I finally got around to trying out a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess but as always I changed a few things round and the method is my own words. I have been looking for, and been disappointed by, recipes for cut out biscuits for years now and with this one I may have just about cracked it! My previous attempts have always been to crunch, too soft or plain just didn’t taste any good! This biscuit comes out beautifully, neither crunchy nor squishy it is just a simple, flakey butter biscuit. The point, of course, of cut out biscuits is to have something to decorate. They really are just a vehicle for pretty icing. These certainly fulfil all of their obligations. My icing isn’t any good yet but that will come with practice and until then I get to eat lots of biscuits!
The other excellent thing I found with this recipe is that it’s designed to make double what you’ll need (unless feeding a very large party) and you then freeze the second lot until later when you just defrost and off you go. I love to cook but I managed to give myself a blister from too much creaming butter and sugar by hand when I made these (I was on a bit of a baking bender!) so I’m very happy to think that all the hard work has been done and there’s a fresh batch of biscuits just sitting there waiting for me in the freezer.
I made these in the recent Halloween Extravaganza so spooky shapes they were. I’m sure eating this much black icing is bad for me but I’m pretty certain that these biscuits are getting better as the days go by. Obviously I’ll be doing this again at Christmas! One word of warning though, make sure the icing is totally dry before boxing them and if you have anything like the cats here with narrow extremities then be very, very careful as they will snap quite easily. I have a box full of deformed cats now!
Makes 2 large baking trays worth (the number depends on how big, or small, your cutters are)
200g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
400g plain flour (you will probably need more, I needed another few good spoonfuls)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
300g icing sugar
a few tbsp lemon juice
– Cream together the butter and the sugar until pale and fluffy.
– Beat together the eggs and vanilla and gradually add to the creamed butter and sugar, mixing thoroughly between each addition.
– Add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix well until it forms a soft dough. You will probably need to add more flour to get it to the point where the dough stops sticking enough to roll it out. It will be chilled so don’t add too much flour, just enough to make it more of a dough.
– Halve the dough, form each half into flatish discs and wrap each half in cling film.
– Chill for at least 1 hour. If not using freeze one half.
– Meanwhile heat the oven to gas mark 4 and prepare two large baking trays.
– Lightly flour a surface and rolling-pin and roll out one batch of the dough to a thickness of about 5mm.
– Cut out your chosen shapes and place on the prepared baking trays leaving a little space between each.
– Bake for about 12 minutes until the edges are just turning golden brown.
– Take out and leave to cool completely on a rack.
– To make the icing mix the icing sugar with a little lemon juice until a soft paste forms. Divide up into whatever colours you want.
– For more accurate icing it may be best to first pipe an outline round the biscuit with slightly more viscous icing then flood the inside with more liquid icing guiding it slightly with a toothpick to fill out to the edges.* Alternatively you can just carefully spoon icing over let any excess drip off to be cleaned up later or even use icing bags for the entire thing if more intricate patterns are required. If doing this with kids I suggest buying a few tubes of writing icing and just letting rip, it’s much easier than trying to control errant icing bags. After you’ve iced your biscuit add any other decorations you like before the icing sets.
– Leave to set and then keep in an airtight container until needed.
*This is what I did although I’ll certainly be considering ‘cheating’ and buying writing icing next time!