Crispy cereal biscuits

When it was pouring with rain one afternoon last week, and we’d already been out in the morning, I decided that a spot of baking was the best choice of activity, and Andrew enthusiastically agreed – he always does when there’s food at the end of an activity! I flicked through a recipe book that I was given for Christmas for some on the spot inspiration. One that caught my eye was for biscuits with cornflakes in them – like a cross between chocolate cornflake cakes and oaty biscuits. Based on this idea I looked in the cupboards, and then adapted the recipe to include rice crispies and oatmeal, because that’s what we had in. I also reduced the relative quantity of sugar, as I often do when baking with the boys.

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Since living with Granny and Grandad, we’re also enjoying the use of Granny’s Kitchenaid, which Andrew loves to help me with. I find this particularly useful when working with real butter – I tend to use margarine myself because I never remember to get butter out enough in advance for it to get to room temperature and is therefore hard work to mix!

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I have to say, for a make it up as you go along recipe loosely based on inspiration from a book, these tasted amazing. Perfect texture for the kids to enjoy, nice and light, with a real crisp to them, whilst still being a biscuit rather than a cereal bar/cake.

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Here’s how we did it…

Ingredients

  • 100g butter
  • 150g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 125g self raising flour
  • 50g oatmeal
  • 50g sesame seeds
  • 50g rice crispies

Method

  1. Prepare a couple of baking sheets by lining with greaseproof paper, and preheat the oven to 170ºC (fan).
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the egg.
  4. Add the flour, oatmeal and sesame seeds, and mix until well combined.
  5. Add the rice crispies and gently fold in without over mixing.
  6. Dollop spoonfuls of the mixture onto the baking tray, with large enough gaps between them to allow for spreading during baking.
  7. Bake for around 15 minutes until lightly golden.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the tray until the biscuits firm up.
  9. Eat and enjoy 🙂
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Peanut Australian-themed biscuits

For his birthday, Andrew was sent some cookie cutters all the way from Australia, from his Great Uncle and Great Aunt who live out there. The cutters are in the shape of Aussie animals (kangaroo, koala and crocodile) and one is in the shape of the country itself. As we hadn’t done any baking for a while, mainly due to the amount of birthday cake we had, I thought we’d have a go at some biscuits using these new cutters. Andrew loves rolling out dough and cutting out shapes, particularly if the dough is edible and not play-dough! Joel has even started to take an interest too, but he was asleep when we baked this time.

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I looked through a biscuits and cakes recipe book that I got for Christmas for some inspiration. When I saw the recipe for some peanut butter biscuits, I thought that these would work well with the Australian theme – they’re not exactly Anzac cookies, but they’re along those lines, and I remember eating a few peanut butter sandwiches when we went to Australia. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, I never do! But they turned out yummy, and went down very well with the boys. So here’s our take on peanut biscuits…

Aussie biscuits Collage

Ingredients

  • 100g butter
  • 50g white sugar
  • 50g brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 80g peanut butter
  • 190g plain flour

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC, and prepare a baking tray by lining it with grease proof paper.
  2. Cream the butters and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat in the vanilla essence and flour to form a stiff dough.
  4. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface.
  5. Cut out biscuit shapes (they don’t have to be Aussie if you don’t have such cool cutters!), and transfer them to the baking tray until all the dough is used.
  6. Bake for about 15 minutes until lightly golden – they will still be slightly soft to touch.
  7. Leave them to cool and firm up on the tray.
  8. Store in an airtight container.

I actually think these are better a few days old, because I like my biscuits slightly chewier rather than snappy crispy, but they won’t last much longer around here!

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Spicy millionnaire’s shortbread

This week’s Great British Bake Off was all about desserts: trifles in round 1, Iles flottants in the technical challenge, and petit fours in the show stopper round. It hasn’t been easy to bake something particularly inspired by one of these rounds this week, because I can’t stand trifle (mainly the cold custard thing going on – yuk!) and I’m not a massive fan of meringues, I mean they’re OK, but I prefer to bake things that I’m actually going to enjoy rather than just eat politely because that’s on the menu.

