Coconut Oat Crunchies

Coconut Oat Crunchies

Wotchers!

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[1] 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.

[1] 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.


Currant and Oat Biscuits

Currant Oat Biscuits

Wotchers!

*rubs hands together enthusiastically* Oh, I love a good oaty biscuit, and it struck me recently that we’ve only got two oaty biscuit recipes on the blog, which is an OUTRAGE! *bangs desk for emphasis*

So to rectify that, here we have a recipe gathered by the Los Angeles Times for their Sunday ‘Culinary SOS’ column. This column addresses the needs of people who have eaten something amazing at a particular restaurant or cafe and who, despite their best begging and wheedling, have been unable to get the owners to part with the recipe, or they just plain forgot to ask and now have these dishes haunt their dreams.

With a circulation of over a million, when the L.A.Times comes a-wheedling, people tend to be more generous in sharing their recipes. I think this is a great idea – home bakers are happy, restaurant/cafe owners happy with the free publicity and boost in business – everybody wins!

This recipe is based on one from Corner Baker, a chain of almost 150 cafes dotted across the country. I like the fact that it uses currants – smaller, sharper, less sweet and chewier than the more regularly use raisins. Needless to say, I’ve tinkered with the recipe, not least because the original quantities were HUGE and hadn’t been scaled down from a catering quantity. I used a mixture of soft brown sugar and Demerera instead of the original white sugar, but feel free to go with whatever sugar you prefer – the darker the sugar, the more toffee-like the flavour.

Currant and Oat Biscuits – Makes 30

225g plain flour
2tsp bicarbonate of soda
1.5tsp cinnamon
3/4tsp salt
170g unsalted butter – softened
100g soft brown sugar
200g Demerera sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
180g rolled oats [1]
100g cup currants

  • Preheat the oven to 160°C, 140°C Fan.
  • Sift the flour, soda, cinnamon and salt into a bowl and set aside.
  • Cream together the butter and the sugars until light and fluffy.
  • Add the egg and the vanilla and mix in thoroughly.
  • Gradually stir in the flour mixture, one spoonful at a time.
  • Finally, fold in the oats, followed by the currants. NB: The mixture will be very stiff by the end.
  • Divide the mixture into balls the size of a walnut, about a heaped tablespoon, and roll smooth.
  • Lay the balls of dough onto baking sheets and press down slightly, flattening them. Leave about 5cm between biscuits to allow for spreading. This quantity of mixture will be enough for four baking sheets, so bake them in 2 batches of 2.
  • Bake for 18-20 minutes, until crisp and golden. Turn the baking sheets around 180 degrees after ten minutes, to ensure even colouring. Don’t over-bake, or the cooled biscuits will be extremely hard.
  • Cool on a wire rack.
  • Store in an airtight container.

[1] Try and get steel-cut rolled oats if possible – there’s more whole flakes and less oat dust.


Gerbeaud Slice

Gerbeaud Slice

Wotchers!

Here’s something a bit different this week – different but dang delicious, though I say so myself. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say it’s quite unlike any bake I’ve tasted. How’s that for intriguing?

As you may know, I like hunting round the more unusual corners of the internet in search of interesting or unusual recipes, and this recipe originates from the famous Gerbeaud Cafe in Vörösmarty Square, Budapest, Hungary. Alongside the more well-known Dobos Torte, the Gerbeaud Slice (Zserbó Szelet in Hungarian) is a classic Hungarian pastry.

Emil Gerbeaud and Henrik Kugler

Emil Gerbeaud and Henrik Kugler

Swiss-born Emil Gerbeaud came from a family of confectioners, as did his wife. He learned his craft working for several major confectionery business in Germany, the UK and France, where in Paris in 1882 he met Henrik Kugler. In 1883, Gerbeaud moved to Hungary and became Kugler’s business partner and began the work that would make his reputation.

