I wanted to bake something yesterday to bring with me on a elevenses visit today – it had to be quick and simple, and I didn’t want to go shopping for ingredients.
Now, I’m not that much of a ‘sweet treats’ baker, so my standard store cupboard ingredients collection is a bit basic – plain and self-raising flour, a few different sorts of sugar (but no icing sugar), unsalted butter (but no lard or margarine), golden syrup and treacle, eggs of course, and some baking powder and bicarb of uncertain vintage. Add to that a few leftover part bags of dried fruits and nuts, some rolled oats and wheat bran, and that, really, is about it. We’re a bit low on fresh fruit, there’s no cream in the fridge, and I haven’t got any cooking chocolate. So, what to make?
This took a good bit of cookbook mining. I had in mind making muffins, but struggled to find an interesting recipe to make with the ingredients to hand. I didn’t really want to make a cake which would require icing, and struggled to find an interesting tea loaf that matched my baking supplies. Finally, I came across this rather lovely simple little recipe for oat biscuits (these are sweet biscuits, very much like cookies, and not to be confused with the savoury oat cakes eaten with cheese!), in this National Trust published book of over 300 traditional British recipes.
Set the oven to 200C before you start measuring your ingredients, as this recipe comes together very quickly.
To make 12 large biscuits –
- 110g unsalted butter
- 2 tsp golden syrup
- 110g granulated sugar
- 100g rolled oats
- 75g plain flour
- bicarbonate of soda
- salt (optional)
Melt the butter and golden syrup in a saucepan. Meanwhile, weigh out the dry ingredients and mix these together, adding a pinch of salt if you like. In a small ramekin or cruet, mix 1/4 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda into a dessertspoon of hot water and dissolve. When the butter and syrup are melted and combined, take the pan off the heat and stir in the dissolved bicarb, and then add dry ingredients and mix fully.
Line a large baking sheet with greaseproof paper, and spoon the biscuit mix as evenly as you can onto the baking sheet. Using a heaped dessert spoon gave me 12 even sized measures. Then slide the baking sheet into your pre-heated oven, and don’t be tempted to wander away and forget about it. The recipe called for 10 minutes but mine were done in 7, so it’s worth staying put and watching carefully. If like mine, your oven has hot zones, turn the baking sheet around after about 5 minutes to even things out.
The biscuit mix will spread out a lot during cooking – mine essentially filled the baking sheet edge to edge. If you care about having perfect round biscuits, then spread out your mix over two cookie sheets leaving acres of space between them, but really, does it matter? Take them out of the oven when you see an even warm brown colour around the edges.
They will be very soft when you first remove them from the oven, so leave them on the baking sheet for a few minutes while they start to cool. Once they’re just cool enough to handle, carefully separate them and place on a wire rack to finish cooling. You probably won’t be able to resist tasting one though…
From start to cooling on the wire rack, these took about half an hour – they’re quick and straightforward, and taste as you’d expect – quite flapjacky, with a lovely texture and crunch. They went down well with their recipients this morning, but I did have to guard them quite enthusiastically against Hubby’s attentions to have any left to take with me!
The National Trust Complete Traditional Recipe Book, by Sarah Edington
National Trust Books, 2006 (there is a more recent, 2010 edition)
Hardcover, 336 pages. Single colour printing with coloured plates. RRP £25.
[Full disclosure: This is my book, which I received as a gift a couple of years ago. I have received no payment or sponsorship for this post, nor have I accepted a review copy. I do not have an amazon affiliate account and do not profit from any links provided.]
This is a slightly odd little book, with recipes assembled by the author from National Trust properties and collections, as well as historic recipe books and more recent publications. I’m not sure these oat biscuits are particularly representative, but then again I’m not sure what would be – the recipes run the gamut from historic entertaining dishes to regional stews, cakes and puddings, soups and salads.
Some of these recipes, inevitably, are for well-worn family favourites, and while I may not be about to give up my tried and tested cauliflower cheese for the one in this book, I may just borrow the suggestion of adding a little pinch of cayenne pepper! These are (as it says on the cover) very traditional recipes, but thoughtfully and respectfully presented without excessive re-invention, and I will definitely be coming back to it to try some of the savoury dishes soon – the recipe for Fidget Pie looked particularly tempting.
It makes an interesting counterpoint to the Ginette Mathiot book I reviewed a few weeks ago, packed with traditional French dishes – a useful reminder that we have a wide and diverse traditional food culture in the UK of which we should be justly proud.
This book would make a good primer for cooks from a different food culture who want to get to grips with traditional British food, but there are enough regional and historical goodies here that even if you’re British born and raised, and still have your grandmother’s kitchen notebooks, you’re bound to find something new to try.
‘Cooking the Books’ is my self-imposed blog challenge for 2014 – I’ll be trying to cook a new recipe from one of my (rather extensive!) collection of cookbooks once a week, write it up and review it. Wish me luck!
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