I’ve always been fascinated by biscuits right since when my nan used to give me malted milk biscuits that had a picture of a cow on them. When I found out that you could bake them, that they didn’t just come out of a packet, that must have been just before my teens.
You see my nan was a fruit crumble, Sunday roast kind of girl and my mum could whip up cakes that were as light as a feather and apple pies, well they were made by the dozen. But biscuits, no one ever made. And then one day our cookery teacher taught us how to make biscuits, actually we made biscuits several times that term. Which was lovely, a dream come true, except one thing… I was not a very good time keeper. I always used to wash up my dirty kitchen utensils with my friend Mole around the corner in the utility room. We would be deep in conversation or “cackling” as we used to call it, when there would be a flurry of activity at the door with someone calling “Mandy, Mandy, your biscuits” and I would rush out, apron flapping in the wind only to find smoke billowing out of my oven. And when I say billowing, the smoke was gushing out.
I’d always manage to shamefacedly rescue the best ones to put on the top of the best of my burnt offerings to present to my parents. Eventually I managed to master the act of standing by the cooker and even then I always seem to manage to singe a few. You’d think it would have put me off for life but really it just made me more interested in how quickly biscuits cook and also how easily it is to under cook them, because this can be just as bad. You don’t want a shortbread that is as chewy as an American cookie, you want a crisp shortbread without any colour… and there in lies the rub, its not as easy as it appears.
I think you have a two minute window, and realistically it is probably less than that to get a tray of perfect shortbreads. They should appear almost without any colour having been taken from the cooking process, but if you take this too far they go doughy and they are not so good.
This is a double quantity of shortbread mixture, based purely on the fact that I know my oven doesn’t cook as evenly as I would like and that I will end up with a few that are either over or under done depending on when I take the tray out. I add a quantity of cornflour to my mix (there are many shortbread recipes, try a few) so that the mouth feel is crisp and it doesn’t stick to the roof of your mouth. Some people use rice flour, I’ve never used it, I must try it.
I’ve rolled the log in demerara sugar and chilled it for twenty minutes.
Slices cut off, about 1 cm, probably slightly less and then baked for just over 18 minutes at 180 c, it takes time to get from the study, thats why its just over, you’d think I’d learn and would stand by the cooker, but at least this time I have an electronic timer, these things didn’t exist (well not on school cookers) when I was young.
This is two batches of shortbread, the right end pile is almost three biscuits deep. And those are the palest, yet well cooked. The left hand side didn’t have as many shortbreads in the oven and so caught a little more colour.
Which is no problem, I will have a tin full of shortbread, a rich fruit cake which has just been redressed in parchment paper after having another spoonful of brandy for medicinal purposes before being tied up with string. Doilies have been purchased, tea, coffee, sugar, milk and washing up liquid is at the ready.
I just have to sort out these delightful biscuits, with any imperfections making their way towards our supper, open a bottle of wine, (its been a long day) and try and find something on the television that isn’t of a political nature.