Bensoir! It's me, Benjamin. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You may have read stuff I've written elsewhere, but here on my own blog as Ben Viveur I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others, so pretty much anything goes.

BV is about enjoying real food and drink in the real world. I showcase 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. And as a critic 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!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Maple Shortbread Sandwich - the feelgood dessert

Following a busy Saturday of drinking and bidding a fond farewell to the St Jude's Brewery Tavern in Ipswich I felt I was due a nice restful Sunday.

While I was glad I made it there for the final night (the last of the beer, Blackfriars Yarmouth Bitter ran out at about 10 PM), my heart was heavy with sadness on the long train journey back to South London.

Big Frank's embittered goodbye speech at St Jude's
I'm certainly less enthused than I was about the prospect of starting my own brewery and pub than I was a few days ago. Seems like no matter how good your pub is, the bank can, as Frank eloquently puts it, 'fuck you over without warning' at any time.


And so, to the kitchen for some theraputic baking, which isn't something we do all that often, but it's a rewarding activity when we do. An indulgent dessert might cheer us up, mightn't it?

This is a simple but very tasty recipe. The secret is to use good quality butter (Beurre d'Isigny or something from the Channel Islands is usually ideal) and a proper maple syrup rather than a 'maple-flavoured' version made from carob or high-fructose corn syrup or some other crap.

I have vague memories of baking shortbread at primary school with big blocks of margarine, which were highly unpleasant. Because they were made with big blocks of margarine, obviously.

This shortbread might look the same but it tastes infinitely better. Enjoy.
(And if you want to keep some shortbread aside to break into crumbs for Reconstructed Peaches a day or two later, that's probably not a bad idea)

Maple Shortbread Sandwich

Ingredients - makes about six servings

Good quality butter, 6 oz
Caster sugar, 2 oz
Plain flour, 8 oz
Milk, a dash
Real whipped cream, plenty
Real maple syrup, don't spare it!


Mix the butter, sugar and flour together in a mixing bowl, until it develops a crumby consistency, then add a dash of milk and a drizzle of maple syrup and work it into a nice, smooth ball of dough. (Use your judgement to add a little more flour or milk as you go along, ensuring that you get the dough right.)

Ready for baking...
When the dough is ready, leave it in the fridge for half an hour or so, then roll it out on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of a little under half an inch.
Use a knife (or a shape-cutting tool) to cut out several biscuits - round, eliptical, rectangular, triangular, cock and balls or whatever you like. The exact dimensions and proportions are up to you, but bear in mind that each pair of biscuits will make one portion. Usually.

Transfer your cut-out shortbread onto a baking tray, make a prick hole in each one with a fork and bake at about 180 degrees for 15 minutes - some slight browing around the edges is OK, but don't let it burn.

Ready for eating!
Once baked, the biscuits can be left to cool, and they're done - though they shouldn't be too sweet at this stage, otherwise the final dish might be overly so.

When you're ready to serve the dessert, lay a biscuit on a plate as the bottom layer of the sandwich, then add a liberal splodge of whipped cream and a good drizzle of maple syrup, before addding another biscuity layer.
Add more cream and maple syrup on top, and it's ready to serve.

The layout and presentation of the sandwich is up to you - you could build a triple- or quadruple-decker if you like - so feel free to be creative.

You could make the same dessert using margarine, squirty cream and fake maple syrup, but then, why would you?

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