Tag Archives: biscuits pastries and slices

Recipe: Ridiculously Decadent, Sin-Black Biscuits for Purim

OK, so the first thing you will notice about this post is that it isn’t Purim.  (Perhaps I am overestimating my readers’ grasp of just when all the Jewish festivals are, but then again, since my readership is full of bakers, and Purim always seems to me as a religiously-mandated excuse for baking – you’re supposed to make little baskets of biscuits and give them to people, this is the festival I would make up if I made up festivals – my chances might be better than I think.)

The second thing you will notice about this post is that my last sentence went on and on and on and on and on…

The reason for both these things is Project Grants.  They are due tomorrow.  There were 19 of them in my group, plus a few little Cancer Council and Cancer Australia bagatelles, and I have been reading them.  And proof-reading them.  And, occasionally, inserting sarcastic marginalia into them.  This has been phenomenally time-consuming, and has probably not improved my ability to write sensible sentences.  Next week, we have fellowships, the week after that we have more fellowships, then there is Easter, at which point I will escalate my current insane Lenten singing schedule into something that borders on the impossible, or at least the highly improbable, after which we have more fellowships, a grant report, two events that I am running in late April, and a Program Grant due in May.  And a concert the day before the grant goes in.  Hooray!

All of which is a very long way of saying that yes, I’m cooking, yes, I’m thinking about food, and yes, I’m even making up recipes.  But sometimes it’s going to take me a few weeks to write them down, because, as you may by now have grasped, I am hardly ever at home, and when I am, it is for sleeping.

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Anyway, back to these cookies, because these cookies are awesome.  They are basically a riff on some cookies in Claudia Roden’s Book of Jewish Food, only I changed virtually all the ingredients.  As you do.  But they are still sort of the same cookies, in texture, personality, and, most importantly, in their really, really spectacularly easy method.

Also, they really do look coal-black when they go into the oven.  It’s rather awesome.

These cookies take about ten minutes to put together, and then 25 minutes to cook, and they would probably keep very well if I didn’t have hungry scientists who don’t give anything the opportunity to keep well.  Claudia Roden says that the original biscuits keep well, and that’s good enough for me.

As are these delicious, chocolatey, ever-so-slightly boozy biscuits.

Your Shopping List (makes about 16 little cookies, if I recall correctly)

100 g almond meal
100 g hazelnut meal
50 g dark, dark cocoa
75 g caster sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons brandy (make sure you roll the R when you say it, it’s that sort of biscuit)

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Recipe: Eggplant Tarts

My brother and I have an annual tradition for Christmas, where his gift to me is a ticket to one day of the Boxing Day test, and mine to him is a picnic lunch for my brother and sister-in-law and their guests at the cricket that day.  It’s a pretty good deal all round, except for the fact that my entry into the MCG seems to be the cue for everyone to forget how to bat properly – I’ve watched four batting collapses in four days of cricket over the last three years.  But this year, I was in luck, and got to spend a fabulous day yesterday watching India play test cricket as though they were playing a one day match, and the batting was spectacular (the less said about Australia’s fielding, the better.  Let’s just say that the batsmen spent most of the day throwing caution to the wind and hitting fours all over the place with impunity.  I loved it.).

I always over-cater, and never more so than this year, especially because my mother inexplicably decided to bring lunch for her and dad.  Apparently, it didn’t occur to my mother that I would be catering for them as well.  Anyone would think she had never met me…

Anyway, I made a big beetroot and carrot salad, and planned to make spiced roast pumpkin pasties, only I was really tired when making the pastry and quadrupled the flour when I meant to double it… and of course once I figured that out, I had to add more of everything else and had way too much pastry, so I decided to throw together some eggplant tarts as well.  Naturally, these turned out to be the hit of the day, which is a bit of a pest, since I hadn’t written down anything I’d done.  Or taken any photos, which is why these ones are so bad.

So this is my attempt to reconstruct said tarts, because they really were tasty, and I’d like to make them again sometime.

