Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sugar and spice: messy, but nice

My decision to make a one-and-a-half recipe of the royal icing turned out to be unnecessary.  I had quite a lot of icing left over after finishing the cake, and if I wanted to use it, I'd have to do it within a couple of hours, or it'd harden. I had to decide whether to throw it away or immediately find a use for it.

Not wanting to waste those extra egg whites and icing sugar that had gone into the icing, I turned to the only other recipe I needed icing for: spice biscuits (p35). I make iced spice biscuits every Christmas, but I don't usually use the Edmonds recipe.

I covered the bowl of icing with a damp cloth to keep it from hardening, and hurriedly mixed up a batch of spice biscuit dough - another variation on the basic biscuit recipe. As with the chocolate biscuit variation I made a few weeks ago, I chose to roll out the dough and cut it into shapes, rather than rolling it into balls. This makes for a thinner, crisper biscuit, and you get way more out of the recipe.

Since the dough made well over 100 biscuits, it took me an hour or two to get them all done. Eventually I had a couple of trays piled with biscuits. A handful were overcooked or broken, but there were plenty of good ones which needed icing.

I had big ideas about piping the icing on, but when I dug my piping nozzles out, I found that the smallest one was way too large for piping on my little biscuits. I briefly played about with a baking paper piping bag, but found it merely fell apart when I tried to use it. There was no other option but to spread the icing on.

The first few biscuits I iced were not at all successful. The icing was too thick and looked unattractively grainy when I spread it on the biscuits. I almost gave up on it, but in a last-ditch effort, I squeezed a bit more lemon juice into the icing and beat it again. This altered the texture just enough to make it spread evenly.

This icing was not as smooth or shiny as the recipe I usually use, but it was much more sculptable: I was able to cover the biscuits neatly to the edges, which I'm not usually able to do. Once I got the knack of it, it didn't take very long to ice each biscuit, but there were a lot of them. I started icing at 8.30pm, and it was 11pm by the time I finished.

With my 114 iced biscuits sitting neatly on their trays, I washed my sticky hands and surveyed the mess I'd made during the course of the evening. I'd covered myself in icing sugar when mixing up the icing, and managed to get the icing itself all over the kitchen. The kitchen floor was sticky underfoot, and the carpet around the coffee table where I'd been doing my icing was covered in little chunks of set icing. I ran around tidying up the worst of the mess and finally fell into bed at around 11.30.

I'm really happy with my spice biscuits. They've come out pretty similar to the ones I usually make, which means they're very tasty. Don't underestimate the appeal of a crisp, spicy biscuit with a simple sweet icing. They're delicious, and very Christmassy.

I have a preference for plain white icing, but there's no reason why you couldn't mix up a few different colours and let the kids make a massive sticky mess (I have no children so I'm forced to make my own mess). That might not sound great from a parent's point of view, but the kids'd love it!


  1. I always make Belgiums - another spice biscuit with a simple icing. They have raspberry jam in the middle too! yum. These look really sweet! (as in nice, not as in flavour...)

  2. For Christmas? Maybe I'll try that this year.


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