Saved By Cake
You don’t only have to make shoe and handbag biscuits with this recipe. You can make anything. Anything! Your only limitation is your imagination. Also, the cookie cutters you have. The flavouring I’ve used here is plain vanilla, but you can substitute any number of things – a teaspoon of dried cinnamon, the zest of half a lemon or a splash of Cointreau. For example, I’ve made cardamom and rosewater biscuits by adding four ground cardamom pods and a teaspoon of rosewater instead of the vanilla. I’ve also made lime and ginger biscuits by leaving out the vanilla and adding a teaspoon each of dried ginger and lime zest. It’s up to you. Have fun. Go mad.
The same with the decorating. I’ve given you a basic glacé icing recipe, but you can dye it countless different colours and use writing icing, glitter, edible stars, sugar balls and so on to create any number of effects. There are plenty of websites that specialize in edible cake decorations and you will be introduced to a veritable wonderland. But a word of warning – once you start, you can’t stop. You’ll find yourself thinking, but I simply MUST have some of these tiny sugar cats! How can
I make biscuits and hold my head up in polite society if they’re not sprinkled with tiny sugar cats?
Or mini candy canes! Or miniature edible butterflies!
If you’re in any way prone to addiction, you could be in choppy waters here.
Makes a variable number depending on the size and shape of your cutters!
Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Scrape the vanilla seeds from the pod and add to the mix. Discard the pod. Beat in the egg and sieve in the flour. Mix until a soft dough forms. Divide the dough into two roughly equal-sized balls, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Line three baking trays with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4.
Take the balls of pastry out of the fridge, remove the clingfilm and divide each one into two.
Roll one of the lumps out on a well-floured surface to a thickness of about 5mm. This is something you’ll get better at gauging the more you do it, but there are some tools you can get in the specialist baking shops, such as special rubber bands to put on both ends of your rolling pin that limit the thickness of whatever you’re rolling out, or ‘guide sticks’ – pieces of wood 5mm thick – that you place on either side of the pastry so you don’t roll anything thinner.
Use the cookie cutter of your choice to cut out shapes. Press the cutter right down until it reaches the floured surface, then give it a tiny little ‘shimmy’ to loosen the shape from the pastry around it. Gently manoeuvre your palette knife under it and lift on to the baking paper. If it all goes a bit wrong, and it might well, especially if you’re a beginner, then just roll out the pastry and try again. You only need to leave a couple of centimetres between each biscuit on the tray because they don’t spread much.
Gather up the scraps of unused pastry, roll them into your next ball of pastry and repeat until all your pastry is in biscuit shapes. Bake for 9 to 12 minutes until the biscuits are a – funny, this – biscuit colour and are set but not too hard.
Take the trays from the oven and use your palette knife to lift each biscuit on to a wire rack. Cool.
Now for the icing. Use a wide-bottomed shallow bowl (that’s assuming you have one and if you don’t, don’t worry, any bowl will do). Mix the icing sugar with 4 tablespoons cold water and your desired colouring until you have the runniness you desire. Place a biscuit, face-side-down, in the bowl of icing until one surface is entirely covered. Tilt it from side to side, letting the excess icing run off (this is a messy business), then place on a wire rack. Even more icing might run off then. All fine. (You could place paper towels under the trays if you’re worried about the mess.) Do a batch of perhaps eight biscuits, then decorate them before the icing has the chance to set. I use writing icing to define the edges and give a more ‘finished’ look, but that’s entirely up to you. Either way, I predict you’ll have a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful time. You’ll feel like a child again.