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Your Shopping List

90 ml olive oil
90 ml cold water
380 g flour (3 cups)
1 tsp herbed salt – I used the Garlic Lovers Spice from Gewürzhaus
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 egg + 1 egg yolk

olive oil
lavender salt
2 cloves garlic
2 medium eggplants
1/4 cup white wine
2 roasted peppers, sliced
1 x 180 g container Persian Feta, drained
a large handful of mint leaves, finely chopped

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Recipe: Christmassy Almond Butter Cookies (vegan and gluten free and almost healthy)

Ah, December.  No matter what I do, it seems to get away from me, and this year, more than ever.  I wound up doing most of my Christmas Baking last weekend – all day on Sunday, in fact – and only got my Christmas letters written and posted this morning.  Oops.  But since I am now officially On Holiday, I can actually start writing down the recipes I bookmarked in my head to put on this blog before Christmas.  So long as I’m quick about it…

This recipe was one I made last week.  I have what I would like to call an annual tradition, though in fact I don’t manage it nearly often enough, of baking up a storm a bit before Christmas and then going around to all the departments on Levels 1 and 2 (the professional services departments), delivering goodies and thanks to all and sundry.  And writing this, I’ve just realised that I never did get to Engineering.  Drat.  I dropped by twice and they weren’t there.  But that’s still a bad miss. 

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Anyway, I tend to try to make things that are large on output and low on effort, which is to say, lots of shortbread and mince pies and ginger biscuits.  But I also like to make sure there are some things in the mix which are vegan and gluten-free, and others that are nut free (so far, fortunately, I have not acquired any individual colleagues with more than two of these three requirements).  This year, the shortbread was egg and nut free, so my gluten-free and vegan biscuits were my chocolate tahini ones, and these little bites.

These almond butter biscuits are just barely sweet.  They really only have three main ingredients, after which you can flavour them according to your liking.  The quinoa flour and almond butter make them high in protein, and the agave nectar makes them fairly low in glycaemic index.  But they do, I think, want that little bit of glacé or dried fruit, or something sweet, to take them out of the health food category and into a more festive arena…

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Your Shopping List

150 g almond butter, unsweetened
100 g quinoa flour2-3 tbsp agave nectar
glacé cherries or glacé ginger or jam, or see variations for more suggestions

Now what will you do with it?

Pre-heat the oven to 165°C, and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Combine the almond butter and quinoa flour in a bowl.  Add two tablespoons of agave nectar and mix in.  Taste for sweetness, and check the texture – you will find that it is extremely crumbly at this stage, so you will probably want to add another tablespoon of water or another tablespoon of agave nectar, according to taste.  Basically, you do want a relatively crumbly dough, but it needs to be something you can form into a little ball and make a thumbprint in it.

Do so, making the biscuits fairly small – if you make a circle of your thumb and first finger, that’s the size of the ball you want.

Press half a glacé cherry, or a sliver of glacé ginger, or a little dollop of jam into the thumbprint in each biscuit.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden and firm.

Serve to your deserving colleagues!

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Variations

I have so many ideas!  Firstly, if you were someone who liked peanut butter, I’ve seen an amazing looking honey and cinnamon peanut butter at the shops.  Now, I think peanuts are basically demonic, and honey isn’t very vegan, but if this is your idea of fun, I suspect it would be a great substitute for the almond butter.  You may need a little more or less quinoa flour to get the texture right, so fiddle around and see.  Macadamia butter or pistachio butter would also work.

You could roll these little biscuits in cinnamon sugar instead of doing the thumbprint thing – teeny, tiny almond snickerdoodles.  Or you could put a whole dried cherry in the middle of an almond ball (surprise!).  Or both at once!  Dried apricots would be nice, too, but you wouldn’t fit a whole one.

You could also choose a different flour, but bear in mind that this would affect the texture of the dough.

Allergy-wise, this is obviously useless if you are allergic to nuts, but it’s good for the gluten-free and the vegans, and if you swap out the agave nectar for maple syrup – which would be delightful, by the way, I just didn’t have any that day – you would be doing OK fructose-wise, I think.  And, as mentioned, they are not too bad in the glycaemic index department.  Quite a handy recipe to have in one’s repertoire, I think.

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Recipe: Asparagus and Carrot Pastries

My blog has gone a bit quiet over the last few days for several reasons. The first is that I bought an iPad, and succumbed to the excitement of cookbook apps and also interactive biology and chemistry textbooks, to the exclusion of all else. The second is that I got really cranky about politics, which meant that I started writing in my politics blog again, and there’s only so much writing I can do in one day. And the third is that… downloading interactive biology and chemistry textbooks (not to mention cookbook apps) kind of used up the last remaining shreds of our broadband for the month. I am currently writing this offline, while waiting for Cate’s Cates to load. It’s been ten minutes so far.   God only knows what it will be like when I have to upload pictures.

So you can expect a few more quiet days around here, until we get our broadband connection back.

