Posts tagged ‘biscuits’

Speculoos 1
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This post is a little late, as speculoos biscuits (speculaas in Dutch) are traditionally baked in Belgium and the Netherlands on the eve of St. Nicholas day, on 5th December (and I did bake them before Christmas). When it comes to enjoying them, though, there really is no need to be so strict. Thin and crunchy, they are the perfect winter treat to accompany a hot coffee or a glass of milk – in January as well!

The speculoos spice mix (speculaaskruiden)

Speculoos spice mix webThe speculoos spice mix is what sets them apart from gingerbread biscuits. Comforting cinnamon creates the body of the mix; cloves and nutmeg are essential to give it a little warm kick. For two tablespoons of speculoos spice mix, you will need: 4 teaspoons of cinnamon; 1 teaspoon of nutmeg; and 1 teaspoon of ground cloves. You can skip other spices completely or personalise the basic mix by adding a pinch of the one or two spices you like the most (ginger, cardamom, white pepper, coriander, etc.).

The speculoos moulds

Traditionally, speculoos biscuits are stamped on the front with St. Nicholas’ image using handcrafted wooden moulds. In fact, the mould is such a part of the process that the word speculoos apparently comes from the Latin word for mirror (speculum), referring to St. Nicholas’ reflection. If you live in the Netherlands, Belgium or France, finding a speculoos mould should not be difficult; Dille & Kamille sells several online. If you live in Germany, a springerle mould will do the job just as beautifully. Anyone else can either bribe Central European friends or buy the moulds on good old Ebay: search for ‘speculoos mould’, ‘speculaas mould’ or ‘springerle mould’. Of course, you don’t need to use a mould at all: cookie cutters or even the rim of a glass will do.

The dough can be kept in the fridge for up to a week and the spice mix can be kept for a few weeks in an airtight tin in a cool and dry place.

D-P1120840 web

Ingredients (for 20-25 biscuits)

  • 500g all-purpose flour
  • 300g soft butter
  • 280g dark brown sugar
  • 70ml water or milk
  • 2 tablespoons speculoos spice mix
  • 2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
  • a little corn flour for dusting

Speculoos 3

How to make them

1. In a bowl, beat together 280g dark brown sugar, 300g soft butter and 2 tablespoons speculoos spice mix. Dissolve the resulting cream into 70ml water or milk.

2. Sieve together 500g all-purpose flour and 2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda. Sprinkle the flour over the butter mix and blend to get a thick, not too elastic dough. Be careful not to knead too much.

3. Wrap the ball of dough in cling film and let it cool in the fridge for at least two hours (or overnight).

4. About half an hour before baking, take the dough out of the fridge. Preheat the oven to 170 °C (160 °C for a ventilated oven). Cover your worktop with some baking paper (using baking paper rather than dusting with flour will keep the dough lighter and the worktop cleaner). Cut the dough into four parts. Cover the first one with some cling film and flatten with a rolling pin.

5. If you are using a wooden mould, lightly dust it with some corn flour. Press the dough into the mould with your hand to fit the design and cut the exceeding dough with a cutting wire or a sharp knife. Gently remove the dough from the mould by tapping the mould against the table or using a toothpick. If you are not using a wooden mould, cut the dough into shapes using a cookie cutter or the edge of a glass.

How to use a speculoos mould

6. Place on a baking sheet covered with baking greaseproof paper. If necessary, place in the fridge to cool for 30 min.

7. Bake at 170°C for around 10-15 min, depending on the size, until the speculoos are a deep golden brown . Turn the oven down if they are darkening too quickly.

Enjoy!

Speculoos 4

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Maple 2 web
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I had the perfect autumn day today. It was a fresh crisp day, with a little drizzle in the air. I put my wellies on and went to the park for a little brisk walk. The leaves were all shades of gold and red and the dogs were playing in the mud. You get the picture! Once back home, I baked these maple syrup shortbread biscuits, just in time for Bonfire Night. They are great with a cup of steaming hot ginger and lemon tea!

I have been planning to bake some maple syrup biscuits for some time, but it took me a while to find the right recipe. Mine is based on the traditional 1-2-3 shortbread recipe, but it replaces sugar with pure maple syrup and adjusts butter and flour accordingly. As maple syrup is liquid, the biscuit is less crumbly than a traditional shortbread.

What makes or breaks these biscuits is the quality of the ingredients, so it’s worth using the best quality ingredients you can afford. Make sure that you use pure Canadian maple syrup (I used Shady Maple Farms’ organic 100% pure maple syrup). I used salted butter because I like to counter-balance the sweetness of the maple syrup; however, that’s just a matter of taste and unsalted butter will work just as well.

For a good result, temperature is also key. The butter must be very soft before you start making the dough, or it won’t become creamy enough to mix properly with the maple syrup. That’s why it’s a good idea to dice it and work it on its own, before incorporating the maple syrup. Once the dough is mixed, on the other hand, you want to keep it cool to make sure that the biscuits keep their shape in the oven. . If it is a hot day, you may need to leave the biscuits in the freezer for 15 minutes after cutting them to make sure that they hold their shape in the oven.

