Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Joe Craig's Epic Biscuits. I think they're shortbread.

I was asked to contribute a recipe to a school cookbook. I got a bit carried away and sent them something a little more confessional. Here it is:

I spend most of my day cooking or eating or thinking about cooking and eating – when I should be writing. I don’t usually follow recipes. I read them, nick ideas from them, then do my own thing. This is fine for savoury dishes but it’s a disaster for desserts. In particular: baking. For this reason, I am a terrible baker.

I get nervous about following baking recipes precisely. I make a huge mess. I’m also too lazy and impatient to follow all the steps properly. I don’t mix things for long enough – it’s boring and tiring on the arms. I don’t set things aside to chill for long enough – that’s not cooking, it’s waiting. I didn’t start making biscuits just to wait around. I started so I could eat biscuits.

So here’s my method for making biscuits. A method for the lazy, impatient baker who just loves biscuits.

You’ll need:
225g butter – I don’t care whether it’s salted or unsalted. Just don’t use the really good butter that you should be spreading on toast. But whatever you do, don’t use margarine or any of your other ‘spreads’. I don’t know what those spreads are even doing in your fridge. Throw them out. Get some butter. Come on.
110g caster sugar – it’s always really annoyed me that this isn’t 100g. That would be so much neater. But maybe you’re not as OCD as I am and this won’t matter to you. Also, you’d think that someone as OCD as I am would be a more tidy baker, but I’m not. I’m chaos.
225g plain flour – I love flour. I usually end up eating this off the spoon then I feel ill later. So don’t do that, however tempted you are.
I’m sure there are meant to be eggs in this recipe but I can’t remember when or where you use them. So maybe have some eggs ready, just in case. I don’t think you’ll need them but we’ll see.
110g cornflour – what even is cornflour? This stuff baffles me.
Pinch of salt – easy.

Here’s what you do:

Turn on the oven to 170 degrees – you could do this later, but you’ll thank me if you do it now.
Smear some butter on some baking trays
Put the butter and the sugar in a bowl. Now you’re meant to ‘cream’ it but I’ve never had a clue what that means so what I do is get my electric whisk, shove it in and mash it around a bit, then I turn it on and suddenly butter flies all over the kitchen so I immediately turn the whisk off again and panic. I put an apron on, realising I should have done this first. Then I try to whisk gently, covering as much of the bowl as possible with my hand, but it’s not actually possible to whisk ‘gently’ cos the machine is either on or off, right? And when it’s on it’s not ‘gentle’. So then I give up and just mangle the stuff together with my hands until I get bored. I think you can also use a wooden spoon for this. In fact, maybe that’s what you’re meant to do.
Sift the flour and cornflour into the bowl – I love sifting. I really do. It’s like you’re making a tiny Christmas scene, then it all builds up and it’s not just Christmas any more, it’s the Alps and you can imagine a tiny person skiing down this beautiful powdery snow that isn’t actually snow, it’s flour.
Add the salt
Mix it all together – again, probably a wooden-spoon-job. Get stuck in.
Throw some flour on the kitchen surface
Tip all your mixy stuff out of the bowl onto the kitchen surface and knead it – this is the bit where I’m always amazed that it somehow starts to look like dough. Actual dough! Amazing. And yummy.
Roll out the dough so it’s all as even as you can get it. I aim for about a centimetre thick. I never achieve that aim. Judging 1 centimetre is surprisingly hard.
Get a fork & make cool patterns in the top of the dough – you’re meant to just prick it evenly all over. I don’t. I make shapes and pretend they’re alien crop circles or the logos of weird extremist political movements.
Cut it all into shapes. What shapes? BISCUIT SHAPES. Obviously. Triangles work best because that’s the easiest shape to cut and the sides don’t have to be even. Also, a triangular biscuit is perfect for dunking in tea.
Arrange the shapes on the baking trays.
Chill the shapes for 30 minutes. Hahahaha. Yeah. Like I’m going to wait an extra 30 minutes for my biscuits. What am I supposed to do in that 30 minutes? Clean up the kitchen? Oh wait, that would actually be a good idea. But I don’t usually do that. If you’re going to chill your pre-biscuit shapes for half an hour, you can leave the ‘turning your oven on’ bit until now. But I can’t usually wait more than about 5 minutes, so it’s good to have already put the oven on earlier.
Put the shapes in the oven for about 20 minutes – watch them turn all delicious and golden. Yes, I’m telling you to stare through the window of the oven for 20 minutes. It’s better than anything on TV.
When they’re just starting to go a bit brown at the edges, take them out (USE OVEN GLOVES, SILLY).
Sprinkle a bit of extra sugar on them.
Now you’re meant to leave them for a bit so they can get a bit firmer as they cool. But come on. You’ve just baked biscuits. You’re going to wait? EAT THE BISCUITS.

Also, SEND BISCUITS TO JOE CRAIG. That bit is important.

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