I came across this recipe several years back in one of those Christmas recipe magazines that seem to surface October time each year. They suggested tying the biscuits with ribbons and hanging them on the Christmas tree. I can’t quite explain why this upset me so much; it’s just so wrong – you wouldn’t hang pork pies as decorations, or sandwiches, so why demean biscuits in such a way?
Anyway, I love these biscuits – they’re not really a shortbread, but they share that sort of crumbly texture although smoother. They melt in the mouth and leave you with a lovely vanilla taste and the feeling that all is right with the world.
I used an extremely small cutter as I wanted some of the biscuits to top cupcakes…(this photo shows Arsene Wenger talking last minute pre-party tactics with his team’s captain, William Gallas):
…and others to be the biscuit equivalent of crudités. The dipping sauce is quick and easy to make and the recipe follows on from the biscuit recipe; it’s also versatile and is great with a slice of cake or as the topping for trifle:
It's fun to personalise the biscuits too - for instance, to please old ladies who should know better but nonetheless still have 'fondness' for Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho:
The mix makes a lot – in fact, a whole Arsenal squad (including manager Arsene Wenger who can be seen front, centre right) :
140g Icing sugar
1 Egg yolk
250g Unsalted butter, at room temperature
375g Plain flour
How to make:
- Heat oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/gas mark 5
- Tip the icing sugar, butter, vanilla and egg yolk into a bowl and mix. I use my mixer for this but it’s possible to do it with a spoon if the butter is soft enough.
- Add the flour and mix to a dough. It comes together quite easily into a shiny, beautiful, golden dough that practical glows with buttery goodness. Using icing sugar rather than caster means the dough is exceptionally soft.
- Shape the dough into 2 discs and wrap each one in cling film. (You can if you wish, freeze the dough at this point. Make sure you defrost thoroughly before rolling out and baking. I have kept the dough in the freezer for 2 months and not noticed any dip in quality.)
- Refrigerate for 20 mins minimum.
- Line baking sheets with greaseproof or baking paper. This saves any worries about the biscuits sticking and breaking when you try to move them to a cooling wrack.
- Roll out the dough. You can do this on a lightly floured board but my big tip is to roll it out between sheets of greaseproof paper. The advantage of this, apart from making it easier, is that you don’t have to dry the mix out with extra flour. I use this method for all my pastry and dough and wouldn’t do it any other way.
- The thickness you’re aiming for depends on the size biscuit cutter you’re using. If it’s a big cutter i.e. the size of a digestive biscuit, then aim for 0.5cm. If it’s a smaller cutter you can make it a little thinner.
- Bake for 10-12 mins, but check after 10 minutes as they can burn quickly. Once they’re lightly golden, remove from oven and let cool slightly before trying to move as they are very fragile for the first few minutes out of the oven.
- Cool on a rack.
- Decorate as much or as little as you desire.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful things you have made.
Dipping sauce ingredients:
250g Mascarpone cheese
500ml Good quality Ready-made custard
How to make:
- Whisk ingredients together until blended, thick and creamy.
- Refrigerate until needed.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
Labels: vanilla, shortbread, biscuits, dipping sauce