I was planning to post this on Christmas Eve, but unfortunately time ran away with me so hopefully you don’t mind that it’s a few days late!
I’ve had my eye on making some vanilla iced biscuits for quite a while now, but there’s always another recipe which inspires me more so it generally drops to the bottom of the list. However, I was in a determined mood and so three weekends back I set about making some Christmas themed biscuits as I wanted to take them in for my work colleague so they could enjoy a sweet treat after our Christmas lunch.
The hardest thing for me was trying to find a recipe that I liked the look of as there are hundreds of iced biscuits recipes online and in my baking books. So after finding and discounting two recipes from the BBC website I ended up choosing a recipe from my Jo Wheatley’s ‘A Passion for Baking’ book, mainly because I could use my food processor which meant these biscuits are incredibly quick and simple to make as you just need to throw all the ingredients in before pulsing them together.
Once the dough had been brought together by hand, shaped and left to chill for 30 minutes the next stage was to cut out the dough using the biscuit cutters and then give the dough another 20 minutes in the freezer – although I chilled mine as my baking trays are too big to fit in our freezer.
Depending on what shape you cut out the dough these biscuits need between 8-10 minutes before they start to darken and burn around the edges. If I was making these biscuits again I would definitely group all the star shapes together as these baked the quickest.
Once the cookies had cooled the fun part could start… or so I thought as I completely underestimated how long it would take to decorate these cookies as well as cut my mum’s hair and finish icing a Christmas cake. So what started out as being a fun job definitely became a chore and I did leave some biscuits plain to cater for people who didn’t want any icing, edible stars or balls – well that’s my excuse!
I also decided to tinker with the original recipe as I wanted to see if I could make these biscuits a bit more Christmassy. So I decided to make up a second batch. I adapted the recipe by using 1tsp ground cinnamon and 80g of dark brown sugar instead of caster sugar and vanilla extract. I also added 20g mixed fruit and 20g walnuts to give the biscuits a bit more flavour and texture (although these ingredients were pulsed in the food processor so you could make these chunkier if you wanted)
However, as per normal when I attempt too much this the second batch didn’t go to plan as I ran out of time. So instead of leaving the dough for 30 minutes I ended up leaving it in the fridge for 24 hours and I also missed out the 20 minute chilled stage as well as the decorating part.
Out of the two variations the vanilla biscuits definitely looked and tasted the best, especially the ones that had been decorated. Taste wise I’m not sure if the icing or edible balls and stars added anything special, but the texture of the vanilla biscuits was great as they were light and crumbly and they had a satisfying snap/crunch to them. Another bonus point and one which my colleagues commented on was that these biscuits weren’t too sweet, which they preferred.
For the Christmassy biscuits this recipe is still a work in progress as I think they were lacking in a bit of flavor. I did expect them to have more of a caramel taste with me using the dark brown sugar, but sadly this didn’t come through as much as I’d hoped in the finished biscuit.
Texture wise these biscuits weren’t as good as the vanilla ones as they didn’t have that lovely crumbly texture or that nice snap to them so I’m not sure if this was because the dough was in the fridge overnight or because I left a step out to speed up the process. However, for a first attempt they still tasted pretty good although I think these would be much better as a dunking biscuit. And if I did make these again I would definitely make more of an effort to decorate them so they didn’t look so plain or boring!
The original recipe is listed below:
- 250g plain flour, plus extra for rolling out
- 1tsp baking powder
- 80g caster sugar
- 110g unsalted butter, diced and chilled
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 1 x 500g packet of royal icing sugar (I used plain white and red icing and icing pens to decorate my biscuits)
- gel food colours
- In a food processor mix the flour, baking powder and sugar until combined.
- Add the butter and pulse again until incorporated. (For the second batch of biscuits I added the walnuts and mixed fruit at this stage).
- Add the egg and vanilla extract and pulse again until the dough is smooth.
- Turn out onto the work surface and bring together into a ball.
- Flatten into a disc, cover with cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
- Lightly flour the work surface and roll the dough out to the thickness of a £1 coin. Using cutters, stamp out shapes and arrange on the parchment-lined baking trays.
- Gather any dough scraps together, re-roll and stamp out more cookies.
- Chill on the baking trays in the freezer for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F/Gas Mark 5.
- Bake the cookies on the middle shelf of the oven for 10 to 15 minutes until golden, leave to firm and cool slightly on baking trays and then transfer to wire racks until cold.
- Make up the royal icing as instructed on the pack. Pipe outlines around all of the cookies and leave to dry for 15 minutes. Add a drop more water to the remaining icing so that it is slightly runnier than that used for the outlines. Use gel food colours to tint the icing whatever colour you choose. Carefully spoon the icing onto each cookie so that it fills the outline evenly. Leave the icing to dry for a good few hours or even overnight.
- Alternatively decorate your biscuits using icing pens, edible stars and balls, and white or royal icing.