g of sweet and salty deliciousness for about £1.20 using basics ingredients is a bargain in anyone’s book.
Best of all there’s no need for an oven – this treat can be prepared using just one pan on the hob – who needs mountains of washing up when there’s a treat waiting to be enjoyed? Actually, with this recipe, you might do – because you’ll need something to do while you wait until it’s cooled down enough not to burn your mouth, but *waves hands dismissively* ANYHOO….
Let’s get on with the recipe!
Use a non-stick pan.
150g rolled oats
225g granulated sugar
100g salted peanuts
1/2tsp salt (optional)
- Lay a sheet of baking parchment onto a chopping board or into a roasting tin, for the hot brittle.
- Pour the oats into a coarse sieve and shake to get rid of all the oat ‘flour’ that will have accumulated. There will always be some, whether you’re using the finest steel-rolled oats or budget basics. Ideally you want the finished brittle to be a delicious contrast between glossy caramel, toasty oats and crunchy peanuts, so getting rid of this ‘dust’ can only improve it’s visual appeal.
- Put the oats into a dry pan and toast them over medium heat to dry them out. You will be able to smell their nuttiness as they become toasted. Light or dark, your call.
- When you’re happy with the colour, pour them into a bowl and set aside.
- Wipe the pan clean of any dust and pour in the sugar.
- Set it over a low heat and DO NOT STIR. It will gradually melt and turn a rich caramel brown.
- Keep an eye on it while you’re NOT STIRRING, and shake the pan if necessary in order to move the sugar around.
- Keep NOT STIRRING until all the sugar has melted.
- Add the butter and stir briskly as it melts until it is mixed in, although don’t be too diligent – you don’t want the mixture to cool too much before the rest of the ingredients are added.
- Remove from the heat and add the toasted oats and nuts (and/or fruit and salt if using).
- Mix thoroughly to combine.
- Tip the mixture out onto the baking parchment and arrange into artistic clumps about the size of a walnut. You don’t want there to be huge lumps, because they’ll be difficult to break apart once the mixture is cooled. And then you’d have to eat those yourself *poker face* which would be a trial, but we can’t be having any waste, so somebody has to be prepared to do that.
- Once cooled, break apart into bite-sized pieces and store in an airtight container or zip-lock bag.
- Enjoy with coffee, tea or a good movie.
I started out working on quite a different recipe this week, but a few diversions along the way and here we are at Mazurkas!
This bake is popular on a lot of East-European/Russian food blogs, and interestingly, there also appears to be a great variation in how they turn out. The texture can be anything from a cake to a biscuit, thick or thin, sweet or plain. This is my favourite version – thin and biscuit-like, crisp, with a delicious chewiness and, best of all, an absolute doddle to prepare. If you like Florentines in theory, but find the reality too sweet and too much like hard work with the caramel, then these are the biscuits for you!
The top is a crisp layer of frothed up biscuit mixture, and the underside is rich and chewy with fruit and sugar. Fabulous for lunchboxes!
You can mix up the ingredients to suit whatever you have available, or to suit the mood/season. Here I’ve gone for a festive raisin/cranberry/apricot mix, with walnuts for crunch and orange zest/sherry/brandy flavourings. You could just as easily go with spices and lemon zest, or mix it up with both vanilla (1.5tsp) and orange zest (one of my early trial versions that rivals this one for flavour). As long as the overall weight of fruit and nuts is the same, you can pretty much do what you like.
The mixing couldn’t be easier, either. Mix dry ingredients, add wet ingredients, smoosh it out onto parchment and bake for 20 minutes as a slab. Cut into biscuits whilst warm and leave to cool. Simples!
Makes 20-30 biscuits, depending on size.
380g of raisins, cranberries, chopped apricots
80g walnuts – chopped
180g granulated sugar
80g plain flour
2tsp cream sherry
zest of 1 orange
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2tsp lemon juice or white wine vinegar
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- In a bowl, mix the fruit, nuts, sugar and HALF the flour.
- Make a well in the middle.
- Whisk together the eggs, sherry, brandy and orange zest.
- Pour liquids into the well in the dry ingredients.
- Mix the lemon juice/vinegar and the bicarbonate of soda and stir it into the rest of the liquids as it fizzes.
- Stir the liquids and dry ingredients together until thoroughly combined, then sprinkle in the remaining flour.
