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Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The Way the Cookie (I mean, Biscuit) Crumbles

I have been brooding on biscuits lately; cogitating on cookies if you will. An article in Epicure this week was the inspiration for this blog (Big Bikkies), but they had been on my mind for a few different reasons (and stay with me because this will meander is a bit).

 While celebrating Independence Day (4th July) the other week, we had toasted marshmallows. They were toasted in our kitchen over a candle as it was blowing a gale outside, but at least we got into the spirit of things! One of my girlfriends who moved to America, then sent me a receipe for S'mores ("If you have success roasting marshmallows over a candle, you'll have to try this recipe! ... they're delish!"). They were something I had heard of (thanks, Buzz Lightyear) but hadn't ever found out what they were; and here's the link for anyone else waiting to be enlightened: Classic S'mores. Only in America would they think of adding melted chocolate to a toasted marshmallow!! I was quite excited to try these out the next time we had a campfire, but was stymied by the inclusion of "graham crackers". And since they were out of stock at USA Foods, I googled to find the Australian equivalent. The consensus was a Digestive biscuit (most commonly used in cheesecake bases) or a Marie biscuit; which ironically some Americans-in-Australia thought made their s'mores too sweet. I have decided to wait until I have the "proper" ingredients, but it did get me thinking (again) about the different foods we grow up with in different countries.

 Of couse you can't get much more Australian than Tim Tams, which was always the "special treat" biscuit in my house growing up (though with 11 in the packet (and five in our family) there was always a fight over the last one). Family folklore has it that my Dad would eat Tim Tams for breakfast (with warm milk of course); a delicacy he introduced to my delighted cousin one sleepover. They have stayed high on my list, though I have moved to the Double Coat Tim Tams in the last few years (better chocolate to biscuit ratio), and have been quietly impressed with the new flavours that have come out recently (Turkish Delight is divine!!). This is a love I have passed on to my children, who are allowed a Tim Tam as dessert; only after eating all their dinner (and a tub of yoghurt). Son 2 has a "Tim Tam Phone" where he takes off the top biscuit and then proceeds to talk to people ("Hello, Hello! I'm on a Tim Tam Phone!!); Son 1 just eats them.

  Growing up, we also had chocolate Teddy Bear biscuits and Mint Slices, though the latter did seem to infuse all the biscuits in the tin with a minty flavour. And on super special occasions (translation: when mum was away for the weekend) we were treated to the delicacy that is an Iced Vo Vo (has anyone ever seen an un-iced Vo Vo? I can imagine it would be very depressing). Like most kids of my era, I learned to tell the time with Tic Toc biscuits (pink not yellow!) and I have vivid memories of my friend in grade one having a Shortbread Cream (wrapped carefully in waxed paper)  every day for play-lunch. I obviously didn't have anything nearly as exciting as I can't remember what I had! And then there was the joy of the Arnotts Assorted packs - Family assorted, with the Scotch Fingers and Teddy Bear Biscuits, and Assorted Cream if you were really fancy. My go-to was always the Monte Carlo (I loved the weird white and red centre), until someone put me on to Kingston biscuits. Already being a fan of Butternut Snaps, it was natural I would fall in love with these mini versions with a chocolate centre (even if the ad for them was ridiculous).

Then there are the home- made biscuits and family recipes. I have yet to find a better Yo-Yo biscuit than my gradnmother makes; but that may have to do with everywhere trying to make them so large! If you can't fit one in your mouth in one go, it's too big. 
 Being Australian, Anzacs were made every April, and I always found it funny that my Aunt's were the thin and crispy version while my dad's were the thicker "cookie" style. Both delicious for different reasons. My dad also introduced me to the perenially American Tollhouse Cookies, the recipe for which he found on the side of the choc bits package. They were nice, but I prefer a chunkier style; probably because the first "cookie" I was introduced to was  Mrs Fields Semi Sweet Macademia Nut (still my No.1 when I feel the urge). Which brings me to my own biscuit making adventures.

