ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Friday, December 23, 2016

What can I give him? Christmas biscuits!

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a healthy contingent of miserly old scrotes banging on about how it's all too commercialised these days and the true meaning of Christmas has long been lost in a big pile of presents, wrapping and sellotape.

I've had some sympathy with this view since I ceased to be a wide-eyed, innocent infant eagerly opening his Rebel Transporter on Christmas morn. But of all the phenomena that are an affront to what the season should be, presents really aren't top of the list.

I mean, tinsel. What the festive fuck is that all about? At least the star on top of the tree (a custom that itself only goes back to the Victorian era) has some sort of significance. Nobody has ever explained to me what bloody tinsel is supposed to represent. And then there's the Coca-Colary bastardisation of Saint Nikolaos of Myra. And that fucking Darkness song about the bell ends. And The Snowman.

So gift-giving, which was always very much a part of the nativity story, is one of the more authentic traditions, even if the legend has expanded over the years from the original trio of gold, frankincense and myrrh to include drum solos and crutches.

Get to the point before it stops being Christmas!

Now, you might be wondering if this is all a rather tenuous way of linking into some sort of Christmas gift for my readers? Perhaps a teensy recipe? Why yes. Yes, it is.

When the wassailers come to your door, you could offer them a handful of Twiglets or an unwanted Quality Street, but nothing screams domestic superiority more than having a tray of freshly baked biscuits ready for your guests to enjoy. Especially if you act all nonchalant, like you're baking up delicious batches of biscuitty awesomeness all the time.

Freshly baked, if oddly shaped...
(If you're on the other side of the Trumplantic, I'm obviously talking about 'cookies' that you'd leave for Santa with a glass of milk,  not the  buttermilk scones that you strangely see fit to call biscuits in your increasingly fucked-up realiity...)

Now, I have a little secret when it comes to making biscuits, which I shall share with you now, because it's not really much of a secret. Let's call it the 3-2-1 principle, or perhaps the Dusty Bin rule.

Basically, whatever quantity you want to bake, you can't go wrong by up- or down-scaling on the basis of 3 parts flour, 2 parts butter and 1 part sugar. So for our purposes to make about 20 biscuits we'll use 3oz, 6oz and 9oz respectively. But it works in any system and any amount - e.g. 120, 240 and 360 grams, or 2.5, 5 and 7.5 tonnes if you've been tasked with catering for an entire continent.

We're adding white chocolate chips which melt and take on a sort of fudgy quality, and also doing a spicy Christmas batch, but this is a super-flexible recipe and you can add pretty much whatever you like to the basic recipe.

The other little trick is to always use the best butter you can find - you'll really taste the quality in the finished product.

Great British Biscuits

Ingredients - makes 10-12 of each:

Plain flour, 9oz
Butter, 6oz
Caster sugar, 3oz
Buttery sugary goodness

Real Vanilla Extract

For the White chocolate cookies:

White chocolate chips, refrigerated

For the Christmas spice cookies:

Cinnamon sugar, for dusting


Start by softening the butter in a mixing bowl and gradually work in the sugar until smooth and creamy.


Now add the flour, a little at a time, stirring or kneading as you see fit until you have a nice dough that's neither too dry nor too sticky - the 3-2-1 rule should ensure this.

Add a good splash of vanilla extract (and if necessary a tiny bit more flour if this makes it too wet), then separate into two equally sized balls of dough.

A big glob of dough
Take the chocolate chips out of the fridge and work them into the first lump of dough, aiming for a nice, even distribution. To the second dough ball add the spices.

Roll your dough out flat and cut out whatever biscuit shapes you choose. I've done little angels here because it's Christmas.

Leave them to stand for a few minutes while you pre-heat the oven to 200C and lightly dust the tops of the spicy biscuits with cinnamon sugar.

Bake for around 15 minutes until the biscuits are golden brown - they should still be slightly soft when you take them out. Do not worry about this - they will harden up to a delightfully crunchy texture when they cool.


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