Anyway, today is Grand Finals Day, and my team is in it. Very exciting stuff, and probably an apt occasion on which to post the delicious vegetarian goodies I made for last Grand Finals Day and inexplicably never found time to post about.

This is more of an idea than a recipe, but it’s a very good idea, and very easy to make, which works for me. I had bought a packet of puff pastry from the Fairfield Farmers’ Market, and was full of plans to make vegan sausage rolls, but then I was seduced by the simplicity (and cuteness) of asparagus and baby carrots in little puff pastry waistcoats (or more probably straitjackets, now that I look at them, but you probably shouldn’t tell your guests that while you are serving these).

And they were delicious, so everyone was happy. Especially me, because Hawthorn won.

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Your Shopping List

1 packet of puff pastry – I think mine was about 250 g
1-2 tablespoons of basil paste or pesto
1 bunch of asparagus (pick relatively slim asparagus, not the gigantically thick kind)
1 bunch of carrots
salt, pepper, lavender salt, chilli, parmesan – all optional

 

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Recipe: Mini and Terribly Inauthentic Croquembouche

Je suis à Paris!  Et alors il faut écrire une recette typiquement Française, n’est pas?

This is another time-travelling post (spooky!), which is always a risk.  I’ll look pretty silly if I perish in a glacier last week and then this post appears, that’s for sure.

Anyway, assuming no glacier perishment, at the time you are reading this, I am probably sleeping the sleep of the just after a day spent cycling around the gardens of Versailles.  So if any of my GCC buddies are reading this, I want you to know that I’m keeping up the good walk while I’m away.  Or at least, past me thinks that future me will be doing so…

I actually made this croquembouche for Bastille Day (mais oui!), so if you pay close attention to the photo, you will notice that the crème patissière is jumping up and down crying “Liberté”, as it attempts to ooze its way out of the profiteroles.  The profiteroles are, of course, all about “Egalité”, because in a world in which I were actually competent at profiteroles, they would all be the same size.  And meanwhile, the caramel is grimly embodying “Fraternité”, as it tries with all its sugary might to hold the entire tower together in brotherly union.

Having stretched that metaphor as far as it can go and probably further (I’m writing this just before leaving Melbourne and I’m not yet packed, so I’m ever so slightly beside myself right now), let us move on to the recipe itself.  This is the first time I have attempted croquembouche, so naturally I took liberties with the recipe.  Of course I did.  But they were very nice liberties – I used Harry Eastwood’s low-fat profiterole recipe, which actually made some of the best profiteroles I’ve managed yet, and I used my almond milk crème patissière (chocolate and vanilla varieties) inside the chou pastry.  And it’s probably a very good thing I’m leaving France in a couple of days, because they will probably kick me out if they find out what I did to their classic wedding cake recipe.

You know what, though?  It tasted *really* good.  Really, really good.  Better than any other croquembouche I’ve tried so far.  I think it’s that amazing crème patissière recipe, to be honest.  The chocolate version, in particular, is to die for.  Also, almond milk reduces the richness just enough that six people really can demolish this entire tower without regretting it too badly afterward…

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Your shopping list

For the crème patissière:

500 ml almond milk + 100ml f0r the chocolate cream
1 vanilla pod
125 g caster sugar100 g egg yolks (from about 5-6 eggs)
40 g custard powder
25 g cocoa butter
100 g dark chocolate, chopped

For the profiteroles

250 ml water
10 g caster sugar1/2 tsp salt
60 g butter
140 g spelt flour
4 eggs

For the toffee

About 300 g sugar – I’m afraid I didn’t measure it.

You will also need at least three piping bags with plain nozzles – one large nozzle and two small.

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Recipe: Fruit Mince Filo Cigars

Last weekend, I was invited to a Yule celebration at the home of one of my friends from work.  It was an amazingly fun evening (I think I could become addicted to the werewolf card game, even though I’m fairly terrible at it), and also notable for the incredible quantities of potatoes and cream that found their way onto the menu.  This is, perhaps, inevitable when the host and half the guests are French, and are, moreover, from places like Normandy and Burgundy, where potatoes and dairy products are pretty big stuff.  (I am informed that they do not believe in vegetables in these regions.  Other than potatoes.)

So we had roast lamb, and we had roast potatoes, and roast sweet potatoes, and we had pommes dauphines and we had gratin dauphinoise. And there was quiche, too.  I decided that *some* sort of non-potato vegetable wouldn’t go astray, so my offering was ratatouille.  (Which, actually, I was a bit nervous about actually calling ratatouille in front of a group of French people, as I have no idea what an authentic ratatouille is like, but apparently it was acceptable).

