Sunday, 18 October 2009

It takes the biscuit

Today was the first time this autumn that the cool permeated the flat. The weather forecast was for bright skies – and temperatures as low as 6˚C by as late as 10 o'clock this morning.

There's been a little more cloud, so it might have been warmer than that, but a chill was still evident.

I had a moment yesterday when I suddenly wanted to bake. It started with a random thought about biscuits: there I was, ready to make a cup of tea and wishing suddenly that I'd bought some biscuits when shopping earlier in the day. From that it was an easy step to: 'why don't I make some?' followed by a musing on the notion (read or heard somewhere recently) that biscuits are often the first thing that children learn to make.

I had no such experience, but pulled out Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess from the shelf instead and sat down to educate myself.

To be honest, I'm not much of a Nigella fan – my tolerance of her took a major dent when she presented a whole programme about cooking beetroot, while wearing a white denim trouser suit, for goodness sake.

Anyhow, the book in question gave me no major suggestions – and certainly there was nothing to be found that I had all the ingredients in the house for. So I left it.

But then earlier today, The Other Half mentioned ginger biscuits. Aware that I have some very good quality ground ginger in a cupboard, I surfed for a recipe and, in short order, found one for which everything was available to hand.

So off I went to bake.

The instructions started with creaming together equal measures of soft brown sugar and margarine (125g each). Now, I draw the line at the latter, so replaced it with decent butter. What on Earth is the point of making indulgent food if you cut quality corners with artificial rubbish?

Then beat in an egg yolk and a tablespoon of Golden Syrup. A bit of indulgence really is good for the soul.

Then sift the ground ginger (a good teaspoon at least) and some flour (180g) into the mix. Combine gently (or it'll get hard, apparently) and if it doesn't hold together, add a very little milk.

Then put walnut-sized dollops onto a lightly-floured baking tray, pat them flat with the floured back of a spoon and pop the tray into an oven that's been pre-heated to 180˚C.

And at that precise moment, I had a thought.

'What flour have I just used?'

Yes. Plain flour. I'd simply reached in and grabbed the most generic flour I have in.

And the recipe said self-raising flour.


But the more that I thought about, the more I found myself wondering just why you'd use self-raising flour to make biscuits anyway. After all, you want them fairly flat – not blown up and fluffy; more like a cake.

They had 12 minutes before I checked, then about another four or five until nicely golden and getting a little crisp around the edges.

Then, after a brief rest, they were carefully transferred to a cooling rack.

I might have made a clumsy error in terms of reading the recipe – but I promise, there's nothing whatsoever wrong with this first effort at biscuits. And they're not going to last very long either!

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