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Jammy dodger

8 Feb

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It’s Dan Lepard time again, but this time we’re going vegan. These black cherry & walnut biscuits are so good, you wouldn’t even know they were vegan. They just don’t happen to have any animal products in them. But hey, neither do chips and no-one goes on about how amazing they taste, considering they’re vegan.

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Just cos Dan knows his biscuits, doesn’t mean we can’t have a little play on his recipe. I substituted the walnuts for almonds, used groundnut oil, and raspberry jam instead of the black cherry. Whatever nut-jam combo you go for, please do go for it.

Hear, Land o’ Cakes, and brither Scots

5 Feb

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Actually, not oatcakes but shortbread, because I couldn’t think of anything by the Bard that makes reference to biscuits*. For Burns night this year I made shortbread. For me, it has to be crispy, crumbly, with that wonderful melt in the mouth sandy texture. It’s also ripe to be tinkered with – so this time it’s flavoured with cardamom and lemon. Heavenly!

Cardamom lemon shortbread

Cardamom and Lemon Shortbread
Makes 12 biscuits

Ingredients
175g butter
75g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
175g plain flour, sifted
75g fine semolina
zest of 1 lemon
5 cardamom pods, seeds removed and ground to a powder

Method
Preheat the oven to 150°C/130°C fan/gas mark 2. Beat the butter until softened and then add the sugar and beat again until thoroughly mixed. Then add the flour, semolina, lemon zest and ground cardamom. Mix together into a smooth dough.

Lightly roll out the dough on a floured worktop to 1cm thickness. Cut into 12 round biscuits (at this point you can use a cookie stamp to add a pretty picture to your biscuits), and place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Set aside in the fridge for 15 minutes to chill.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. My biscuits had spread slightly so I trimmed the edges with the cutter again. Allow to cool slightly, then sprinkle with some more caster sugar and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

*If you know of one, do let me know.

Great Scot

20 Nov

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Last weekend Mr Cakes & I hot footed it up to Glasgow for a weekend of fun with chums. Naturally we wanted to take a small offering to our hosts for the weekend. Remember The Bones, who got this marvellous Chocolate Salted Caramel Extravaganza when they moved north of the border? Well, they used to practically live on whoopies and macaroons from the gorgeous Violet Cakes in London. So what better than these Violet Coconut Macaroons as a little gift. They feature in the Leon Baking & Puddings book. Get it!

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Among other things, we went to watch round 2 of the UCI track world cup at the brand spanking new Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow. I’m not sure riding in kilts without bikes is going to take off tho, ladies…

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Thanks again to the Bones for a great weekend! See you soon.

Mister Bakes

12 Oct

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Mr Cakes is a savory chap, preferring a salty snack over anything sweet. So when he decided it was his turn to bake there wasn’t a chocolate chip or an ounce of sugar in sight, not even a raisin crept into the kitchen.

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Biscuits for cheese, good old water biscuits were Mr Cakes fancy. Thin, crispy and sprinkled with the lightest dusting of sea salt. Perfect for cheese, or the delectable smoked salmon pâté from H.Foreman & Son.

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Mr Cakes Water Biscuits
Ingredients
200g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
50g unsalted butter
1 tsp sea salt
120ml chilled water

Method
Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas 4 and line two baking sheet with grease proof paper.

Put the flour, baking powder and butter (chopped into cubes) in a food processor & whizz quickly until sandy. Then, with the mixer running, add the water 1 tbsp at a time until your dough is soft. This could be anywhere between 4-8 tbsp. Try not to add too much to make the dough sticky.

Flour your work top and roll the dough out, it should make a thin 35cm by 35cm square. Brush with a scant amount of water and sprinkle all over with the salt. Prick the dough with a fork and cut into squares, you should get around 25. Transfer the biscuits to the lined baking trays.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until very lightly golden & place on a wire rack until totally cool…if you can wait that long. Once cool they’ll keep for a couple of weeks in an airtight container.

Digital Biscuits

28 Sep

digestive biscuits

At work we eat a lot of biscuits, and when I say a lot I mean at least a large packet of chocolate digestives each week. And when I say we, I mean mostly me. So because I’m the one mostly scoffing them, I thought it only fair that I make a batch to bring in.

making digestive biscuits

So, why digital biscuits? Well, I work with digits, mostly. It just seemed to fit. This recipe is another from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, his River Cottage Digestive Biscuits, deliciously spelty with an almost shortbread-like sandy texture. Must be all the lovely butter in them. Yum. Hugh doesn’t mention dousing them in chocolate, I hope he’ll approve.

chocolate covered digestive biscuits

Certainly too crumbly for the cycle jersey pocket, but just about perfect for that midday cup of tea break.

