I feel comfortable in the kitchen and I enjoy making new things, but one constant challenge I have is biscuits, both baking and icing them. In fact, the only biscuits I’m confident on are the gingerbread men I made at Christmas (and not just because they require minimal decoration).
When it comes to baking biscuits, I struggle to decide when they are completely cooked. Unlike cakes, you can’t stick a cake tester in them and know that they’re done when it comes out clean. Even lightly touching the biscuits doesn’t really help. They may feel soft to touch, but that might be the desired consistency and it can all change once it’s cooled down completely. The biscuits don’t always colour either and a few extra minutes in the oven could be the difference between just right, overdone or burnt. Then there is the ‘snap’ which again depends on the biscuit you’re baking.
When it comes to the decoration, icing piped onto the biscuits is ok, it’s the spreading of icing to completely cover the biscuits that I struggle with. I use the trick with the knife and warm water, but the amount of icing to start with is tricky and then neatening up the edges…it just never looks like the pictures in the books.
And then as well as ‘normal’ biscuits, there’s oaty ones, which for me just look like a slightly flatter version of rock cakes. The recipes all seem to suggest that in the oven the ‘ball’ of mixture will melt into a flat cookie, but either my mixture or my oven isn’t aware of that.
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I gave baking and icing biscuits another try at the weekend. I had some cupcake shaped cutters I’ve been wanting to try, although in hindsight this was probably a difficult shaped biscuit to ice. I used the sugar cookie recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and made them dairy free by substituting the butter for a dairy free kind. My finished icing wasn’t bad, a bit patchy and the edges definitely needed some work to be a bit neater, but still much better than previous attempts. The only other thing (and this could be due to the colours I chose) was that my cupcake biscuits ended up looking like mini ice creams. However, the taste was good and there was a ‘snap’ (although I’m thinking that they possibly had a few minutes longer in the oven than needed).
With Easter just around the corner, I will be challenging myself to bake and ice another batch of biscuits, so if anyone has any tips/tricks then please let me know.
If you would like to give these biscuits a go then please find the recipe below. Happy Baking!
Sugar ‘Cupcake’ Cookies – The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook p.138 (makes 30)
For the biscuits:
200g butter (I used Flora Freedom to make them dairy free)
280g caster sugar
¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract
400g plain flour
A pinch of salt
½ teaspoon of cream tartar
For the icing:
1 egg white
½ teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice
310g icing sugar, sifted
Food colouring (both optional and your choice)
Preheat the oven to 170°C and line 2-3 trays with greaseproof paper
Beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla extract until light and fluffy
Add the egg and mix well, scraping any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl
Add the flour, salt and cream of tartar and mix well – be careful not to overmix, the dough should be light, soft and easy to handle
Lightly dust your work surface and rolling pin with flour and roll out the dough
Using your cutters, cut out the desired shape and transfer to the baking trays
Pop them in the oven to bake for 10 minutes – they should be a light golden colour on the outer edges and paler in the centre
When you’re happy that they are cooked, take them out of the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely
For the icing, beat the egg white and lemon juice together with an electric whisk
Gradually start to add the icing sugar, mixing well after each addition to ensure the sugar is all incorporated and whisk until you form stiff peaks
If you’re making a few different colours, split your icing into separate bowls and mix in a few drops of you food colouring until you get you desired colour
Using a palette knife, put a dollop of icing onto the biscuit and spread it, covering the top of the biscuit (if the icing starts sticking to the knife or pulling to make holes, dip the palette knife in warm water and continue to spread the icing
Repeat the above step until all biscuits are decorated with your chosen colours. You may wish to pipe a design on top but wait for the base icing to set before you do so, if adding sprinkles do this before the icing sets to ensure they stay on the biscuit