As I don’t have a particular occasion to bake for, or the time to spend hours on intricate designs, petit fours weren’t really something I had the energy to do either. However, a couple of the contestants did some kind of millionaire’s shortbread for one of their petit four varieties, and this inspired me to have a go. I vividly remember the first time I ever baked millionaire’s shortbread: a tin of evaporated milk had been put in the wrong place amongst the condensed milk tins in the supermarket, and I gaily poured it in to the pan without realising until later when the caramel didn’t set that I had in fact bought the wrong thing! I have made it since, and it turned out much better, but it’s not something I make very often. As Tom has had a busy week at work and still volunteered to take both boys out on Saturday morning to a Dads and toddlers group in town, I thought he would appreciate a thank you bake 🙂

Millionares shortbread

I decided to do a twist on the usual millionaires shortbread by taking a bit of the edge off the sweetness – I added cinnamon to the shortbread base and ginger to the caramel. I think these spices work well with chocolate. I can’t call them petit fours, they’re nothing like that delicate or small, but my tester approved of their taste and texture. Sadly not long after I made these I came down with a bug and haven’t felt like eating them myself, so most have gone in the freezer for when I’m better.

Ingredients

  • Biscuit base
  • 180g flour
  • 90g semolina
  • 2tsp cinnamon
  • 180g margarine
  • 90g sugar
  • Caramel
  • 400g tin condensed milk
  • 150g margarine
  • 150g brown sugar
  • 2tsp ginger syrup (from stem ginger jar)
  • Chocolate topping
  • 100g plain chocolate

Method

  1. Pre heat the oven to 160ºC (fan) and line an oven dish with greaseproof paper.
  2. Cream the margarine and sugar for the biscuit base in a bowl.
  3. Add the flour, semolina and cinnamon, and mix until a stiff dough forms.
  4. Press the dough into the bottom of the oven dish, and bake for about 30 minutes until lightly golden, then leave to cool.
  5. While the base is cooling, make the caramel.
  6. Melt the margarine and sugar in a pan.
  7. Add the condensed milk and ginger syrup and bring to the boil, stirring all the time.
  8. Keep at the boil for a few minutes, until the caramel starts to thicken.
  9. Allow it to cool a little before pouring over the cooled base, then leave to set in the fridge.
  10. Once cooled, melt the chocolate in the microwave or over a pan of boiling water, and pour over the top of the caramel, spreading it out to cover all the top.
  11. Leave to cool in the fridge until set.
  12. To cut into squares, dip a sharp knife in freshly boiled water for a little while before using it to cut the chocolate – this will hopefully help it to glide through although it didn’t work every time for mine!

Cupcake of the month (June): cheesecake cupcakes

This month my cupcake calendar came up with a more unusual type of cupcake, one which I’d never thought of doing before. The idea was to make little cheesecakes in cupcake cases – an actually very simple idea, but not something I’ve seen before. I didn’t follow the recipe in terms of ingredients much, I just used a basic baked cheesecake mixture that I’ve done before, but made it in cupcake cases instead of a large cake tin.

I wasn’t sure how they would turn out, but in the end they worked pretty well. A few had issues coming out of the tin – I think the key was to make sure no mixture spilled over the side when I poured it in or during the baking as the mixture rose slightly, because this left a sticky residue between paper and tin. The taste was delicious, just like any other baked cheesecake. These would be handy to serve at a buffet or party where there are lots of different choices and you’d like to try a little bit of a few things – no more trying to cut a small slither of a big cheesecake and it ending up disheveled!

Mini cheesecakes 2

Here’s the recipe…

Ingredients

  • 200g digestive biscuits
  • 125g margarine
  • 200g soft cheese (Philadelphia-style)
  • 100ml soured cream
  • 100g sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence
  • blueberries to decorate

Method

  1. Put cupcake cases into a 12-hole muffin tin and pre-heat the oven to 160ºC (fan).
  2. Put the digestives in a large bowl and crush them into crumbs using the end of a rolling pin.
  3. Melt the margarine in a smaller bowl in the microwave and add to the biscuit crumbs.
  4. Mix until well combined and stiff, then spoon into the cake cases and press down with your fingers to make the base.
  5. Mix the soft cheese, soured cream and sugar together, then beat in the eggs and vanilla essence.
  6. Pour the mixture into the paper cases on top of the biscuit base.
  7. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until just golden on top.
  8. Turn the oven off and leave the cakes to cool in there until they are cool enough to remove without oven gloves.
  9. Remove the cakes from the tin.
  10. Decorate each cake with a few blueberries or other fruit.
  11. Store in the fridge until eaten.

