Biscuits have really been transformed into an art form over the last few years. My daughter was given “The Biscuiteers Book of Iced Biscuits” a few years ago and it is a beautiful book to look through and admire. I have made some of the biscuit recipes in the past but never tried to ice them properly as I thought they would be very fiddly and time-consuming. Which, it turns out, they are sort of are, but in a good way. And royal icing, which has always scared me, as has piping, is a lot less trouble than you might think. So even though my first attempts may not look exactly like the ones on the cover of the original edition of the book, I was still quite pleased with how they turned out.
Hearts seemed like a good place to start as it is Valentine’s Day soon and they look good with a relatively simple design. The chocolate biscuit recipe makes a large quantity of dough so I wrapped up half of it and put in the freezer for another time. This is a really good recipe for any shaped cutters you have as the biscuits will hold their shape perfectly when baked.
You can leave your biscuits plain and they will be deliciously chocolatey and crunchy, or ice them with glacé icing or even sugarpaste if you don’t want to attempt piping. If you want to try the royal icing there are two types, line icing and flooding icing: flooding icing is just watered down line icing. I didn’t attempt to make my own royal icing from scratch, instead I used royal icing mix and water in the proportions the Biscuiteers suggest. I used 300g royal icing mix and 50ml cold water, which should be more than enough for a full batch of biscuits.
275g plain flour
100g SR flour
75g cocoa powder
125g granulated sugar
125g golden syrup
1 large egg, beaten
Royal icing (see above)
Red gel food colouring
Sift the flours and cocoa into a large bowl and mix in the sugar.
Cut the butter into cubes and add. Rub the ingredients together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs:
Make a well in the centre of the mixture and add the syrup and egg. Mix well using a knife and then use your hands to form into a ball.
To roll out the dough:
Place the dough on a piece of baking parchment and begin by squashing it down with a rolling pin or your hands. Roll out with a rolling pin. You can put a second piece of parchment paper over the top if you like. I found it impossible to keep it from moving around too much with the second piece of paper and the mixture didn’t stick to my rolling pin.
Set the oven to 170ºC.
Cut out the biscuits and place evenly on lined baking trays:
Bake for around 14-18 minutes. Allow to cool on the trays for a minute and then transfer to a wire cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before storing or icing.
The biscuits can either be left plain or iced. To ice them with royal icing using royal icing mix:
Put 50ml water into the bowl of an electric mixer and sieve in 300g icing sugar. Using the whisk attachment, begin to beat slowly. Continue whisking for about five minutes until the mixture forms a thick smooth paste that is bright white and has the consistency of toothpaste.
If you want to colour your icing, divide it into bowls and add gel food colouring to get the shades you want. I added red to make a lighter and a darker pink.
You can then add a little water to some of your icing to make flooding icing. It should be a smooth, just pourable liquid:
Put your line icing into a piping bag – if you are using a disposable ones you can either snip off the end to make a very small hole or use a nozzle.
Using the line icing, pipe around the edges of your biscuits. This will essentially create a “dam” to contain the flooding icing:
The rest of the biscuit can be filled in with the flooding icing, using either a piping bag, squeezy bottle or even a teaspoon. You can also use flooding icing on top of flooding icing to make a pattern. This needs to be done straight away or the second colour will sit on the top instead of melting into the surface (see below!).
Happy Valentine’s Day!