Gerbeaud expanded his staff and employed the very latest in machinery to create and maintain the quality of his confections. Even the boxes they were wrapped in were considered works of art. He is credited with developing and introducing many unique confections and pastries during his time at the cafe that bears his name.He constantly worked to make a visit to the cafe an experience: the lavish interiors were created by Henrik Darilek: ceilings decorated with rococo plaster work in Louis XV style; chandeliers and wall lamps in the style of Maria Theresa; fine woods, marble and bronze gleaming on every surface. From the 1950s to the 1980s, the Cafe lost both it’s name and impressive interior, but in the 1990s, a new owner of the building initiated a grand project of restoration, to return the Gerbeaud Cafe to its former glory.

Gerbeaud Cafe Interior

Gerbeaud Cafe Interior

Gerbeaud’s secret lay in his constant attention to the quality and perfection of his products. After his death in 1919, his wife Esther took his place in the Cafe, until her death in 1940 at the age of 82. From 9.00am until 9.00pm, she would keep a watchful eye on the running of the Cafe, sampling the coffees and pastries to ensure they attained the proper standard, and ensuring the milk was properly frothed and the silver trays suitably polished.

All of which brings me to the pastry itself. Traditionally, it consists of layers of enriched, yeast dough sandwiched with a mixture of ground walnuts, sugar and apricot jam. Once baked and cooled, it is usually topped with a rich chocolate layer before being cut into serving portions.

As I said at the start of this post, the taste is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. The dough comes out crisp like a biscuit, but it softened by the jam, which is both sharp and chewy from the heat of the oven. The walnuts add a great dimension without being overpowering. It can be made up into a bake of many layers, but I’ve decided to go with a simple five and without the chocolate topping, because, elegant and refined as the finished delicacy is, I think it should be enjoyed more often that just special occasions. Fabulous for bringing a little something special to packed lunches and picnics.

Variations
I strongly urge you to try this recipe with the original walnuts and apricot jam combination, because it is as delicious as it is unusual. After that, you are limited only by your imagination.

  • Try experimenting with different jams – although my recommendation would be to stay with the sharper-tasting fruits such as damson, raspberry and plum.
  • Also try different combinations of nuts – almonds, pistachio, macadamia, hazelnuts, etc.
  • I’ve added in some rum-soaked raisins just to add a little lift to the rich filling, together with a splash of rum in the dough. Feel free to omit both. The alcohol could also be switched around, depending on your choice of jam/nuts. If you’d prefer not to use alcohol, soak the fruit in fruit juice instead.

Gerbeaud Slice

For the dough
350g plain flour
300g unsalted butter
25g icing sugar
1 sachet fast action yeast
zest of 1 large lemon
2 tbs dark rum
1 large egg plus one large yolk
100ml warm milk

Filling
100g raisins
60ml dark rum
200g walnuts
100g caster sugar
400g apricot jam

Glaze
1 large egg yolk
1 tbs water

Chocolate topping – Optional
25ml of water
25g caster sugar
60 g unsalted butter
125g dark chocolate

