Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Custard Creams

I love foods that evoke a nostalgic sense of well-being within me. Invariably many of these foods are either comfort foods or foods that I would consider “treats” and all of them originate from childhood memories. When I was a child, the only biscuits that were ever bought with any regularity were plain digestive or Rich Tea biscuits. Chocolate covered digestives, sugary Nice biscuits, Bourbon Creams or Custard Creams were only ever purchased for so-called “special occasions”. I especially loved Christmas time when friends and neighbours would give us large tins containing a selection of different types of biscuits. These foods hold a special place in my memory specifically because we didn’t get to eat them all that often.

This is not to suggest that we were not given great foods and lovely things to eat; my grandmother was an amazing cook and always served the most delicious homemade meals often including fabulous desserts or cakes that she had baked.
 
However, there are certain foods, that when I eat them, even now, make me feel as if I am being a little self-indulgent. Being a somewhat ungrateful and greedy child I always yearned to eat shop-bought biscuits and cakes. To me, they were the epitome of sophisticated food… how little I knew then and how it wasn’t until later in life when I began to really appreciate what good food, using quality ingredients tasted like, how privileged and fortunate we were to have someone like my grandmother regularly cooking these things for us.

Chief amongst my childhood must-haves were custard cream biscuits. I just loved them. The creamy buttercream like filling sandwiched between two crisp shortbread like biscuits. I loved the fact that the biscuits had a pattern on them…this seemed to further emphasize the almost debauched and frivolous nature of the biscuits and made them feel all the more appealing to eat.
 
The recipe that I give here is in homage to the custard cream biscuits of my childhood. They taste fabulous and like their mass-produced cousins are very moreish to eat – one is never enough.

I used an imprint mat that I use for cake decorating to press a pattern on to the biscuit dough prior to baking. I still want to play around with the consistency of the biscuit dough, as I want to perfect one that has a smoother finish after baking, but I will give this recipe here as it just tasted so good and the finished biscuits look so pretty.

I was surprised how well these biscuits kept, even after they were filled, still retaining their crispness and biscuity texture.
 

Ingredients:

200g plain flour
50g custard powder
1 tsp baking powder
75g caster sugar
125g butter
1 medium egg
1 tblsp milk
Filling:
75g butter, softened
125g icing sugar
25g custard powder
 

Method:

1. Sieve the flour, custard powder, baking powder into a bowl. Add the butter and using your fingertips, rub the butter in until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and stir through.
2. Add the milk and the egg and using a fork mix into the flour mixture until everything comes together to form a dough Wrap the dough in cling-film and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/ Gas Mark 4.
4. Line two large baking trays with non-stick baking parchment. Lightly flour your work-surface and roll out the dough until it is about 3mm thick. Using a rectangular cookie cutter (4.5 cms x 3cms) or other cutter of your choice stamp out individual cookies.
5. Put the cookies on the prepared baking trays and bake in the preheated oven for 12-14 minutes until a light golden colour. Allow to cool for five minutes and then transfer on to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.
Filling:
6. Place the butter, icing sugar and custard powder into a bowl and using a hand-held electric mixer, beat together until smooth.
7. Use the filling to sandwich the biscuits together in pairs.
 
Makes 20 sandwiched biscuits.