Biscuits, kitchen process

The Right Crunch


I made a batch of biscotti, the Italian twice baked biscuit, once that was so hard one could gnaw and suck them, like a baby with a rusk, for an awfully long time before getting anything like a satisfying crunchy mouthful. The unyielding nature of these biscotti was my fault. Too long in the oven, I’m afraid.

And I’ve also made butter biscuits so soft and crumbly that I needed a spoon to get them into my mouth. Yep, not long enough in the oven.

And then, like Goldilocks with her third bowl of porridge, I found Dan Lepard’s Blueberry Choc Chip Cookies. As I placed balls of the mixture on the baking trays I was plagued with doubt and suspected the cooked biscuit would have a sludgy interior encased in a thin skin of crunch. Now interior sludge is not a bad thing, particularly in a chocolate pudding, but I wanted a crunchy biscuit all the way through and, by golly, I got it.

This is a great recipe and one can fiddle with the add-ons too. I used dried cranberries instead of blueberries and dark chocolate for the bits. And the use of wholemeal flour gives one a sense of healthiness which may be a little too seductive, but never mind, they’re delicious.

(Almond Essence Alert – Dan specifies Almond Extract. I have only Almond Essence in my pantry. They are not the same. As the essence can be overpowering if too much is used I cut back to half a tsp.)

This Dan Lepard recipe is from The Guardian.

Wholemeal flour can sometimes give a slight bitter aftertaste, but combining it with almond extract, brown sugar and oats masks this and creates a rich background flavour to stud with chocolate and dried fruit. The oil reduces the need for too much butter, while making the cookies a little more chewy.

100g unsalted butter, softened
25ml sunflower oil
175g brown sugar
1 medium egg
1 tsp almond extract
200g wholemeal flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼ tsp salt
150g dried blueberries or sour cherries
100g-150g chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
75g rolled oats

Beat the butter, oil and sugar until smooth, then mix in the egg and almond extract. Add the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt, beat in well, then stir in the dried fruit, chocolate chips and oats.

Pinch off pieces of the dough, squeeze these into balls 2-3cm in diameter and flatten them slightly as you place them on a tray lined with nonstick baking paper. They don’t spread too much, so just leave about 3cm between each cookie.

Heat the oven to 170C (150C fan-assisted)/335F/gas mark 3 and bake for about 15 minutes, until just beginning to brown at the edges.