- Fold everything together until well combined.
- Spread the mixture onto a sheet of baking parchment. Try and get it as flat as possible – certainly no more than 2cm high. If it is in too thick a layer, it won’t crisp up when cool.
- Slide the baking parchment onto a baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes.
- Turn the baking sheet around and bake for a further 8 minutes (20 in total).
- Slide the parchment off the baking sheet onto a flat surface and cut the mixture into biscuits – I suggest either finger-sized rectangles or diamond shapes. Don’t try and remove the biscuits from the parchment at this stage, they’ll break up too easily. Wait until they are cold, when they’ll be much firmer.
- Slide a wire rack underneath the parchment and leave to cool.
- Separate the biscuits when cold and store in an airtight container.
Here’s a little gem of a recipe I found in a far-off Romanian corner of the internet, on the blog of Laura Laurentin.
Don’t ask me how I got there – it’s all a bit of a blur – but this is an absolutely delightful two-in-one recipe that you can enjoy a variety of ways. And they’re just so pretty to look at!
As a bonus, it provides another way to use the coconut oil you all rushed out and bought a couple of weeks ago for the Coconut Oat Crunchies.
You did all rush out, didn’t you? 😉
When freshly baked, these coconut biscuits are deliciously light and crisp, but if you sandwich them together with the coconut buttercream and a little orange curd and leave them overnight, they soften into a wonderfully crumbly and moist shortcake texture.
You can also make these with either all butter or all coconut oil – there’s more than enough coconut flavour to go round.
I used some Seville Orange Curd, from three of the frozen cubes of juice/zest I made back in January.
Makes about 40 biscuits / 20 sandwich cakes
1 x 400ml tin of coconut milk
190g plain flour
60g dessicated coconut
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
50 grams of unsalted butter
40 g coconut oil
150g caster sugar
1 whole egg
1tsp vanilla extract
- Pour the coconut milk into a small pan and simmer until it has thickened and reduced to 150ml. An easy way to check is to pour the milk into a 150ml measuring cup (or use a 2/3 cup measure). If the cup can be filled and there’s still some milk in the pan, then you need to simmer it a little longer.
- Set the coconut milk aside to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- Mix the flour, coconut, baking powder and salt together and set aside.
- Soften the butter and coconut oil and cream together until light and fluffy.
- Add the caster sugar and whisk thoroughly until fully incorporated, light and fluffy.
- Mix in the egg and the vanilla.
- Gradually add the flour mixture in 4 stages, alternating with 4 tablespoons (60ml) of the thickened and cooled coconut cream.
- Pipe the mixture onto parchment paper in 4cm circles. The mixture will spread during baking, so be sure to space them 3-4cm apart.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes, until cooked through and the edges of the biscuit are tinged with brown.
- Cool on a wire rack.
50g unsalted butter
60g coconut oil
3-4tbs thickened coconut cream
90g icing sugar
- Soften the butter and coconut oil then cream them together until light and fluffy.
- Add the coconut cream, vanilla and icing sugar and whisk until fully combined.
150ml Seville Orange curd
more icing sugar to dust
- Put the coconut buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a small star nozzle.
- Pipe a ring of little buttercream stars around the edge of half the biscuits.
- Add a teaspoon of orange curd in the middle.
- Press a second biscuit on top and dust with icing sugar.
- Cover and leave overnight.
The story of this recipe is an example of how I make recipes work for me. That’s right – make.
I’m not at their beck and call, I bend them to my will (and store-cupboard).
Before you start backing towards the door, eyes flickering to the window as a potential back-up escape route because I’ve completely lost the plot, let me recount a pertinent anecdote.
When I was young, a friend got a job making desserts for a local hotel. She had to supply six on a weekly basis, to be delivered on a Friday afternoon. I called round one Thursday during one of her baking sessions. She’d made five of the six required desserts and was at a bit of a loss as to what she could make to complete that week’s delivery. Wanting to help, I grabbed one of her books and began flicking through the recipes to find something suitable. As I read out the titles, my suggestions were dismissed on the grounds of having been previously and recently made for the hotel, or as being too similar to what had already been prepared. Finally, I found something that I thought might fit the bill (I can’t even remember what it was, to be honest). My friend seemed to think so too, and so I passed over the book so she could read the recipe. “Oh no”, she said “I can’t make this. I haven’t got any nutmeg.”
