Money makers

Not long ago, there was a wine tasting @LucFineFoods and I decided to make Simon Hopkinson’s Parmesan biscuits. These have the usual advantage of being egg-free (if you skip the final glaze), and they pack a fantastic amount of taste.

Since then, these have been very much in demand both at home and at work (my day-job, that is).

My tweaks:
– For consistency, I have decided that the “pinch” of cayenne is a level 1/4 teaspoon.
– I don’t do the final glazing and sprinkling anymore.
– I make a double batch of dough, roll it up into a 5cm-thick cylinder and wrap it in cling film. I keep that in the coldest part of my fridge, and make slices as and when needed (at least twice a week, nowadays).
– Take out of the oven when the centre is still paler than the edges.

Recipe: Snickerdoodles

I first encountered the American author Jean Johnson online through her very steamy Harry Potter fanfiction. Yeah, I know. So sue me.

She and I happen to have the same birthday. I became one of her beta readers for her fanfiction, then for her fantasy/romance novels. Despite having a 9-hour time difference between us, we chatted online through my mornings and her late nights. We finally managed to meet for real a few years ago during the World Science Fiction Convention in London.

But back to our subject: to celebrate chapter 100 of one of her fanfictions, Jean included a recipe for her favourite biscuits, I mean, cookies: Snickerdoodles. These are nicely rounded, rather soft in the middle, and covered in crunchy spiced sugar.

Snickerdoodles

Here is her recipe, translated to British English:

Snickerdoodles

3 ¼ cups sifted plain flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bicarb of soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 ½ cups light brown sugar
3 eggs, well beaten
1 cup hazel nuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
1 cup butter

½ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 dash of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 180° C.
Thoroughly sift together flour, salt, bicarb of soda, and 1 tsp cinnamon. Set aside.

Melt the butter, add the sugar and mix. Beat the eggs into the butter-sugar mixture thoroughly. Stir into the flour until you get an homogeneous dough.

Mix together the remaining ½ cup sugar, ½ tsp cinnamon, and dash of nutmeg in a shallow dish.

With a teaspoon, take a walnut-sized lump of dough. Roll it between your hands  into a ball, and dredge in the sugar mixture. Cook 10 to 13 minutes on a greased baking tray (or non-stick baking parchment). Cool on a wire rack.

 

 

For lack of a pot

The weather yesterday was so wet and windy and dreary I thought I would make this Chetna Makan recipe. But things went against me: nor rhubarb left in the shop by the time I got there. So I decided I would improvise, and change the fruit compote to a mango, orange and raspberry medley.

I had the pudding bowl out, the compote made, when I discovered that I couldn’t for the life of me get my hands on my big soup pot. It’s hiding somewhere. Since the other pot was in use by one of my lodgers, I changed plans.

This morning, I made biscuits. Actually, I made cookies and biscotti, to speak in their original languages. But both recipes have something in common: the balls of dough are rolled in sugar before baking.

The cookies are snickerdoodles, delicately flavoured with cinnamon both in the dough and in the rolling sugar.

Snickerdoodles

The biscotti are biscotti morbidi al limone, soft-centred lemon biscuits. For these, I adapted the recipe slightly, since I had used one small lemon, and found the flavour a bit light: I added some pure lemon oil to the dough, and it worked perfectly.

Tender lemon biscuits

Both batches went down a treat at work.

And now, I need to find this pot!

Simple pleasures

You know a recipe is simple when you can describe it in a single tweet, as I just did. In French, which is generally longer than English.

“Langues de chat” are simple French butter biscuits, like tuiles, but without almonds. Their name mean “cat’s tongues”, and their shape is appropriate:

Langues de chat

They’re a staple in French homes – my parents often have a couple to go with their after-lunch coffee, for instance. They are as ubiquitous in French shops as rich tea biscuits are here.

For bakers, they’re known as a simple way to use up egg whites – in this case, to make a dent in the processed egg whites I bought for the “croquants aux noix”.

So, to my recipe: Preheat your oven to 180°C (160° fan), and line at least one baking tin with non-stick parchment.

Weigh your egg whites. Weigh out equal weights of caster sugar, lightly salted butter (soft) and plain flour. In a large bowl, whisk together butter and sugar until they turn pale and fluffy. Whisk in the egg whites, then the flour. Add the flavour of your choice (here, for nearly a kilo of batter, 1 tsp of vanilla paste).

Put in a piping bag, pipe short lines (about 5 cm) on the lined baking tin, making sure you leave enough space for the batter to melt and spread.

Bake until the edges are brown, but the centre remains pale. Slide the baking paper off the tin onto your counter top, leave to cool off a couple of minutes, then place the biscuits on a cooling rack. Once cold, either eat quickly or place in an airtight box.

Recipe hunt

This Saturday, when I arrived to buy a few goodies from Luc on Latimer Street, he was talking to a gentleman who was looking for a specific type of walnut biscuits he’d found in Sarlat, in the Dordogne. As he described it, they had the consistency of normal biscuits, but the ingredients were walnuts, sugar and egg whites.

These didn’t ring a bell for Luc or Myself, but neither of us are from the Périgord. I handed the gentleman one of my cards and told him to call me this week.

So I went searching in my books, recipe archives and, most of all, on the Internet. First, I discovered that this specific type of biscuits was named “Croquants aux noix” – walnut crunch. But most recipes I found also contained flour.

Finally, I found the recipe I was looking for in this blog: La Cuisine de Justine. Being multilingual is useful.

In short, it’s 2/3 finely ground walnuts and 1/3 sugar, plus a dash of egg whites to bind the mass together. I rolled the dough out between layers of cling film, cut it out with a cookie cutter, and stamped “Ker Goz” on them, just because I got that cookie stamp kit recently…

Croquants aux noix, before baking

50 minutes in a low oven (about 120°C fan), and I indeed got crunchy biscuits that tasted of walnut and nothing else.

Croquants aux noix (walnut biscuits)

I packaged that first batch and they are now up for sale at Luc’s. Just 3 packets – I’ll make more, but hurry if you want the first taste!