Walnut Shortbread with Chocolate Drizzles

Walnut shortbread

Walnut shortbread with chocolate drizzle recipe

Sometimes I have a deep strong urge to have biscuits. I don’t usually have packets in the flat so it inevitably leads to baking my own. Shortbread is one of my go-to recipes as it is easy and always delicious. You can alter the recipe too by adding bits like nuts, chocolate, seeds, and so on, as it is a good base. You can also use caster sugar or icing sugar to get a slightly crumblier texture with the former than the latter. However, this is if you aren’t staunchly conservative about how shortbread should be made, i.e. traditionally. I once made”disco ball shortbread” by adding silver sugar balls which was quite fun and silly (picture at the end) .

This recipe takes 15 minutes to prepare and 15 minutes to bake so from urge to satisfaction can be as little as 30 minutes!

What you need:

75g walnut pieces

250g plain flour

175g unsalted butter, softened

85g icing sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

50g dark chocolate, broken into pieces

What you need to do:

1. Heat the oven to 180C.

2. Roast the walnuts in the oven for 5 minutes, remove and set aside.

3. Beat the softened butter  with a wooden spoon until it is really soft and smooth.

4. Add the icing sugar, dessert spoon at a time, and mix it in until it is blended well with the butter.

5. Add the half teaspoon of vanilla extract and mix that in well.

6. Add the flour and blend it with the buttery mixture, adding the nuts as you mix.

7. Take pieces of the dough, around the size of a ping pong ball, and flatten them into circles at about a centimetre thickness.

8. Place them on a greaseproof lined baking tray, not too close together, and bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Turn the trays around half way through so the shortbreads bake evenly.

9. Once the shortbreads are lightly golden, remove them from the oven and allow to cool.

10. Melt the chocolate over a gentle heat and drizzle it over the shortbreads and voila, they are ready to satisfy the urge!

Disco ball shortbread

Disco ball shortbread!

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Lavender Biscuits with Crunchy Caramel

The lavender in the garden is pretty much disappearing now as the weather cools but when it was abundant I plucked a little handful to make some subtle lavender butter biscuits drizzled with tooth-cracking caramel. I love the smell of lavender. My housemate recently returned from the South of France with a bundle of dried lavender for my chest of drawers. Every time I open a drawer I am delightfully surprised by the waft of its summery scent.

However, these perfumey smells aren’t popular with everyone when it comes to food. I once won a work baking competition with my rose and chocolate cake but then made it at another workplace charity bake sale (smugly thinking of all the compliments I would receive for it!) only to sell 4 slices (all to the same person as well!) which promptly bashed me down to earth and left my baking skills hiding behind a door, shoulders hunched, eyes blinking, thinking how they must improve themselves. I asked my desk mates why they hadn’t opted to buy a slice of my cake and the response was along the lines of “Rose in food?! Only in soap thanks!” There we go. It’s a little bit how I feel about some Earl Grey teas- I would rather dab them on my neck.

So, to the recipe. The biscuits are very easy and the caramel is straight forward but you do need to keep a hawk eye on it to make sure it doesn’t turn from glorious deep golden to burnt umber. You can see a few sprinkles of sugar left on my caramel in the photos as I was indeed a little nervous at letting the caramel burn so whipped it off the heat and poured it onto the biscuits.

What you need:

130g butter (soft, at room temperature)

80g sugar consisting of 50g brown and 30g caster

150g plain flour

40g caster sugar for the caramel

About 20 fresh lavender flowers

Baking paper

What you need to do:

1. Line a baking tray with baking paper and heat the oven to 180C.

2. Put the butter and sugars in a bowl and blend together well with a fork.

3. Then blend the flour in.

4. Take 6 of the lavender flowers and break them up with your fingers over the mixture. Then use your fingers to work them in.

5. Take the ball of dough and break it into 2. Roll out a ball with a rolling pin, then cut it into rectangles  about 5cm by 4cm. Repeat with the other ball of dough, then place the rectangles on the baking tray.