Easter bunny Simnel biscuits

We’ve been busy little bunnies in the baking and crafting departments this week. There have been fewer groups due to the holidays, so I’ve been thinking of ways to keep Andrew amused. I can’t really go wrong with baking, especially biscuits as he loves cutting them out and of course tasting them 🙂 Granny was with us yesterday when we baked these bunny biscuits, and we made them with wheat-free flours so that Grandma can enjoy them too.IMG_0582

There seem to be quite a few Easter cakes in the shops now that are basically slightly different versions of brands that are available all year, usually involving lemon or yellow colouring in some way, for example Mr Kipling lemon tarts or Cadbury’s lemon mini rolls or Jaffa Cakes lemon cake bars. But I rarely see Simnel cakes around these days – a light fruit cake with spices such as cinnamon and ginger and a layer of marzipan in the middle and on top. I love marzipan and I like fruit cakes, so I enjoy Simnel cake. Traditionally it has 11 balls of marzipan on the top, which are said to represent the 11 disciples of Jesus minus Judas who betrayed him.IMG_0585

We didn’t have the time or attention span (in Andrew’s case) to make fruit cake, so we made biscuits based on the idea of Simnel cake. The spices are in the biscuit dough and the fruit is sandwiched between the biscuit and a layer of marzipan on top. We used a bunny shape cutter, although I was convinced I had seen an egg-shaped cutter in Andrew’s bumper pot of cutters when we were doing play-dough the other day, but I couldn’t find it when we came to bake the biscuits, so we had to switch from the egg-shaped biscuits that I had intended to make  originally. bunnies

If you fancy having a go, here’s the recipe, which makes about 20….

Ingredients

  • 60g sugar
  • 120g margarine
  • 180g flour (I used 60g cornflour and 120g gluten-free flour)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp groung nutmeg
  • about 30g raisins
  • 1/2 pack ready to roll marzipan

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 150ºC (fan) and prepare two baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  2. Cream the margarine and sugar until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Add the flour and spices and mix with a spoon until a dough starts to form; then use your hands to bring it together as it gets too stiff for the spoon.
  4. Roll out the dough to about 1/2cm thick on the greaseproof paper that you put on the baking trays, and cut out the biscuit shapes. That way, when you’ve cut out the shapes, they are already on the place where they will be baked, and you avoid breaking them in transferring to the paper once cut out.
  5. Once you’ve cut out all the dough, press a few raisins onto the top of each bunny.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until lightly golden.
  7. Remove and allow to cool.
  8. Roll out the marzipan on a lightly floured board to about 1/2cm thick.
  9. Cut out the same number of shapes as the biscuits, and place on top of the biscuits, sandwiching the raisins between the biscuit and marzipan layer.
  10. Eat as fresh as possible!

Old MacDonald had a farm….. of choc chip shortbread animals!

Earlier in the week I blogged about making gingerbread men. At the time I made 2 different biscuit doughs, the other one being a choc chip shortbread which Andrew cut into animal shapes using a set of cute animal cutters that I was given for Christmas. The idea behind putting choc chips in was to try and get the effect of patches of darker colour on the animals, just as cows have, and often sheep, pigs, horses and ducks are more than just one colour. The problem with the chips was that they got in the way of the cutter slicing through the dough to the board, so the shapes didn’t come out as clearly as they would have without the chips – this was probably not helped by the fact that my chips were very chunky whereas using ready made chips that you can buy might have worked better as they tend to be smaller; I just think those are so expensive compared to chopping up your own chocolate.

