2016 and 2017 were the two years for me testing biscuit bakery. I was downcast over and over again with flat biscuits. What was I doing wrong?
It is one thing to follow a recipe, but another to understand. There is a correlation to the wet/dry ingredients as to what happens in the oven. I don’t know how these things work at the atomic level, but I can see the two work together producing a victorious biscuit or a complete failure.
So what did I learn.
A fundamental is butter and sugar, fluffy and aerated. I have a hand held electric mixer, but it does the job. One batch of biscuits to 125 grams of butter. However – I learnt that I can cut that down, just as I can cut down castor sugar. Too much butter and castor sugar flattens the biscuit and produces cracks. It looks good, but I want height!
I saw that castor sugar produces a different grainier texture to icing sugar. I found a Women’s Day recipie book and followed the instructions exactly for cornflake biscuits. They used castor sugar. I put in organic raisins and some crushed walnuts. It was perfect.
Another lesson was that cornflour lightens up the biscuit – and not much needed to do it.
I recently tried jam biscuits, with a mix of castor and icing, being careful not to overdo the butter or the castor.
I started to learn these things from a friend’s mother, who did a biscuit session for me in her kitchen out at Bald Hills.
The other thing I learnt is that biscuits are actually twice baked. What this means is that the initial baking does not give a crisp biscuit. I have tried variations, but the best way seems to be baking till just under golden brown (as I prefer lighter coloured biscuits), placing on a rack for a while, then back in the oven at a lower temperature that does not brown the biscuit. Then after some time, I turn the oven off and leave them in there on racks anything up to 2 hours. If they are not crisp after cooling, the temperature and timing levels need some fine tuning, but more likely the biscuit mix is too buttery/sugary or hasn’t enough flour.
The two outcomes are biscuits with height, and crisp bites.
My generic biscuits use flours with 2/3 cup 00 plain flour, 1/3 cup corn flour (to make it lighter), 1 to 1.5 cups organic unbleached self raising flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder. My food ingredients use whatever I have on hand – e.g. chopped apricots, raisins, cranberries, walnuts, sunflower seeds, papitas, not too much coconut if at all. My wet ingredients are the beaten sugar(s) and butter, then mixing in one egg, then beating in a touch of vanilla with optional tablespoon of golden syrup. Syrup and/or raw sugar makes the biscuits look darker.
I fold in the dry ingredients till well mixed and hand shape each biscuit into balls on the bread board, rolling them in some plain flour, as I like that finish. I keep flour on my hands so the mix does not get sticky. I press down with a fork. For jam biscuits, I use traditional raspberry jam as the fill, pressing the ball of dough down with a teaspoon kind of in the middle, a bit of a home made rough look. Again, if there is too much butter and/or sugar, or not enough flour, the biscuits will flatten out more than I want. Even so, they will not be rock hard and flat. I add a little castor sugar and coconut with jam biscuits, and make them a little more golden brown.
Not that we follow recipies to the letter, but my biscuit making adventures work well with these principles. My friends wonder what the heck is going on when I don’t make them biscuits for too long. We set our own standards I am afraid, and unfortunately most of the time my biscuit jar is half full because I give the biscuits away.
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