  • Put the raisins into the 60ml of rum to soak.
  • Make the dough
    • Put the butter and the flour into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
    • Tip the mixture into a bowl and add the sugar, yeast and lemon zest. Stir thoroughly.
    • Whisk the egg and yolk with the rum and add to the dry ingredients.
    • Mix the ingredients and bring together into a firm dough, adding the milk bit by bit ONLY if the mixture requires it.
    • Knead the dough until smooth and divide into three (or however many layers you decide to make).
  • Tip your jam into a saucepan and warm gently until it melts and is easy to spread. You may want to use a stick blender to make a smooth puree, or you can leave it with pieces of apricot in – your call.
  • Put the walnuts and sugar into the bowl of a food processor and blitz together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Grease and line a tray bake tin – mine is 20cm x 28cm x 5cm – with parchment. NB Make sure the parchment comes up the sides of the tin as well as covering the bottom: the jam in the filling will boil during baking, so you should make sure the parchment stops it from oozing onto the tin itself.
  • Roll the first piece of dough out into a rectangle the size of your tin and lay it in the bottom.
  • Spread over half of the jam. Obviously, if you’re making many thin layers, you need to divide the jam into smaller portions.
  • Sprinkle over half the walnut mixture.
  • Sprinkle over half the rum-soaked raisins as well as 2 tablespoons of the rum.
  • Roll out another piece of dough and place over the top.
  • Repeat layering the jam, walnut mix, raisins and rum.
  • Finally, roll out and lay onto the tin the last piece of dough.
  • Whisk the egg yolk and water together and brush over the top of the dough.
  • Using a fork or a skewer, poke holes into the dough to let steam out.
  • Cover with a cloth and set aside to rise for 1 hour.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Bake for 40 minutes, turning the tin around after 25 minutes to ensure even colouring.
  • Cool in the tin.
  • Make the topping – optional
    • Put the water, sugar and butter into a small saucepan and heat gently until the butter is melted.
    • Remove from the heat and  add the chopped chocolate, stirring until it has melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy.
    • Pour onto the cooled bake. Spread the chocolate evenly, then leave to set.
    • Cut into portions when cold. Use a knife dipped in hot water (and then dried) to cut the chocolate smoothly, wiping the crumbs off after each cut.

Hunter’s Biscuits

Hunters Biscuits

Wotchers!

As you may know, I have one or two cookbooks lying around *ahem* and I haven’t actually got around to making absolutely all of the recipes contained therein.

But I’m working my way through slowly – and it’s just fabulous when I discover little gems like the recipe this week, tucked away as it was in a nondescript little booklet from the 1940s.

For a start, I have all the ingredients in the cupboard – I just LOVE it when that happens. A huge pet peeve is finding something delicious in a recipe book or online – only to discover a trip to the shops is required. So these are a great ‘spur of the moment’ bake.

Second, the recipe doesn’t make a whole mountain of biscuits – I got just twelve out of this batch. And they’re so fast to put together – little bit of melting/warming of liquids, chuck in the dry ingredients and you’re done. Even taking the time to pretty their appearance up doesn’t take long, and with 12 minute cooking time, you can be dunking them in a cuppa in not much more than 20 minutes.

Also – oats. YUM! Just LOVE oats in a biscuit – they make them it so crunchy and satisfying. Great energy snacks too. I can just imagine these biscuits being stuffed into pockets to snack on during invigorating afternoons tramping about the countryside.

And then we come to the main reason this recipe caught my eye. The lard. Yes – I did a double take too. But it works beautifully – and deliciously. And for me it also absolutely makes it a biscuit of country origin. Back in the day, not everyone could keep a cow – but most cottagers would have a pig, and once butchered for the winter, a ready and plentiful supply of lard. If you really can’t face it, you could try butter, but I haven’t tried it myself, so do let me know how it goes if you do.

What are you waiting for – get spur of the moment baking! 😀

Hunter’s Biscuits

56g golden syrup
56g lard
28g demerera sugar
56g plain flour
56g wholemeal flour
56g medium oatmeal
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
grated zest of a small lemon – or of half a large lemon
1/2 tsp salt
6 almonds – halved

  • Preheat the oven to 175°C, 150°C Fan.
  • Put the lard and the golden syrup into a small pan over a low heat to melt/warm
  • Mix all the other ingredients together.
  • When the lard has melted, tip in the dry ingredients and stir to combine. You’ll end up with a moist paste.
  • Divide mixture into 12. I have a small-ish ice cream scoop which was perfect at portioning out the mix. Roll into a ball then flatten slightly. Place half a split almond on each biscuit.
  • Put the biscuits onto a baking sheet lined with parchment and bake for 12 minutes, turning the baking sheet round 180 degrees halfway though the cooking time. The biscuits should be just browning around the edges when done. They might seem a little soft, but will crisp up beautifully as they cool.
  • Lift the biscuits from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack.

