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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Orange, Cardamom & Brandy Biscuits

In Bill Granger's Book "Bill's Open Kitchen" these are known as Orange & Cardamom biscuits, but after I had a go at them, these were most definitely brandy flavoured. In fact, these smell like Christmas! They taste a bit like a cross between German lebkuchen (gingerbread) and the brandy sauce I make to pour over our pudding. They are seriously good, and even my mum who easily resists nibbling on sweets, kept going back for a few more taste tests.

I've just spent a weekend baking up a storm for my friend's hen's party next Saturday and I finally have a backlog of posts ready. A few weeks ago mum came home with a cheap copy of the Bill Granger book I mentioned. She knew that I wasn't really taken by the hype surrounding him but the book was so cheap that she grabbed it. And I do have to eat my words, because I have been quite taken by his sweets and baking recipes, which are very good. I'm still not completely enamoured of his dinner/lunch recipes because theyr'e a bit too 'Sydney/Gold Coast' - i.e. light, salady, grilled type things you can cook on a BBQ and eat on a verandah. I live in Melbourne. That sort of stuff is not so suitable for us here most of the year! But, he has a chapter on Afternoon Tea in this book, and I've picked up about four recipes that I'm making for the hen's party. That's a good strike rate for one book.

The name of these biscuits didn't grab me at first, but reading through the ingedients sparked my interest: oranges, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, brown sugar and brandy. Ooooh...that sounds kinda interesting. And the photo looked appetising, so I gave them a go. I had a bit of trouble with the dough being too crumbly, so I had to add more liquid, and I chose that in the form of more brandy. Hey, what kind of hen's party is it without alcohol?? Because of the extra brandy, the biscuits had a fabulous aroma and full, buttery, spicy taste. The cardamom doesn't really come through, but there is a strong taste of ginger and orange.

For the past two years I've made biscuits at Christmas to hand around to friends. Two years ago I made excellent lebkuchen from a recipe I accidentally threw away (bugger. It came from NZ Cuisine magazine, Dec 2003....anyone have one??), and last year I made Jeanne's Dutch spiced wine cookies. This year, I've already decided. I'm making these. They look good and taste bloody awesome! And who can resist a bit of brandy and spice at Christmas?
In fact, these were so good, I even baked the offcuts of dough that weren't worth rolling out again, and I took them to my concert last night, to offer around at interval. I really endorse these to you; give them a go!
Read on for the recipe:

Orange, Cardamom & Brandy Biscuits
from 'Bill's Open Kitchen', Bill Granger

375g (3 cups) plain (ap) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (try to grate your own. It's much more aromatic)

1 teaspoon ground cardamom
250g (9 oz) butter, softened

345g (1 1/2 cups) brown sugar
3 teaspoons brandy (I used about 3-4 tablespoons in mine)
finely grated zest of 1 orange
30g (1/4) cup plain flour, extra
1 egg white, for glazing
30g (1/4 cup) granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F)
Sift the flour, baking powder, ginger, nutmeg and cardamom into a large bowl. Place the butter and brown sugar in a bowl and beat until pale and creamy. Add the brandy and zest and mix well. Using a large metal spoon, fold the dry ingredients through in two batches. Sift the extra flour over a clean, dry surface and knead the dough for 30 seconds (I had serious crumbling issues here - splash on the brandy!). Roll the dough into a large rectangle 5mm (1/4 inch) thick. Cut into shapes 3x6cm (1 1/4 x 2/ 1/2 inches) long. Brush with the egg white and sprinkle with sugar.
Place the biscuits 2cm (3/4 inches) apart on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
Makes ~40.

Note: Don't overbake these. I cooked mine for 11 minutes, and they are just slightly too hard. Next time I will probably take them out at 9 or 10 minutes and they'll be perfect.


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