I hated baking biscuits. Or rather hated that I could not bake biscuits.
I loved the idea of ushering some pretty, yummy little morsels with a cup of tea on an unsuspecting guest, and waiting for them to ask, ” Did you make these?” No biscuit I ever baked was good enough to serve. It was not for lack of trying, I was compelled to make them. Dry, overbaked, underbaked, flattened, bricks, coarse, tasteless are all descriptions that sat easily on my efforts. I was the Cookie Cremator. TheScotsman winced when I said the words, ” I baked biscuits.” I think it was that pained look that doggedly spurred me on and on and on, until it finally reached my thick head that, maybe, this wasn’t for me.
I think that out of all the usual items in a home baker’s repertoire, biscuits need a sharper eye and a better understanding of what’s at work and particularly, a good knowledge of your oven. Overworking or underworking the dough makes a huge difference. One person’s walnut size is not another’s. And timing, oh Lordy, but timing is a crucial element. Even half a minute too long and they have gone from gorgeously golden to some hideous fake tan brown colour, like that of an unattractive professional salsa dancer. And woe betide, if they are chocolate biscuits. How in the world do you see “dark around the edges” on a dark wood coloured biscuit?
Cookie Magic by Kate Shirazi changed all that. There was something about her writing, like that of a teacher, firm yet not patronizing and very upbeat. Highly recommended by foodie extraordinaire Jo, I fell in love with the book, which yielded biscuits worthy of praise. Yes, even mine. And these Chocky Melts are one of my favourites. Its also stupid easy. Which, for obvious reasons, is important.
A food processor does all the work and I only have to roll it into balls. Being a little eccentric when it comes to form and symmetry, I flatten the biscuits to the size I want by pressing down with a base of a glass. Nice and even flat tops. Warms my heart, it does! And into the oven these go.
What comes out are ebony discs that are light and tender, because of the cornflour, which really do melt in your mouth due to the icing sugar. The cocoa and drizzled chocolate gives it so much depth and luxury. This is a biscuit you pay attention to while eating it. I love the drizzling part. I try not to have the children around in case they want to ‘help’ and ruin the look! Melted chocolate goes into a freezer bag, the end of which is snipped (teeny tiny hole) and then swung back and forth over every biscuit. Very satisfying work. Take pleasure where you can I say and, oh, these are pleasurable. A boost when the day becomes a blur. These don’t last past a day in Casa Smith.
Now these I proudly offer to guests and watch as they have the first bite, and through a mouthful of biscuit, they speak/ask those wonderful words, ” Did YOU make these?” Job done. I am vindicated.
Now hush and read the recipe, while I savour this moment.
125g butter, softened
50g icing sugar
25g cocoa powder
100g plain flour
100g dark chocolate
50g white chocolate (optional. I had three squares lying around…so…)
Preheat oven to 190deg and line 2 baking sheets with silicone liners.
Put in all the ingredients, except for the chocolates, into a food processor and pulse, till it resembles wet sand. Remove onto the counter or bowl and work to a dough with your hands. If you do not have a food processor, then beat the butter till very soft in a bowl, then sift all the dry ingredients in, mix to make a dough. This is lovely and soft, but not delicate, so no worries. Take small walnut sized balls of the dough and flatten them slightly until you are happy with the size and shape as these do not spread or rise too much on baking. Place them on your sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. Leave to cool while you rustle up your inner Jackson Pollack for the next bit.
Break the chocolate up into little pieces and melt, in separate bowls if you are using the white chocolate too, either in a bowl sat over a pan of simmering water, or in the microwave. I do the microwave. Far easier. Once the chocolate has cooled a wee bit, put them into small freezer bags. Or if you must be posh, piping bags, though that’s a waste here really. Snip off the tip, real teeny if you want a fine line, or snip higher if you want thicker lines. Then let rip on the cookies, swaying the bag back and forth, letting the gorgeous line of lusciousness fall over the surface of your biscuit. Or you could do without the bags and just spoon-drizzle them.Let them set. Take them off the liner.
You know the rest.