Alfajores

Alfajores de Medina Sidonia

Wotchers!

Today, in the last post before a short summer break,  I thought I’d post about an old recipe *everyone faints with ‘no surprise there’* – but also how I go about researching and then scaling down the usually huge original quantities to a deliciously manageable size. I get really excited to taste something made from a recipe hundreds of years old – it’s like tasting an antique (but with less dust and fewer cracks)! I’ve always liked history, and at times I’ve envied historians who can read hieroglyphs or Latin, and can thus have a direct link with the past. Being able to prepare and taste the food of times gone by is just my own way of connecting with the cooks of long ago, as well as recognising and celebrating the skill of the cooks of the past.

Since the original recipe for these tasty morsels was also in Spanish, which I don’t speak, let’s just say that it added to the fun and games. If you came here hoping it was going to be the South American, dulche de leche sandwich biscuits, then you’re going to be disappointed. But since you’re here anyways, why not pull up a chair and see if I can’t tempt your tastebuds?

So without further ado – Adelante!

I can’t remember exactly how I stumbled onto the Alfajores of Medina Sidonia, but I’m pretty sure it was while I was looking at the origins of gingerbread a couple of years ago, and how it used to be made by mixing breadcrumbs and spices and binding it into a paste with honey. The original gingerbreads weren’t baked, merely moulded and dried, and so it is with this recipe for Alfajores, but with some added toasted seeds and nuts to give some crunchy texture.

In 1888, the Spanish bibliophile, academic, philatelist and gourmet Don Mariano Pardo de Figueroa – who wrote under the pen-name of Doctor Thebussem – revealed a recipe for a local delicacy that he discovered in a small, anonymous pamphlet entitled “Recetario Práctico De Guisados Y Dulces. Medina Sidonia” dated 1786. The recipe gave the ingredients and instructions for Alfajores of the very best quality:

“Una azumbre de miel blanca. Tres medios de avellanas y una libra de almendras, todo ello tostado y tronzado. Onza y media de canela en polvo. Dos onzas de matalahuva, cuatro adarmes de clavo y cuatro de cilantro, todo ello tostado y molido. Una libra de ajonjolí tostado. Ocho libras de polvo de moler, sacado de rosquillos de pan sin sal ni levaduras, muy cocidos en el horno.Con media libra de azúcar harás almíbar, luego agregarás la miel, y cuando esté subida de punto, le echas los avíos, tres puñados de harina cernida y polvo de moler. Muélelo para que todo quede bien mezclado. Háganse los bollos en caliente, báñense en almíbar, cúbranse de azúcar fina con alguna canela y empapélense. En cada libra de bollos deben entrar de ocho a doce, para que sean lúcidos. La dificultad y el secreto del alfajor está en el punto de miel: para cocerlo dan las recetas muchas reglas, pero como ninguna es cierta, no las apunto, y digan que la práctica es aquí la maestra, como en todo. “

I found several recipes out there on the web, each claiming to be based on this recipe, but each of them with differing proportions of both the spices and the other ingredients. Since I was curious to find out what was so special about these biscuits, I decided to go back to the original recipe to try and work out the correct balance.

With a set of the (usually) trusty Google tools at my disposal, here’s what I came up with:

  • Una azumbre de miel blanca. azumbra = A Spanish word derived from the Arabic “al-thumn,” meaning “an eighth part.” Usually an eighth of a cántara. Cántara = a unit of liquid measurement equivalent to 16.133 liters, therefore an azumbra = 2.0166 liters (of white honey).
  • Tres medios de avellanas y una libra de almendras, todo ello tostado y tronzado.: Three half pounds of hazlenuts (690g) and one pound of almonds (460g) toasted and chopped.
  • Onza y media de canela en polvo. An ounce and a half of cinnamon powder.
  • Dos onzas de matalahuva: two ounces of aniseed
  • Cuatro adarmes de clavo y cuatro de cilantro, todo ello tostado y molido. Adarmes = unit of weight equivalent to 1/16 ounce (1.8g).  4 adarmes of cloves (7.2g), 4 adarmes of coriander (7.2g) toasted and chopped (ground).
  • Una libra de ajonjolí tostado: One pound (460g) toasted sesame seeds.
  • Ocho libras de polvo de moler, sacado de rosquillos de pan sin sal ni levaduras, muy cocidos en el horno: Eight pounds (3.68kg) of breadcrumbs, without salt or leavening, well dried in the oven.”rosquillos de pan” literally means ‘bread doughnuts’, which I have taken to mean bagels.
  • Con media libra de azúcar harás almíbar: With half a pound of sugar syrup. This is rather ambiguous – do they mean half a pound (230g) of sugar made into syrup? If so, how strong should it be? Or a total of 230g/ml of sugar and water combined?
  • Tres puñados de harina cernida y polvo de moler:  Three handfuls of fine flour, ground and sifted.

With the original recipe established, all that was required was for it to be scaled to a manageable size. I chose to scale the breadcrumbs to 250g (no particular reason, other than it seemed a manageable amount), and then scale everything else down by the same factor (just under 7%). This can get tricky when dealing with the spices – even my digital scales can’t measure less than 1g. My solution is to weigh out 1g and then half it or quarter it.

When experimenting with a recipe, I feel obliged to make it according to the original directions specified at least once, if only to see if they make a logical set of instructions. After this initial version, I may choose to tweak it by varying the method, or sometimes the ingredients if they aren’t to my tastes. But every old recipe gets at least one shot at impressing me enough in its original form for me to want to persevere and try to resurrect it for use today. And the Alfajores de Medina Sidonia did just that. Quite apart from their age, and the lack of baking required, the spice mix is wonderfully aromatic, and quite different to anything I’ve tasted before. The original recipe calls for everything to be pulverised to a paste, and initially that’s what I tried, but I thought that the one, homogenous blob of paste didn’t really showcase the ingredients very well. Hunting around on the internet, I discovered photographs of Alfajores  where the individual ingredients were visible. So for the next version I tried to keep the breadcrumbs roughly the same size as the nuts and seeds. This certainly had more texture, but needed a great deal of syrup added in order to get it to stick together, making it very sweet, and even then, it crumbled very easily. So the final attempt was to pulverise the breadcrumbs but keep the nuts and seeds slightly larger, and this worked best of all. Just in my opinion, of course. Feel free to try what works for you.

These sweetmeats have been made in Medina Sidonia for generations, and may well date back over 1400 years to the invasion of the Moors. Since 2004, the Alfajor de Medina Sidonia has enjoyed protected geographical indication, alongside Melton Mowbray pork pies and Cornish pasties. Specifications dictate that an Alfajor de Medina Sidonia should be cylindrical in shape, with a minimum weight of 30 grams each (although the original recipe indicated the weight should be closer to 50g), and with a minimum size of about 18 cm in length and a diameter of 1.5 cm. Each of them should be protected with a wrapping paper, and the ends made an ornament in a spiral shape with a ribbon out of the same paper. Once individually wrapped, they may be packaged in wood or cardboard boxes, but never in plastic.

Now I tried to make them into the elegant, cigar-shaped confections they are famed for – but got in a horribly sticky mess, so I decided that my versions would differ in both size and shape. In any case, 50g of biscuit dough is rather a lot to get through, even if you really, REALLY like them. I made mine into miniature, two-bite morsels by using just 1 tablespoon of mixture in each hole of my mini muffin pan, tamped down with my wooden Bodger™ – a fab present from the equally fab Yasmin Limbert.