The reason we made these, apart from it being a fun way to spend an afternoon, was as a present for Granny’s birthday. I created a photo mug online using photos of her with my little boys, and thought it would be nice to bake some biscuits to go with the tea that she can make in the mug. There’s also a story behind the Old MacDonald theme…. for Andew’s birthday, Granny and Grandad bought him one of those musical cards that blasts out Old MacDonald at full pelt when you open it, which Andrew found fascinating! Here’s a video of it – may I suggest that you only play it if you don’t mind having the song in your head for the rest of the day! In buying this card they have perpetuated a family joke that started when my grandparents bought my brother and me musical cards one Christmas, and my brother kept opening and closing his in fascination, much to the annoyance of everyone else in the room.

If you fancy making these yourself, in whatever shape you like, here’s the recipe, which is very simple to make. The semolina and granulated sugar help to give it a slightly crunchy texture as well as being lovely and ‘short’ or crumbly.

Ingredients

  • 200g plain flour
  • 100g semolina
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 200g margarine or butter
  • 100g chocolate, chopped into small chunks, or ready-made chocolate chips

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC (fan), and prepare a couple of baking sheets by lining with greaseproof paper.
  2. Cream the margarine/butter and sugar together until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Add the chocolate chips and stir in until well distributed.
  4. Add the flour and semolina and mix until a stiff dough forms, using your hands to do the last bit when it’s too stiff for a spoon.
  5. Roll out on a lightly floured surface and cut out shapes using biscuit cutters.
  6. Place the dough shapes on the baking sheets and bake in the oven for about 10 – 15 minutes until slightly golden on top.
  7. Remove from the oven and eat as fresh as possible, storing in an air-tight container until eaten.

Wheat-free gingerbread men

This week we’ve had Grandma and Pop with us for a few days. It’s been great fun for Andrew, and even Joel has got some giggles for them too now. For me it’s been very helpful to have extra pairs of hands that get on with the household tasks when not otherwise occupied by a toddler or a baby. When they were all out at Andrew’s weekly music group yesterday, I stayed at home with Joel as he’s getting increasingly difficult to feed when we’re out because he gets so distracted by everything going on. When Joel was napping I prepared some biscuit doughs so that Andrew could do some rolling and cutting out later on in the afternoon after his nap – this is his favourite part of baking biscuits. One was a wheat-free gingerbread dough (Grandma is wheat-intolerant) and one was a choc chip shortbread dough (I’ll blog about this later in the week).

I know that Andrew loves making gingerbread men, mainly because he excitedly repeats ‘gingerbread mans’ with pretty good accuracy in terms of his vowels and consonants, but we’ve only ever made a wheaty recipe. So I googled and came across Coeliac UK’s website which has a gluten-free gingerbread man recipe. As far as I understand, if something is gluten-free it’s also wheat-free, but something that’s wheat-free might not be gluten-free because gluten is also part of other cereals (such as oat/barley gluten). I adapted it slightly – self-raising wheat-free flour instead of separate flour and raising agent, a bit more ginger as I like very gingery gingerbread (!), margarine instead of butter, honey instead of golden syrup. So here’s the recipe as we made it…

Ingredients

  • 225g wheat-free self-raising flour
  • 100g margarine
  • 2 level teaspoons ground ginger
  • 100g sugar
  • 2 tablespoons melted honey

Method

  1. Mix the flour and ginger together, then rub in the margarine to form a breadcrumb texture.
  2. Add the sugar and mix to a stiff dough with the melted honey.
  3. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface, and cut out men (or other shapes) with a little man cutter.
  4. Bake at 180°C (fan) for 8 – 10 minutes.
  5. Leave to cool before decorating with writing icing to make the features like eyes, mouth and buttons.
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Gingerbread men ….and other creatures (inspired by the Great British Bake Off, episode 8)

Anyone who’s following the Great British Bake Off as avidly as me will know that I’m a week behind on this one. Biscuits, specifically crackers, chocolate tea-cakes and gingerbread, were the theme of last week’s episode, whereas this week was all about French baking – petit fours, gateaux, choux pastry. I didn’t have time to do any baking last weekend, as we had a busy weekend visiting my brand new niece and taking Andrew to see the ‘choo-choos’ (model railway exhibition) at our local museum. Being as biscuits are more my thing than fancy French baking, I thought I’d stick to them rather than stretch myself too far. And besides, gingerbread men are something that I’d really like Andrew to get involved in with helping me bake.