For dessert, since we clearly had not had enough cream yet, there were crèmes brulées (we got to blow-torch our brulées at the table, which instantly elevates this dinner party to the best one I have ever attended.  Also, possibly, the most dangerous one, since the blow-torch came out after the second glass of wine for most people at the table, and when you consider that many of the guests have a tendency to gesture a lot with their hands, you will understand why this was a little alarming…), and also waffles with nuttella and whipped cream.  I had considered once again taking the high path and bringing something with actual fruit in it, but the whole Yule / Christmas in Winter spirit overwhelmed me, and it was absolutely necessary to bring something involving spices, brandy and fruit mince.

Which is when I thought of these little cigars.

I actually made these for the first time after Christmas last year, when I realised I had a bit of fruit mince leftover from my mince pies, and also some filo pastry leftover from turning my Christmas chook into handheld chicken and pumpkin filo pies, and decided to combine the two.

They were amazing – astonishingly rich on the inside, but with a lovely, light, crisp pastry that made them a delight to bite into.  Also, they are surprisingly easy to make, which is a bonus.  And fantastic when dipped in double cream.  Which is not vegan, but a good cashew cream might actually be even better.

Of course, I had no idea what proportions of anything I’d used, so I figured I’d save the recipe until I had a bit more time.  Which was why I was half an hour late to the dinner party – it turned out that I didn’t, really, have that much time after all…

It was still worth it, though.  And after all those potatoes, a dessert that was low on the whole pastry/cake/pudding side of things and high on the rich, dried fruit side of things wasn’t a bad match at all.

(Though I suspect a fruit salad, while less Christmassy, would have been even better…)

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Your Shopping List

1 quantity of Easy Fruit Mince, made with cocoa butter instead of butter for vegan goodness.
1 handful each of dried cherries, chopped dried apricots, and chopped dried figs.

1 packet of filo pastry from the fridge section.  Please, not the freezer section.  I cannot stress this highly enough.  If you buy your filo pastry from the fridge, it will come out as lovely, soft, fine, layers of pastry, like fabric that roll like a dream.  If you buy it from the freezer and defrost it, it will come out like paper.  Old, crackling, crumbling paper.  And it will stick to itself and it will break when you try to unroll it and then you will end up with little flakes of pastry everywhere and nothing to roll your fruit mince in, and you will be very sad and you will wish you had taken my advice.  Which is good advice.  Seriously, get your filo from the fridge, or don’t bother.  I don’t want you to be sad, and I’m sure you don’t want that either.
Olive oil spray

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Recipe: Gluten-free orange and cardamom wafers

These were going to be cut-out biscuits for the Ovarian Cancer fundraising Morning Teal, but first I wanted to make them without egg, for my friend who can’t eat eggs, and then I thought I’d make them gluten-free, for my friend who can’t eat gluten and by the time I was done inventing a new gluten-free flour and messing with the recipe as is my wont, my beautiful ribbon and dinosaur-shaped biscuits spread all over the biscuit tray and ran together until they looked like mis-shapen brandy snaps – thin, a little bit flexible while hot, and generally wafer-like.

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They were also really yummy, which was almost adding insult to injury, at this point.  I decided to cut the next batch into circles, and sandwich them together with blue curaçao icing, for the purposes of the morning tea, and they were pretty good like that, but secretly I knew that my ugly biscuits had a much better fate before them – they were made to go with ice-cream or whipped cream and fruit.

So that’s what I did with them for dessert the following night, and I was right – they were great with icecream.  And they will be even better with whipped cream, if I can find the right configuration for them.

If I were making them again, I’d plan to shape them into baskets over the back of a glass or something similar – they really have that sort of personality.  Then again, this recipe makes about a hundred wafers, so maybe not.  I’d probably go mad.  You can certainly halve this recipe – the reason I’ve made it so large is to make the gluten-free flour mix manageable.  But you can make the mix, pull out 250 g of it and set the rest aside for gluten-free cupcakes (which is what I did with the rest of it), if you prefer.

All dressed up for Morning Teal

All dressed up for Morning Teal

Your shopping list

1 1/2 cups rice flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/3 cup arrowroot or tapioca flour
1/3 cup cornflour
1/3 cup potato flour
1/2 cup cornmeal (polenta)
440 g caster sugar
440 g butter, softened
zest of two oranges
2 tsp ground cardamom seed
1 tsp bicarb of soda
pinch of salt

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Christmas Leftovers Recipe: Moroccan Chicken and Pumpkin Filo Triangles

I make a variation of this recipe basically every time I do a roast or slow-cooked chicken.  With only two of us in the household, we don’t use much chicken on the first meal, and while I love roast chicken, Andrew doesn’t like it much at all, so the leftovers always go into a pie.