6. Bake the biscuits for 8-10 minutes in the preheated oven. Make sure they only turn lightly golden around the edges.

7. Remove the biscuits and allow to cool.

8. Now for the caramel. Pour the caster sugar evenly into a heavy bottomed pan. Place it on the hob and turn the heat to medium. Don’t stir the sugar, just leave it and watch it liquify. Once it turns a golden brown and is all or almost all liquid, take it off the heat.

9. Pour the caramel over the biscuits quickly as it will solidify in a flash. Then scatter the remaining lavender flowers over the top.

As the pictures show the hardened caramel will connect the biscuits together so it’s quite fun to keep them like that and snap them apart as you eat them.

Coffee Biscuits

I bought some coffee recently from the Algerian Coffee Stores (Old Compton Street, W1D) – Velluto Nero (Black Velvet) which is described as smooth and silky and I see from their website is one of their top sellers. I was tempted to try their cardamom infused blend but they add it separately so I thought I could do it myself. That reminds me, I had a seriously scrumptious Aztec inspired hot chocolate from Paul A. Young recently which had ground cardamom in it. There is a selection of spices to choose from to be added to the drink. I’m glad cardamom is doing the rounds, it was excellent in the hot chocolate. When I got home and made a cafetiere of the smooth and silky black velvet it tasted…burnt! What? It even smelled burnt! Oh dear. So I drank a few sips of it which put me off coffee for a few days and decided to make biscuits with it instead. I know your food is as good as its ingredients but in this case the biscuits did not taste of burnt coffee. Funnily enough I tried the coffee again and it has mellowed. It no longer tastes burnt!

This amount makes about 25 biscuits.

What you need:

100g butter

50g brown sugar

50ml very strong coffee from freshly ground beans

120g plain flour

For the icing: icing sugar and more strong coffee

What you need to do:

1. Heat the oven to 180C (fan).

2. Make a very strong coffee either by making an espresso or a cafetiere with lots of ground coffee and not much water.

3. Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl with a fork.

4. Let the coffee cool, then add it to the bowl and combine it with the butterry sugar mixture.

5. Add the flour bit by bit blending it in. When you have added all the flour use your hands to combine all the ingredients really well.

6. Sprinkle flour on a wooden board, and on a rolling pin, and break the ball of dough into two. Roll one out to about half a centimetre thickness and cut it into triangles or whatever shape you like and put them on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Repeat with the other ball.

7. Bake the biscuits in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.

8. Make the icing by adding strong coffee to a bowl of icing sugar drop by drop and mixing it to a smooth consistency. Dribble it on the cooled biscuits.

(Happy) Easter Egg Chocolate Biscuits

Happy Easter! These little egg shaped biscuits look like mini Easter eggs but taste like rich dark chocolatey shortbread. The addition of cream to the ingredients makes them extra light and crumbly. They would be perfect for a homemade Easter present in a nest of streamers in a bag tied with string. Add ground almonds to the icing to give a hint of Simnel cake.

What you need:

100g butter

50g brown sugar

30g cocoa powder

2 dessert spoons cream

100g plain flour

100g icing sugar

Food colouring: pink and green

20g ground almond

Pretty loose floral tea

What you need to do:

1. Heat the oven to 180C (fan) and line a baking tray with baking paper.

2. Put the butter, sugar and cocoa powder in a bowl and cream together with a fork.

3. Add the cream and combine, then add the flour and combine well.

4. Take bits of the mixture and roll into balls the size of a large marble. Then roll again to make them slightly oblong, now squish them between the palms of your hands and they will be the shape of an egg!

5. Bake them in the heated oven for 10 -12 minutes.

6. Whilst they’re baking you can make the icing. Simply put some icing sugar in a bowl and add a touch of water. Only drip the water in as a tiny amount will absorb a lot of icing sugar.  Mix with a spoon until the consistency is smooth but still quite stiff.

