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Biscotti

Biscotti MD

I am rather partial to a biscuit with my tea or coffee.  My problem is that I cannot just stop at one.  The solution is not to buy them and this generally works well.  The only trouble is that I live with someone who is also partial to a biscuit.  Even more partial to a full biscuit barrel but these are rare objects, especially in our house.

Dunking biscuits are my real love, and for me, the biscotti is the Rolls Royce of dunkers.  Best described as a hard, golden, nut-filled biscuit with a crunch, they should not be eaten in their undunked state by those who are teeth-challenged.

If we do have them in the house they won’t last long.  So they are avoided.  Until a few weeks ago when we were both shopping in Terroni of Clerkenwell.  While I was at the counter ordering cheese and salami, Tom disappeared only to reappear with a large bag of biscotti, which I was only too happy to add to the shopping.

When we returned home we indulged in a couple to accompany our coffees.  We were both slightly smug in congratulating each other at how restrained we were in just having two.

My only thought was that when he was out of the way there would be all the more for me.  The next day when I was alone I started to think about those biscottis and how nice they would be with my cup of coffee.  Before I knew it, I was looking for a place to hide the empty packaging.

When Tom returned and made us both coffee I could hear him opening cupboards and drawers – I knew what he was searching for but, instead of owning up, I clung on to the hope that he had forgotten them.  He hadn’t and knew exactly who had had the lot.

So, to make up for my disgraceful greed I have made two batches and, in doing so, I have awakened my addiction for a biscotti with my morning and afternoon coffee.  The shop bought ones were nice but home-made takes them to another level.

Biscotti

Ingredients

90-150g / 3 1/2 oz blanched almonds

(I have put 90-150g of blanched almonds because the recipe can take the lower end of almonds or the upper end its personal choice – plus it depends on the amount of almonds I have, I hate leaving twenty almonds in the bottom of a packet).

250g/9 oz plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

250g/9 oz caster sugar

2 eggs beaten

1 egg yolk

1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

Set oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4.  Scatter the blanched almonds onto a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes making sure that they don’t catch or burn.

Remove from the oven, cool for a couple of minutes and then roughly chop.  The almonds being warm from the oven cut very easily so don’t wait for them to cool too much.

Put the chopped almonds, flour, baking powder, caster sugar, eggs, egg yolk and vanilla extract into a bowl.  Mix to form a dough.

Turn out onto a floured board and knead for about 5 minutes, the dough will be very sticky.

When the dough is well combined, form into a 12″ log and place onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

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Bake for 40 minutes.  The dough will have slightly risen and be a beautiful golden colour.

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Put onto a wire rack and allow to cool.

Turn the oven down to 140C/275/Gas mark 1.

With a bread knife carefully slice the log into 1 cm slices.  Place the slices flat side down onto a baking sheet  and return to the oven for 20-25 minutes, turning once during this time.

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Cool on wire rack.

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Flapjacks

Flapjacks

New Year is here and I am glad.  By now even I have had my fill of rich food, mince pies, Christmas cake, plum pudding and endless little snacks.  Not to mention the chocolates!

Today I feel I can say no more rich food.  There again I might say that in my mind but my somewhere else can’t quite go to the other extreme.

I need to cook a treat that is somewhat guilt free and perhaps something I feel that is not all bad.  Enter the Flapjack.  The butter, sugar and syrup might not be all good but the oats are, and that is the guilt free ingredient I am hanging on to.

When I started cooking I would look through my mothers cookery books for inspiration of what I might like to make.  Something that would be simple and that had a very small window for failure but tasted wonderful.  After I had persuaded my mother to let me use the kitchen, instead of going for simple I opted for complicated and the result was a complete failure.  This put back my biscuit making by quite a few months and I was barred from using the kitchen again.  I had to wait until my mother had gone out for the afternoon before embarking on my next choice, the Flapjack.

They didn’t disappoint me then and they still don’t disappoint now.  They are no oil painting of a biscuit but as the saying goes ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’.

Flapjacks

Ingredients

4 oz/125g Butter

3 oz/80g Golden syrup (leave a metal spoon in boiling water for a few minutes then measure out the golden syrup, this will help the syrup to slide off the spoon)

3 oz/80g Soft brown sugar

8 oz/250g Rolled oats

Oven:  Gas Mark 4/350F/180C

Swiss roll tin 8” x 12” /20cm x 30cm (the tin size isn’t vital, there is a small amount of give and take)

Method

Put the butter, golden syrup and sugar into a pan and gently melt.  Once melted remove from heat and add the oats and stir well.

