Biscuits/Cookies

Othello Biscuits

Sadly, my grandad’s recently been moved into a care home and my parents are in the process of clearing out his house. Among the vast array of things unearthed, they found two big cardboard boxes full of recipe clippings from ancient magazines belonging to my late gran, who passed away in 2008.

Looking through these little relics of cooking times past has been an interesting and touching experience. It might sound silly but rifling through them made me feel closer to her and remembering the way she hoarded anything and everything to stop it from going to waste made me smile. Although hanging on to gargantuan stacks of old envelopes and keeping used individual butter wrappers to use to grease cake tins is a little extreme, I admire the way that she and her frugal generation in general were so much more scrupulous about waste than we are nowadays. As a recycling enthusiast who hates to throw things away unnecessarily, it’s quite inspiring.

Anyway, to get on track to the main point of this post: among Granny Emily’s varied collection of magazine snippets was a recipe from the 1970s for so-called ‘Othello’ biscuits which caught my eye. They’re mostly just oats, butter, sugar and cocoa powder but I love oaty things and thought they sounded tasty so I was keen to give them a go.

The unusual name added to their allure until I then twigged that it is of course a racist nod to the titular character of the Shakespeare play of the same name due to their dark colour – this certainly wouldn’t be an acceptable name for cookies nowadays but things were a lot less politically correct back then! Anyhow, despite their dodgy nomenclature, I’m pleased to say that they’re scrumptious…and quite addictive.

However, considering we are not even halfway through January, I don’t want to ignore the talk in my previous post about trying out healthier recipes. While eating one of these biscuits hardly carries the same calorific consequences as a giant doorstop of cake, I still wanted to have a go at removing, or at least cutting down, the amount of fat and refined sugar used. Therefore, I tweaked the original recipe and came up with a lighter version that contains no refined sugar and only a small amount of fat. Admittedly, they are very slightly drier than their full fat counterparts but the cheeky drizzle of chocolate on the top compensates for this and gives them a delicious edge without adding too much in the way of naughtiness. I also threw in a bit of spice which I think really complements the flavour. They make an ideal snack as they’re quite filling; even I stopped after nomming just one and that’s usually unheard of for me!

This version can easily be made vegan and/or dairy free with a few simple substitutions, which I’ve suggested below.

20160110_162610Original batch pictured on the left and healthier version on the right 🙂

ORIGINAL OTHELLO BISCUITS (this is the original 1970s recipe but I’m unable to give credit as I don’t know which magazine it’s from, sorry!)

INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 10 biscuits

  • 4 oz porridge oats
  • 2 oz margarine
  • 3 oz brown sugar
  • 0.5 oz cocoa powder
  • 0.5 oz plain flour
  • 0.25 tsp baking powder
  • 1 dessertspoon cold water

METHOD

  1. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder into a bowl, stir in the oats.
  2. Add the margarine and, using the fingertips only, rub it in until the fat is evenly distributed.
  3. Stir in the sugar then add the water and knead the ingredients to a firm dough.
  4. Here, the original recipe tells you to roll out the dough with a rolling pin and stamp out circles but to be honest it’s far too sticky to do this so I’d suggest pulling off ping pong sized balls of it and flattening them with wet palms before placing them on a rectangular baking tray lined with parchment paper.
  5. Bake the biscuits on the centre shelf of a fairly cool oven, gas mark 3 or 325 degrees F (160 degrees C), for about 15 minutes until they are firm to touch.
  6. Transfer them to a wire tray to cool and become crisp.

