"Biscuit" means different things to different people. The biscuit field is vast, as a walk down any supermarket aisle will confirm.
Chocolate-coated, cream-sandwiched, plain, spicy and everything in between, we are undoubtedly a nation of biscuit lovers.
I have often been told by readers that biscuits are a fiddle to make and tricky to get "just right". Any small, single- serve baking item is more labour intensive than, for example, cakes or slices, where the mixture is spread in one tin, but knowing how to make good biscuits is a skill well worth having.
A good biscuit can be made from basic ingredients, which is worth considering from the economy angle, but for me there is another, more important factor in the equation - knowing what is in them.
Years ago, when freezing was not an option for households, baking was always kept in tins. Christmas baking, often done well in advance, was kept in sealed tins in a cool dark place. Biscuits such as shortbread, shrewsburys and afghans were considered "good keepers".
Today, we are spoiled for choice when it comes to containers, so storing a batch of biscuits for a few days at a time is a breeze. Most of my containers are plastic with clip-down lids and built-in seals.
The recipe should state if a biscuit mixture is likely to spread; just space the dough suitably on the tray. I always line trays with baking paper. Don't discard it after the first batch - simply turn it over.
Biscuits take only 10-18 minutes to cook, so keep your eye on them to avoid burnt offerings.
WALNUT AND LEMON BISCUITS
Makes 15-18 squares
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
125g very soft butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup milk
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup baking bran
1 cup flour
3 tsp baking powder
Heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Place chopped nuts in a shallow pan over a medium heat. Toss until golden and spread on a paper towel to cool.
Beat butter and sugar well.
Add milk and beat until pale and creamy.
Add zest and beat again.
Put bran, flour and baking powder in a bowl.
Toss together until combined. Add to butter mixture in three lots.
Stir in nuts.
Bring mixture together with floured hands.
Turn out on to a floured surface and kneed lightly.
Divide dough into two portions.
Roll out first portion until 2mm thick.
Cut into squares and place on tray.
Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden. Repeat process for second portion of dough.
Cool on a wire rack.
Store in an airtight tin.
Serve plain or buttered.
- The Southland Times