Although I make almost all the biscuits and cakes we eat, I do think there are some things that are just better shop bought. Shop bought custard creams are just what they are and impossible to replicate at home. (This doesn’t mean I won’t try but I won’t expect to get them to compete with shop bought and compete is the right word here.)
But a few weeks ago, I was out for brunch and gossip a very important business meeting with my friend Fiona Hughes and we went to the Orchard Cafe in London’s Holborn. On the way out, after we’d devoured extremely good scrambled eggs with home made bread and smoked tomato ketchup, I spotted a giant bourbon biscuit, filled with salted caramel goo.
Now. I don’t eat biscuits and cakes ‘n’ stuff like that, during the week, only at the weekend. And as this was a Tuesday, I couldn’t justify it.
However, because I am a greedy thing at heart, the memory of these biscuits scratched away at me, like a sticky out label on a T-shirt, and eventually I decided to try to make my own.
I finally found a mention of an edition of Jamie Magazine that had a recipe for home made bourbon biscuits and so determined was I, I tracked a back issue down, paid for it and waited for it to arrive.
These biscuits are great. Really, really good. I do of course want to get a specialist rectangular cutter and maybe a Barbieri stamp. [Update: believe it or not, I now have both of these.] But until then, I just cut a line of these, and then cut the rectangles by hand. It made for a very artisan finish but no less impressive.
For the biscuits:
50g soft butter, unsalted
50g soft brown sugar (I used dark)
1 tablespoon of golden syrup
110g plain flour
20g good cocoa powder (don’t go using any of that ‘bad’ stuff)
half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
a bit of caster sugar for sprinkling
For the filling:
75g icing sugar
50g soft butter
1 tablespoon of cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of cold, strong coffee (use milk if you don’t like coffee, but the coffee really, really adds something)
Put the oven on to gas 150C. You need a baking tray lined with baking parchment.
Either cream the butter and sugar for the biscuits by hand, or use an electric whisk (the recipe calls for latter, I did former). Do this until pale and fluffy. I love the word fluffy.
Then beat in the golden syrup using a wooden spoon (even if you’ve used an electric whisker you’re now instructed to STOP and use a wooden spoon and put your arms to work). Then sift in the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate and beat into an even dough. You may need a few drops of milk. Try not to use it but if you do, literally put the milk in half a teaspoon at a time, you want a fairly dry, low hydration dough not something really sticky.
Turn it out onto a piece of baking parchment and top it with more baking parchment so you roll it out between two sheets of baking parchment. Roll until about 3mm thick. Because you want the biscuit to be crisp, don’t make it too thick, although you can’t make it too thin either. Get the ruler out, this is biscuits for goodness sake. It’s important to get it right.
Cut the dough, however works for you, into about 24 fingers of about 5cm x 3cm. I cut long rectangles and then cut into smaller rectangles. Place on parchment lined baking tray, with about 1cm gap in between (they do rise a bit but not much). I prick with a fork for a birruva pretty pattern.
Sprinkle with caster sugar and cook for 8-10 minutes. Make sure they are cooked, not soft as they won’t harden up much and you really do want these to be crispy not cakey. But of course, don’t overcook (am I being too bossy? I want you to get these right you see).
When done, wipe the sweat from your brown, transfer to a wire rack etc. Cool.
For the filling mix the sugar and butter together, add the cocoa powder. At this point it will look pale and unpromising and you may start to panic. Have faith! When you add the milk (a scant teaspoon, just to bring everything together), it will go dark and glossy and glorious and you will be SO pleased with yourself.
Spread on one biscuit, sandwich with another. Daintily arrange. Eat and be amazed.