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.

 


Apple Crumble Cheesecake Bars

Apple Crumble Cheesecake Bars

Wotchers!

Time for some indulgence and also a sort of Deja Food – bonus!

Remember back in the days of long ago November, I posted a recipe for Crunchy Oat Slice?

They were rather popular at the time, even earning a new name from one visitor of the blog – Jay, over at  Cake Box Leeds of JamJacks (which is a fab name, and one I might well steal, as soon as I can come up with a suitably cunning plan 😀 ).

ANYHOO…

Today’s recipe is the Jam Jacks’ slightly richer cousin – the Apple Crumble Cheesecake Slice! Same basic recipe as before, but instead of jam, we have additional creamy cheese and tart apple butter layers.

Still a tray bake, still ridiculously quick and easy to whip up, still full of healthy oats, with the added bonus of delicious apple…. Can you tell I’m just trying to put a positive healthy spin on this excuse to eat cheesecake in the morning?

I used apple butter (a kind of apple jam), but any fruit puree or spread will do. As with the Crunchy Oat Slice I prefer something with a bit of sharpness to contrast the creamy cheese and the crunchy oats.

There’s slightly more attention needed with the baking, but the results are well worth it!

To save you the bother of switching between pages, I’m going to shamelssly copy/paste from the Crunchy Oat Slice page and tweak the recipe to incorporate the changes.

NB You can use just half of the cheese filling if you’d like an extra dazzle on your halo 😉

Apple Crumble Cheesecake Bars

90g demerera sugar
125g wholemeal flour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
125g butter
125g rolled oats

500g cream cheese
2tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
icing sugar to taste

250g fruit puree

  • Preheat oven to 180C.
  • Grease a 20cm square cake tin or slice tin (my favourite tin has internal measurements of 20cmx25cm), and line with baking parchment.
  • Put all the dry ingredients except the oats into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the butter is incorporated and the mixture looks like rough breadcrumbs. Add the oats and pulse once or twice just to break them up slightly – you want to keep some texture in there.
  • Press 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared cake tin and press down firmly.
  • Bake for 10 minutes until the base has firmed up and is slightly brown.
  • While the base is baking, whisk the cream cheese, vanilla, and eggs together until smooth.
  • Add icing sugar to taste – as a rough guide,  3 or 4 tablespoons should be enough, unless you want it to be extremely sweet.
  • When the base has cooked for 10 minutes, remove the tin from the oven and pour over the cheese mixture.
  • Return the tin to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes until the surface has set.
  • Remove the tin from the oven and spread over your fruit topping. Partially cooking the cheese filling makes it easier to spread the topping and keep it as a topping (rather than a ‘sinking’).
  • Sprinkle over the rest of the oat mixture and pat down lightly with your fingertips.
  • Return the tin to the oven for one final baking of 15 minutes, until the oat topping is a nice golden brown and there’s just a slight wobble to the cheese layer in the centre of the tin.
  •  Allow to cool.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight in the fridge before eating the entire batch for breakfast cutting into bars.
  • Keep (good luck with that! 😉 ) chilled.

Chocolate Salami

Chocolate Salami

Wotchers!

Here’s a fantastic no-bake-er which can be nibbled on for dessert, with coffee, with a pot of tea or a glass of something stronger.

Rich dark chocolate, crunchy biscuit, juicy fruit and just a hint of alcohol – or not, your call – you can easily customize this to your own particular tastes and glam it up with a generous glug of your booze of choice or omit it completely and use fruit juice instead for a family treat.

I’ve made this one using preserved ginger with some ginger wine, but any combination of dried fruit and alcohol would work – cherries and cherry brandy, rum and raisins, sultanas and orange juice, cranberries and raspberry juice. If the fruit is on the dry side, then soak it in the alcohol/fruit juice for 30 minutes beforehand.

It’s a great make-ahead  biscuit and will sit in the fridge quite happily for several days if needed, with just 2 minutes needed to tweak presentation.

The high proportion of biscuit means that, whilst the flavours are full and indulgent, each slice isn’t over-rich.This might not hold true if you scoff half the slices in one sitting, so don’t *wags finger* – even though you will be very tempted.

Best of all it looks like a salami!

But it’s sweet!

Of course you don’t have to tell people it’s sweet at all – more left for the non-cook that way – Nom!

Chocolate Salami

60g unsalted butter
115g good quality plain chocolate – 70% for preference
115g good quality milk chocolate [1]
2tbs ginger wine
75g crystallised ginger in syrup – drained and chopped weight.
2tbs syrup from the crystallised ginger
175g plain biscuits[2]

icing sugar for dusting

  • Tear off a generous strip of kitchen foil and grease it with butter.
  • Put the chocolate, butter and syrup into a saucepan and heat very gently until just melted.
  • Break the biscuits into a bowl – don’t break them too small as you want to be able to slice through them when serving.
  • Remove pan from the heat and stir in the chopped ginger and the ginger wine.
  • When fully combined, add the broken biscuits and gently fold them together until the biscuits are fully coated with the liquid chocolate. If the mixture looks a bit loose, add in a few more biscuits.
  • Pour the mixture onto the greased foil and shape into a rough log.
  • Roll the foil around the mixture and press the foil around the mixture into a smooth log shape. The creases and folds of the foil will help give the chilled biscuit the appearance of a salami.
  • Twist and fold in the ends and place the roll in the fridge to set, preferably overnight.
  • To serve: Remove the foil wrapping and dust the chocolate salami with icing sugar. Make sure you rub it in to all the nooks and crannies – it’s amazing how  this simple act transforms the roll into what appears to be a genuine cave-aged saucisson sec!
  • Use a sharp knife to cut thin slices from the roll and arrange on a plate. Alternatively, serve it uncut and see who is fooled!