Everything out ready to start on our baking adventure
Ready and waiting with my apron and wooden spoon!

Avid followers of the GBBO will of course also know that the contestants didn’t have to make just any old gingerbread, but rather build with it structures that went beyond the quaint little Hansel and Gretal houses that you see around Christmas-time these days. There were some impressive architectural feats, like a 2-foot tall Big Ben and a 2-foot diameter Colosseum! I wanted to stick with the classic ‘man’ shape for my gingerbread – though who has ever seen a man look like a gingerbread ‘man’?! This involved buying a cutter, because I realised that I’d only ever made gingerbread as a child at home, and I don’t personally own cutters in such a shape. I thought this would be easily remedied by a quick trip to the supermarket, but it seems gingerbread men cutters are harder to come by than I thought. In the end I found a bumper pack of kids biscuit cutters in Hobbycraft, and this included one classic gingerbread man shape as well as other assorted animals, birds and geometric shapes. I saw this as a good investment, because recently Andrew has got into play dough, and I have it on my to-do list to make some, so the cutters will come in handy for using with play dough as well as with edible biscuit dough!

Cutting out a man shape. But I think it's a BEAR Mummy!!

It turned out that Andrew, when given the choice of which shapes he wanted to use for cutting out gingerbread dough, wasn’t actually that bothered about the classic ‘man’ shape, which he insisted was a teddy bear anyway. He much preferred to cut out butterflies and hearts – two words which he loves to say (‘heart’ is pretty accurate, and ‘butterfly’ is something like ‘pap-pap’, which I presume is him picking up the French word ‘papillon’), and kept saying them in very excited intonation as he cut one out, and another, and another, and another…! I did persuade him to let me cut out some ‘men’, sorry I mean bears, whilst he was in charge of heart and butterfly creation.

Waiting for all our different shaped biscuits to cool down before decorating them

The recipe we used was from Paddington’s Cookery Book, which Andrew was given as a birthday present from his uncle and aunt. It has some great recipes that are perfect for getting little hands involved in baking, and this gingerbread was so simple to make. Along with the book, he was also given a lovely little apron, which now fits him well, with some growing room still, so he wore that whilst we baked together. I’ve given the list of ingredients below, which I altered slightly by using margarine instead of butter and omitting the salt, and I’ve also added ingredients for decorating that aren’t in the book. But I shouldn’t write the method out exactly as in the book as it’s under copyright. You do what you would do for making a shortbread-type biscuit, by combining flour and fat into a breadcrumb consistency and then adding the sugar, spices and finally milk to bring it together into a firm dough that can be rolled out and cut into shapes. The finished biscuit texture is quite soft and short rather than crunchy like some gingerbread, but I think this is a nice texture for little (and big) mouths.

Ingredients

  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 100g margarine
  • 75g brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp milk
For decorating
  • white writing icing tube
  • 5 tbsp icing sugar
  • cold water
  • sprinkles
  • chocolate beans

    Putting chocolate beans onto an iced heart

Once they were cooled, we then set about decorating the biscuits with icing, sprinkles and chocolate beans. This was the really fun part! I was amazed at how good Andrew’s fine motor skills were, as he was able to accurately put a small chocolate bean onto each of two small blobs of writing icing that I had squeezed onto the men-shaped biscuits to make buttons down the front, in classic gingerbread man style. Even I found this tricky, though I guess smaller fingers is an advantage in this case. I then drew a mouth and two eyes onto the faces using the writing icing, and Andrew was keen to repeatedly say ‘eyes’ and ‘mouth’ as I did each one! We also mixed some icing sugar with a small amount of water to make a simple water icing that I then spread onto the butterflies and hearts and Andrew helped sprinkle the sprinkles and place the chocolate beans on the butterfly wings. I thought he might be tempted to eat some biscuits whilst we were decorating (or maybe that was just me?!) but he didn’t seem bothered, and I let him have one right at the end when they were done.

