It’s biscuit week and former GBBO contestant Claire Goodwin has risen (arf) to the episode’s dough-based challenges. Behold, then, her fiddlesome-but-totally-worth-it Arlettes and a showstopping – and, indeed, jaw-dropping – Biscuity Butterfly Box.
I really felt for Stu last week.
Been there. Done that. Felt wretched.
It’s such a difficult situation, as while people are screaming at the telly “WHY DIDN’T YOU PRACTISE?!”, the contestant is a) partly kicking his or herself for not doing that 15th trial run, and b) a bit frustrated that the whole 28 hours of filming isn’t broadcast to the nation in order to display the exact ins and outs of what really happened that weekend.
But us Bake Off-ers are pragmatic creatures. We know our evictions from the tent of cake dreams are generally the fairest outcome on the day, and thank our lucky stars we were ever permitted a little look beyond the flaps.
So, this week was biscuit week. Arlettes, a showstopping biscuit box and biscotti.
Let’s have a go at the first couple…
Showstopper: Biscuity Butterfly Box
OK, so there is really no point whatsoever in making a box out of biscuit to then put your biscuits in. You might as well use the extra dough to make normal bite-size biscuits and in doing so give yourself more time to stuff your face with said cookies. Plus, it’s hard to find an airtight container large enough to prevent your whole biscuit box creation going soft, thus leaving you in that awful situation where you have to eat all the biscuits in one go.
Wait a minute…
250g butter, grated
300g caster sugar
4 medium or 3 large eggs, whisked
1 teaspoon salt
Zest of 2 large lemons
1 teaspoon lemon essence (Nielsen-Massey is my fave)
825g plain flour
900g icing sugar, sieved
4 egg whites
Various food colourings
Rub the butter into the sugar until you have breadcrumbs. Add the eggs a little at a time and mix in, then add the lemon essence.
In a separate bowl, sieve the flour and then mix through the lemon zest and salt. Add the flour to the egg mix little by little, until you bring together a soft dough.
Wrap the dough in cling film and let it rest in the fridge for at least an hour. Preheat your oven to 180⁰C.
Roll out your dough to approximately 4mm thick. Cut out four 14cm x 14cm squares and two 15cm x 15 cm squares. This is your box. Snort. BOX.
Gather the remaining dough together and cut out butterflies and flowers using cookie cutters (you can get really cheap ones from Amazon); alternatively, go maverick and freestyle with a knife.
Lay flat on lightly greased oven trays and bake for 10-12 minutes. The edges will brown slightly and the dough will firm up. Don’t overcook as you will have tough, brittle and bitter biscuits.
Cool on racks straight from the oven. They will firm up.
Whisk your egg whites until frothy. Add your icing sugar slowly. Once it is all incorporated, whisk on high speed for at least five minutes. Cover with cling film (so that the film is touching the icing to prevent a crust forming) and let sit for half an hour to help any bubbles rise out of the mix.
Using a range of bowls, place a dessertspoon full of the icing in each (I did five bowls for five colours for my butterflies). You will need to ‘let down’ the icing to flood ice the cookies as I have done in the picture. Add a few drops (literally drops) of water at a time until the icing is thick and ribbons of icing sit on top of each other but then smooth themselves out within five seconds. You don’t want it runny. It needs to hold its shape, but still flow. Colour each bowl with desired colours and transfer the icing into icing bags.
Pipe the outline of the shape you want to fill – the butterflies and the flowers – then squeeze icing into the middle of the outline to fill the space immediately. You can use the tip of a pin to move the icing to the edges. These pin lines will blend back into the icing if you work quickly and your icing is the right consistency.
“When pressing your cookies onto the box, press them from the sides, NOT the middle as your pretty icing will crack under your sausage fingers unless you leave them overnight to harden up.”
If you want to add spots, stripes, or any other design, do this while the icing is wet. When a crust forms on the icing, it is more difficult to add icing to it without it going lumpy and cracking.
Leave your cookies to dry for at least an hour before handling.
Build the box: your two larger squares are the base and top of the box. Affix the remaining four sides to the base using the royal icing – not the ‘let down’ mix, the stiff mix (Stiff. Snigger). Once this has set, any slight overhangs or uneven edging can be shorn off with a sharp knife.
When the box is set firm, you can start to attach your butterflies and flowers in any design you like. I left my lid off until the end so that I could make it appear that the butterflies were coming out of the box. When pressing your cookies onto the box, affixing them with the stiff royal icing, press them from the sides, NOT the middle as your pretty icing will crack under your sausage fingers unless you leave them overnight to harden up. I held my butterflies in place with cocktail sticks while I was waiting for the icing to set them in place.
Take your remaining stiff icing and split into two. Colour them green, but vary the shades. Fill piping bags with leaf tips and ice grass onto your box, blending the two different colours.
You can present it like this, or you can place on a cake board. I covered mine with a little bit of fondant icing and used my biscuit flowers to decorate around the board.
Now, I had never heard of an Arlette before this challenge came about. I spoke with my fellow bakers and they informed me that Arlettes were puff pastry biscuits, rolled up with sugar and spices or citrus in them. I figured I could make puff, so made the rest up.
They are a little bit of a faff, but well worth it. If you wanted to avoid the rolling, chilling, folding malarkey for the puff, you could buy some from the shop. Obviously you’re not trying hard enough but, you know, you could.
I’m munching on them as we speak.
50g butter, grated
300g plain flour
125g butter flattened into a rectangle between two sheets of greaseproof, chilled so it is firm
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
50g light muscovado sugar
20g butter, melted
Mix the cinnamon and salt into the flour. Rub in the grated butter to resemble breadcrumbs.
Add the water and form into a dough. Roll into a large rectangle. Place the cold sheet of butter on the bottom two thirds of the rectangle. Fold the top third (the bit with no butter) over the mid third of rectangle.
Fold the bottom third over the mid third, creating an envelope. Turn 90 degrees. Roll into a rectangle the same as before. Repeat the folding action. If you start to see butter ooze, you need to whack it in the fridge for a little bit to cool down.
Rest for 40 minutes in the fridge. Repeat the folding and rolling twice more, following the above steps. Rest again for 15 minutes in the fridge.
Repeat the folding and rolling again. Refrigerate and leave to rest for at least another 15 minutes before the next stage.
Preheat the oven to 180⁰C. Roll the pastry into a large rectangle. Brush the melted butter over the pastry.
Sprinkle around 35g of your muscovado sugar onto the rectangle and spread around evenly with your fingertips. Don’t push it into the pastry or drag the pastry with the sugar.
Starting from the long side, roll your rectangle into a long sausage, creating a swirl through the middle. Wrap in cling film and chill for 10 minutes.
Cut 5mm rounds from the sausage; roll out to 2mm thick so you have large swirly biscuits. Place on a greased baking tray, sprinkle lightly with the remaining sugar and bake for 20 minutes.
Cool on a rack and then try not to eat the entire batch in one sitting.1257 Views
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