Have a great summer, and I’ll be back soon with more baking adventures! 😀

Alfajores de Medina Sidonia

150ml honey
50g chopped, toasted hazelnuts
30g chopped almonds
35g sesame seeds
3g cinnamon
4g aniseeds
6 cloves [1]
1tsp coriander seeds[1]
5 bagels – to make 250g dried breadcrumbs

150g sugar
150ml water

Icing sugar to finish

  • Preheat the oven to 150°C, 130°C Fan.
  • Tear the bagels into small pieces and blitz to rough crumbs in a food processor.
  • Spread the breadcrumbs on a baking sheet lined with parchment and dry in the oven for 10 minutes.
  • Stir the crumbs around and return to the oven for another 5 minutes until thoroughly dry and crisp.
  • Allow the crumbs to cool,  then blitz in a food processor or spice grinder to a fine powder and tip into a bowl.
  • Blitz the spices in a spice grinder (easy) or pestle and mortar (harder). Sift and add to the breadcrumbs.
  • Lay the sesame seeds and chopped almonds on the parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes until lightly toasted.
  • Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar is dissolved. This will make much more syrup than is needed to bind the ingredients together – the rest can be used to brush over the finished biscuits before dusting with icing sugar.
  • Add the nuts and seeds to the spices and breadcrumbs.
  • Warm the honey and pour into the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine.
  • Keep stirring the mixture ( a stand mixer is ideal) and add the syrup one spoonful at a time until the mixture will stick together when pressed.
  • Put one tablespoon of mixture into each cup of a mini muffin tin and press down firmly to form a small cake.
  • Chill in the fridge.
  • When the cakes are firm, wash them over with sugar syrup and toss in icing sugar. Use a pastry brush for the syrup – dipping the little cakes makes them a bit claggy once the icing sugar has stuck to them. You can use icing sugar flavoured with cinnamon if liked.

[1] You need 0.5g of each of these spices. If you don’t have a spice grinder, use pre-ground spices – 1tsp ground coriander and 1/2tsp ground cloves.


Spekulaas Biscuits

Speculaas Biscuits

Wotchers!

A little over a year ago, I started this blog. July 1st to be exact.

In the last year, there’s been a lot of stories and baking adventures, experiments and giveaways. And over 270,000 peeks!

So in this anniversary post we have both a recipe and a giveaway to say thanks for all the visits.

The recipe I’ve chosen for this week is for some traditional Dutch biscuits flavoured with speculaas – a spice mix popular in December, but delicious enough to enjoy all the year. If you can’t get your hands on the ready-mixed spices, I’ve included a DIY recipe. I was lucky enough to find some old wooden biscuit forms in a thrift shop in Zwolle, but you can just roll and cut the dough to whatever shape you like.

Giveaway Items

The last time we were in The Netherlands, I picked up these little bits and bobs (metal cake tester, wooden Speculaas moulds, teaspoon cookie cutter, hang-on-a-cup heart cookie cutter and biscuit slice – invaluable for lifting warm biscuits from the baking sheet, because it’s WAFER thin!) at my favourite shop in Zwolle, Dille & Kamille. I’ve been saving them since December for this giveaway and I’ve also got (but not pictured) some genuine speculaas.

So that there’s as many winners as possible, each winner will get just one of the items on offer.  I’m not going to make any demands on you to jump through hoops to be in the running, no need to follow on Twitter or Like on Facebook (although it’d be great if you did!), just leave a comment detailing your order of preference for the above items, not forgetting the spice mix, by 9.00am on Wednesday 11th July, 2012.

Winners will be selected at random, and awarded a prize according to preference. If the first preference is not available, then I’ll look to the second, and so on.

This is just my way of saying thank you to everyone who took the time to pop by over the past year.

Speculaas Mix

You can choose how much or how little you wish to make, and use grams, teaspoons or tablespoons – or cups if you’re really keen! Freshly ground spices are more aromatic than store-bought, but go with what you’ve got.