LOW FAT & REFINED SUGAR FREE OTHELLO BISCUITS

INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 20 biscuits

  • 225g/8 oz porridge oats
  • 2 tbsp almond (or peanut) butter
  • 2 tbsp olive spread (or soya spread to make them vegan/dairy free), softened
  • 5 tbsp honey (or maple/agave syrup to make them vegan)
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 0.5 tsp ginger
  • 30g/1 oz cocoa powder
  • 30g/1 oz plain flour
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder
  • 100g/3.5 oz dark chocolate (the higher the cocoa content, the better), chopped

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees C (or 150 fan) and line a large rectangular baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Place all the ingredients apart from the chocolate into a large mixing bowl and mix together with a wooden spoon and then your fingers until a sticky dough forms. If it’s too dry, add a little more water and if it’s too sticky, add a bit more flour.
  3. Pull off ping pong sized balls of dough and flatten them with wet hands, then place onto the baking tray.
  4. Pop in the oven and bake for around 10-15 minutes or until they feel slightly firm to the touch (they’ll crisp up as they cool) and then leave too cool on a wire rack.
  5. When the biscuits have cooled, place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and microwave on a medium heat in blasts of 1 minute until completely melted, then drizzle over the biscuits using a teaspoon.
  6. Allow to set before scoffing, preferably with a cuppa.
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Stollen Biscotti

I know I’m cutting it a bit fine posting my one brand new edible festive creation late on Christmas Eve Eve but these biscotti are so fabulous that I think they warrant a fashionably late arrival. I have been doing a fair amount of yuletide baking recently but everything bar these have used recipes from books/magazines (which is unusual for me), hence why I haven’t posted them on here.

I was originally going to make the divine-sounding stollen muffins from the November issue of Good Food, but the only problem with muffins is that they’re quite heavy and I wanted to bake something lighter to enjoy with a cuppa after the hefty indulgence that is Christmas lunch, hence the idea for a biscotti version came to me. I used to hate marzipan as a child and have distinct memories of painstakingly picking it off every slice of wedding or Christmas cake while carefully salvaging the sweet, sticky white icing. However, I’ve started to love it in my old age, and I now can’t imagine a December without stollen.

This biscotti recipe and technique are very similar to the wonderfully versatile ones I blogged about here: https://cloud9point1.wordpress.com/2015/06/08/fabulous-biscotti/. Despite this, I feel that their rich, festive flavour and all-round fruity, almondy deliciousness means they deserve a separate post. Again, feel free to experiment with ingredients and flavours – you could try adding pistachios, candied peel and/or chopped dates, among other things, to create a similarly Christmassy taste if you’re not a fan of marzipan.

I’ll sign off now by wishing a very MERRY CHRISTMAS to everyone reading this, and a huge thank you for supporting my little blog 🙂 Here’s to more culinary fun in 2016!

20151221_162156

INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 15 pieces

  • 180g/6 oz self-raising flour
  • 80g/3 oz caster or granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp ground almonds
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 40g/1.5 oz dried cranberries
  • 40g/1.5 oz sultanas
  • 40g/1.5 oz marzipan, chopped into small cubes
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line a large flat baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the flour, sugar, ground almonds and baking powder together in a large bowl then add the cranberries, sultanas, marzipan cubes and almond extract.
  3. Beat the egg and milk together for around 1 minute and pour into the mixture.
  4. Mix with a wooden spoon and then your hands until the ingredients come together to form a stiff dough. If it’s too sticky add a little more flour and if it’s too dry and crumbly add a splash more milk.
  5. Roll the dough into a sausage shape about 25-30cm long and place on the baking tray then gently flatten it until it’s about 2cm tall.

    20161224_134355.jpg

  6. Place in the oven for around 25-30 minutes until the dough is firm with a crust but still fairly pale.
  7. Remove from the oven and reduce the heat to 140 degrees C then allow the dough to cool for around 10 minutes before sawing into pieces about 2cm thick using a serrated knife.
  8. Place the biscuits back on the baking tray and cook for a further 25 minutes or until lightly browned then leave to cool before enjoying with tea, coffee or a festive tipple!
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Matcha Green Tea & Dark Chocolate Shortbread

