Comfort food. A lot of foods fall into this category for me…..steaming soups, stick meat on your ribs stews and casseroles, a bowl of delicious pasta, risotto, a roast leg of lamb or pork or whole chicken with all the yummy trimmings……and cookies, or biscuits as they are better known to me. Especially the biscuits that take me back to my childhood and these custard creams sure do that. The custard creams were one of my favourites out of all the biscuits that my Mom baked. She used to bake a lot….partly to make a living and partly for us 5 children. I can close my eyes now and smell the aromas that greeted us kids as we neared our home after the long walk home from school. I can see the colourful row of biscuit tins (some with such pretty animal pictures on the lids) on the top pantry shelf where we were not supposed to be able to reach, each one filled to the top with a different flavour and shape of cookie. I can see the old cast iron Welcome Dover wood stove in the kitchen, fire crackling in the grate and my Mom slaving away pulling batch after batch of perfect biscuits from that oven. And cakes….and Christmas cakes! Oh my! Only in later years, as a baker myself with a wonderful electric oven and an accurate oven thermometer, can I really appreciate how difficult it must have been to create such magnificent cakes and baked goodies using that old stove. But my Mom had it waxed….must have taken years of practice surely.
With the miserable weather in Cape Town lately I have had a sudden yearning to bake biscuits. I had been paging through my recipe book with some of my favourite of my Moms recipes in it and wondering which biscuits to bake. During one of my brief blog reading sojourns I came across a blog post about custard biscuits and I suddenly knew I had to bake my Moms custard creams. I used to bake them regularly when my children were young but I suddenly realized I had not baked them in years…certainly not in the last 15 years or so! It was time to remedy that! Delicious nostalgia!
OLD FASHIONED CUSTARD CREAMS
Makes about 44 single cookies (depending how big you roll the balls of cookie dough)
180g Butter at room temperature
180g All Purpose Flour
60g Custard Powder
60g Icing Sugar
Knife tip of Vanilla Seeds
Preheat the oven to 170o Celcius and make sure the rack is in the middle of the oven
Line a cookie sheet with parchment
Place the butter and vanilla seeds into the bowl of an electric mixer, sieve the icing sugar over the butter then whisk until very light and fluffy
Sieve the flour, salt and custard powder into over the mixture then mix in until incorporated using a dough hook or k-blade.
Pinch off small balls (mine weigh 10g each) and roll the balls between your palms, placing them a little bit apart onto the lined baking sheet
Place in the preheated oven and bake for 10-12 minutes
Remove when lightly golden and place onto a wire rack to cool completely
These biscuits must not really darken, I left mine in the oven slightly too long
When cool match like sized and shaped cookies and frost them together with a bit of icing dolloped onto the middle of one half then pressing two cookies together
125ml sifted Icing Sugar
10ml Soft Butter
Mix the butter and sugar together with enough lemon juice to form a soft spreadable frosting. Dollop a small amount in the middle of one biscuit and spread to the edges by gently pressing the matching biscuits together. Allow to set before enjoying! They are also delicious iced together with a bit of chocolate ganache
This is kind of what I remember our old wood stove looking like. I found this photograph on the internet here
Imagine baking all those perfect cakes and biscuits in that oven?
These are wonderful cookies to make as a project with your young children or grandchildren. They have a lovely texture and are fun to roll between your palms and then press with a fork. The dough is also highly addictive
Everyone seems to love crisp, buttery shortbread. The combination of citrus zest (I used ClemenGold but you can also use orange or Lemon) and Bay leaf (bay laurel, Laurus nobilis, Lauraceae) is a particularly good flavor combination. I have made two batches of this easy biscuit already in the past week and the family have made short work of them! I shall have to bake another batch for Christmas gifts tomorrow!
BAY AND CITRUS SHORTBREAD
125g Lightly Salted Butter – at room temperature
60g Castor Sugar
160g Cake Flour (or all purpose flour)
25g Maizena (Corn Flour)
20g Custard Powder (the old fashioned kind not instant custard powder)
5ml Orange Zest
1 fresh Bay Leaf
Preheat the oven to 170°C.
Line some cookie sheets with baking paper or parchment and set aside.
Grind the bay leaf together with a little bit of the sugar in a pestle and mortar then add to the rest of the sugar.
Using a mixer or wooden spoon cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
Add the ClemenGold zest and beat in.
Sift together the flour, corn flour, custard powder and salt then sprinkle onto the butter mixture and mix well just until the dry ingredients are incorporated and come away from the sides of the mixing bowl.
Lightly dust a work surface with flour and turn the dough out onto the counter.
Roll out the dough with a flour dusted rolling pin about ½ – 1cm thick.
Cut out the dough into shapes with cookie cutters.
Place the shapes onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for between 10 – 15minutes or until very pale brown and crispy.
Sprinkle hot shortbread with extra castor sugar and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Store in an airtight container.
Package and tie with ribbon to make wonderful home baked Christmas gifts!
TIP: You can use all flour if you prefer but the secret to light crispy shortbread is to use a fine product like corn flour and custard powder.
Enjoy… and to all of my readers finishing off work today and travelling on holiday, I wish you safe travels and a wonderfully blessed and happy Christmas season from my home to yours!
Summertime…..and the living is easy! School is out, the sun is shining out of a blue cloudless sky, it is HOT and the kids are splashing in the pool and shrieking with delight. Every now and again a wet, sunkissed little body comes to the door and says “Nan, we’re so hungry!” I bet moms and grandmothers all over the world know that one well. Well, it’s the perfect time to fill the cookie jars and tins with sweet treats for active, hungry kids!
These holiday fruit mince bars make a great treat for kids and grown ups. They take me back to my childhood when my mom used to make these and fill the metal tins that stood high on a shelf in the pantry! You can, of course buy ready-made fruit mince from the store and jazz it up a bit by adding some orange zest, a grated Granny Smith apple and a bit of orange juice. But I prefer to make my own. See my recipe here
HOLIDAY FRUIT MINCE BARS
Makes about 15 bars or 25 squares
100g (½ Cup) Sugar
120g (½ Cup) Butter
1 ClemenGold – Finely grated zest of half – reserve the other half zest and all the juice for the mince
280g (2 Cups) Cake Flour
5ml (1tsp) Baking Powder (level)
2.5ml (½ tsp) Freshly grated Nutmeg
2.5ml (½ tsp) Cinnamon
2.5ml (½ tsp) Vanilla Extract
500g (1 ½ Cups) Fruit Mince – warmed with the ClemenGold juice & half the zest
Preheat oven to 200C.
Grease or spray a 33x23cm baking sheet with shallow sides (or a swiss roll pan).
Cream butter and sugar well.
Add egg and beat in well.
Add vanilla essence and zest and beat in.
Sift flour, baking powder, salt and spices together over the butter mixture and mix in well with the dough hook or K blade of your mixer until all the flour is incorporated.
Cut dough in half, wrap one half in cling wrap and place in the freezer then press the other half evenly and thinly into the bottom of the prepared baking sheet.
Cover the entire surface evenly with the warmed (not hot) fruit mince.
Remove the other half of the dough from the fridge then using the large side of a grater grate it evenly over the top of the filling (you don’t have to freeze it but it grates much easier!).
Bake in the middle of the oven for 12 – 15 minutes until golden brown on top.
Remove from oven and cut, while still hot, into bars or squares with a sharp knife.
Cut around the 4 sides to release the biscuits from the pan while still hot then leave to cool in the pan before lifting out with a spatula.
Store in an airtight container.
Dust with icing sugar before placing on a serving plate…or eat as is, directly from the tin like I do