Maple P1 web

Ingredients (for 8 large biscuits)

  • 100ml pure maple syrup
  • 180g butter, diced and soft
  • 275g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Maple 1 web

How to make them

  1. Beat 180g of butter, diced and soft, and 100ml maple syrup with an electric mixer until smooth (this will take about 3-5 minutes).
  2. In a separate bowl, stir together 275g of plain flour and ½ teaspoon of salt. Using a spatula, gradually fold the flour mixture into the butter mixture until completely incorporated.
  3. Squeeze the dough into a ball, wrap it in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least an hour (preferably two).
  4. Preheat the oven to 180ºC / Gas 4 (ventilated). Line a baking sheet with greaseproof baking paper.
  5. Dust the work surface with a little flour and gently roll the dough out to about 8mm-1cm thick. Cut into leaf shapes using a biscuit cutter.
  6. Transfer the biscuits to the baking sheet and sprinkle each biscuit with a pinch of brown sugar. If it is a hot day, leave in the freezer for 15 minutes to make sure that the biscuits hold their shape when baking.
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes. The larger and thicker the biscuits, the longer they may need in the oven. Once they are pale golden and firm and no longer stick to the greaseproof paper, remove from the oven and transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool.

Enjoy!

Maple P2 web

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20150815. Sugar'n' spice Index top

Before starting: ingredients

All-in-one cakes

Creamed cakes

Meringues

Whisked cakes and sponge cakes

Pastries

Biscuits and small bakes

Bread

Savoury bakes

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6. Lemon shortbread web
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This is the traditional, 1-2-3 shortbread recipe: 1 part sugar, 2 parts butter and 3 parts flour – so for 100g of sugar, you will need 200g of butter and 300g of flour; or 1 cup sugar, 2 cups butter and 3 cups flour. The reason why I love this recipe is that it lets delicious, honest ingredients shine through – plus, it’s easy to remember!

What makes or breaks shortbread biscuits is the butter, so make sure that you use the best quality butter you can afford (those yellow farmhouse organic butters are ideal). I used salted butter because I like to counter-balance the sweetness of the sugar; however, that’s just a matter of taste and unsalted butter will work just as well.

When working the butter, it’s important to pay attention to its temperature. The butter must be very soft before you start making the dough, or it won’t become creamy enough to mix properly with the sugar and flour. That’s why it’s a good idea to work it on its own, before incorporating the sugar. Once the dough is mixed, on the other hand, you want to keep it cool to make sure that the biscuits keep their shape in the oven.

Use seasonal ingredients as natural flavours: I added lemon zest and matcha green tea powder for spring, but you can try adding lavender in summer, vanilla in autumn and orange zest or cardamom and cinnamon in winter. If you use matcha green tea powder or a similar dry ingredient for flavouring, remember to reduce the flour accordingly.

Enjoy!

4. Lemon shortbreads web feature

Lemon shortbread biscuits

Ingredients (for about 20 biscuits)
100g (3½oz) granulated or caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
200g (7oz) salted butter at room temperature
300g (10½oz) plain flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting
The zest of two organic and un-waxed lemons, grated

How to make them
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F or Gas mark 3).

2. Cut 200g salted butter into small cubes and cream it until pale and fluffy.

3. Add 100g granulated or caster sugar and mix together, either by hand or using an electric hand whisk, until pale and smooth. The mixture will still be gritty, as the sugar does not dissolve in butter at room temperature.

4. Add the zest of one lemon.

5. Using a spatula, slowly fold in 300g plain flour until completely incorporated (try not to work the flour too much or the biscuits will not be so crumbly). The mixture should look like breadcrumbs.

6. Using your hands, gently squeeze the mixture together into a ball of dough. Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for 2 hours.

7. Dust the work surface with a little flour and gently roll the dough out to about 5mm (¼in) thick. Cut into flower shapes using a biscuit cutter.

8. Transfer the biscuits to a baking tray lined with baking parchment and sprinkle each biscuit with a pinch of sugar and a pinch of lemon zest. If it is a hot day, chill in the fridge for 15 more minutes to make sure that the biscuits hold their shape when baking.

9. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until pale golden-brown.

10. Remove from the oven and transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool.

5. Lemon shortbread web feature

Matcha green tea shortbread biscuits

Ingredients (for about 20 biscuits)
100g (3½oz) granulated or caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
200g (7oz) salted butter at room temperature
270g (9½oz) plain flour, sifted, plus extra for dusting
1½ tablespoon matcha green tea powder

How to make them
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F or Gas mark 3).

2. Cut 200g salted butter into small cubes and cream it until pale and fluffy.

3. Add 100g granulated or caster sugar and mix together, either by hand or using an electric hand whisk, until pale and smooth. The mixture will still be gritty, as the sugar does not dissolve in butter at room temperature.

4. Mix 1½ tablespoon matcha green tea powder into 270g plain flour.

5. Using a spatula, slowly fold the flour mixture in the butter mixture until completely incorporated (try not to work the flour too much or the biscuits will not be so crumbly). The end result should look like breadcrumbs.

6. Using your hands, gently squeeze the mixture together into a ball of dough. Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for 2 hours.

7. Dust the work surface with a little flour and gently roll the dough out to about 5mm (¼in) thick. Cut into leaf shapes using a biscuit cutter. If you don’t have a leaf-shaped cutter, you can use a round biscuit cutter, overlapping two circles.

8. Transfer the biscuits to a baking tray lined with baking parchment and sprinkle each biscuit with a pinch of sugar. If it is a hot day, chill in the fridge for 15 more minutes to make sure that the biscuits hold their shape when baking.

9. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

10. Remove from the oven and transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool.

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