Sunday, October 05, 2008

Sow with the Flow

The basic sponge cake recipe was given a few days ago (with variations) so today am giving a basic biscuit dough to which can be added flavourings or spices. As this recipe makes enough for 70 (assorted) biscuits, worth making in bulk and freeze the dough in small amounts to use as and when required. If preferring to make a quarter the amount, custard powder could be used instead of cornflour - it may change the colour of the biscuit and add a taste of vanilla but that should be acceptable. Note: the metric equvalent to the imperial weights are slightly different than usual, so stick to the recipe.
Basic Biscuit Dough: (F)
1 lb (500g) plain flour
2 oz (50g) cornflour
1 tsp baking powder
8 oz (200g) butter or hard marg, cut into cubes
8 oz (200g) caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Put the flour, cornflour and baking powder into a bowl, add the butter and rub in using the fingertips until resembling fine breadcrumbs (this could be done in a food processor). Stir in the sugar and eggs and work together to make a firm dough. Turn onto a floured surface and knead until smooth (can be frozen at this point), then shape as desired (see variations below).
Place on baking sheets and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 12 - 15 minutes until pale golden. Cool on a cake airer. Store in an airtight tin for up to 2 weeks.

Lemon Biscuits:
Knead zest of 1 lemon into quarter of the basic biscuit dough and roll the dough fairly thinly, using cutters of shape and size you wish. Bake as above. Place 8 oz (200g) icing sugar in a bowl and mix in enough lemon juice to make a smooth icing that will coat the back of a spoon. Spread the icing over the biscuits and leave to dry. These are best iced on the day of eating.

Roll out a quarter of th basic dough very thinly. Cut a hole out of the centre of half the biscuits. Bake as above. Spread the base of a solid biscuit with lemon curd or jam and sandwich together with the biscuit with the hole on top. Best assembled on the day of eating.

Here is a couple of recipes taken from an old leaflet suggesting ways to cook bulk amounts to sell at fairs and fetes. No doubt 'elf and safety have new rules about what can be sold, but for family gatherings, Trick or Treat, Guy Fawkes night - well these could just be perfect.

Chocolate and Fruit Fudge: makes 12 x 4 oz (100g) bags
8 oz (200g) cooking chocolate
8 oz (200g) hard margarine
3/4 pomt (345ml) boiling water
1 x 131g packet of instant potato (powder or flakes)
8 oz (200g) icing sugar
4 oz (200g) raisins
Place the cooking chocolate and margarine into a bowl. Add the boiling water and stir until melted, then sprinkle over the instant potato and beat well with a wooden spoon, making sure there are no lumps.
Sift over the icing sugar and stir in with the raisins, and when well mixed, pour into two 7" x 7" (18 x18 cm) shallow tins (or 1 roasting tin 12" x 9" (30 x 22 cm). Leave to cool then put in the fridge to chill. When set, cut into 1" (2 cm) cubes. Carefully lift out using a fish slice or palette knife and leave on a board to dry out. Best left loosely covered in a cold place as it tends to go sticky if stored in an airtight container.

Suffice to say this is very economical to make as the small amount just explodes up into a huge airy volume, so use the largest pan you have (or make half the amount - twice). The best way to get the exact amount of syrup is to first weigh the whole tin, then spoon out directly into the pan until the tin weights 6 oz )150g) less.
Bonfire (Honeycomb) Toffee: fills 8 bags
6 oz (150g) golden syrup
6 oz (150g) granulated sugar
6 fl oz (150ml) water
2 tsp (2 x 5ml spoons) bicarbonate of soda
Put the syrup into the pan (see above), then add the sugar and water. Stir over gentle heat until all the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly without stirring until 'hard crack' stage is reached (300F/150C) on the sugar thermometer, or until a little dropped into a bowl of cold water sets hard and becomes brittle.
Remove from heat and stand pan in a bowl of cold water to prevent further cooking, then quickly stir all the bicarb into the syrup using a wooden spoon. As the mixture foams up, quickly pour it into a greased shallow tin 11" x 7" (28 x 18 cm) and leave until set hard. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container.

Finishing today's recipe selection with the onion, bread and cheese soup one promised. Make, eat and enjoy.
Ploughman's Soup: serves 4
2 oz (50g) butter
4 large sweet (Spanish) onions, thinly sliced
9 oz (250g) stale sourdough bread, thinly sliced
5 oz (150g) coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
boiling water
1 - 2 tblsp brandy
1 oz (25g) butter shavings
Melt the butter and cook the onions very gently for half an hour, stirring from time to time. Cover the pan and cook for a further half an hour by which time they should be turning golden. Uncover, raise the heat slightly and cook/stir for a few more minutes until a rich deep golden (caramel) colour.
Spread each slice of bread (bar one - leave that plain) with a thick layer of onion, then place one into a large casserole dish (avoid empty spaces so cut bread and onion to fit, and scatter over a goodly layer of cheese, then repeat the layers until the dish is two thirds full. Put a final layer of plain bread on top and sprinkle over more cheese.
Slowly pour enough boiling water around the edges of the dish, letting the bread soak it up and also rise until just floating, then cover and bake at 180C, 350F, gas 4 for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and add a little more boiling water, sprinkling over remaining (or more) cheese and the shavings of butter. Then continue baking uncovered, until the top is golden and crusty. Allow to cool slightly before serving.