 It has well documented that I am always on the lookout for The Best Biscuit recipe (Baked Goods). I was very excited when I found the Neiman Marcus cookie receipe, figuring that if Americans didn't have the best cookie* receipe, then what hope was there for the rest of us?? It does make a delicious cookie, but is a bit fiddly in its preparation and so has fallen away to be replaced by a much simpler double-choc recipe (from Delicious 'Baking'), where there are two types of chocolate (plus or minus macadamia nuts); versus the other double choc receipe which is a chocolate mix with white chocolate chunks. The most recent addition to my cookie repertoire are Hot Chocolate Cookies, which were part of a Latin America special in Delicious magazine. They were a chocolate mix with chocolate chips, and a touch of chilli and cayenne pepper to give it a kick. Divine.
 And of course being a mother, I have an extensive collection of cookie cutters for making gingerbread shapes, decorated with smarties of course! Such a great activity to get the kids to help make the dough (taking turns adding the ingredients), then choosing their shapes (dinosaur or aeroplane? Crocodile or rocket?) and then waiting for them to cook. I'm not sure whether its the Making or the prospect of Eating that enthuses my boys about cooking, but I don't mind either way. I had them assisting me with making madeleines (for Bastille Day) at the weekend, which I'm still not sure if they are a biscuit or a small cake but they were declious and we ate almost the whole batch!

 So whether you whip up a batch of snickerdoodles to put in the cookie jar, have a Tim Tam Slam or steal the last Delta Cream from the bikkie barrel, enjoy your biscuits any way you can.

* I feel I must clarify my position here on what is a Cookie and what is a Biscuit. In the article, it had Hugh Jackman correcting Oprah Winfrey that a Time Tam is a "biscuit" and I would heartily agree with him. In my expereince, a "cookie" only applies to the American style chewy biscuits, usually with chocolate and nuts. Anything else sweet is a biscuit. (not sure where a "cracker" falls into this categorisation; probably leans towards is being a savoury biscuits, like a rice cracker or water cracker). But really, who cares. As long as they are yum and satisfy that afternoon energy slump.


 An epilogue to my biscuit adventures occurred at the weekend, where it was my first time cooking medicinal biscuits. Now before you get excited, these are not the cookies or brownies that are illegal in Australia (but soon to be legal in Colorado); these were Lactation Cookies; or as my new-mum friend so eloquently called them; Boobie Bikkies! Somehow I managed to get through breastfeeding two of my own children without realising these things existed. They are biscuits designed to sustain or increase your breast milk supplies, with the special ingredients being linseed (or flaxseed) meal and brewers yeast. According to the many recipes I found online, it doesn’t really matter what other ingredients the biscuits have, and it’s actually more beneficial to eat the dough raw. Being the non-breastfeeding-baking-friend, I chose to bake them (much easier to transport)!
 Having tracked down the essential ingredients (a health food store will sort you out) I proceeded to mix up a batch for two of my friends who had given birth within the same week. I decided on adding white chocolate and cranberries as I though the cranberries would give an extra boost to their immune systems (if they’re medicinal, I want to make them as beneficial as possible!). However, the next batch I make will be more chocolatey (and even double choc)! Having never cooked with brewers yeast before, I didn’t realise the delightful smell and aftertaste it added to the cookies. Its kind of like off vegemite, but not as sweet.; mmmmm. The recipe called for “heaped tablespoons” and knowing this was an Important Ingredient I was probably a bit heavy handed, and the sourness of the cranberries  didn’t really help to offset or disguise the taste. But the New Mums ate them enthusiastically and were very grateful (and I was the favourite guest of one of the hospital midwives; which is always helpful when you arrive just at the end of visiting hours!).

 So making Batch No.2 tonight with lots of Cadbury chocolate chunks; and I think this will be a helpful addition to my Visiting the New Baby care package (which currently includes a small bottle of champagne and some sort of soft cheese). Yum!

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