This is another cricket lunchbox menu – I’m pleased to say that when I told my brother what was in our lunch hamper yesterday, the man in front of us turned around and said ‘That sounds absolutely amazing’, which made me feel very smug indeed.  Because it really was a very good lunch, if I say so myself – chicken pastries, zucchini pesto muffins, spinach salad with apricots and blueberries (from the Green Kitchen App, which I enthusiastically recommend to your attention if you don’t have it already), apricot and peach schnapps shortbread, and crispy filo cigars full of fruit mince with double cream to dip them into.  Yum.

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(Though apparently my presence at the cricket causes concussions and batting collapses – yesterday wasn’t a good day for the batsmen on either side, and last year, I presided over Sri Lanka’s total collapse, with bonus concussions, on day three of the Boxing Day test.  My brother wants me to come in to the MCG this afternoon to jinx the Brits, and I’m just trying to decide whether I can face the weather in the name of scientific enquiry.)

Anyway.  These are full of lovely moist chicken, and sweetly spiced pumpkin and chickpeas, all leftover from Christmas Eve Lunch, though you could make this from scratch if you wanted to.  And you might want to, because they are really delicious, warm or cold.

Your Leftovers & Shopping List

Leftover slow-cooked or roasted chicken (about half a chicken)

Leftover roasted carrots, roasted pumpkins and chickpeas, spiced with chilli, ginger, garlic and star anise; or use plain roasted pumpkins, one tin of chickpeas, and chop up one chilli, two garlic cloves and about 2cm of fresh ginger, and sauté briefly until they lose their rawness.  You want this veggie mixture to be between half the weight of the chicken and one and a quarter times the weight – essentially, you don’t want the pastries to taste just of chicken or just of pumpkin, but it’s fine if one side dominates a bit.

2 tsp preserved lemon, finely chopped

1 packet filo pastry, and I strongly recommend you buy it from the fridge section, not the freezer section, because it is much, much easier to work with

olive oil spray

Now what will you do with it?

If the chicken is still on the bone, remove it from the bones, and remove the skin and any other bits that aren’t really edible (use these bits to make stock).  Shred it into a large bowl.

Chop up the pumpkin and carrots, and add to the bowl with the chickpeas and preserved lemon (and spices, if you did them separately).  Again, you shouldn’t need to season this, because you presumably seasoned your chicken and roast veg when you cooked them the first time.

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Spray one sheet of filo pastry with olive oil, and put a spoonful of the chicken and pumpkin mix onto the lower half, towards the right hand end.  Essentially, imagine the first fold, which will be folding the pastry in half lengthwise, and the second fold, which will be a triangle folding from the right hand corner up to the first fold, and aim to have your filling in the bit which will be covered by the second fold.

That was totally unintelligible so here is a picture.

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Once you have a triangle, flip it over along its vertical side onto the next bit of pastry, then flip it down over its diagonal onto the next bit, then across, and so forth until you are out of pastry.

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Put the resulting triangle onto a tray lined with baking paper, and spray it with more olive oil.

Repeat with the rest of the mixture and the filo pastry. (If you have excess filo pastry, I highly recommend making fruit mince cigars with the rest of it – but that’s a recipe for next Christmas, when I will actually pay attention to what I am doing so that I can write it down.)

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Bake at 180°C for about half an hour, turning partway through the cooking time, until the filo is golden and crisp on each side.  Serve hot or at room temperature – the filo will go soft if you have to refrigerate it, but it will still taste lovely.

Variations

This is obviously not a vegetarian meal, though it is dairy and egg free, and also nut free, for a change.  It’s also fairly low GI, due to the chickpeas, and would be lower if you used sweet potato to replace part or all of the pumkpin.

It’s hard to think of a likely variation, since this is all leftovers-based, but you could, of course, make a larger pie, in which case I would layer the chicken with the pumpkin separately, and perhaps add ricotta or spinach layers or both.  Diana Henry has a beautiful recipe along those lines.

