Christmas Biscuits Special Part One – Ginger and Aniseed Shortbread
Because it’s Christmas, and I’m really getting into the swing of blog writing, this will be the first of two Christmas Biscuit special’s this week. 🙂 Look out for part two a little bit later in the week! I also ought to take this opportunity to thank everyone who gives me encouragement and tells me that they enjoy my blog. It’s your feedback that makes writing this so rewarding.
Getting back to biscuits, let me tell you why just one blog post on these seasonal treats would not be enough. Once a week on a Thursday morning I volunteer at a local drop in clinic for new mums. When they walk though the door sleep deprived and emotional, one of the first things I offer them is a cup of tea and a biscuit. The effect this small act has is quite amazing. Not only does it tell them immediately that they have come to a welcoming and caring place, but it helps them to relax, which is key in order for them to feel like they can stay and chat. I too will try and find 5 mins each day just to sit down with a cup of something hot and a biscuit. In fact, I’m not sure I could get through the day without this! I see it as recharging the batteries ready for either the school run or bath and bedtime! I guess what I am trying to say is that a good biscuit can work wonders, and it is for that reason that they make especially nice gifts. This week both my daughters finish school/nursery for Christmas, so I will be busy baking biscuits and filling little cellophane bags to give to the teachers. They don’t need lots, just 3 or 4 to feel like a treat and to share if they wish.
In keeping with the theme of Christmas, this shortbread is sweet and spicy. One bite into them gives you crunch, followed by melt-in-the-mouth butteriness, followed by the warm spice of ginger and aniseed. These really are a biscuit to savour and to eat slowly. The addition of aniseed into this recipe stems from my own love of it. When I was a child we were only allowed sweets once a week, so every Saturday morning I would go into the sweet shop, spend ages looking at all the sweets in jars stacked on shelves right up to the ceiling, but always end up choosing either a quarter of aniseed twists or a quarter of aniseed balls! The aniseed I used for this recipe were actual seeds and I found them in my local health food shop. They are a very welcome addition to my spice cupboard and I’m sure I will be trying to sneak them into my baking for a long time after Christmas. The combination of ginger and aniseed together was, if I’m honest, a bit experimental. It made sense to me in theory as they are both hot and spicy, and I was thrilled with how they actually tasted once baked. I think the flavours compliment each other beautifully, but mostly I like the fact that these are just a little bit different and unique. Anyone you might make them for is bound to take notice of these, and that makes the baking of them totally worthwhile.
I used the Great British Bake Off Cookbook for the main shortbread recipe, just adding the extra ingredients as below.
- 200g unsalted butter softened
- 100 g caster sugar (plus a little extra for sprinkling)
- 260g plain flour
- 40g cornflour
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- Pinch of salt
- 50g chopped crystallised ginger
- 1 tsp aniseed seeds (I used green)
Makes about 20 biscuits
How to make:
- Put butter in a mixing bowl and beat with a electronic mixer until pale and creamy. Add the caster sugar slowly beating well after each addition. The mixture should be looking lighter and fluffy in texture when ready
- Sift in flour, cornflour, ginger and salt into the bowl. Add chopped ginger and aniseed
- Mix together using hands until combined and a dough is formed
- Take dough out of the bowl and shape dough into a log shape about 20cm long. Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for 20-30 mins until firm
- Preheat oven to 170c/325f/gas 3
- Unwrap the dough and cut across the log to form discs. Place discs on a greased baking sheet slightly apart
- Bake for about 20 mins or until firm but not coloured. Take out from the oven and sprinkle with caster sugar straight away. Then leave on the trays for a few mins before transferring to a cooling rack
- Eat slowly with a cup of tea, or wrap and give as presents
If you can’t find the aniseed there are plenty of other things that you could use instead. These include chocolate chips, orange zest, hazelnuts, raisins, cranberries, ground cinnamon, and pistachios to name a few.