The standard is incredibly high this year - I can't help but think that I've missed my chance to be on the Bake Off, so I'll have to settle for continuing to surreptitiously stalk Paul around BBC studios (see my post from April 2013) and food shows.
This week was biscuits, which inspired me to get my bake on and make some biscuits myself. I had some hazelnuts left over from my Nutella cupcakes, so I decided to incorporate them in the recipe.
So I flicked through a recipe book, heavily adapted a recipe and these were the end result:
They're almost like a grown up version of these, which you'll probably remember if, like me, you grew up in the 90s:
Although of course my biscuits are much superior and flavoured with hazelnut and orange.
If you bake much, you'll probably sometimes use ground almonds, either completely or partially replacing the flour in the recipe. You can use nearly any kind of nut in the same way, but you need to be aware of the oils in the nuts. For instance, the recipe I adapted this from originally used ground almonds, but as the ground hazelnuts seemed oilier to me than the almonds, I mixed in the egg yolks one by one, seeing how they affected the biscuit dough.
In the end I used one less egg yolk than the original recipe and I think I made the right call. The biscuits were still rich, but also crisp and had a good snap in them, as Mary would say.
You will need a blender if you want to use hazelnuts - if you don't have some maybe just use ground almonds.
This makes between 12-15 biscuits, but some of mine had an accident. I'd advise you don't try to lift the biscuits off your baking sheets by lifting the greaseproof paper they're on, because you may well tip them onto the floor:
You will need:
For the biscuits:
100g hazelnuts (blanched if possible, but I'll show you how to skin them)
1 tbsp baking powder (but only if the hazelnuts aren't blanched)
200g plain flour
80g icing sugar
125g butter, cut into cubes
2 large egg yolks
2 lined baking sheets
biscuit cutters - preferably 1 round with crimped edges and 1 much smaller heart, star or similarly exciting shape
For the ganache filling:
200g dark chocolate
200ml double cream
zest of one orange
2 tsp orange flavouring or liqueur such as Cointreau
1. If your hazelnuts aren't blanched, boil a pan of water and add the baking powder when it comes to the boil. The water will fizz up - add the hazelnuts quickly and boil for 3-4 minutes.
2. Drain the water and rub the hazelnuts with a piece of kitchen towel to remove the skins. I had the help of Mike, my glamorous assistant and housemate, to do this and it still took ages so I really would recommend you get blanched hazelnuts if possible.
3. Put the hazelnuts, icing sugar and flour in a blender and process until the hazelnuts resemble coarse grains of sand. Tip into a large mixing bowl and use your fingertips to rub the butter into the mixture.
4. Add the egg yolks to the mixture and work in with your hands until the dough is firm enough to be rolled into a ball. Flatten slightly, wrap in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, set the cream and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, adding the orange flavouring or liqueur and zest. The water mus not touch the bottom of the bowl, or the chocolate will seize up.
6. Keep an eye on the chocolate and cream and stir every now and then. Take it off the heat when the chocolate and cream are combined and the mixture is thick and glossy. Set aside to cool.
7. Preheat the oven to 180C and use a clean, well-floured work surface roll out the dough to the thickness of a pound coin. Use the round cutter to cut out as many biscuits as possible and put them on the baking sheets - you may have to slide a knife under them to be able to lift them. Once they are on the sheets cut hearts or other shapes into the centre of half of the biscuits and, using the cut out hearts and other offcuts, roll out dough again and cut more biscuits until the dough is all used up. Chill for 15 minutes in the fridge.
8. Put the biscuits in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly coloured. Leave to cool.
9. When the biscuits are cool and the ganache is starting to set, spread ganache on the biscuits that don't have holes in using a knife or the back of a spoon. Then put a biscuit with a heart shaped hole on top of each and press together lightly. Leave until the ganache sets properly, then eat!
You could serve these with a little piped swirl of whipped cream and a whole hazelnut on the top. You could even (forgive me, Mary and Paul), use squirty cream, but I certainly didn't and I shudder to think of that abomination sitting on my lovely, delicately flavoured biccies.
I hope my colleagues will enjoy these on Monday, or those that I and my housemates haven't yet scoffed. They were very appreciative of my crumble bars last week.