Fine motor skills in action (hence the blurry photo!)

We had such a fun afternoon making this biscuits, and I’m glad that Andrew enjoyed it and found it interesting too – it means a lot to me that he’s showing an interest in one of my favourite things to do 🙂

These hearts and butterflies are so pretty, I just can't resist grabbing one whilst Mummy is trying to take a photo of their loveliness!
Time to choose a 'man' to eat - I think I'll have this one with 2 blue buttons please

Black-forest-inspired cheesecake

Last weekend we went away for my cousin’s wedding. We stopped off to stay with my parents on the Friday night, and mum had prepared a lovely tea of various interesting homemade salad dishes that were perfect for me and my lack of desire to eat hot cooked food. For pudding she produced a cheesecake that was fridge-set (so no baking involved) and didn’t involved raw egg. Again this was perfect, because it wasn’t too sweet; in fact it was quite tart, and not particularly to Andrew’s liking! He seems to have inherited my sweet tooth (which has disappeared during pregnancy). Then at the wedding reception, what should turn up for pudding but a fridge-set cheesecake, very similar to the one mum had made. None of us minded at all, because we all enjoyed it, and it was just what we needed on what turned out to be a lovely day weather-wise – something refreshing and not too stodgy. I just checked with the chef that it didn’t contain any hidden pregnancy unfriendly ingredients (my main concern is the raw egg that sometimes goes into such things), and he confirmed that it was fine for me to eat.

So these two cheesecakes (one blueberry and one lemon) inspired me to make my own cheesecake using similar ingredients. After all, it involved no baking in the oven, so no smells that I’m not too keen on right now. The secret to making it set in both cases (according to my mum and the wedding chef) is lemon juice. I hadn’t heard of this before, and was curious to try and find out the chemistry behind it (I’m a scientist, this is how I think!) But after some, admittedly not very long, time googling, I couldn’t find anything from a reputable source. I saw a couple of hints at the fact that the acid somehow makes the cheese and cream mixture more solid, which does make sense to me as I think back to science lessons at school. If anyone has a more technical (but still understandable) explanation of how this works, please let me know!

But back to the culinary point, below is the recipe that I came up with. The name ‘Black-forest-inspired’ comes from the fact that it contains chocolate and cherries; this is a winning combination if you ask me, particularly at the moment when cherries are in season, so fresh and juicy. I just guessed at how much of each ingredient should go in to the cheesy mixture, by tasting as I went along. The base is my standard cheesecake base recipe. It turned out very well – nicely soft and fluffy, but solid, and not too sweet. I have to say that it was best on the day I made it. The day after it started to lose its shape and run slightly into the hole that was made by cutting the first slices. It still tasted nice, but the texture wasn’t so cheesecake-y, more like mousse or yoghurt. So the moral of the story is…. eat your cheesecake on the day it was made (I feel we would have been ill if Tom and I had attempted this just between the two of us!)

Ingredients

  • 15 digestive biscuits
  • 100g margarine
  • 300g soft cheese
  • 150ml crème fraîche
  • 75g sugar
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 100g chocolate (plain or milk), cut into small chunks
  • cherries, stoned and halved, to decorate

Method

  1. Grease the bottom and sides of a springform cake tin.
  2. Crush the biscuits in a large plastic bowl with the end of a rolling pin.
  3. Melt the margarine in the microwave or over a pan of boiling water, and add to the crushed biscuits. Stir until well combined.
  4. Spread the biscuit mixture on the base of the tin, and pat down until firm and smooth to make the base.
  5. Mix the soft cheese, crème fraîche, sugar and lemon juice together in a bowl until smooth and fluffy.
  6. Add the chocolate chunks and stir until evenly distributed.
  7. Pour this cheesy mixture over the biscuit base in the tin.
  8. Cover the tin and put it into the fridge to set. I left ours for about 12 hours and it was a good consistency.
  9. Decorate with the halved cherries as your creative side takes you!

