Resplendent with a remembrance poppy, Claire Goodwin’s biscuits are inspired by the simple yet plentiful pleasures that freedom affords
It has been 100 years since the start of World War I. In that time our country and our servicewomen and men have fought many more times; the Gulf, Afghanistan, Iraq and of course silencing the Nazis. It’s hard to find a family in Britain that has not been affected by war in some way or another.
The beautiful poppy installation at the Tower of London has certainly invoked a response from the public. The sheer enormity of loss, selflessness, bravery and courage it represents is breath-taking: a poppy for every soul taken before their minds and their bones had chance to grow old. Service people dying in conflict, away from their families, on foreign soil, in terror and fear and in the cruellest ways. And those that return ever holding onto imagery that can never be unseen. It is this time of year that we remember and continue to hold a place in our hearts and minds for thousands of our brothers, sister, fathers, mothers and strangers that have given their freedom in order that we have ours.
I initially tasked myself with making something irrevocably decadent for this week’s recipe. Something that quite rightly demonstrated the freedom of thought and times of abundance we have now; that demonstrated our world of plenty.
However, in thinking about the plentiful freedoms we each enjoy due to the sacrifice of our fellow humans, it seemed to me a little vulgar to demonstrate this with excess. So I made something simple. I made something that is sweet and delicious yet plain and simple. Because the times when I walk through the park with my beautiful dog and my loving husband, and hold his hand and kiss him on the lips for all to see, I know that this privilege of freedom allows me to actually live, to choose, to enjoy. And that is so easy to forget.
So when you buy your five ingredients to make this simple biscuit, think that had this been 1942, you would not be able to buy huge amounts of decent butter to make something as frivolous as biscuits. It would have been nigh on impossible to buy a bag of flour, and the tea that you drink them with – well, you could only have a small cup, because the ration would soon run out.
Eat a biscuit, have a cup of tea, and salute our fallen comrades and returning heroes for gifting you the joy and privilege of freedom. The biscuits are lovely, but no food in the world would ever taste so sweet and rich as the taste of freedom.
Armistice Day biscuits
Caster sugar, 200g
Vanilla essence, a splash
Dark chocolate, 200g
Royal icing and food colouring if you want to pipe the poppies
1. Heat your oven to 160⁰C.
2. Grease two oven trays and line with greaseproof paper.
3. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
4. Add the vanilla, mix in well.
5. Mix in the flour, try not to overmix, you want your shortbread crumbly and melty which means not overworking the flour (the glutens will stretch too much and string out, meaning your texture will be tough, not crumbly).
6. When you have large clumps of almost dough like consistency, turn out onto a floured surface. You can also turn out onto a cling filmed surface, or if you’re extra posh, onto some Silpat mats.
7. Squeeze the dough together so that it forms a large ball.
8. Place a sheet of cling film or another Silpat mat over your dough and roll out to 5mm thick.
9. Cut out your biccies and place on the tray, they will spread a few millimetres so make sure you have a bit of space between them.
10. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
11. Put straight in the over for anywhere between 10 and 15 minutes, you are looking for them to be slightly brown and firm.
12. As soon as they come out of the oven, put them on a wire rack and allow them to cool.
13. Melt your chocolate and dip the biccies, allow to set.
14. Pipe on the poppies as shown in the pictures.
Claire is a speech therapist, baker, cake decorator, sometime radio guest and writer. She writes about food, being fat and living with mental health problems @bake_therapist; www.baketherapy.co.uk; www.facebook.com/CakeChemistryUK