I hadn’t done any baking in weeks due to moving from my flat in London back to my hometown in Buckinghamshire and spending every waking moment finishing off my MA dissertation, but I’m happy to say it’s fiiiiinally done and dusted now, all 10,000 words of it 🙂 The people on my degree programme (English Linguistics if you’re interested) and our lecturers are getting together on deadline day for a wee goodbye tea party so I whipped up a batch of scones to take along, and also wanted to make something as a thank you to my friend Andy. He very kindly brought me back some traditional cakes when he went to Taiwan as he knows I love baking, cooked an amazing authentic Chinese meal for my friend Lara and me, and gave me some proper green tea leaves from his homeland of China – what a sweetie! I thought I’d make something that was partly traditionally British but also had a Chinese twist, hence this experimental shortbread made with matcha green tea powder (the same I used in my cupcake recipe here: https://cloud9point1.wordpress.com/2015/06/07/green-tea-cupcakes-with-white-chocolate-icing/). I was worried that the biscuits would taste too bitter or be over/undercooked but I’m happy to say that the results were lovely. They were very buttery and melt-in-the-mouth but with a slightly fragrant twang, and the dark chocolate pieces gave them just the right amount of sweetness.

Just a word of warning – the dough in this recipe will be very sticky so I’d advise not to skip the step that says leave it to chill in the fridge for half an hour, as this helps make it more workable, and make sure you use plenty of flour when rolling it out. If you find stamping out the shapes with cookie cutters too frustrating, just form the dough into a log and cut off rounds with a sharp knife instead.

20150830_174315

INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 12 biscuits depending on size of cookie cutter

  • 110g/4 oz plain flour
  • 110g/4 oz butter
  • 70g/2.5 oz granulated sugar
  • 30g/1 oz ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp matcha green tea powder
  • 50g/2 oz dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces

METHOD

  1. Add the butter and sugar to a large mixing bowl and whisk together until pale.
  2. Add the flour, ground almonds, matcha powder and chocolate pieces to the mix and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until a soft dough forms (it will be very sticky).
  3. Wrap the ball of dough in clingfilm and leave to chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Around 10 minutes before you remove the dough, pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees C (or 150 gas).
  4. Sprinkle a generous amount of flour onto your work surface and rolling pin and roll the dough out until it’s about 1cm thick.
  5. Cut out biscuits using the cookie cutter of your choice, sprinkling on more flour as you go to avoid sticking, then squish the offcuts together, roll out again and repeat until all the dough is used.
  6. Carefully transfer the biscuits using a fish slice or large palette knife onto a large baking tray lined with parchment paper then pop in the oven and bake for around 10-13 minutes or until the bottoms are slightly browned – they will still be quite soft but will harden after you remove them from the oven.
  7. Place the biscuits on a wire rack and leave to cool.
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Fabulous Biscotti

Originally posted 03/03/2015

I first made these lovely crisp biccies, which go perfectly with a cuppa, with raisins and dark chocolate chips using a brilliant recipe from the Hairy Dieters as inspiration when on the hunt for lower fat/calorie bakes that still delivered a sweet hit. They turned out fantastically and have since become a bit of a signature bake of mine. I love how easy and versatile this recipe is – once you’ve got the basic biscotti dough you can add pretty much anything you want for flavour: chocolate, spices, citrus zest, dried fruit, nuts…the list is endless!

The original version made with orange zest, dark chocolate chips and dried cranberries weighed in at only 53 calories a piece so, although I can’t give an exact estimate when other ingredients are added, the chances are they’re still reasonably sin-free provided you don’t go too mad with the sugary extras!

I know traditionally biscotti is made with almonds but I always use almond extract as I love the delicate flavour it gives. By all means use flaked almonds if you prefer though.

I made these cherry and white chocolate ones for Valentine’s Day 🙂

INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 20 pieces

  • 180g/6 oz self-raising flour
  • 80g/3 oz caster sugar
  • 1 egg + 1 egg white*
  • 40g/1.5 oz white chocolate chips (or other chocolate/ingredient of choice)
  • 40g/1.5 oz glace cherries, chopped into chocolate chip sized pieces (or other dried fruit/ingredient of choice)
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Half a tsp baking powder

