I’m really, really proud of these! You know when you have an idea, and you’re not at all sure if it’s going to work, but you really hope it will? These biscuits were like that. It nearly all went horribly wrong – but the outcome was worth it.
Remember the Stats Team Bake-Off that I mentioned back in November? Well, we were so happy with the first even that we’ve decided to do it again. This time, the theme was festive biscuits. There were some grand plans to make gingerbread houses after seeing the recent episode of #GBBO but I think that was a bit ambitious for us. Anyway, I’d recently ‘done’ gingerbread and fancied something different – something… shiny.
To be fair, this wasn’t really a procrastination recipe. It had been a long day, I was tired, I didn’t start baking until late in the evening and by that point, I was basically in a foul mood. The number of times these nearly ended up in the bin! The basic idea is that you make a biscuit dough, cut it into interesting shapes with holes in the middle and fill the holes with crushed up sweets then bake. The crushed sweets melt to form the stained glass in the windows. The picture on the recipe site looked lovely:
First hurdle was the sweets. Fox’s glacier fruits, a large bag full. I sorted them into different colours and put them in individual zip-lock bags. Then the problem of crushing them! We have a tiled floor in the kitchen so I sat down with several bags of sweets and a rolling pin and proceeded to set about them with vigour. Only glacier fruits are tougher than then they look and they took a lot of bashing. However, the bags weren’t as tough as they looked and the shattered sweets sliced through the plastic in a few places, showering sugary fragments and sweet dust all over the place. sigh Sugar dust is sticky, and didn’t want to be hoovered up. One impromptu mopping later, and I was back on track.
The next challenge was cutting out the biscuits in their fiddly little shapes. I went for stars and snowflakes – festive, eh? – but the cutters were detailed and fine and I kept tearing the dough as I cut them out. Then I needed to carefully tip the crushed sweets into the centres of the biscuits, but the sticky dust didn’t want to go where I wanted it to, ending up on the dough as well as the hollow. That would never do… time to start again. I was getting properly fed up with the whole idea by this point! My evening was rapidly vanishing away and all I had was a very clean floor to show for it. I took a deep breath, treated myself to a soothing spiced rum, and persevered. Eventually:
Filled biscuits! Ready to bake!
For the next fifteen minutes, I sat on the floor in front of the cooker and watched. After all that effort, I wasn’t going to give them the satisfaction of burning on me… I was expecting a disastrous outcome but I have to say they came out beautifully. Look!
The silver and gold stars and mini-snowflakes were the centres that I’d cut out and kept to one side – baked and sprayed with food-safe glitter, they added nicely to the tin.
Of course, I had to wait up until they’d all cooled before I could get to this lovely stage of a tin-full of shininess – and molten sweets take a very long time to cool down and set That was a very late night. I’d love to say that I’d used my time wisely by reading papers to wile away the hours but no, I pottered online and watched the clock until they were done.
I wasn’t actually in the office for this team bake-off – that Friday was booked off as study leave so I sent Jef into the office to present them to the team. I hear they went down very well – he also played photographer for me, so here they are with all their fellow entrants:
No-one has really been feeling very festive in the team yet. We’re all very, very busy and the festive season has really crept up on us. I know that making my contribution to the spread above has helped to kick-start the feeling for me – even if I was grumpy!
Here’s the recipe in case that linked page vanishes one day. (I did up the spice a little. The quantities below are mine.)
- For the biscuits
- To decorate
- tube ready-made white icing (available in the baking sections of most supermarkets) (optional)
- narrow ribbon
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
- For the biscuits, mix the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt and ginger together in a bowl.
- Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, then stir in the sugar.
- In another bowl, beat together the egg and golden syrup, then pour this mixture into the flour mixture and mix to make a smooth dough, kneading lightly with your hands.
- Crush the sweets in their wrappers using a rolling pin.
- Roll the dough out on a floured work surface to about 0.5cm/¼in thick, then cut into shapes using a selection of Christmas-themed cookie cutters. Transfer the biscuits to baking sheets lined with baking paper.
- Cut out shapes in the centre of each biscuit, making sure you leave a good edge all around the biscuit. Completely fill the hole in each biscuit with crushed boiled sweets.
- Make a hole at the top of each biscuit using a drinking straw so that you will be able to thread a ribbon through it later. Bake the biscuits in the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until golden-brown.
- Remove the biscuits from the oven. While they’re still warm, check that the holes are still there – if not, push a straw through again. Do not remove the biscuits from the baking tray until they have cooled because the boiled sweets need to harden. Once the sweets have hardened, gently lift the biscuits onto a wire rack with a palette knife to finish cooling.
- If you like, you can decorate the biscuits with piped white icing. Thread ribbons through the holes in the biscuits to make loops for hanging from the tree.