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One year ago: A menu for the cricket
Two years ago: Easy pasta dinner

Recipe: Apricot and Peach Schnapps Shortbread from Annette’s Subconscious Mind

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.  I mean, for starters, there’s John Lennon, though I don’t believe that imaginary biscuits were ever on his agenda in a big way.  Perhaps they should have been, but I can already feel this post tugging at the reins, trying to head off into La-La Land (sounds like a Eurovision song, I’m only waiting for it), and it would probably behoove me to get this recipe out there before things get too crazy around here *.

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Anyway, speaking of dreamers, my friend Annette accused me on Thursday of corrupting her subconscious.  She had apparently dreamed about me making biscuits with peach schnapps and dried apricots in them, and she blamed this entirely on me, because she doesn’t bake and there was no good reason she should be dreaming up recipes. 

Personally, I don’t really mind who dreams up the recipes if they come together like this one, so I’m happy to subcontract the job out to Annette’s subconscious any time.  It’s nicer than mine anyway.  The last really vivid dream I had that involved cooking of any kind – well, suffice it to say you don’t want to know what went into that blender, but it definitely wasn’t vegetarian.  It did come out very, very red, though.  So yes, let’s go with Annette’s subconscious for now.

My first thought when considering Annette’s recipe was that one would start by soaking the apricots in the peach schnapps, but Annette was very definite that the schnapps should be added as a separate liquid ingredient.  This is not exactly common to biscuits, so I chose to compromise by doing both (this is always the best way to compromise, don’t you think?).  I based the recipe on a shortbread biscuit, because Annette doesn’t get on well with eggs, but I think this would have been a good move regardless – a more solid, chewy biscuit would have drowned the subtle peach flavour.  And speaking of subtle peach flavour, do make sure you get a peach schnapps that actually tastes like peaches, not like peach flavouring.  This is going to be the main flavour in your biscuit, so you want it to be a good one.  (I used De Kuyper, which turned out to be a good choice.)

These biscuits have quite a short texture, and taste subtly of peach, with lovely chewy bits of apricot through them.  They aren’t all that sweet, so I so I decided to ice them with an evil mixture of pure icing sugar and more peach schnapps.  Yum.  They really are quite delicious.  Good call, Nette!

Your Shopping List

135 g dried apricots
30 ml peach schnapps for soaking, 15 ml for the biscuit, 55 ml for the icing
300 g unsalted butter, cubed and softened
50 g icing sugar, plus 245 icing sugar for the icing
350 g plain flour
40 g rice flour
silver cachous to decorate, if you like
 

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Recipe: Ras El Hanout Shortbread

My mother makes, hands down, the best shortbread I’ve tasted.  It’s crispy and buttery and really ‘short’, and basically just practically perfect in every way. You’d think, wouldn’t you, that this being the case, I wouldn’t feel the need to mess with it…?

Honestly, I wasn’t going to mess with it at all.  I really, really like it the way it is.  But there I was on Sunday, feeling rather under the weather, and desultorily poking around in my spice collection considering dinner and other things, and my eye fell on the Ras El Hanout.  And – for whatever reason – my brain went, hmm, I wonder how that would taste in a biscuit?

On the face of it, this isn’t too terrible an idea.  Ras El Hanout, for those who are not aware of it, is a Moroccan spice mix that contains, in the version I have, contains ingredients ranging from paprika, cumin and celery to rose petals, cassia, nutmeg, and cardamom.  It’s a sweet-savoury blend that smells so good on its own that it deserves a chance to stand out and be its own thing.

The question was, what sort of biscuit would allow Ras El Hanout to shine?  I spent half an hour looking through my recipe books for things like sugar cookies or gingernuts, which would allow me to substitute in the spices, or just add them, but nothing appealed.  And then my eye fell on my copy of Mum’s (in fact, Oma’s) shortbread recipe… just butter, sugar, flour and rice flour.  Perfectly plain.  Beautifully textured.  If Ras El Hanout was going to work in any sort of sweet biscuit at all, it would work in this one.

And it did.  My biscuits have turned out a little bit ugly – I didn’t expect them to spread so much on cooking, and their texture isn’t quite as good as when Mum makes them – but apart from that, they are a delight: crispy, buttery, almost honeyed in their flavour, and scented with the heady smell of a Moroccan spice shop.  Bliss.

Sorry, Mum.  I’ll make the shortbread properly next time…

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Your Shopping List

225 g unsalted butter (the cultured, European-style butter works especially well here)
115 g caster sugar
225 g plain flour (if you can, get a low-protein kind, marked as especially for cakes and biscuits rather than a high-protein bread flour)
60 g rice flour
2 tsp Ras el Hanout (I think Gewürzhaus‘s version of this is particularly good)
 

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