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line a large flat baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl then add the chocolate chips, cherry pieces and almond extract.
  3. Beat the egg and egg white together along with the vanilla extract for around 1 minute and pour into the mixture.
  4. Mix with a wooden spoon and then your hands until the ingredients come together to form a stiff dough. If it’s too sticky add a little more flour and if it’s too dry and crumbly add a splash of milk.
  5. Roll the dough into a sausage shape about 25-30cm long and place on the baking tray then gently flatten it until it’s about 2cm tall.
  6. Place in the oven for around 25-30 minutes until the dough is firm with a crust but still fairly pale.
  7. Remove from the oven and reduce the heat to 140 degrees C then allow the dough to cool for around 10 minutes before sawing into pieces about 2cm thick using a serrated knife.
  8. Place the biscuits back on the baking tray and cook for a further 25 minutes or until lightly browned then leave to cool before enjoying with tea or coffee.

*Please don’t throw the spare yolk away if at all possible! It can be used in homemade burgers, Welsh rarebit or eggy bread, among other things (sorry, I just really hate waste!)

Edit: I made these decadent double chocolate biscotti for my friend’s birthday by following the above recipe but omitting the almond extract, replacing two heaped tablespoons of flour with cocoa powder and substituting dark chocolate chips in place of the cherries:

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Hot Chocolate Biscuits

Originally posted 09/12/2013

My original attempt at hot chocolate biscuits were a sub-par batch of dry, cakey chocolate cookies from a recipe I found online so I went back to the drawing board and invented my own version which keeps the hot chocolate powder, generous chocolate chunks and gooey marshmallow but uses icing sugar in place of caster sugar and plain flour instead of self-raising. This creates a more even and less puffed-up biscuit without making them hard and brittle.

The combination of chunky milk chocolate pieces and chewy marshmallow inside a rich, dark cocoa biscuit makes for a delicious taste and texture. For further hot chocolatey decadence, sandwich two biscuits together with Marshmallow Fluff – scrumptious!

Note: the large chocolate chunks in these cookies means the dough will be fairly thick and slightly uneven when rolled out and the final result will be a little bumpy with oozy marshmallow patches, so I’d advise using a simple cutter rather than an intricately shaped one for this recipe.


INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 20 biscuits depending on size of cutter

  • 225g/8 oz plain flour
  • 30g/1 oz cocoa
  • 30g/1 oz hot chocolate powder
  • 1 tsp Horlicks (or other malt drink powder)
  • 30g/1 oz icing sugar
  • 170g/6 oz margarine/butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 115g/4 oz milk chocolate chips or cut-up chunks
  • Handful of marshmallows snipped into small bits
  • 0.5 tbsp instant ground coffee dissolved in approx. 0.5 tbsp boiling water

METHOD

  1. Boil the kettle and pour about half a tbsp water over half a tbsp instant ground coffee and set aside.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line two large flat baking trays with parchment paper.
  3. Whisk the margarine/butter and icing sugar together until combined.
  4. Add the flour, cocoa, hot chocolate powder, Horlicks, chocolate chunks and bits of marshmallow and mix briefly.
  5. Add the vanilla extract and prepared coffee then use your hands to squash the mixture together to form a ball of dough. If it’s too sticky, add a bit more flour.
  6. Wrap the dough in clingfilm or a freezer bag and chill in the fridge for about 15-20 minutes.
  7. Place the ball of dough onto a large clean sheet of baking parchment then place another sheet on top and roll out with a rolling pin until about 1.5cm thick, depending on the size of the chocolate pieces (alternatively, you could roll the dough out on a floured surface but this may spoil the colour of the biscuits a bit).
  8. Cut out as many biscuits as possible using your cutter of choice (I used a flower shape) and place onto a the baking trays then squish the offcuts of dough together, re-roll and repeat the process until all the dough is used up.
  9. Pop in the oven and bake for about 8-10 minutes or until the bottoms of the biscuits start to colour slightly then transfer onto a wire rack. This is the part where I’d normally say leave to cool but don’t leave them too long as they’re delicious while still warm from the oven – just beware of molten marshmallow!
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Red Velvet Star Biscuits

Originally posted 08/12/2013

I haven’t updated my little blog in a while due to being busy but now we’ve officially entered the most wonderful time of the year for cooking I’ve been squeezing in lots of festive baking.

