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Here's a basic recipe using the rubbing in method which makes around 12 small biscuits. This mixture is easily remembered as it's basically twice as much flour to butter, however it can be made richer by the addition of more butter - up to equal parts butter to flour.
100g/4oz plain flour
Method - Place the flour in a large mixing bowl, add the butter cubes and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar then add the egg yolk and vanilla extract and mix to a firm dough. Add a little milk if the dough is too thick.
Although this the dough is firm, it often benefits from a short time chilling or in the freezer. It can be rolled out to around 1cm/ ½-inch thickness before being cut into shapes or can be moulded into a log, chilled or frozen well, then cut into slices.
The main reason for using this method is to ensure the mixture is well blended without the flour being over-worked so as to produce a light crumble biscuit.
Here's a basic recipe using the creaming method which makes about 12 large biscuits.
125g/5oz butter, softened
Method - cream the cutter and sugar until pale and fluffy, mix in the egg yolk and vanilla, mix in the flour. The dough is firm but can benefit from a short time chilling. It can be rolled out to no more than 1cm/ ½-inch thickness before being cut into shapes or can be moulded into a log, chilled or frozen well, then cut into slices.
You can add other liquid flavourings instead of the vanilla, additional ingredients such as dried fruit, nuts or chocolate chips, or spices such as cinnamon, ground ginger or curry powder for savoury versions.
The name refers to the way the egg content is treated.
Egg whites - these are whisked until firm
Egg yolks/whole eggs - thee are whisked together with the sugar content until thickened and lightened
These types of biscuits range from straight-forward whisked egg whites with added sugar in the form of light as air meringues to more substantial biscuits such as coconut macaroons.
As these recipes vary enormously, it is not possible to give a generic basic recipe here.
The name refers to the way certain ingredients are prepared. In most cases, the recipes include liquid sweeteners such as honey, golden (corn) syrup or molasses. All sweeteners (including sugar) are placed in a large saucepan together with the fat content, which is then gently melted and stirred until well combined. Often the other ingredients are added to the melted ingredients so most of the mixing is done in the saucepan rather than in a mixing bowl.
The mixture can be soft enough to easily drop from a spoon such as brandy snaps, or thick enough to press into a tin such as flapjacks. Once again, as these recipes vary enormously, it is not possible to give a generic basic recipe here.
Basic ingredients used to make biscuits
Using the correct basic ingredients is important if the desired results are to be achieved so always try to follow the recipe closely. Accurate measuring is also important to ensure the science works.
Type of flour to use when baking biscuits
The use of baking powder or self
raising flour in some recipes makes the biscuit more puffy. If
a recipe calls for self raising flour, this can be
substituted with plain flour provided baking powder is also
added - ½ a teasp to every 100g of flour.
However, if a recipe calls for plain (all purpose) flour,
unless it also includes baking powder, do not substitute it
with self raising flour.
In general, the more fat used the crisper the biscuit will be whilst the less fat used the puffier the biscuit will be. Depending on the recipe, solid fats such as butter, lard, margarine and solid vegetable oils or shortenings (e.g. Trex or Cookeen in the UK or Crisco in the US) can be used however it should be noted that whipped spreads are not suitable.
The type and amount of sweetener used can play a vital role in the way a biscuit turns out. In general, reducing the amount of sugar called for in a biscuit recipe helps to bake the finished biscuit more puffy.
White sugar makes crisper biscuits than brown sugar
Brown sugar tend to absorb moisture after baking which helps them to stay chewy.
Liquid sweeteners such as honey or golden (corn) syrup help the finished biscuit to be moist or chewy.
Many liquids can be used to flavour such as vanilla extract, almond essence, lemon or orange juice. These are generally used in small quantities which doesn't have too much effect on the structure of the finished biscuit. However, liquids used primarily to bind the dough can either cause biscuits to puff up or spread out.
Milk or water will help biscuits to spread and will help create a crisper finish.
Egg yolks add richness and also help create a crisper finish.
Egg whites tend to make biscuits more dry so extra sugar is often added to counteract this.
Baking large amounts of biscuits, referred to as 'batch baking' is as simple as doubling the ingredients (more than that and you'd probably have to consider getting another oven). However it is also possible to bake smaller amounts of biscuits provided you are careful when measuring out ingredients, particularly when it comes to eggs - even if you have to resort to using teaspoons.