She takes the biscuit
Miranda Gore Browne was a finalist in the first Great British Bake Off competition. Now she’s produced a collection of fabulous biscuit recipes
Post Jubilee shenanigans, everyone needs a little sit down with a cup of tea and a biscuit, before the hard graft of the Olympics starts. And as we all now know, courtesy of Mary Berry and The Great British Bake Off contestants, that it’s possible to make our own biscuits, rather than buying expensive packets of the things from supermarkets, we’ll be baking them from scratch, thanks.
Handily, a brand-new biscuit festival and guide in the form of a finalist on the first series of The Great British Bake Off, appear to enable and facilitate. Miranda Gore Browne, or ‘the Iced Biscuit Queen’ as Mary Berry calls her, has gathered together over 100 recipes for biscuits from ‘classic family favourites to beautiful iced delights.’ Bourbons, jammy dodgers, coconut cherry macaroons and lemon squares, toffee melts, even savoury biscuits like marmite morsels and sun-dried tomato spirals, are all here.
Recipes range from suitable for beginners to challenging enough for seasoned cooks. ‘Biscuits are a wonderful part of our heritage,’ writes Miranda in her Introduction, ‘perhaps even a British obsession. They are wonderfully varied and versatile… there is no limit to the world of biscuit-making…’
No limit at all. Like wine, they can be made out of practically anything in almost any shape. The possibilities are endless.
You can catch Miranda, post Bake Off fame, at food shows across the country, take part in her masterclasses, visit her blog – www.mirandagorebrowne.typepad.com – or you can buy Biscuit and become a cookie queen in the comfort of your own home. The recipes below give you a great idea of what’s on offer in the book.
The first British Biscuit Festival is at The Brunswick Centre, Bloomsbury, London WC1 from 8 to 10 June, from noon till 6pm: www.brunswick.co.uk Biscuit by Miranda Gore Browne (Ebury Press, £14.99).
Makes about 16
- 110g unsalted butter, softened
- 110g soft light brown sugar
- 200g plain flour
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 40g cocoa powder
- pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp golden syrup
- granulated sugar, for sprinkling
Cream butter and sugar. In a separate bowl, sift flour, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa powder and salt. Add sifted ingredients and syrup to the butter mixture; combine to form a dough. Bring it together with your hands, then divide it into four equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long sausage shape about 2.5cm in diameter.
Preheat oven to 170C/mark 3. Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper. Place a sausage of dough between two sheets of cling film and roll out to about 3mm thick. Chill in fridge while you repeat the process with the remaining dough.
Transfer chilled pastry to a chopping board and use a pizza wheel or sharp knife to straighten the edges. When you have a neat shape, slice each piece into eight ‘fingers’.
Using a palette knife, lift biscuits on to prepared trays, spacing at least 2cm apart. Use a fine skewer to make shallow holes along top of each one. Bake 10 mins, until biscuits look dry on top. Sprinkle with granulated sugar and press it in gently with the back of a spoon. If ready, it will be fragile but should lift cleanly and neatly away from lining paper. If not, bake a few more minutes, then check again. When biscuits are done, leave on the trays about 15 mins; transfer to wire rack. They harden as they cool.
FOR THE FILLING
- 150g icing sugar
- 5 tsp cocoa powder
- 75g unsalted butter, softened
- tsp vanilla extract
- 3 tsp boiling water
You will also need pizza wheel (optional)
For the filling, sift icing sugar and cocoa powder into a bowl. Add butter, vanilla and boiling water. Beat with a fork or hand mixer until smooth and creamy. Keep buttercream at room temperature until ready to fill the biscuits. When biscuits are cold, use a palette knife to spread the filling on to underside of one biscuit; gently press another on top. Repeat with the rest.
Lovely lavender biscuits
Makes about 16
- 1 heaped tbsp lavender flowers (no stalks)
- 175g self-raising flour, sifted
- 50g caster sugar
- pinch of salt
- 25g semolina
- 130g unsalted butter, from fridge
- caster sugar, for sprinkling
You will also need 5cm heart-shaped, or round, cutter
Put lavender and flour into a food processor and chop finely. Add sugar, salt, semolina and whizz to combine. Finely chop or coarsely grate butter into the mixture and whizz again to form a dough. Squash into a flat disc, wrap tightly in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 180C/mark 4 and line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper. Place chilled dough between two sheets of fresh cling film; roll out to a thickness of 3-4mm. Using the cutter, stamp out hearts or circles. Place on prepared trays, spacing at least 3cm apart, and sprinkle with caster sugar. Bake for 15-20 mins. Sprinkle with caster sugar straight from the oven. Leave to cool
Daily tip from the lady archive
"It is not always she who appears most kindly in her interest who is the safe sharer of sacred (maybe sorrowful) secrets! Charming manners do not always connote sincerity of heart!”The Lady. In Confidence. 4th April, 1918