Monday, 11 July 2011

Custard Creams

I started a new job a month ago and I can say, without any fear of contradiction, that this office is the snackiest I have ever worked in. Everywhere I look, people spend their day scoffing biscuits, cakes and pastries in vast quantities. One man brings in two supermarket cakes every single day - and they all get eaten in time for the next delivery the following day. Honestly, it's a wonder these people can still manage to fit in the lift.


I've worked in snacky offices before. One of the best had a tradition called the "Jolly Trolley", where every week the company gave different teams £40 to spend on drinks and snacks for Friday afternoons. Some teams would choose a theme (American, with Krispy Kremes, Nachos and Beers; child's tea party, with cheese and pineapple on sticks, fairy cakes and jam sandwiches; summat a bit classy, with prosecco, charcuterie and good cheese), while others just went on a spending spree around Tesco grabbing anything faintly tempting. From 2pm onwards, everyone in the company gathered, snacked, boozed and otherwise whiled away the hours until home time. As an intern, it was pretty bloody great.

But in terms of everyday snackage, I think my current office takes the biscuit (ahem). I am trying really hard not to succumb - mostly because I am quite greedy enough in the evenings - but custard creams are my weak spot and I have to admit to snarfing a few in the long, dead hours of the afternoon. Sometimes, an apple just won't cut it.

I'd seen this recipe of Nigella's ages ago and my current work-time dalliance with shop-bought custard creams reminded me to try it out. Apparently, custard creams are officially the Nation's Favourite Biscuit, and I know that the ones you get in shops are fatally delicious. But home-made, I think they're even nicer. AND, because they aren't full of transfats or E numbers or whatever, they classify as "healthier" so you can eat more of them! I'm convinced by that argument. Don't tell me if I'm wrong.

Anyway, these are really delicious and although the recipe makes a lot, you can always find someone to take some off your hands. I also had a worrying amount of fun making the little dotted marks around the edge of my biscuits with a fork. I know that sounds pathetic, but it was weirdly satisfying, and I do feel a bit ashamed of admitting that. I am, however, NOT ashamed of the photo below showing the grease marks on the baking paper. Have you seen the Simpsons episode where Homer wants to become obese and his diet plan is to eat "anything that turns paper see-through"? What a good rule for life. Or, at least, for snacks.

Anyway, both vegetable shortening and custard powder (who knew that it was pink?) were freshly bought for this recipe, so I now have loads of both to use up. If anyone has any bright suggestions, please do let me know - otherwise, it might just have to be more Custard Creams. Is that the Jolly Trolley I hear jingling towards me? Yes, I know it's only Monday, but Monday needs jollity even more than Friday. Happy Monday!

Custard Creams
From Nigella's Feast
Makes quite a lot, depending on what size of cutter you use, but you're not exactly going to use half an egg so just make the full batch and give some away if you don't think you can eat them all. Or if you think you can easily eat them all but you are trying not to.

For the Biscuits
- 175g plain flour
- 3 tablespoons of Bird's custard powder
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 50g unsalted butter
- 50g vegetable shortening
- 3 tablespoons of caster sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon of milk, more or less

In a food processor (I used our teeny tiny one and it just about fitted), blitz together the flour, custard and baking powders, then add the butter and white vegetable stuff in cubes and whiz until it looks like crumble. Add the sugar, pulse again, then chuck in the egg and milk and process until it comes together in a ball. Wrap in cling film and rest it in the fridge for 20 minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking tray with parchment.

After 20 minutes (or however long - I got bored and cracked after 10 and it was fine), roll it out to about half a centimetre thick. It's quite a wet, sticky dough so you might need a fair bit of flour to stop yourself from going mad rolling it out. 

Cut into an even number of shapes using whichever fun cutters you have. I realized that most of mine are Christmassy, so just used a heart and a diamond, but anything would look nice here. Use a fork to make the little dotted lines around the edges then bake for around 13 minutes and cool on a rack.

For the icing
- 1 tablespoon of custard powder
- 100g icing sugar
- 50g butter
- 1 teaspoon of boiling water

Another very easy Nigella icing in the processor - whiz the icing sugar and custard powder together to get rid of any lumps, then add the butter and water and whiz until creamy and smooth. Use to squish together your biscuits and enjoy!

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