For a second, I honestly thought she was joking. The nutmeg constituted a tiny fraction of the ingredients, and amongst all the other seasonings, wasn’t contributing greatly to the (imminent poncy foodie jargon warning) flavour profile of the dish. In any case, she had a store-cupboard stocked with a slew of possible substitutions – cinnamon, mace, ginger, allspice, cloves – as well as the license to just omit it altogether. However, none of these options were deemed acceptable, despite much reasonable persuasive discussion, and so the dessert never got made.
I found this episode very difficult to understand. I grew up in a household where, although it contained several cookbooks, the cooking was done from scratch and largely without their assistance. Both my mother and grandmother cooked, having learned the basics when young, and just applied and adapted them as occasion or ingredients dictated. My mother perfected this adaptation technique to a frankly alarming degree – so much so that in my head I imagined her to be an Honours graduate from the “That’ll Do” School of Cooking. In the midst of cooking and at a loss for some ingredient or other, she would fling wide the cupboard doors and cast her gaze upon the contents. Invariably her eyes would light upon something in the depths and she would seize it with a triumphant cry of “That’ll do!” and into the dish it would go.
Alas, there was also a downside to this impulsive mode of cooking, and at a later date I might be tempted to relate the tale of “Soup”, but not today, because today is all about *sings* Oaty biscuits! Oaty biscuits! Who doesn’t love a bikkit in the af-ter-nooooooon!”
So anyways, a friend recently had to go on an extremely restricted diet: no fish, seafood, dairy products, soya products, egg yolks, iodised salt etc. and asked me if I could make her something she could look forward to as a treat amidst all the restrictions. Since she liked coconut, and I had several egg-whites in the fridge, I was all set to make traditional Coconut Pyramids. However, on opening the kitchen drawer of ingredients, I spied the pot of coconut butter I’d bought recently for a biscuit recipe (note to self: look out that recipe and photo, because it was great!). A quick check online and I found a coconut oat biscuit recipe containing butter, which I replaced with the coconut butter. I was out of golden syrup but I did have agave syrup, and the recipe contained no salt (which, although a rare user of salt myself, in oat-based dishes I find it is a must), so I added some. It wasn’t necessary to substitute the caster sugar, as I had recently re-filled the jar, but I would have been equally prepared to use light brown, Demerera, dark or light Muscovado or granulated.
The aroma from these biscuits once they come out of the oven is fabulous – not just coconut or even Coconut – but COCONUT!! They conjure up images of long white beaches, pina coladas and coconut scented suntan lotions – perfect now that the air temperature in the UK has finally dragged itself into double figures.
Coconut butter can be used in a whole variety of dishes as a direct substitute for butter, both sweet and savoury, and although it will have just a slight coconut taste, there’s few dishes that this won’t enhance.
I guess that all I’m trying to say here is have fun with your recipes, don’t be enslaved by them. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t got or don’t feel inclined to buy Coconut Butter. With this recipe you can swap the butter (or margarine) and golden syrup back in, switch up the type of sugar and omit the salt. Your choice – always.
Coconut Oat Crunchies – Dairy Free
160g rolled oats
90g dessicated coconut
175g caster sugar
125g plain flour
1/4tsp cooking salt
50ml agave nectar
150g coconut butter
1tsp bicarbonate of soda.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
- Grease and line a baking pan with baking parchment. Exact size and shape isn’t important. For reference I used my roasting pan of dimensions 20cm x 30cm. If you use a smaller pan, the biscuits will be slightly thicker and you should increase cooking time a little to compensate. Lightly grease the parchment paper.
- Mix the oats, coconut, sugar, flour and salt in a bowl.
- In a large saucepan, heat the agave nectar and coconut butter until warmed and melted.
- Add the bicarbonate of soda to the pan and when it froths, remove from the heat and add the dry ingredients.
- Stir well to thoroughly combine, then press into your prepared baking pan and smooth over.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until the biscuits are lightly browned.
- Cut into squares/fingers whilst warm, and then leave to cool in the tin.
- Store in an airtight box.
 Technically, it’s called coconut oil, but its solid like butter and comes in a large jar. Available at Holland and Barrett, a wholefoods store in the UK.