Being a baking blog I feel it is only right that I pay homage at least once over the next 10 or so weeks to the Great British Bake Off. For the last couple of years I have tried, and failed, to follow it. Since I fully expect to fail again this year even with my blog I have decided to have a go at the odd challenge and see how I get on. In these previous attempts I have also been faced with a varying degree of success. I have definitely had some pretty good bakes that would have seen me through on some occasions, but I have also had some that would have left me a long, long way from the Hollywood handshake. Unfortunately, this may have been one of those weeks.While I have a blog, I certainly do not claim to have any degree of infallibility in the world of baking. These iced biscuits definitely help prove that. I decided to tackle the signature bake of biscuit week but piping has never been my forte. As with my lime, cardamom and coconut meringues and my chorizo and manchego filo triangles, I chose them in an attempt to tackle some of my weaknesses head on. I have always wanted to try iced biscuits just because I think they are so pretty and delicate, so GBBO gave me the perfect excuse.
As always, however, I had to introduce an element of spontaneity. I was originally planning on making lemon and blueberry iced biscuits as a foolproof flavour combination, but when I got a text from my Mum in the middle of Tesco asking whether I had ever heard of aronia berries I couldn’t resist giving them a try. Originating from northern and eastern america, aronia berries are renowned for having a sour taste. This also leads to them commonly being known as ‘chokeberries’ as they create a sensation that would make your mouth pucker (can you tell I’ve been on wikipedia?). But I would agree with this: although I think they are slightly juicier than blueberries they definitely have a sharper flavour, I personally wouldn’t recommend eating them as they are. I decided to turn them into a jam for my biscuits and I have to say it turned out pretty nicely. I based it on a really simple recipe from Nigella Lawson’s cooking community for a blueberry jam. I have had issues with jam in the past, largely due to my adding far too much pectin. Therefore, using a recipe that didn’t have any in worked really well for me. One criticism I will make is that the berries didn’t particularly break up very well. If you want a smoother jam I would perhaps recommend whizzing the mix before you add the sugar with a stick blender or something along those lines. Jam experts will probably have a better suggestion, but that is my offering for a solution.
For the biscuits themselves I didn’t want to go for any thing too complicated. I unsurprisingly returned to the BBC for my recipe which produced really nice, simple and easy biscuits; I merely added some lemon zest. By themselves they were lovely, but I was worried that the lemon flavour would be completely overpowered by the jam and the sweetness of the icing. You could combat this by either adding more lemon to the biscuits (which I will take into consideration below) or by making your water icing with lemon juice as well as water.
For the icing I used a really basic water icing and, as I have learnt through previous attempts, I have to admit that cannot be as easily winged as I would hope. I decided to go for the flooding technique which involves using a thicker water icing to create the outline of your design and a thinner icing to spread and fill in the shapes. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the thicker icing quite thick enough and on some of the biscuits it slid down the sides. It also didn’t help that the piping nozzle I used wasn’t quite thin enough, meaning it was harder to accurately flood. I also found that if you let the outline set too much, the two icings wouldn’t blend as well meaning the separation is still visible. Therefore, more things to think about than I thought! However, I soldiered on and had a go at piping the decoration. I decided to try and keep it simple by looking up a nice font on the internet and attempting to copy a letter of ‘Cakehole’ onto each biscuit. However, I think it’s safe to say they looked fairly awful. Some of the letters looked fairly good, but no one could actually tell what it said until I told them. Again, this was largely due to the icing being too runny, but I chose not to learn from my mistakes and ended up with something that more strongly resembled ‘cokehole’ [pictured below]. Not the message I was trying to convey.
However, I have learnt a few tricks for covering up these kinds of mistakes over the years (it definitely helps to be good at these kinds of things). By swirling the icings with a cocktail stick and throwing in some edgy photography angles and instagram filters I think I nearly pulled it off! But more importantly, especially for a signature, they tasted pretty good! Although my dad claimed he could ‘taste the blue’ (?) he said they were nice and that the flavours of the lemon and the aronia berries were still noticeable. They are very sweet, but on the whole pretty tasty! But how would I have faired in the bake off tent? First of all, I wouldn’t have got away with the presentation in anyway shape or form. They were completely inconsistent, the bake wasn’t particularly even (I blame the oven) and the icing was a mess. But I don’t think I would have been completely torn apart for their taste and texture. A bit messy, but rather nice! It is unclear as to whether Louise, the contestant eliminated, would have wanted me there or not, but either way I hope you enjoy!
Lemon and Ariona Berry Iced Biscuits (makes approx. 18 double layered biscuits)
For the jam:
- 200g aronia berries
- 100g caster sugar
- 25ml water
For the biscuits:
- 100g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- 100g caster sugar
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 275g plain flour
- Zest of 2 lemons
For the icing:
- Icing sugar
- Lemon juice
- Food colouring
- For the jam put the aronia berries and the water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes until the berries begin to split, stirring regularly and breaking some of them up with the back of a wooden spoon. Add the sugar and boil for another 10 minutes until all the sugar has dissolved. Place in a sterilised jar and refrigerate until completely cool.
- Preheat your oven to 190C/ 170C Fan/ 380F.
- Cream the butter and sugar until pale and gradually add the egg. Sift in the flour and mix until the ingredients form a dough. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll out thinly. Cut into the desired shapes, place on a lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes until they are a pale golden colour, turning after 5. Leave to cool slightly and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Once cooled, sandwich the different layers of your biscuits with the jam.
- To make the icing, mix the icing sugar with the lemon juice and water. You will need different batches of thickness and potentially colours depending on your design. The first batch needs to be fairly thick so that it will hold it’s shape without running when piped. The second batch needs to run slightly, but you still want it to leave a thick coating on the biscuit. Pipe your outline onto the surface of your biscuit with the thicker icing and leave to set slightly before flooding the middle section with the thinner. If you want to pipe on top of this you will need to wait until this sets more firmly to stop the icing from sinking in. Once finished leave to set completely.