Spread the mixture onto a non-stick buttered tin roughly 8” x 12” using a fork, press the mixture down and spread-out evenly across the tin.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes.  Watching that the edges do not burn.

Leave in the tin for a few minutes, then with a sharp knife divide into fingers.

Straight out of the oven the mixture will be too soft to divide up so it’s best to leave it a few minutes.  The mixture cools very quickly and if left too long will not cut easily as it will become too brittle.

After dividing, leave it to cool before turning over the tin and tapping them out.  My method is to prise them out individually using the excuse of eating any broken ones.

Store in an airtight tin or container and they will keep a couple of days, the longer you keep them the softer they become.

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Not a biscuit I had really heard of until a month ago.  I was talking to my cousin about our usual obsession of what each other is cooking and eating when she mentioned that she was baking some Anzac biscuits, how fabulous they were and that she used to cook them all the time.  Since then they have cropped up in conversation so many times that my intentional disinterest turned into an interest.  I googled Anzac Biscuits and was surprised to see how popular they were.  Which rock had I been sitting under?

The name comes from the Australian and New Zealand Army corps.  In World War I the families of the soldiers would often send these biscuits out to them as they kept so well during transportation.  The Australians are so protective of the name that there are laws protecting the recipe.  Apparently, Subway had to stop selling them because making the biscuits to the original recipe was too expensive to be cost effective and they were not allowed to sell anything else under that name.

The recipe for Anzac biscuits seems to be the same wherever I looked, with one exception, which is where someone has added raisins.  The classic recipe is the one I decided to try (little choice really).

Anzac Biscuits

85g/3 oz  porridge oats

85g/3 oz  desiccated coconut

100g/3 1/2 oz plain flour

100g/3 1/2 oz caster sugar

100g/3 1/2 oz butter

1 tbsp golden syrup

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tbsp boiling water

Heat oven to Gas mark 4/180C/fan 160C.

Put the oats, coconut, flour and sugar in a bowl.

Melt the butter in a pan and then stir in the golden syrup, I put a tablespoon in a mug of hot water for a few minutes to heat, this stops the syrup from sticking to the spoon and stops all those strings of syrup getting everywhere.

Add the bicarbonate of soda to 2 tbsp boiling water, stir then add to the golden syrup and butter.

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the butter and golden syrup mixture. Stir gently until all the ingredients are combined.

Put dessertspoonfuls of the mixture on to greased baking sheets, about 2.5cm/1in apart to allow room for spreading. Bake in batches for 8-10 mins until golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  I left my last batch in for a few extra minutes to see what the change would be.  They were darker and crisper.  I preferred the earlier batches which were crisp with a slightly soft centre.

Beware – eating just one is impossible.

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I am not a big fan of stem ginger, never have been but ginger in other forms is something I do like the taste of, especially in biscuits and cakes.  Gingernut biscuits have a warm slightly spicy taste to them.  They are just the perfect constituency for my habit of dunking in a cup of tea.   Unlike other biscuits that are easily broken or crumble, these are a little more robust.

I had forgotten how easy they are to make and how good they taste.  The only thing I will say is that they do need watching whilst in the oven.  Just before the baking time is up, check them and if needed, turn the baking tray round to stop the edges from burning.

Gingernut Biscuits

Ingredients

4 oz/100g self-raising flour

½ level tsp/ 2.5 ml bicarbonate of soda

1-2 level tsp/ 5-10ml ground ginger

1 level tsp/ 5 ml ground cinnamon

2 level tsp/ 10ml caster sugar

2oz/ 50g butter

3 oz/ 75g golden syrup.

Boil a kettle of water and fill a mug with the hot water and place a metal spoon in it.  After a couple of minutes take the spoon out and use to weigh out the syrup.  The heat prevents the syrup from sticking thus making life a lot easier

Method

In a bowl put the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon and sugar.

In a pan heat the butter and the syrup together until the butter melts.   Start the butter off on medium heat – you need to watch the butter, as you don’t want it to burn (burnt butter can nearly always be detected in the finished product).  Once melted pour into the dry ingredients and mix well, using a wooden spoon.

Lightly flour your hands and take an overloaded teaspoon of gingernut dough, roll into small balls, place well apart on greased baking sheets and flatten slightly with the back of a spoon.

Bake in the oven at gas mark 5/190C/375F for about 15 minutes.  Cool for a few minutes before lifting off baking sheet and place on wire rack to cool.  The cracked top that appears, is normal, this is supposed to happen.  Keep in an airtight container.

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