Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Belgium biscuits ~ my variation

These are a good 'plain' biscuit, which is to say, a happy companion to a hot drink without being overly rich.
125 grams (4 oz) butter
75 grams (3 oz) brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp mixed spice
2 tsp ground ginger
1 egg
225 grams (8 oz) standard flour
1 Tbsp cocoa - not a usual ingredient in this recipe but I think it makes them more delicious!
1 tsp baking powder

Cream butter, sugar and spices together. Beat the egg and add it in. Sift in flour, cocoa and baking powder. Knead sparingly on a floured board or clean bench just enough to ensure the mixture is properly combined. Roll out thinly a bit at a time, and cut into rounds. Bake on a baking tray for 15 to 20 minutes at 180 degrees celcius (350 degrees fahrenheit).

It's usual to ice half the biscuits with lemon or pink icing and to put them together with the remaining un-iced biscuits with raspberry jam. A sprinkling of red jelly crystals over the icing is also traditional. I like them plain, perhaps spread with a little red jam, or topped with a small amount of chocolate icing. The chocolate icing I use is simply a cup of icing sugar, a tablespoon of cocoa and enough water or milk to make it spreadable. A small knob of melted butter can be included in the icing but this is optional.

Tip: The consistency of the mixture is important. To get this right it's helpful to cream the butter and sugar properly. I grate the butter, then put it in a glass bowl with the sugar and place it in a sink of hot water to soften. It needs to become soft enough for the sugar and butter to completely combine without liquifying. This way it will be possible to roll it lightly whereas if the butter is melted it's impossible to handle and the temptation is to add more flour which isn't otherwise needed.

Later note: 
Readers who are interested in this recipe may like to compare it with the one given in this article from "The Southland Times".  Baker Jim Fish, who features in the article, has been a professional baker for longer than I've been alive and named Belgium biscuits as a favourite of his own and his customers.  He uses cassia spice rather than cinnamon, which is one spice I'd never even heard of!  Thanks to Grace Dalley for sending me the link!

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