4 parts cinnamon
1 part coriander
1 part nutmeg
1 part cloves
1 part allspice
1/2 part cardamom

Speculaas Biscuits (Speculaasjes)

200g self-raising flour
125g dark muscovado sugar
2 tbs speculaas spice mix
1 pinch salt
150g cold unsalted butter
1tbs milk

  • Put all the ingredients into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade and blitz until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
  • Add the milk and blitz again, until mixture comes together in a ball. Add a few drops more milk if this doesn’t happen.
  • Wrap in cling film and chill for at least an hour.
  • Heat oven to 175°C, 150°C Fan.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Roll out dough to about 5mm and cut into whatever shapes you please. If you’re using moulds, dust them each time with a mixture of 4 parts cornflour to 1 part cinnamon to prevent the dough from sticking to the mould. NB The dough gets warm quite quickly, so if it’s getting too soft to work with, pop it back in the fridge to chill.
  • Chill the cut biscuits for 15 minutes before baking, to help them keep their shape.
  • Bake in the middle/bottom of the oven for 20-30 minutes until firm. NB They will still be soft whilst warm, so be careful when removing them from the baking sheet.
  • Cool on a wire rack.

Chocolate and Orange Biscuits

Chocolate and Orange Biscuits

Wotchers!

Phew! Back into the swing of things after a bit of a busy April – with my favourite type of bake!

LOVE these biscuits for their striking appearance and complete lack of need for any additional decoration.

These biccies ARE their own decoration, and that’s YUM! whichever way you look at it – simple, stylish and delicious!

OK, moving on before I use up a whole month’s worth of exclamation marks….

I found this recipe in a little French cul-de-sac of the internet, and decided to tweak it. The original recipe called for rolling them in a mixture of icing sugar and dessicated coconut, but I thought that was gilding the lily a bit, so I made them ‘plain’.

Chocolate and orange are a classic combination, but you could also use this recipe for variations of your own – chocolate and lime, for example, would look very striking, especially if you could get dark green limes. Or chocolate and ginger, using chopped preserved ginger and a little of the syrup instead of the zest/juice. Have fun! 😀

Chocolate and Orange Biscuits

300g flour
1 tsp baking powder
120g icing sugar
2 large egg yolks
150g softened butter
1 tbs orange liqueur (or orange juice)
2 tbs of orange zest
2 tbs of cocoa
2 tbs of milk

  • Orange Mixture:
    • In a food processor, mix 150g of flour, 0.5tsp baking powder, 60g sifted icing sugar, 1 egg yolk, 75 g butter, orange zest and the liqueur/juice,.
    • Knead all ingredients until dough is smooth and firm. wrap in plastic wrap and chill 1 hour.
  • Chocolate Mixture:
    • As above, combine 150 g flour, 0.5tsp baking powder, 60g icing sugar, 1 egg yolk, 75 g butter, cocoa and milk.
    • Knead all ingredients until dough is smooth and firm. wrap in plastic wrap and chill 1 hour.
  • Remove both doughs from the fridge.
  • Roll the chocolate dough into a rectangle, roughly 25cm square. NB Rolling the dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper will be less sticky and make the dough easier to handle/roll. It should be about 5mm thick.
  • Cut the dough in half, making two rectangles approximately 12cm x 25cm.
  • Divide the orange dough in half
  • Take one piece of orange dough and shape it into a roll approximately 25cm long.
  • Place the roll of orange dough onto one of the pieces of chocolate dough and roll the chocolate dough around the orange dough until it is fully enclosed.
  • Press the edges of the dough together firmly.
  • Repeat with the remaining two pieces of dough.
  • Wrap both ‘logs’ in plastic wrap and chill.
  • Preheat the oven to 170°C, 150°C Fan
  • When the biscuit dough is sufficiently firm, cut into 1cm slices using a sharp, plain knife and arrange on a baking sheet.
  • Leave gaps of 2-3cm between the biscuits.
  • Bake for 12-14 minutes, turning your baking sheet halfway through.
  • Cool on a wire rack.