Start spreadin’ the jam: / I’m baking today! / Those stay-at-home blues / Are meltin’ away…
Stay in, get your bake on, and whip up a batch of these two-tier, jelly tot-topped marvels.
BEHIND THE BISCUIT.
These (slightly non-PC-titled) snacks are a stalwart of every good Scottish bakery’s shop window. They feature a duo of fluted shortbread spheres, double-deckered via a slathering of berry jam, and are topped with a jelly tot set in a puddle of water icing. Cousin of the Austrian ‘Linzer biscuit,’ they were known as ‘German biscuits’ until the First World War and anti-Teutonic sentiment forced a rebranding. In an exercise of patriotic pride, enter, post-1914, the ‘Empire biscuit.’ Nowadays, perhaps ‘Commonwealth biscuit’ would be a little less contentious. But what’s in a name? The biscuit by any other name would still taste as sweet…
Makes 10-12 shortbread sandwiches (i.e. 20 ish shortbread discs).
100 g. of (unsalted) butter, slightly softened.
100 g. of caster sugar.
1 medium-sized egg.
275 g. of plain flour (or 200 g. plain flour
plus 75 g. cornflour).
A couple of drops of vanilla essence/extract.
4 teaspoons of jam (strawberry or raspberry are
100 g. of icing sugar.
2 tablespoons of boiling water.
12 jelly tots (or see VARIATIONS).
1 x large mixing bowl.
2 x small (cereal/soup) bowls.
1 x wooden spoon.
1 x tablespoon.
1 x teaspoon.
1 x sieve.
2 x baking trays, lined with baking parchment.
1 x fluted scone/biscuit cutter, approx. 6 cm.
1 x wire cooling rack.
Oven, preheated to 190 degrees Celsius (or 170 fan).
Cream the (slightly softened) butter block in a bowl with the caster sugar, until moussily fluffy.
Crack in the egg, beating in along with a few scant drops of the vanilla essence or extract.
Sieve in the flour, or the flour + cornflour combo (the latter is preferable, although more pernickety, as it results in a better-textured, more crumbly biscuit).
Stir together, first with a wooden spoon, then with your (recently scrubbed and antibacterially-sterilized) hands, combining the mixture together to form a single ball of dough. It should be very dry so this process can take a couple of minutes, but persevere: don’t bis-quit!
Once you’ve bent the dough to your will- as well as into a ball shape- chill (both yourself and the dough) for at least half an hour. Meanwhile, put the oven on to heat up.
Lightly dust a work surface with flour, then roll the (chilled-out) dough to a rough rectangle, approximately the thickness of a pound coin.
Cut out as many rounds as possible, then reroll any scraps and repeat, until all of the dough has been used up.
Arrange, evenly-spaced, on two baking trays; bake for around 10 minutes, removing when the shortbread biscuits begin to blush brown around their edges. Decant to a wire cooling rack, and (summoning self-discipline) leave until completely cool.
Flour of Scotland: Step 8.
Meanwhile, set two small bowls alongside the cooling rack. In one, dollop the jammy spoonfuls and whisk vigorously to loosen it into a spreading consistently. In the other, swirl two tablespoons of boiled water into the sieved icing sugar until it forms a smooth, glossy paste, the consistency of nail varnish.
Jam Session: Step 9.
Now time for the Empire Bake Building! Start spreadin’ the jam in the centre of half of the now-cooled cookies, then use the remaining neglected cookie contingent as tops, to create a sort of ‘shortbread sandwich’ structure.
Empire Bake Building: Step 10.
Sketch a circle of water icing atop each of these stacked snacks, pressing a jelly tot into pride of place, dead centre, before the icing begins to set.
These biscuits will last for up to 5 days in a sealed tupperware; these biscuits will last for up to 5 minutes in a hungry household.
Recipe adapted from Dean’s Shortbread.
When life gives you lemons… Try replacing the jam with lemon curd, topping instead with candied citrus slices. Just the zest!
Yummy and gummy! Jelly tots can also be replaced by whatever jellied sweet takes your fancy. Dare to bear with a gelatine ursine, or have a yolk with a fried egg.
Loco for cocoa? Substitute 50 g. of the flour for cocoa powder, and stud each biscuit buttie with a chocolate button.