Firstly, an apology. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but to be honest, you have probably forgotten all about this blog as I haven’t posted for so long. Lots of reasons, many excuses, but everyone is busy, so let me hang my head in momentary contrition and we’ll move on. OK?
In these cold and dark days, it always seems perverse that we are all expected to deprive ourselves on every level with punishing diets and life changes. In rebellion, my thoughts turn to the comfort of obscene amounts of butter and sugar. There’s something reassuring about a full biscuit tin. I am too much of a control freak to keep mine stocked in the hope that lots of people will ‘pop round’ unexpectedly, as it will always be the day I am drying underwear on the radiators or the bathroom needs cleaning. I do it because I like that homely feeling or something made with care and love, which will also give a big sugar hit. I also like the idea of turning my back on things I am supposed to do in January and, let’s face it, there’s nothing quite like a cup of tea and a biscuit.
Retro biscuits are something everyone loves, even if they don’t admit to it. I always loved Custard Creams as a child but haven’t bought them for years as ingredients such as calcium carbonate and soya lecithins don’t really appeal to my grown-up self. These custard creams are based on a simple biscuit recipe, enhanced with Bird’s Custard Powder. When I first started playing about with this recipe, I was determined to create something similar without resorting to it. This is because, upon inspection, I was amazed to see that this magic powder is basically cornflour with flavouring and colouring. I was sure I could do better than that.
As frustrating as it is to admit, whatever the combination in that tin, it works better than anything else here, so that is what I am using. The cornflour gives the biscuit a more silky texture, just as you would have in shortbread, and the colour is warm and cheerful-although not artificial, I am assured.
When trying these out on friends, one reaction was that they are the wrong shape for custard creams. I know, but I don’t have a small rectangular cutter, so tough! Feel free to use any cutter you like, they taste great any way you want to make them.
Homemade Custard Creams
Makes 14 biscuits
175g plain flour
3 tbsp Birds Custard Powder
1tsp baking powder
100g unsalted butter (softened)
50g caster sugar
1 medium egg
1tbsp Birds Custard Powder
100g icing sugar
50g unsalted butter (softened)
1tsp hot water
Preheat oven to 180°C.
For the biscuits, rub the butter into the flour, custard powder and baking powder to create a crumbly, breadcrumb-like mixture.
Tip in the sugar and mix. Beat the egg and milk together and add to the mixture. Mix well. You can do this in a stand mixer, but it is just as easy to do by hand. The mixture will come together into a dough.
Wrap the dough in cling film and rest in the fridge for about 20-30 minutes. This will make it easier to shape.
Roll out dough onto a lightly floured surface to a thickness of a pound coin. Cut out as many biscuits as you can with your cutter. Any offcuts can be squeezed back together, re-rolled and cut out. You can prick them with a fork or cocktail stick to make pretty patterns if you have the time or inclination.
Place the biscuits on a lined baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes-this timing is based on average sized biscuits. If you chose a bigger or smaller cutter, keep an eye on them and adjust the time accordingly.
Leave to cool. Now make the filling.
Simply put the custard powder, butter and icing sugar into a mixer or bowl and combine until smooth. If it feels a little stiff, add the tsp of boiling water and mix again.
Spread every other biscuit with about 1tsp of filling and squidge together with another biscuit on top.
Dust with icing sugar if you wish, but they never came out of the packet like that.
These biscuits will not keep as long as the packet ones-about a week at a push.