What does the last of the housewives do?

Category: Biscuits


The store cupboard is looking a little bare, so I thought I’d ask the kids what they’d like by way of biscuits. Then I thought, save my breath. They’ll want snickerdoodles.

This is a recipe I’ve adapted from one in The Good Cookie, by Trish Boyle. Being an American recipe, it makes lots.

Cream together 180 grams of butter with one and a third cup of caster sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a tablespoon of some form of syrup. The original recipe suggests molasses, but I found that to be a little distinctive for the Australian palate. I use maple syrup, but you could also use golden syrup. I don’t use golden syrup because it features heavily in other biscuits I make a lot of of. Beat in two eggs, one at a time. I sometimes buy my eggs from AC Butchery because they look excitingly free range. These ones were large and very very white, even the yolks were really light coloured. They are indistinguishable from Swedish models. Mix in two and half cups of flour, one tablespoon of baking powder and a quarter of a teaspoon of nutmeg. Actually, I don’t measure the nutmeg, I just grate in a fair old sprinkling with the trusty Microplane.

Roll balls of mixture about the size of a walnut (in its shell) and dip them in cinnamon sugar. You make up cinnamon sugar by mixing a tablespoon of cinnamon with a quarter of a cup of caster sugar, I like to keep some on hand for cinnamon toast. The dough is quite sticky for biscuits, but that’s correct. Place them on baking trays lined with baking paper and bake at 170 degrees Celsius for about sixteen minutes. Keep an eye on them, you only want the tiniest amount of brown. These biscuits are quite soft on the inside, which means that my husband won’t eat them, and the kids tell me that they’re not as nice when they’re crisp all the way through. Know your audience!

Before on the bottom, after on top.


Cheese and Olive Rusks

I’m over thinking it. Just because I’ll be bringing a plate tonight to some drinks with the mates doesn’t mean I have to bring anything fancy. There’s no expectation from those who read my blog that I’ll be bringing anything other than a box of Jatz. Good. Now that we’ve sorted that out, here’s a little something I’m whipping up in between shouting at the Horror and Muffet who likes to wear her cranky pants when she has friends over.

It’s along the same lines as biscotti, only with completely different ingredients. You can make it any flavour, really, you use a cup of assorted cheeses and three quarters of a cup of some other excitingly savoury ingredient. Like bacon. Or in this case, olives.

Beat together 125 grams of butter (yes, I’m using the salted Pepe Saya again) with a cup of cheese. The recipe I’m using, from The Good Cookie, suggests half a cup of feta and half a cup of Parmesan. I’m using a cup of Pizza Cheese, which I think is Parmesan, cheddar and mozzarella. Beat in, one at a time, two large eggs. You can only really get large eggs these days, I don’t know what they’re doing to the chickens but they’re getting larger every year. Mix in a quarter of a cup of milk, one and three quarter cups of flour, one teaspoon of baking powder, some pepper and three quarters of a cup of finely chopped olives. I thought I had a jar of pitted black olives in the fridge, but what I actually had was a jar of olive pickling liquid with a teaspoon in it. Fortunately right down the back I found a jar of green olives stuffed with pimentos. They’ll do nicely.

Knead it all together until it’s well mixed, then separate it into two halves. Shape each half into a log and place it onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper. It will be a very sticky mixture at this point. Bake for about thirty five minutes or until they just start to brown. Remove from the oven and cool for a bit while you peel some potatoes for dinner and turn the television down. Slice the logs as thinly or as rustically as you’d like and place the slices back on the baking sheet. You might need another one. Bake for a further twenty minutes or so with the oven at around 150 degrees or until they are looking dry and a bit coloured around the edges.

This recipe makes quite a lot of little tasty rusks, so it should carry me through a few Bring a Plate sessions. I’ve made them before, and I’m really looking forward to nibbling some with some champagne. They smell delicious, or as the kids would say “Errr, we’re not having that for dinner, are we?”

Shortbread with Pepe Saya butter

If I’m going to the trouble of making something from scratch then, as you may have gathered by now, I like to use the best ingredients I can reasonably lay my hands on.  I’ve been fairly happily using Harmonie butter in my baking for some time now, but the distance that little yellow block of joy has to travel to end up taking pride of place in my fruitcake bothers me.  I want to buy local.  I do occasionally see dairy stalls at markets when I manage to escape my family for half an hour, but if you think I’m the type that can wander up and ask for a sample then you are very very wide of the mark.  So I’ve been taking recommendations.  And what I keep hearing is Pepe Saya.

The first thing is locating it.  Go to the factory in Tempe, advises my hairdresser.  Ah, but the school holidays have started and I’m trying to minimise time in the car with my darling children, especially the Horror who still lacks an inside voice.  The website is very spartan and I’m tempted to send them a list of improvements, for example a list of vendors of their product.  Or opening hours for their shopfront.  Or if they have a shopfront.  As it turns out, Harris Farm carries it and I’ve been walking past it for ages because, for reasons best known to themselves, they package it like it’s a cheese.  Round, in a shiny foil like substance, and they also have a picture on it of someone looking down their nose which I also find to be a questionable marketing technique.

OK, I’ve got some, and I’ve prevented the Muffet from getting a surprise when she wanted a wedge of it on a cracker.  I want a recipe that showcases the butter, and what can be simpler than shortbread?  I don’t need the internet for this one, I have plenty of shortbread recipes in my less loony cookbooks and I’m going for the classic Women’s Weekly one.  Although I am tempted by the one in the Good Cookie that involves infusing the butter with tea leaves.  Hmm.  I’ll bet that’d also work with lavender.  Another time.