These decadent biccies have got to be one of my favourite cookie recipes and more than make up for my first (and so far only) attempt at red velvet cake being a disaster. They contain quite a large amount of red gel colouring and icing sugar, plus buttermilk and egg, so they’re not the cheapest cookies to make but they look and taste fantastic and are a perfect luxurious treat for Christmas, Valentine’s Day or any other special occasion, or as a gift. I wish I’d taken photo which showed their beautiful dark red colour better as it makes the cookies look very distinctive even without decoration, although I added Dr Oetker Gold Shimmer Spray for an extra festive sparkly sheen. These would also be delicious sandwiched together with some cream cheese frosting for an even more authentic red velvet experience!

If, like me, you don’t want to buy buttermilk (it’s not very widely available here in the UK), I found a great tip online showing you how to make your own by simply adding a dash of white wine vinegar or lemon juice to milk and leaving it to curdle for a few minutes. Et voila – bona fide red velvety goodness in biscuit form!

This recipe is an adapted version of an American one I found here: http://www.sweetsugarbelle.com/2012/02/red-velvet-roll-outs-recipe/

You can’t see from this photo but they’re the most wonderful deep red colour inside!

INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 40 biscuits depending on size of cutter

  • 115g/4 oz butter/margarine
  • 170g/6 oz icing sugar
  • 255g/9 oz plain flour
  • Half a beaten egg
  • 55g/2 oz cocoa
  • 3 tsp buttermilk (or 3 tsp milk + 1 tsp white wine vinegar or lemon juice)
  • 1.5 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1.5 tbsp red gel food colouring (NOT the liquid kind as this won’t work!)
  • Dr Oetker Gold Shimmer Spray, to finish (optional)

METHOD

  1. If making buttermilk as outlined above, pour the white wine vinegar or lemon juice into the milk and set aside.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line two large flat baking trays with parchment paper.
  3. Whisk the butter/margarine and icing sugar until combined.
  4. Stir in the egg, vanilla extract and buttermilk, then add the flour, cocoa and baking powder and mix briefly.
  5. Add the gel food colouring a teaspoon at a time and mix until the mixture turns a deep blood-like red shade (it will be dazzlingly vivid!) then squash together with your hands to form a ball of dough. If it’s too sticky, add some more flour.
  6. Wrap the dough in clingfilm or a freezer bag and chill in the fridge for about 15-20 minutes until fairly firm.
  7. Place the ball of dough on a large clean sheet of baking parchment then place another sheet over the top and roll out with a rolling pin until about 1cm thick.*
  8. Cut out as many biscuits as possible with your cookie cutter of choice (I used a star shape) and place onto the baking trays (they don’t spread out much when cooking so they can be placed fairly close together). Squish the offcuts of dough together and re-roll and repeat the process until all the dough is used up.
  9. Pop in the oven and bake for about 8 minutes or until the bottoms of the biscuits start to colour slightly then transfer onto a wire rack and leave to cool.
  10. If you want a gold sheen effect as in the photo, hold the Shimmer Spray can about 10cm away from the biscuits and spray each one, then leave to dry.

*You could just sprinkle flour onto the surface to prevent the rolling pin sticking but this ruins the bold colour of the dough when baking.

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Custard Creams & Strawberry Milkshake Creams

Originally posted 20/10/2013

Although I try, as a rule I’m not one for aesthetic neatness and elegance when baking. Despite numerous attempts, my piping is never up to scratch and my cookies are always sloppy and uneven (in fact, this is the primary reason I have still not yet plucked up the courage to have a go at posh French macarons despite having bought a packet of ground almonds for this purpose over a month ago). But I impressed myself with these lovely little biscuits which were a bit of a labour of love. The secret of their prettiness is that the dough barely puffs up at all during baking which means the biscuits keep their beautiful even shape.

