Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Iced Gems

I’m embracing my inner child at the moment….well, in culinary terms at any rate!
 
We all have foods that we associate with our childhoods and which live vividly in our memories. Without a doubt, many of these memories have been romanticised and bear no relation to what the foods tasted like in reality, but they evoke deep feelings within us and we can remember with startling clarity what we were doing and who we were with when we ate these foods. These memories come flooding back when we eat these foods again in later life.
 
I love the nostalgic feeling I get when I eat certain foods. Every time I eat lemon meringue pie, I invariably think of my grandmother and yearn to eat the fabulous examples she used to bake. There are other foods that instil the same happy feelings within me. I truly believe that most people have at least one food or meal that does this for them.
 
I have talked before about how the only bought biscuits that we ever had with any regularity, in our house were what I would call ‘plain’ biscuits – that is unfilled biscuits without chocolate or other frivolous additions!!! Digestives, Rich Tea and sometimes Malted Milk were the extent of it. Ironically, these are some of my favourite biscuits now, but to a child who yearned for something fancier and more sugar-laden; these biscuits seemed so frugal and unexciting.
 
I regularly implored my mother and grandmother to buy anything chocolate covered or even biscuits with a cream filling. Every now and again, they would succumb to my pleading and would purchase something a little different. I remember the first time that I ate Pink Wafer biscuits, Toffypops, Viscount and the miniature mouthfuls of joy that were Iced Gems.

There is something so appealing to a child about miniature foods, or individual portions of foods. These are hard to share, so you just have to eat them all yourself! Throw in variety, in terms of colour choice for example, and children are hooked. I am convinced that this is one of the reasons why sweets such as Smarties, Jelly Tots, Skittles and others are so popular – that and all the sugar!
 
Essentially, Iced Gems are little shortbread-like biscuits with a little splodge of piped royal icing on top. The royal icing is hard and sweet and contrasts beautifully with the little morsel of shortbread. I’m not going to lie, stamping out all the little biscuits with my miniature cookie cutter almost sent me into a home for the bewildered because it was a little fiddly and the blasted things were so small, but I actually found piping the royal icing on to each individual biscuit quite therapeutic! My children loved these biscuits and I have to admit that I did too. I was really pleased with how they turned out and they definitely brought back warm and snuggly feelings! J
 

Ingredients:

200g plain flour
100g butter, cubed
100g caster sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
20g golden syrup
1tsp vanilla extract/paste
Icing:
350g royal icing sugar
3tblsp cold water
3 or 4 Food colours (paste or gel)
 

Method:

1. Place the flour into a large mixing bowl and using the tips of your fingers rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and stir into the flour mixture until mixed through.
2. Mix the egg, golden syrup and vanilla extract together in a small jug. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the egg mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon or your hands to bring the mixture together into a soft dough. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the dough to rest and firm up a little to make it easier to work with.
3. Preheat the oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/Gas Mark 4. Line two large baking trays with non-stick baking parchment and set aside.
4. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out between two sheets of non-stick baking parchment to a thickness of about ½ cm. Use a 1 ½ cm round cutter, stamp out little circles and place on the prepared baking trays. (If the biscuit dough has softened a little from being worked, place the baking trays with the stamped out biscuits on them into the fridge for 10 minutes to allow the dough to firm up a little).
5. Bake in the preheated oven for 6 minutes or until a pale golden colour. Allow to cool completely before decorating with the icing.
Icing:
6. Place the icing in a medium sized mixing bowl. Add the water and using a hand-held electric mixer beat together for about 5 minutes until stiff and glossy. Divide the icing between 4 small bowls and add a drop of different food colouring to each bowl and mix through thoroughly.
7. Using a clean disposable piping bag fitted with a small star nozzle each time, pipe a little blob of each icing in turn, on to the individual biscuits. Allow to harden for 2 or 3 hours before storing in an air-tight tin.

Makes approximately 150-170 miniature biscuits.