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Lockdown baking: biscuit recipes for beginners and professionals
The events of the past year have resulted in an unprecedented boom in home baking. Indeed, when the UK’s first lockdown began in March, baking ingredients became almost 50% more valuable, with supermarkets experiencing both sugar and flour shortages.
But many domestic bakers are now feeling jaded by even the thought of banana bread, the nation’s favourite recipe during the first lockdown. So, we have decided to share some alternative baking recipes to help keep you entertained, starting with biscuits – perfect for sharing within your ‘bubble’. Learn four fun and creative recipes for all skill levels, from oat biscuits to brandy snaps.
This demerara sugar shortbread can be as simple or as intricate as you wish. The recipe itself is ideal for beginners as it contains just three ingredients, involves simple combining processes, requires no difficult shaping and has a short baking time. Demerara’s coarser, larger grain ensures the short texture that shortbread is named after.
Once the oven is pre-heated to 150⁰C, cream together the demerara sugar with softened butter. For beginners, creaming means gently pushing the sugar and butter together between the back of your spoon and the side of the bowl. Once combined, mix in white flour and combine into one ball.
The simplest way to shape shortbread is to roll small handfuls and then press them down onto your baking tray to create circles. Alternatively, you may wish to roll the dough out and cut into rectangles. Then, prick these shapes with a fork to create the iconic dotted top. These need just 20 minutes baking time and should then be left to cool before eating.
Traditional shortbreads have dotted tops and a short texture.
More advanced bakers may wish to leave the oven off initially while cooling and shaping the dough using cutters, rollers or stamps. If you choose this option, we recommend refrigerating once more before cooking to avoid spreading in the oven which will distort shaping. After baking, the result will be golden biscuits with a soft crunch and buttery crumb.
Cookies offer a range of baking opportunities
Cookies are an ideal intermediate skill level baking challenge. You can either choose to follow the recipe and create a reliably even and delicious biscuit or experiment by adding flavourings or additional dry ingredients if you are feeling more ambitious. Examples of the latter include citrus zest, dried fruit and fudge chunks.
However, there is a caveat. The addition of dry or wet ingredients must be balanced with the addition or removal of other ingredients in turn. A word of advice – this balancing should be done carefully to avoid changing the intended taste or consistency of the cookie.
Below we have outlined two cookie options for you to try at home.
Demerara sugar muesli cookies
Muesli cookies are a delightful lockdown baking treat for two reasons. The first is because you can make use of the cereal you already have in the cupboard at home to bake them. The second is because they are a highly effective snack to eat between meals – the fast release energy of sugar complements the slow release energy of muesli.
The combination of muesli and demerara sugar creates a chunky texture in these cookies.
For this recipe, you will need muesli, demerara sugar, butter, flour, bicarbonate of soda and an egg. It is worth noting that these cookies have a chunkier texture than more traditional chocolate chip cookies thanks to the oats and demerara sugar ingredients. Unlike soft brown sugar and muscovado sugar, demerara sugar has a coarse grain, which makes it a better sugar constituent for those cookies that require a crunchy texture and a mellow flavour.
Once the demerara sugar and butter have been creamed together, beat in the egg until you have a light and fluffy mix. Then, carefully fold in the dry ingredients. This means gently scooping the wet mixture over the dry ingredients to avoid creating clouds of flour or bicarbonate of soda, which would not only create mess but also alter the ratio of ingredients.
Again, these biscuits are easy to shape. Spoonfuls of the mix should be placed onto your baking tray with space to allow for the cookie’s characteristic spreading. This spreading is what creates the classic cookie texture with a crisp outside and chewy middle.
You can find the full recipe here.
Soft molasses cookies
Soft molasses cookies offer a fitting opportunity for new bakers to start experimenting with flavours. Traditionally they are gently spiced with ground ginger and cinnamon, but you can be more creative with your flavourings. If you are struggling for inspiration, though, consider adding ground cloves, nutmeg or even some vanilla. This recipe requires plain flour, baking soda, your choice of spices, unsalted butter, soft light brown sugar, white sugar, molasses and an egg.
Molasses gives these cookies their dark colour and robust flavour.
As the name suggests, these cookies stay soft and chewy due to the molasses in the recipe. Molasses is a dark, thick and highly viscous syrup which lends these cookies their dark colour and robust flavour, serving to complement the soft brown sugar and your chosen spices.
First, mix flour, baking soda and spices. Then, in a separate bowl, combine butter, molasses and soft brown light sugar until smooth. Once smooth, add and whisk an egg in the mixture. The wet and dry mixtures should then be added together in one bowl and mixed until they create a warm, dark dough.
This dough should be shaped into a ball and pressed down and sprinkled with additional soft brown sugar to produce their distinctive crackly top. These should be chilled for at least an hour and then need baking for between 10 and 15 minutes. This is the perfect time to test your baker’s eye as you can tell soft molasses cookies are baked when the edges appear to be set, in addition to their crackly top.
Brandy snaps offer an even greater challenge. They require greater attention to detail, additional steps and time-sensitive cooking and shaping. The end result should have a dark amber appearance, which is developed by the golden syrup and demerara sugar in the recipe. And to give yourself the best chance of a successful bake, you should be prepared with a preheated oven and a wooden spoon with an oiled handle, ready to go on a cooling rack. This recipe calls for unsalted butter, demerara sugar, golden syrup, plain flour, ground ginger and lemon juice.
Brandy snaps require skill, focus and time management to perfect a uniform roll shape.
First, butter, demerara sugar and golden syrup must be melted and dissolved in a pan over low heat. Be careful, though. It is imperative that this mixture does not boil or crystallize as this will render the mixture lumpy and unpourable. Once the mixture is smooth it should be left to cool slightly before the flour, ground ginger and lemon juice are stirred in.
The next step requires precision to ensure a consistent size and bake of all the brandy snaps. Heaps of the mixture should be poured onto baking trays to form circles, with gaps between each snap to avoid them connecting in the oven as they spread. Once baked to a dark amber colour they should be given one minute to cool slightly. The snaps should have a lacy appearance but still be pliable, so they can be quickly shaped around the oiled handle of the spoon. You should aim to mould your snaps into tube shapes and, once sealed at the join, they should be transferred to a cooling rack to crispen.
Brandy snaps are traditionally filled with whipped cream, but you can choose to add fresh fruit or ice cream for a refreshed take on the dessert. Once baked, they can last up to a week in an airtight container, so you can try different fillings with each biscuit throughout the week.
So, whether you are new to baking or taking advantage of more free time spent at home, we hope this selection will give you either the experience or challenge you need during the current lockdown.