Chocolate and almond butter crumblies

A checkerboard of hearted (use your imagination!) yummy crumblies

I’m no good at lying, so here I am being honest about the fact that these delicious ‘crumblies’ I made started out in my head as shortbread biscuits. They look or feel nothing like shortbread, but they taste just as good if not better, because they have that lovely ‘melt in the mouth’ quality, they just crumble as (but not before) you bite them. Hence the name change to ‘crumblies’. It was always my intention to make half chocolate dough and half almond dough, and then make square biscuits with a contrasting-coloured heart in the centre. If you use your imagination, you can just about see this plan worked for the chocolate squares with almond hearts, but the almond squares with chocolate hearts were a bit of a flop (or a run if you like) – in appearance that is, but not taste. Oh how I wish I could post samples so that readers would believe me.

I suspect part of the reason why the dough ran so much (unlike the firmness of shortbread) was that I used all cornflour. I used to make shortbread with half cornflour, half plain flour; I expected that using all cornflour would make them more fragile and crumbly, but I didn’t expect the dough to go so runny whilst cooking and therefore lose the shape of my hearts. My inspiration for doing this cornflour thing was seeing gluten-free shortbread on sale at a tea-room I visited with my mum-in-law who is wheat/gluten-intolerant; so I thought I’d have a go at another wheat-free recipe with her in mind. The results are not bad. The perfectionist inside me is annoyed that they don’t look so pretty, but the time-pressed realistic mum inside me has come to accept that as long as they taste good (which they do, did I mention that?!), that’s all that matters. If you fancy having a go at these yourself, here’s how I did it.

Ingredients

Almond dough:

  • 125g corn flour
  • 125g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 60g icing sugar
  • few drops almond essence

Chocolate dough:

  • 45g cocoa powder
  • 80g corn flour
  • 125g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 60g icing sugar

 Method

  1. Start with the almond dough (so you can use the same bowl for the chocolate one – think about it, the other way round and you’d get brown bits in your yellow dough). Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl with a metal spoon.
  2. Add the cornflour and almond essence and combine until you get a thick pasty dough. As it gets thicker, use your hands to bring it together into a ball.

    Ball of almond dough
  3. On a large flat surface, sprinkle some cornflour. Roll out the dough until about 1cm thick. (I suspect that making it thicker would have been better.) Cut out some squares with a biscuit cutter, until you’ve used all the dough.
  4. From each square, cut out a small heart using a biscuit cutter. I got mine from Hobbycraft back in 2008 (I know the date because I got them to cut out hearts from card for the orders of service at our wedding!)

    A close up of cutting
  5. Place the squares (minus hearts) on a greaseproof-paper-lined baking tray. Put the hearts to one side.

    Cutting in progress - almond dough cut into squares with hearts cut out, and the same happening with the chocolate dough
  6. Do the same with the chocolate dough. Cream butter and sugar, then add cornflour and cocoa powder.

    Ball of chocolate dough
  7. When you have a tray of almond and a tray of chocolate squares, place the opposite type of dough heart into the heart-shaped holes in the squares.

    All lined up ready to go into the oven (the last time I got to see my beauties looking so perfect....)
  8. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 160°C for 10-12 minutes. When you take them out they will still be quite soft.
  9. Allow to cool on the trays and they will become firm. Once cooled and firm, remove from the trays and store in an air-tight box.
The good....
...and the ugly (there was no 'bad' involved, not on taste)

The chocolate taste is nicely strong and not too sweet, which contrasts well with the sweeter almond taste. So if you’re more in the mood for something chocolately with a hint of sweetness, I’d recommend one from the ‘good’ option, and if you’re more up for a sweet bite with a bit of chocolate thrown in, I’d go for the ‘ugly’ but still yummy option. My willing tasters (aka my boys) approve, which is reassuring to know. I’d be more than happy to get suggestions of why it went so runny, other than the cornflour. I’m a bit of an experimental baker; sometimes things go right, sometimes wrong, but I don’t know much of the science behind why something went wrong unless it’s obvious like I left out a key ingredient by mistake.