Search results for 'poppy'

an oaty biscuit or two

24 Feb

digestive biscuits

The same question every time, asked with confusion or with a sneer:

But is there any traditional English pâtisserie? What is this pooding? 

I sigh.

The heavy fruit thing? You must be thinking of Christmas pudding – which we only eat once a year, if that. 

They think that pooding is the epitome of our backward cuisine.

For the British, pudding just means dessert. It’s true that the word itself resonates comfort, evokes steamed sponges with thick custard – rather than the insubstantial wisp of a French dessert. But we have all kinds, not just Christmas: a sticky toffee replete with syrup, lemon self-saucing, a summer one bursting with red fruits. And not just pooding, the British really can bake: chelsea buns, scones, biscuits, all kinds of rich layer cakes.

Usually I am too lazy to properly defend our heritage. We have a terrible reputation for food after all. Sometimes I have to admit that these things are personal, vestiges of a childhood that do not necessarily cross cultures. (See also, the northern French habit of dipping smelly cheese in coffee in the mornings.)

When I made last week’s cheesecake, I ran out to buy plain biscuits and found some digestives in Monoprix. They had been renamed sablées anglaises, and had little British guards on the red packet. I couldn’t help but think that the French must be very disappointed in our rendering of a sablée – normally a flaky buttery biscuit – with its plain dry crunch. Ideal for dipping in tea, digestives are sturdy and reliable, a ready vehicle for cheese and chutney, or chocolate spread. I had them for school break time, sandwiched with a generous layer of cold butter. But they win no prizes for prettiness, certainly cannot compete with the class of the macaron or the indulgence of a warm, melting chocolate chip cookie. To foreigners, they are probably as lacklustre as they believe our climate to be.

So I tried to make some of my own, to convert the new French flatmate immediately to my cause. (Start small and work up to the full-blown sticky pudding.) It was the perfect excuse to use my tiny alphabet stamps for cookies, to spell out ‘welcome.’

They turned out beautifully – borderline oatcakes, with a craggy rough texture more like Duchy Originals (la di da) than proper digestives. Like my Granny’s old-fashioned oaty biscuits that are made with lard, no less. Mine had a little golden caster sugar for sweetness, but were still delicious with goat’s cheese. Those that weren’t slathered in butter were dipped in milk chocolate with marbled stripes of dark chocolate, for a very comforting and nostalgic snack. Most importantly, they stand up extremely well to dunking in tea. How can you be rude about a country that bakes such gems – better still, whose prince and heir makes the biscuits?

In the end,  I am happy if no-one believes the English really do know their way around an oven – all the more for me.


Oaty biscuits

adapted from Peyton and Byrne’s British Baking – if you use oatmeal as they suggest the biscuits will have a fine texture like digestives, or grind rolled oats as I did for more bite, like hobnobs

150g rolled oats

150g wholemeal flour

50g golden caster sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/8 tsp bicarbonate of soda

90g cold butter (I like salted)

1 egg, beaten

for decoration: 200g milk chocolate + 50g dark chocolate

Blend rolled oats in the food processor to a breadcrumb texture. Add flour, sugar, salt and bicarbonate of soda, then butter cut into cubes. Pulse until butter is lentil-sized bits. (This can be done by hand, but in that case you need to use a  fine oatmeal instead of rolled oats.)

Add egg and blend to form a dough. Tip out onto a floured surface and bring into a ball. If a little dry, add a tablespoon of water. Roll out with a little flour to 3mm thick, cut out rounds (I made 20 x 6cm biscuits) and stamp a message if you have alphabet stamps.

Bake at 200C for 12-15 minutes, until crisp and brown. Let cool, then dip one side in melted ilk chocolate. If you want to be extra fancy, pipe (or drizzle with the tines of a fork) the dark chocolate in horizontal lines before the milk chocolate has set, then draw the point of a knife back and forth in vertical lines to make a beautiful marble pattern.

anzac biccies

17 Apr

Thanks to this little blog-thing, I have been lucky enough to:

  • rediscover my love of crayons
  • pluck up the courage to comment on other grander blog-people
  • make some virtual friends among said blog-people
  • win personalised running coaching with this awesome company
  • have a recipe of mine borrowed for a very classy café
  • start up a fledgling international gourmet penpal scheme

I just received some Mohn (poppy seed flour) through the post.

Partly I am excited because, well, I love post. It is rare enough these days to receive a letter or parcel, so the novelty never ceases to amaze. Obviously, I also get to make new and exciting cakes, apparently in a stylish grey. But beyond that, I get to make connections. As much as everyone rails about the evils of the internet, sometimes it it surprisingly satisfying.

In return I am sending these biscuits. Not French, very Australian. Patriotic even: Anzac Day is coming up on April 25th. Apart from being lacy and snappy, sweet with golden syrup and sandy with coconut and oats, they are sturdy enough for posting. At university I remember a bubble wrapped bag of the toffee-brown biscuits arriving in my pigeon hole. I think we sat down on the post room floor and crunched through them straight away. They are addictive.

Thank-you Mary, for the poppy seed flour! Will let you know how it turns out….

Anyone else want to send me some ingredients? Or some local speciality food? Will reply with cookies, promise.

Anzac biscuits

(makes 50 ish, so either send a lot of parcels or halve the recipe. Originally from Australian Women’s Weekly, measurements are all in cups, which makes it very easy, just a cup, a bowl and a spoon.)

1 cup plain flour

1 cup sugar

1 cup oats

¾ cup desiccated coconut

½ cup melted butter

2 tbs golden syrup (honey at a pinch)

1 tbs water (*drawing slightly inaccurate)

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

Preheat oven to 150C.

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients together. Stir in melted butter and golden syrup, add the water if the mix looks a little dry. Make rough balls of dough the size of a walnut shell. Spread them out on a baking tray lined with baking paper with plenty of space between – they will melt into large thin discs.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until they form crisp dark caramel-coloured biscuits.

paris patisseries: coquelicot

28 Feb

Still dreaming of my perfect breakfast, once discovered at Coquelicot: a soft-boiled egg done to perfection with crusty baguette soldiers, a giant bowl of cafe au lait, fresh orange juice, soft brioche, syrupy apricot jam.

Take the metro to Abbesses, come out by the kitsch carousel and the wall of love. Just around the corner is a poppy-red bakery full of madeleines and baguettes tradition. Ask to sit upstairs, in the sunshine by the window. Take your time browsing the picture menu, because breakfast is served all day. (This is a hideous rarity in Paris, where waiters and museum assistants alike delight to inform you that no, you have just missed the cut-off; no you may not just look around for five minutes; no, no croissants for you…)

I had the “P’tit dej’ Equilibre” with a supplementary boiled egg. (On the weekends they also do lavish brunches, but this was enough to keep me happy for hours. There are all kinds of croque-monsieur, salady options etc as well.)

And the bread is really, really good. Just the right amount of resistance from the crust, just the right amount of holes in the crumb. It comes with a pat of fresh butter, a large jar of honey and jam that tastes like proper summer. The fat slice of brioche too – supposedly grandmother’s recipe – had clearly been made that morning, shiny brown on top, soft, golden, barely sweet inside.

It felt very satisfying to find that ideal, lavish French breakfast with real quality. None of the stale croissants and exorbitantly priced espressos that many Montmartre cafes slyly promise. The tourist Holy Grail – that satisfies even a grumpy local like me.

Coquelicot – 24 rue des Abbesses, Paris 18eme – 01 46 06 18 77

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