Unwrap the butter and load 185 grams of it into a bowl.  I don’t usually use cultured butter, basically because it’s not what I’m used to.  It’s a much more complex flavour, with slightly yoghurty overtones that I’m a bit concerned about for my recipe.  Sift in two cups of plain flour, a quarter of a cup of icing sugar and a tablespoon of ground rice.  I ground the rice in my extremely handy coffee grinder that has been getting a hell of a workout since I killed my stick mixer.  I’m also adding a half a teaspoon of vanilla for a bit of fragrance.  Knead it all together, then dump it onto a floured work bench.  I don’t get it to form a smooth ball, but I roll it out anyway.  This is one that looks lovely with fancy cutter shapes because it doesn’t spread out.  I’m almost tempted to use my set of heart shapes, but in the end I use a four leaf clover shape.  I want the boys to eat them too.  You can place them very close on your baking sheet because of the lack of spreading out.

I baked mine at 180 degrees for about twenty minutes, and you can see from the photo that this was too high a temperature.  I have a fan forced oven, so next time I’ll go with 160 degrees and will keep an eye on them.  You don’t really want them to brown.  My fears about the tang were completely unfounded, I’ve got a subtle flavoured, beautifully textured biscuit that will reward contemplation over a cup of tea.  Pity I don’t drink tea.  Also a pity that the dripping wet little boys that rushed past and inhaled a few didn’t bother contemplating the subtle flavours.  They did say “YUMM!!”.


Lucky that worked out so well, because I bought quite a lot of the butter.  Christmas baking coming up, after all.


Peanut Butter Cookies

My pair of Pillsbury cookbooks from the early 1960s could constitute a fully formed blog in themselves. I’ve really only looked into them in the past to laugh at the jellied salad recipes, but I’ve been trying to expand my biscuit repertoire lately and these books are a treasure trove. For my American readership, your cookies are our biscuits. Your biscuits are, well, who knows, we definitely don’t eat that kind of thing here and certainly not with chitlins.

I’m working out of the Pillsbury Family cookbook today, and I’m going to make Peanut Butter Cookies. I’m ignoring the blandishments of the more imaginatively titled Holiday Riches, Cherry Winks, Cinnamon Dandies and Starlight Mint-Surprise Cookies, and am going for something that may kill one of my children’s fellow students if they breathe on them inappropriately, I like to walk on the wild side. It may be for this reason that my children have discouraged me from trying this recipe whenever I suggest it, but they’re at school so what are they going to do?

Cream together 160 grams of butter with half a cup of peanut butter. I’m using that freshly ground peanut butter from the health food shop. That stuff has some fascinating rheological properties that would interest the chaps studying particulate flow at the Department of Theoretical Chemistry, but possibly not you, so I won’t go on about it. Any peanut butter would do, really. Beat in a cup of brown sugar, a teaspoon of cinnamon and a teaspoon of vanilla essence. Actually the resulting bowl of deliciousness would work very well as the filling in some kind of roll. Mental note for another day.

Mix in an egg. Add a cup and a half of plain flour, a teaspoon and a half of baking powder and about five turns of the salt grinder. Mix it in good. I’m going to quote now. “Shape dough into balls, using a rounded teaspoon for each. Place on ungreased cookie sheets”. Not me, I’m a firm believer in baking paper. “Flatten balls with fork tines, crisscross fashion. Bake at 375 degrees for ten to twelve minutes”. Of course, in SI units that’s 453 Kelvin, but that’s not much use to you either, so let’s go with 180 degrees Celsius.

I tried baking one sheet for ten minutes, or until just golden, and one for twenty minutes, or until well browned. I think the kids will prefer the slightly chewy just golden version, but the man of the house will choose the crunchy ones then sigh that they’re not gingernuts. See, I did do the crisscross, that kind of low level decoration I can do.



My parents-in-law are taking the Horror from Outer Space for the weekend, and to express my extreme gratitude I’m making them gingernuts.  Old fashioned ones that’ll crack your dentures unless you dip them in tea.  Not that they wear dentures.  Poppa loves gingernuts, Nanna still suffers from vestiges of a harsh Protestant upbringing that causes her to regard food as fuel and not something to be enjoyed, but she does like the idea of home cooking and for everyone to be happy, so that’s good enough for me.

My recipe is based on the one in 1970 edition of the Women’s Weekly cookbook that I’m sure every Australian household still has.

In a saucepan melt 100 grams of butter with a tablespoon of golden syrup.  I sometimes wonder if I should look for a fancy pants alternative to the CSR version I use, since that’s the direction I seem to be heading in, but it has a distinctive taste.  Lyle’s golden syrup is completely different.  I’m sure you could use it, but it’s a lot more effeminate tasting.

In a bowl mix together one cup of caster sugar (don’t go messing with brown sugar in this recipe, they won’t be as crunchy), three teaspoons of ground ginger, one teaspoon of mixed spice and an egg.  By this time the butter should have melted, so toss into it a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and stir it up to make it fizz.  I don’t think this is an essential instruction, but I like it.  Tip the butter mixture into the sugar mixture and mix it all up.  Add two cups of flour and work it in.  It’s a pretty stiff dough.

Pinch walnut sized bits (in their shell, not out) of dough and press them round in the palm of your hand.  You can put them fairly close together on your lined biscuit tray, they don’t spread a lot.  Bake at a hundred and eighty degrees until they’re really quite brown.  I was going to time them today, I can tell you that I put them in the oven at exactly 11.56am, but then I started looking at Facebook, and there was a Melbourne Cup lunch going, and you know, some time later my nose said to me I think they’re done now. It may have been twenty five minutes.  Anyway, you don’t want to burn them, but for that brick like consistency you need them pretty brown.


So I think these should go some way to expressing my thanks, and take their mind off the fact that the Horror is going through their house like a swarm of ants eating everything he can find with sugar in it.