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I have made plain ones with chocolate on top and I made them rather large so they would photograph better.
You will need:
- 6 oz Self Raising Flour
- 3 oz Caster Sugar
- 3 oz butter
- 1 medium egg
- 2 teaspoons of instant coffee dissolved in a tablespoon of hot water if you are making the coffee kisses. Or vanilla essence.
Oven 180 C, 350 F or gas mark 4. A greased or lined baking sheet.
Soften the butter and mix with the flour and sugar, stir in the beaten egg and either the coffee or vanilla essence and mix well. Divide the dough into 24 balls the size of a walnut and place on the baking sheet. Cook for about 15 minutes. When cool sandwich them together in 12 pairs with either plain or coffee flavoured butter cream. Melt some chocolate for the top if you have any!!
Mix everything together.
Try to sandwich them together just before serving as the butter icing tends to make the shortbread soft.
When drinking tea, what would you think goes along with a nice cuppa tea?! While one may prefer a tea sandwich, a little cake, but for some, there are tea biscuits. There is a wide variety that you could either make or purchase that simply make tea more enjoyable and more filling. It’s what helps make Afternoon Tea so enjoyable.
So what kind of biscuit would one go for when having a cup of tea? Here are just a few of the basics below:
The Digestive–One of the most popular biscuits for tea, they are perfect for soaking up tea and taking a bite! And these are not meant for dunking in milk, trust me, I’ve tried! It doesn’t soak up as well as it does in tea! The Digestive, made by McVities, is made with wheat flour, and was invented in the 19th century to originally aid with digestion, hence then name Digestive. While the name does sound a bit off, the biscuit is actually very delicious and very addictive! If you try them with chocolate, it’s an added bonus!
Rich Tea–Also made by McVities, the Rich Tea is made in the same shape as the Digestives-round and stamped with the McVities logo. The difference with these biscuits are that these are not crumbly like the Digestives, but are instead more crispy and light than Digestives. These were the original “tea biscuit”, meant for the higher classes in British society in 17th Century Yorkshire but is now for everyone to enjoy!
Shortbread-Rich and buttery, these biscuits are very creamy and melt-in-your-mouth! These go way back to the 12th century in Scotland, shortbread biscuits were originally known as “biscuit bread” which was created from leftover bread dough. The yeast in the bread was soon to be replaced by butter, which is how it has the signature buttery flavor!
Custard Cream–One of the most popular and beloved biscuits in the British Isles, this one is very addictive! Embossed with a Victorian design, these can be enjoyed with our without tea.
Bourbon Cream–Don’t be mistaken! There is no alcohol in this but is actually chocolate! The name is said to be originated from the House of Bourbon in France. Sandwiched in between chocolate buttercream, these are also hard to eat less than a few!
Britain has a great variety of biscuits so it would take me a lifetime to talk about them all! Do you have favorites that are not listed here and how do you eat them? Do you dunk them in tea or simply eat them without tea? Always feel free to discuss!
PART II – RECIPE
Digestives Biscuits with a difference. Do you have a wheat allergy? Then this is a recipe for you, they only take 15 minutes in the oven and they taste good. You can use a variety of flours or just on kind, I used wheatmeal flour which is made from oats but I did not have have any buckwheat so I just doubled the quantity of wheatmeal flour.
So you will need:
- 4 oz Oat Flour
- 4 oz unsalted butter
- 4 oz Buckwheat flour
- 2 oz light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or less
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon milk (any kind you want)
- A greased baking sheet or two, this quantity makes about 12.
- Set the oven to moderate 180 C 350 F gas mark 4
- Sieve the flours with the baking powder, sugar and salt then beat in the butter, egg yolk and milk.
When well combined turn out onto a floured worktop and roll out. You can make the biscuits any thickness you like but bare in mind they will spread on the sheet. Cut out with a biscuit cutter and place on the baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes and allow to cool slightly before lifting onto a wire rack. Enjoy one with a nice cup of tea.
