Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Amazing what you can do with the basics

At this time of year I generally do a fair bit of Christmas baking. Of course, I've already done the more obvious Christmas recipes in previous years, (and most of the non-Christmas baking, too) so I have to get a bit crafty with the few recipes that are left. One of the less appealing ones that remained was basic biscuits (p35).

I don't really think this recipe is intended for use as is; it includes a whole list of variations that flavour it in different ways. Without any of these additions it's got to be a pretty flavourless sort of recipe. It's still on my list though, so couldn't avoid it. However, after a little thought, I came up with some ideas to jazz the boring biscuits up a bit

I couldn't add anything to the actual biscuit mixture, because that would defeat the purpose. My plans did not alter the fundamental recipe - except in one way. The recipe calls for the mixture to be formed into balls, pressed down with a fork, and baked. When making some of the variations, I'd found that rolling the dough out and cutting shapes made for crisper, tastier biscuits - and more of them. So naturally, I planned to do this again.

The mixture is made in the standard "cream butter and sugar, beat in eggs, add sifted dry ingredients" way. It wasn't long before I had a soft, pliable dough. I separated off a chunk, rolled it out and began my first experiment. I cut rounds of the dough and used them to line mini muffin tins in much the same way as I'd normally use pastry. The dough was a bit tricky to work with, but I managed to get two tins worth of little biscuit cases into the oven.

They came out looking beautiful - much firmer than pastry cases, but easier to get out of the tin. They did tend to have a bit of a hollow where air was trapped in the bottom, but other than that, I think my little biscuit-case experiment was quite successful. (You'll see what I'm doing with these later on.)

Next, I rolled out a bit more of the dough and cut simple star-shapes out of it. These baked off nicely, and when they were cooled, I mixed up a caramel icing (p76) and sandwiched them together. Why caramel? Because it was the only icing I had left to do. It only took a few minutes to make - I melted butter and brown sugar together with a little milk, then stirred in icing sugar. The biggest difficulty I had was in the icing setting too quickly while I was trying to use it on my biscuits. I ended up sitting the saucepan over a very low heat to stop the icing from setting.

Finally, I rolled out the last of my dough, and cut rounds out of it. From half the rounds, I cut a small circle in the centre to create a ring. Then I pressed a ring onto the top of each full round, and filled the hollow in the centre with raspberry jam, before putting them into the oven. 

When I'd finished baking, I had 24 little biscuit cases, 17 sandwiched star biscuits, and 14 jam-centred biscuits. They all looked different, and not un-Christmassy. Not bad for a single batch of basic biscuits, eh?

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