It’s cold. It’s very, very, very cold. We’ve still got snow in places and I’m quite fed up of it. Today feels like a flat, bleak day: I’m tired, I’ve got too much to do and I can’t find any motivation. It’s been a while since I posted here – since December I’ve been spending every free moment working on my thesis. People who know me will say that’s what I’ve been doing since 2006 but really, I’ve never worked as hard as this in my life. I have a time-table – pinned up on the fridge at the moment but I know every date without looking. I know exactly how many days there are until June 30th and how much work it’s going to be to get everything written by then. For no matter how hard I think I’ve worked in the last couple of months, I’ve still got such a lot more to go.
I’m working on my second empirical chapter at the moment. This is looking back on a study I ran a couple of years ago, where some amazing participants sat and clicked through over a hundred pictures of faces, each one subtly different from the last. They rated them on different scales and it’s the results of those ratings that I’m analysing. This all felt so neat and sensible when I was planning it – but now, I’m not really sure what I’m looking for or what I’ll be able to say when I’ve eventually found it.
Perhaps I just need some therapeutic baking? I know, I’ll make biscuits.
I can’t remember how I can across this recipe but I’ve kept it for a cold, grey day that needs to have a bake in it. In all my 36 years, the idea that you could make bourbon creams or jammy dodgers never occurred to me. They come in packets, from factories, from Mum’s biscuit tin – from lots of places but not my kitchen. Until now!
175g plain flour
Pinch of sea salt
75g unrefined icing sugar
125g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g raspberry jam (or whatever flavour you like)
2 large baking sheets, lined with baking parchment
6–7cm biscuit cutter, crinkle-edged or plain
2.5cm heart, square, round or animal biscuit cutter, crinkle-edged or plain
Sift the flour, salt and icing sugar into a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and lightly rub into the flour mix, using your fingertips, until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk and vanilla extract together. Make a well in the centre of the flour mix. Add the egg and vanilla mix and work together to form a soft, smooth dough. Alternatively, you can simply place everything in a food processor and bring to this stage. Seal the dough in a polythene bag and chill in the fridge for 25–30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 170C / gas mark 3. Divide the dough into two equal portions. Place one portion between two pieces of lightly floured greaseproof paper and, using a rolling pin, roll the dough to approximately a 4mm thickness. Repeat with the second piece of dough. Remove the top paper.
With the larger biscuit cutter, cut the dough into discs (make sure you have an even number). Using the smaller cutter, cut out and remove the centre of half the biscuit discs; the cut-out pieces can either be kneaded back into the remaining dough or baked just as they are.
Place all the discs on the baking sheets. Bake for 15–20 minutes until just firm and barely coloured.
Remove from the oven and place a teaspoonful of jam in the centre of each whole biscuit round. Spread to 1.5cm from the edge. Place the cut-out rounds on top. Return to the oven and cook for a further 5–6 minutes by which time the biscuits will be evenly cooked and the jam sufficiently hot to stick the biscuits together.
Leave the biscuits to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack.
Replace 50g of the flour with custard powder. Use a 5cm square biscuit cutter. Bake the biscuits for about 20 minutes until lightly coloured. Cool on a wire rack. To make the custard cream filling, simply cream together 75g softened unsalted butter, 75g icing sugar and 25g custard powder. To finish, sandwich the cooled biscuits together in pairs with a teaspoonful of the filling. Makes 14
Replace 50g of the flour with drinking chocolate powder or, for a dark rich biscuit, use cocoa powder. Use an oblong biscuit cutter, about 6–7×2.5cm. With a fork, lightly prick the surface of the uncooked biscuits (just like the packet ones). Bake for approximately 20 minutes. To make the chocolate cream filling, cream together 75g softened unsalted butter, 75g icing sugar and 25g drinking chocolate or cocoa powder. To finish, sandwich the cooled biscuits together in pairs with a teaspoonful of the filling. Makes 12.
And because it’s been one of those sort of days, have some extra bonus biscuits. You can just see the corner of my graphs in the background! Talking of those – I’d better stop blogging and get back to coding…