[1] If making this for children, think about increasing the proportion of milk chocolate and reducing the amount of plain chocolate. Keep 230g total.

[2] If you live in the UK, Rich Tea biscuits are perfect. Digestives are too crumbly and have a little too much fat in to hold together while the salami shape is being formed.


Crunchy Oat Slice

Raspberry Oat Slice

Wotchers!

Here’s a recipe using one of my favourite ingredients – oats!

Whilst the thought of porridge leaves me shuddering in horror, stick some oats in a biscuit and I’m elbowing myself to the front of the queue!

I love this recipe because it is so easy: it’s ready to eat in less than an hour (45 minutes if you’re speedy on the prep) and is a robust keeper – so its fantastic for packed lunches and picnics, IF you can keep fingers out of the tin.

Oats add a wonderful crunch to anything baked, and these flapjack-type bars are no exception. One bite and the crunchy oats and the zing! of the raspberry jam conjure up images of tramping about the Highlands of Scotland, kilts, heather and bagpipes, all from the comfort of your armchair. And oats are so good for you! You can almost feel yourself getting fitter and more glowingly rosy-cheeked with each bite! It’s practically a fitness workout. You’d probably get MORE unfit if you DIDN’T eat one. At least, that’s what I tell myself as I recline back into the sofa with my mug of coffee and sideplate.

Top tip of the day – don’t skip the salt. Even though this is a sweet recipe, the oats need that little hint of salt to bring out their flavour. Trust me – it’s definitely not the same without it.

Best of all, these are so adaptable. No raspberry jam? Use apricot. Something not too sweet and with a bit of sharpness to contrast with the oats. Try marmalade. Or plum. Or rhubarb and strawberry (my current favourite from this summer’s preserves). Or Apple Butter. Or dates, simmered with a little lemon juice and water until soft. Or – oh wow – mincemeat! I just thought of that, and now I want to make some to see if it’s as awesome as my brain is telling me it is!

You make some too!

Crunchy Raspberry Oat Slice

90g demerera sugar
125g wholemeal flour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
125g rolled oats
125g butter
250g seedless raspberry jam

  • Preheat oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Grease a 20cm square cake tin or slice tin, and line with baking parchment.
  • Put all the ingredients except the jam and the oats into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the butter is incorporated and the mixture looks like rough breadcrumbs. Add the oats and pulse once or twice just to break them up slightly – you want to keep some texture in there.
  • Press 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared cake tin.
  • Put the jam into a saucepan and warm gently. Pour the warmed jam over the base mixture and spread evenly.
  • Scatter the remaining oat mixture over the top of the jam and press lightly.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned.
  • Allow to cool before cutting into bars.

Cost: £1.50 (used home-made jam, November 2011)


Halloween Hoot Owl Biscuits

Owl Biscuits

Wotchers!

Another Halloween recipe today – I am on FIRE with these posts this weekend! – simply the cutest-looking owl biscuits. I’m baking them for my daughter’s class at school. They are SO my style – pure, natural ingredients and the biscuit IS the decoration, and vice versa. I adore how the slightest variation in the different coloured doughs and the shape and size of the nuts gives each little owl face it’s own expression and character!

All credit for these biscuits goes to Natalie Neal Whitefield (née Riggin) who, at the tender age of 15, won the second Grand Prize and $10,000 in the Pillsbury’s 8th Grand National Bake-Off back in 1956. Nancy is all growed up now and has her own blog, if you’d like to swing by and say Howdy. The only change I’ve made is to convert the quantities into metric.

Natalie’s Original Halloween Hoot Owl Cookies

2nd Grand Prize Winner in the Pillsbury Bake-off®, many, many years ago…

Makes 30-40 biscuits

275g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
170g unsalted butter
200g light muscovado sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp Vanilla extract
50g plain (70%) chocolate
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Plain chocolate chips
Whole cashew nuts

  • Sieve flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, cream the butter, add the sugar and cream again
  • Whisk the egg and the vanilla together and then add to the sugar mixture and beat well.
  • Melt the chocolate in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, then set aside to cool.
  • Add dry ingredients to the egg/butter mixture and mix well to form a ball of very soft dough.
  • Take 2/3 of the dough (about 480g)  and set aside.
  • Mix the bicarb into the chocolate and mix the chocolate into the dough left in the bowl.
  • Wrap the chocolate dough in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  • Divide the remaining dough in half and roll each piece out into a rectangle 10cm x 25cm. Wrap in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  • Divide the chocolate dough in half and form each piece into a roll the same length as the light coloured dough.
  • Wrap the light dough around the dark, smoothing the dough edges together.
  • Wrap in plastic and chill for 2-3 hours until firm.
  • Unwrap the rolls of dough and cut them into slices about 3-5mm thick.
  • Lay two slices together on greased baking sheet or on a parchment-line baking sheet and press together to resemble an owl’s face.
  • Pinch the outside corners of each slice to form ears.
  • Put chocolate chips, upside-down, in the dark circles to make eyes.
  • Press a whole cashew nut with the pointed side down between the slices to form the beak.
  • Bake at 180°C, 160°C Fan for 8 to 12 minutes, until the edges of the biscuits start to brown
  • Remove the biscuits from the baking sheets with a slice (they are very soft when warm) and cool on wire racks.

Cost: £1.80 (October 2011)