Now I know we have already made shortbread but that was some time ago and this is a slightly different recipe because it contains a pinch of salt which does change the taste quite dramatically and then with the addition of the chocolate covering it makes for a whole new taste experience. You will need:
6 oz softened butter
4 oz caster sugar
8 oz plain flour
a pinch of salt
a small bar of chocolate for covering.
Oven 180 C, 160 C for a Fan oven, 350 F or gas mark 4
Mix all the ingredients together and knead well. Place in the ‘fridge for half an hour and then roll out onto baking paper to about 1/4 inch thick and slide the paper onto a baking sheet. Prick the shortbread all over with a fork and cook for about 20 minutes checking after 15 minutes that it is not too brown. If it is too dark cover with aluminum foil for the remaining cooking time. Cut the shortbread into strips while still hot and leave to cool. Once cool, melt any chocolate that you have not already eaten in the microwave and spread on top of the individual strips of shortbread, leaving some uncovered so you can taste the difference between the two. Enjoy with a cup of Assam or Earl Grey Cream.
For the shortbread:
170g plain flour
60g caster sugar
120g unsalted butter
For the caramel:
1 tin of condensed milk (397g)
2tbsp golden syrup
60g caster sugar
1 cup of soft brown sugar
1 tbsp vanilla essence
1 (100g) bar of milk chocolate melted
Preheat oven to 170 deg C or gas mark 4, lightly grease or line a 8″ square cake tin.
For shortbread, sieve flour and sugar together into a large bowl. With clean hands, rub the butter into the mixture until it comes together as a dough (if squeezed in hand should keep its shape) then press it into the bottom of the prepared tin spreading it evenly and prick all over with a fork. Bake for 15-20 mins or until golden brown.
For the caramel, while shortbread is baking, pour the condensed milk syrup, sugars, butter and vanilla into a saucepan and cook over a medium heat. Note: You must continue to stir once the mixture heats up! I did turn mine up more but it is important to keep stirring (do not allow the mixture to burn and stick). This step takes awhile – be prepared! The mixture will eventually thicken and become a deep caramel colour. Once thick enough, pour on top of the shortbread base, then put into fridge to chill for 30 mins or so.
Melt chocolate using a Bain Marie method (a inch or so or boiling water in a saucepan and a glass bowl placed over the top to allow the steam to melt the chocolate without curdling it). Pour chocolate over set caramel and return to fridge to set for 30 minutes. Cut into desired squares, then return to fridge to set completely (mine took an hour or so).
These will keep for 5 days in an airtight container, refrigerated
Tip…..use a mixture of different chocolate if you like-try mixing dark/milk/white and swirl together when pouring over caramel set in fridge.
Happy 2015! It is once again the New Year and that means new everything! It does not just mean “new year, new me” but as a way to start anew. There are 365 brand new days ahead of us and we have the power to make each of them great! So while we ring in the new year by raising our glasses (whether it’s champagne or tea), others have their yearly rituals to ensure good luck in the coming year.
Great Britain rings in the new year with fireworks over the Thames with everyone cheering and shouting their celebrations, singing Auld Lang Syne. The British then open the back door of their homes to wish the old year farewell and reflect on the year passed. The first-foot of the new year is very important. To ensure good luck to the residents of the house, the first entrant to the front door must usually be young, male, good-looking, and healthy. He must also be dark haired and carrying a bit of coal, salt, bread, and money. It’s apparently even better if this gentleman is a stranger! The children also wake up early to visit their neighbors to sing some some New Year’s songs. The neighbors usually give the children sweets, apples, mince pies, and coins in exchange for the songs. This is usually done until noon.
Over in Scotland, people celebrate Hogmanay. It is the celebration of New Year’s Eve, lasting from the last day of the year up until January 2. The Scottish take it a whole new level! Fireworks and musical performances line the night at the big moment! Then at the stroke of midnight, the partygoers begin to sing Auld Lang Syne, a Scots poem by a gentleman named Robert Burns. Linking and crossing arms arms and singing at the last verse. The song is also played in Times Square in New York City after the ball drops (did you know that the ball is usually made from Waterford Crystal in Ireland?) at midnight.