Getting in a flap

19 Jul

rhubarb almond flapjack

What do you do when you have a vegan colleague visiting your office for the day? Subject them to the latest venture in your quest to find that perfect energy bar, of course! It’s been a while since I tried making a cycling jersey pocket friendly snack, but this weekend me, Mr Cakes, bro-in-law (he of Dave Johnson’s Photography), and a couple of other chums will be cycling around 200 miles along the English-Welsh border. We need snacks to sustain us.

rhubarb almond flapjack squares

So, a test. Flapjack; tasty, consistancy holds together but isn’t rock hard, and suitable to feed to your vegan colleague. No pressure. Oh, and what about that rhubarb that you have in the fridge to use up? Okay then.

These fellas aren’t half bad. They’re just the right amount of gooey and chewy, not hard, not crumbly, and they taste good. Quite tangy with the rhubarb and just the right amount of sweetness.

A classy pocket contender indeed.

rhubarb almond flapjack square

Rhubarb and Almond Flapjacks (vegan)
Makes 9 squares

Ingredients
125g porridge oats
100g stewed rhubarb
25g flaked almonds
75g coconut oil
100g soft brown sugar
50g agave syrup

Method
1. Mix together the rhubarb, almonds and oats and leave to stand while you grease a 20cm square cake tin with a little coconut oil. Line with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 180C

2. Melt together the coconut oil, sugar and golden syrup gently in a pan. You want the sugar to just melt, but not boil. Mix together with the oat mixture.

3. Spread the mixture into the cake tin and level with the back of your spoon.

5. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and cool in the tin for 10 minutes before marking into squares using a sharp knife – do this while the flapjacks are still in the tin. Allow to cool completely and set. Then cut and eat!

Snow Sports

5 Feb

London Fields Lido

The last 24 hours have been pretty interesting. Snow had been forecast – lots of snow. Lots of snow for London anyway. Still, Mr Cakes and I, and a couple of East-side friends ventured over the river to a housewarming party in Sarf London. It’ll be fine, I said, we’ll totally be able to get home, no problem! This is London, right? Except it also just so happened that all trains to our destination were cancelled due to engineering works. Come 11pm it was time to call a cab (rock n roll I know, but there were swimming lessons for 3 of us the following morning and a doggy to get home to aswell) Yeah fine, we’ll send you a cab. It’ll be about 20 minutes, okay? You know how this goes, 30 minutes later – no cab. Then we look out the window at the 5 inches of snow on the ground and wonder what on earth will happen next. Let’s give it another 15 minutes, and then think about plan B. And that’s when our saviour turned up, in what can only be described as a monster truck. There is no photographic evidence of what happened next, you just have to believe me….

And so we were driven home in a bright red, Mercedes G-class 9 seater truck which our taxi driver (and truck owner) reliably informed us was used by the Nazis as a tank in the war – although not this particular one, obviously. He tuned the radio to Smooth FM, cranked it up, us girls in the back had a good old sing along to Abba and Micheal Jackson while taxi-man told Mr Cakes he reminded him of someone….who is it…? Oh yes, an older Chris Evans! And said he was a sharp guy! As one of our number put it he was a snow super hero – ‘the sweeper’

There is a baking point to this story. I couldn’t go empty-handed to the party, and dutifully baked some housewarming fruity nutty cookies.

I got the recipe for the fruity (and nutty) cookies from the bbcgoodfood website. Believe it or not these chunky, crispy on the outside chewy in the middle morsels contain marmalade! Perfect if you’ve just made a batch just like big sis did earlier this week. The Lady Marmalade post is here if you missed it.

They also contain most of the same ingredients as the energy bars I’ve been trying to perfect over the last few months, which got me thinking – what about energy biscuits instead of energy bars? I think these would be perfect – not too crumbly, not too gooey, full of nuts and fruit and super calorific goodness. When the snow has melted and the air temperature isn’t so flippin cold and we get out on a weekend cycle ride I’m going to road test a couple of these bad boys for their energy credentials. And besides, Kraft are now flogging biscuits as a healthy breakfast option, so they must be okay for triathletes, right?

Don’t believe me? Try ’em. Although next time I’m going to decrease the ginger and increase the cinnamon. Just a personal thing.

After all that we did make it to our swimming class this morning, we ran through the snowy streets to the Lido where snow lined the edges of the pool, and mist rose from the water obscuring the view as you swam. It was almost magical!