7. Divide the icing into three bowls and add pink and green food colouring to two and ground almonds to the third.

8. Once the biscuits have baked let them cool, then dribble the icing on top. Stick some pretty tea leaves on some – this looks great!

Almond Shortbread

I served this shortbread the other night with zabaione for pud after Bumbu Pecel (peanut sauce), greens and rice which I shall blog soon. Shortbread requires hardly any ingredients and is so easy and quick to make. I substituted half of the flour with ground almonds which give an interesting texture along with the nutty flavour. I also used wholewheat flour so perhaps I am being a bit naughty calling it “shortbread”.

What you need:

100g butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes

80g light soft brown sugar

100g ground almonds

80g wholewheat flour

What you need to do:

1. Heat the oven to 170C.

2. If you have sandwich tins butter 2, or line a baking tray with baking paper.

3. Put the butter in a bowl, add the other ingredients and mix with your fingers until completely combined.

4. Press half the mixture into each tin or roll it out onto the baking paper and cut out rectangles or squares, whatever you fancy! If you’re using sandwich tins use a knife to score across the surface creating triangles and then prick with a fork for a classic shortbread look.

5. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Lemon Polenta Biscuits

I’m a polenta fan. I like that it can be used in many ways from a thick stodge that you’ve spent hours stirring to sliced and grilled to being combined with flour in cakes and bakes. I’ve made a lemon polenta cake before and had a hankering for biscuits the other day so instead of zipping to the nearest shop for crunch creams I made these biscuits. It’s much more satisfying to eat what you have made plus you know what’s in it!

What you need:

50g butter, cut into cubes

100g polenta

100g plain white flour

50g soft light brown sugar

75ml freshly squeezed lemon juice

grated rind of one lemon

What you need to do:

1. Heat the oven to 170C.

2. Blend the butter and sugar in a bowl then add the flour and polenta and mix well.

3. Add the lemon juice and grated rind and mix well.

4. Take little balls of the dough, flatten them into rounds and place on a buttered, or lined with baking paper, baking tray.

5. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned on top.

Enjoyed best at midnight in pyjamas and fluffy slippers with a hot toddy!

Caraway Seed Biscuits with Rose and Brown Sugar Buttercream

I love caraway seeds and have made biscuits with them before with the recipe for orange, caraway and ginger biscuits so I know they work well in biscuits! These ones have rose and brown sugar buttercream fillings to make them more indulgent. I find hints of rose delicious and whenever I get macarons I have to have a rose one. This is a very simple recipe and the biscuits look great with the streaks of pink adding pops of colour.

What you need for the biscuits:

200g plain flour

100g unsalted butter

40g caster sugar

40g brown sugar

1 dessert spoon of caraway seeds

And for the buttercream filling:

50g butter

100g icing sugar

1 dessert spoon of cream

Half a teaspoon of rose flavouring

2 drops of scarlet food colouring

25g brown sugar

What you need to do:

1. Heat the oven to 170C and lay a piece of baking parchment on an oven tray.

2. Cream together the butter and sugars for the biscuits until completely combined.

3. Add the flour bit by bit working it into the buttery sugar mixture well.

4. When you have added all the flour add the caraway seeds and combine well.

5. Take small blobs of the mixture, a bit bigger in size than a marble, and place them on the tray, flatten them a bit and space them out well from each other.

6. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden, remove and cool.

7. For the buttercream filling, cream together the butter and icing sugar adding it a touch at a time otherwise you end up in an icing sugar mist storm!

8. Blend in the dessert spoon of cream.

9. Put half of the mixture in another bowl, add the rose flavouring and scarlet food colouring to one bowl and combine, then add the brown sugar to the other bowl and combine.

10. Put the biscuits in pairs and spread some rose or brown sugar filling on the bottom biscuit and sandwich the top biscuit on top.