Sunday, December 19, 2010

Yep, still baking..

The next items on my baking list were shortbread (p42) and brandy balls (p219). My intention was to do both of these on Saturday, but it got so hot I couldn't stand the thought of working around the oven, and made only the brandy balls, which didn't need any baking.

The brandy ball recipe purportedly made 20 balls. Considering the quantities I had made of the rest of my baking, this wasn't going to be enough. I considered a double recipe, but eventually chose to triple the recipe to be sure I had enough.

It's a pretty familiar sort of biscuit-crumb base, with crushed vanilla wines and a smattering of currants and walnuts. Then, in a separate bowl, you beat egg, sugar, cocoa and brandy. Add this to the biscuit crumb mix along with melted butter, and mix. Of course, my triple recipe was over-large for the biggest bowl I had, and mixing was a bit of a mission. In the end I resorted to mixing it by hand, but I still had a fair amount of spillage.

After that, it's just the tedious process of forming the mixture into balls and rolling them in coconut. I made my balls reasonably small, though surely not too much smaller than the recommended tablespoon-sized ball. Clearly I was going to get more than the 60 I expected, though - I'd made 50 before the bowl looked even half-empty.

I ended up with 102 brandy balls, so the recipe makes closer to 35 than 20. Had I known this, I would have been happy with a double recipe. Never mind, I'm sure I won't have to throw any away!

They're a fairly standard sort of brandy ball, of the kind most people would be familiar with: biscuit-crumb base, occasional currant or piece of walnut, slightly chocolaty but with brandy as the background flavour. In short: quite tasty but nothing out of the ordinary.

This morning I moved on to the shortbread. There aren't too many ingredients that go into shortbread, just butter, icing sugar, flour and cornflour. Most shortbread recipes are pretty similar, which makes it interesting how much variation there is in the result. I usually use Mum's recipe, which makes lovely smooth melt-in-the-mouth shortbread. I also like the kind that has a bit of crunch and texture.

The shortbread I don't like is the sort that's thick and dry and makes you want a glass of water before you've got halfway through the biscuit. A lot of bought shortbread is of this kind, which makes me think that people who say "oh, I don't like shortbread" just haven't tried the decent stuff.

I was interested to see what kind of shortbread would result from the Edmonds recipe. I creamed the butter and sugar in the mixer, then added the flour and cornflour. Since this makes quite a stiff dough, it's best not to try and mix it by hand. I'm sure it can be done, but it'd be hard work!

I soon had a nice smooth dough to work with. The recipe indicated that I should roll and cut it or form it into a circle and bake it that way. I felt I'd spent enough time with a rolling pin in my hand this past week or so, and decided instead to use Mum's method of forming it into a log, and cutting slices off.

I chilled my shortbread logs briefly, hoping to make them easier to cut. I don't think it had much effect, but it was worth a try. Cutting slices off a log of dough sounds really easy, and Mum always manages to get hers nice and even, but I'm not nearly as good at it. I cut my slices as evenly as possible, but there were still plenty that were too thick, or wider at one end, and I had to squish them a little flatter on the tray.

Despite the fact that I felt most of my biscuits were probably thicker than the 5mm indicated in the recipe, the shortbread cooked in less than 20 minutes, instead of the 30 indicated in the recipe. These in fact had more colour than I like in a shortbread, so I put the rest of the trays in for 18 minutes.

I probably made those logs a bit large. I hadn't anticipated that the shortbread would spread out so much in the baking. I wound up with quite large biscuits - not my intention as I like to keep things bite-sized where possible, especially around Christmastime.

Even though they're large in size and inconsistent in shape, I'm happy enough with my shortbread. It's not the best shortbread I've ever made, but since the recipe is almost identical to Mum's, I can't really lay the blame there. It's probably my uneven cutting and constant squishing of the slices of dough that have made the difference. Still, it tastes ok, and that's the point, right?


  1. I'm sure your mum would be very impressed!c

  2. I'm going to try making shortbread tomorrow!

  3. Good on you - I'm sure it'll turn out well :)


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