Prolific baker Isabel Fay gives her sweet creations the added ingredient of a backstory. These retro-chic brandy snaps owe a whole lotta class to 1980s glamourpuss Gloria.
When I was little my Mum was bezzies with the biggest glamourpuss in the West Country. Gloria, with her ash blonde haze, bejewelled shoulder-padded sweaters and peacock blue eye-shadow, was everything that was fabulous about the 80s and has become the yardstick by which I measure glamour. She wore gold lamé swimsuits with long chiffon skirts; she had a shell-shaped whirlpool bath, a bidet and a pair of porcelain tigers for goodness sake. Porcelain tigers.
Best of all she wore vast faux-pearl clip-on earrings. When she answered the huge gold and cream phone she would slide one earring off and put it in its own designated shell-shaped dish. Is that not slide-off-your-chair the chicest thing you have ever heard?
She would make wildly indulgent statements like, “You can’t have salad without chips”, which made our child eyes go like saucers, and she’d produce masses of buttery popcorn for us to smear on the furniture in the living room. Meanwhile the grownups had proper coffee from a pot in the sitting room (two living rooms?!) where she sold bejewelled shoulder-padded sweaters and gold lamé swimsuits to the other mums. If you were really good, and wiped your buttery popcorn fingers on the crotch of your woolly tights first, you could go and sit quietly while the grownups honked like the teacher in The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show.
The real pull, though, was the golden brandy snaps, filled to bursting with squirty cream. If the 80s did any good at all apart from gold lamé and porcelain tigers, it was squirty cream. Squirty cream bikini? I rest my case.
We’d sneak in on the pretext of Being Good, secure fistfuls of brandy snaps and then scamper off to “be drunk” on brandy. Obviously it’s only now I realise there was no sodding brandy in those brandy snaps. What a swizz! But at the time we thought we were hammered. “Being drunk” on brandy snaps mainly consisted of staggering about, striking a Marlene Dietrich pose and slurring in an extremely posh voice “I’m sooo drunk”. See also: using a candy stick as a cigarette, always best if it’s cold outside for authentic foggy exhales.
The sheer porcelain-tiger-shell-bath glamour of Gloria influenced our “being drunk” and to this day when I’m actually drunk I slip into this posey posh glamourpuss persona. Yes siree, that’s exactly what it feels like when I’m doing it. I’m 100 per cent certain it looks that way too.
In homage to the gold lamé glamour dream, I have spent hours in the kitchen trying to inject proper quantities of brandy into retro-chic brandy snaps. You can obviously make brandy cream. Yes. But you know the best way to do it? Make brandy snaps. Fill them with squirty cream. Then drink a lot of brandy.
Skip the gold lamé and go straight to squirty cream bikini: you are so goddamn glamorous.
Retro-chic brandy snaps
demerara sugar 55g
golden syrup 55g
plain flour 55g
ginger powder ½ tsp
lemon a squeeze
brandy a dash, plus plenty for drinking
squirty cream lashings
Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark , lightly oil a muffin baking tray, line baking trays with parchment.
In a heavy based saucepan very gently melt the butter, sugar and syrup until all the grains have dissolved. Do not let it bubble. Should take around 15 mins which is plenty of time to chug a significant amount of brandy.
Let it cool for a few moments, then fold in the flour, lemon juice and brandy. You should get a smooth gel-like texture which will gradually become more like fudge as it cools. It’s easier to work with when it’s cooler.
Roll into teaspoon sized balls, 4 to a tray, and bake for 10 mins. They spread like the clappers. As soon as they’re golden and lacey, take out of the oven and count to 15 or have a meandering shot of brandy. Then use a fish slice to gently lift the hardening snaps into the muffin holes, pressing in lightly with a wooden spoon.
They harden in moments, more than enough time to start your squirty cream bikini. Fill the snaps with squirty cream and cocktail cherries.
Order porcelain tigers online, while drunk on brandy, wearing a squirty cream bikini.