Although it took me a while to lovingly craft each button using a round scone cutter, a tiny espresso cup and a straw, these colourful treats certainly aren’t complicated to make. And they were certainly worth the extra time as they received an abundance of compliments on both taste and appearance – in fact, Edd Kimber himself (whose recipe I used for the custard creams) saw them on Twitter and said they were fantastic! Praise indeed 🙂

The pink strawberry milkshake creams were an original invention of mine – I simply followed the same recipe as I did for the custard creams but substituted the custard powder and vanilla extract for strawberry milkshake powder and strawberry extract respectively. The result was utterly delicious and I will definitely be making them again!

If you don’t have the time or patience to make buttons, just use your favourite cookie cutters like I did for the mini stars and hearts below. To make a Bourbon cream-esque variation, you could substitute the custard/strawberry milkshake powder for chocolate milkshake powder or cocoa.

The yellow custard creams were made using Edd Kimber’s fab recipe which can be found here – http://theboywhobakes.co.uk/2011/06/custard-creams/ – so I’m just going to post the recipe for my strawberry milkshake cream version.

Strawberry Milkshake Creams

INGREDIENTS – yield depends on the size and shape of cookie cutter used but the below quantities resulted in the number of pink biscuits seen in the photo above

For the biscuits:

  • 225g/8 oz plain flour
  • 50g/2 oz icing sugar
  • 50g/2 oz strawberry milkshake powder (I used Hello Kitty brand but any will do!)
  • 180g/6 oz margarine/butter
  • 1 tsp strawberry extract
  • Splash of red food colouring+ cookies cutters of your choice or a round cutter, an espresso cup & a plastic straw if you want to make buttons like in the photo

For the filling:

  • 100g/3.5 oz icing sugar
  • 25g/1 oz butter (unsalted if preferred)
  • 1.5 tbsp strawberry milkshake powder
  • Splash of milk
  • 0.5 tsp strawberry extract
  • Drop of red food colouring

METHOD

For the biscuits:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line two large rectangular baking trays with parchment paper.
  2. Place the flour, icing sugar and strawberry milkshake powder into a large mixing bowl then add the margarine/butter and strawberry extract.
  3. Rub the fat into the dry ingredients so that crumbs form and then squish together into a large ball of dough. If it’s too sticky, add a little more flour. If it’s too dry and crumbly, add a little milk.
  4. Add the red food colouring, a tiny splash at a time, and knead the dough in the bowl until it turns your desired shade of pink.
  5. Take the dough out of the bowl, wrap tightly in clingfilm and leave in the fridge to chill for about 20-30 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle flour over your work surface to prevent sticking then roll the dough out until it’s roughly 1cm in thickness (remember you’ll be sandwiching them together two at a time so you don’t want them too thick or they won’t be pleasant to eat unless you have an extremely massive gob!)
  7. Cut out as many circles as possible using the round cookie cutter and stamp each circle with the espresso cup, firmly enough that it makes a definite indent but not so hard that it cuts through the dough. Then use the end of a plastic straw to stamp out four tiny circles in the middle of each biscuit to make a button, transferring each one onto the baking trays as you go.
  8. Squish all the off-cuts together then re-roll the dough and repeat the process. If you’re lazy like me, cut out other small simple shapes such as hearts or stars once you’ve made 20 buttons.
  9. Pop in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes until the bottoms have started to colour very slightly at the edges, then transfer onto a wire rack and leave to cool.

For the filling:

  1. Place the butter and strawberry extract into a bowl then add the icing sugar and strawberry milkshake powder gradually while stirring/whisking. Add a splash of milk and continue to stir/whisk until a smooth, spreadable mixture has formed.
  2. Add the red food colouring a tiny drop at a time and stir until the mixture turns your desired shade of pink (you’ll only need a very tiny bit).
  3. Spread a small blob of the icing onto the back of one of the pink biscuits using a palette knife then sandwich together with another biscuit of the same shape and repeat until they’ve all been paired up.

Edit: I also used Edd’s custard cream recipe to make these cute jammy heart biscuits – just make imprints in the dough with your thumb then fill with raspberry or strawberry jam 🙂

And I also used the button cutting technique on pink fondant icing to make cupcake toppers for my friend’s baby shower!

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