In my head, these biscuits have always been Coraline biscuits. Since I first heard from Emma at Emma Jane’s Bakery, her range of adorable cookie stamps have been destined to become part of my mission to bring together two of my favourite things: books and food.
It’s baking season and I’ve lost my baking mojo.
I’ve had a number of flops in recent weeks, which is why it’s been quiet around here – I’d rather not post than post a recipe that I didn’t feel was quite right. I’ve tried sifting my flour, and I’ve thrown out anything on the baking shelf that was out of date. The next thing to try is using an oven thermometer, to see if the temperature knob is lying to me.
In the meantime, shortbread. As one of the first things I ever learned to bake, it’s my reset button at times like this. Its familiar measurements and hands-on nature bring me back to a place where I can’t mess up. With added autumnal spices, I’m well and truly in my happy place.
It’s also my first bake inspired the Great British Bake Off. Quite often, I tend to overlook biscuits when planning what to bake – this isn’t totally unrelated to the fact that I have a bad habit of eating biscuit dough before it makes it into the oven.
But it’s about time I got back to it, having avoided pies, cakes, and bread because of the aforementioned loss of mojo. With these little mouthfuls of autumn I am, as my mother would say, back on the horse.
Makes 35 biscuits
225g plain flour
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
15g light brown sugar
60g caster sugar
20g icing sugar
1/2tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp water
1) Preheat oven to 180C and line 3 baking trays with baking parchment (or just use one and do it in batches).
2) Mix together the flour, polenta, and pumpkin pie spice in a large bowl until the spices and polenta are evenly distributed. Add the sugars and butter and rub together until a loose dough comes together. Press it all into a ball.
3) Flour a clean surface and roll the dough out to about 5mm thick. Use a cutter about 2 inches in diameter to cut out your biscuits. Bake for about 13 minutes, until the top has just lost its sheen, and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
4) While the biscuits cool, prepare the topping (almost a glaze!) by mixing together the icing sugar, spices, water, and milk. Use a pastry brush to glaze the tops of the biscuits – once the first layer is dry, there should be enough for a second layer. For a more subtle taste, stick to one layer.
A few days ago, my (food) world fell apart a little bit, with a friendly nurse in a cardigan and a swooshy skirt gently uttering six little words.
“You need to cut out carbs.”
Outwardly, I nodded solemnly as she clarified – because we all know that cutting out whole food groups is a bit ridiculous – “Well, maybe have them once a day, definitely not more than that.” But maniacal laughter echoed around my head through all the talk about BMIs and pasta, as I envisioned my life without starchy deliciousness. Stir fry without noodles. Poached eggs without English muffins. No more cake.
But this time, it’ll be more sensible – not like the disaster month that saw me shed a stone and almost a few friends when I did the Dukan diet (not even allowed fruit) and went a bit mental. It’s a good story, but one that illustrates why carbs are not optional for me.
So here we go. I’ve not really eaten much meat, until now – not because I don’t like it, but because both meat and my rent are expensive, and I am unfortunately contractually obliged to pay for the less delicious of the two.
But for now, let’s focus on biscuits. Obviously the best way to deal with all this is to make biscuits which contain both flour and polenta, as a last supper, if you like. If I was doing it properly, it’d be a last supper of something crazy like mashed potato toasties (I have no idea if that’s a thing people do. But I can’t try it out for the foreseeable future).
With the butter (£££) swapped out for margarine, these biscuits are a little cakey like a Viennese whirl biscuit, and a whole lotta delicious, thanks to the subtle addition of lemon.
Adapted from Martha Stewart
110g plain flour
Zest of half a lemon
1 medium egg + 1 yolk
1/2tsp vanilla extract
1) Preheat your oven to 180C (170C for fan ovens, 350F, gas mark 4) and line two baking trays with baking parchment. Combine flour, salt, and polenta and set aside. In a separate bowl, cream the margarine, sugar, and lemon zest.
2) When light and fluffy, add the egg and then the yolk, beating until just combined after each addition. Add vanilla, and then, gradually, the flour mixture, beating until combined.
3) Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle, and pipe onto the baking sheets about 2 inches apart.
4) Bake until just going golden at the edges – about 15 minutes.