And much like Britain, Scotland also partakes in first-foot. They give coal, shortbread, whisky, and a black bun, which is a type of fruit cake covered in a delicious pastry. The guest is then give food and drink. In Britain, it is also a good gesture to offer tea to the guest. Possibly to accompany some delicious shortbread or mince pies/black buns. The first entrant of the year might fancy a good cuppa after such a celebration. The pick could be the standard Typhoo or maybe something a little more different, perhaps a good Irish or Scottish tea? Keep in mind the people over in the UK have entire store aisles devoted to tea, so the choices are endless!
Editor’s Note: I am including the English version of Auld Lang Syne here for those of us who never really knew exactly what is sung (italics for original Scot/modern English translation):
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and days of long ago?
- For days of long ago, my dear,
for days of long ago,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for days of long ago.
And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for days of long ago.
We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since days of long ago.
We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine†;
But seas between us broad have roared
since days of long ago.
And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for days of long ago.
Shamrocks are associated with Ireland and so is tea. So, like the transitive property of equality (if a=b and b=c, then a=c), it is safe to conclude that shamrocks and tea just naturally go together. Small wonder it pops up on the tea table.
What is a shamrock?
There seem to be no easy answers in this world. Even answering such a supposedly simple question as this one is fraught with controversy. The consensus, though, seems to be that there is no one plant that is the “shamrock plant.” The word “shamrock” is derived from the Irish Gaelic seamrog which means “little clover.” Since there are hundreds of varieties of clover, more investigation is needed to narrow down the options. Around 1893, botanist Nathaniel Colgan collected samples from people all over Ireland and discovered that there were about four different plants (Trifolium repens, Trifolium minus, Trifolium pretense, and Medicago lepulina) that qualified as shamrocks. The main feature is the three-leaves-on-a-stem shape we have all come to recognize. (There is a mutation that occurs rather often where a fourth leaf is on the stem – the proverbial four-leaf-clover – that is a symbol of good luck.)
Shamrocks and the Irish
Officially, the symbol of Ireland is the Celtic Harp. However, to many people, the shamrock is equally important. It is more of an emblem of Irish culture and is used in the official logos of Fáilte Ireland (the Irish Tourist Board) and other Irish organizations and companies such as Aer Lingus, the official airline of Ireland. Part of the shamrock’s stature as an emblem of Ireland is due to religion, and part is due to politics. The religious connection is the three leaves on that stem being equated to the Christian triumvirate. The political connection started with Queen Victoria who made it a capital crime to wear the shamrock on military uniforms, punishable by death. In defiance, displaying the shamrock proudly on one’s clothing (the “Wearing of the Green”) began and the shamrock became a popular decoration on buildings, clothing, and even furniture. It became a source of empowerment and national pride.
Today, the shamrock, the most instantly recognizable emblem of Ireland, is often included in the bouquet of an Irish bride and in the groom’s boutonniere. A shamrock rating on a Bed & Breakfast in Ireland means high quality. Also on St. Patrick’s Day in these modern times a member of the British Royal Family presents a Shamrock to the Irish Guards regiment of the British Army. And you’ll see the Irish sporting shamrocks on their clothing. Here in the U.S. we’re more inclined to wear the shamrock color – green!
“Wearin’ of the Green” at Tea Time
The shamrock tends to pop up at tea time, too, with things like the lovely shamrock teawares shown here (teapot in either the 7-cup or 2-cup size, mugs, sugar & creamer sets, and teabag caddy). (They are earthenware and safe for use in the dishwasher and microwave.) Fill up the teapot with some of Ireland’s favorites, such as Lyon’s and Barry’s. Pile the shamrock shortbread, shortbread fingers, and shortbread petticoat tails on a serving plate, and set it out with that tea for a special tea time. See my list of teas for March.
And don’t forget to “wear the green,” be it a shamrock (real or fake) or green apparel. Enjoy!
See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.
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What’s teatime without a treat? Shortbread, cookies (or “biscuits” as the British say), tarts, mince pies and more have been satisfying tea drinkers for centuries. Walkers has been a premier brand, supplying taste-pleasing tidbits since 1898.
Affordable, rich-tasting, and full of British tradition — what more could you want to tickle your teatime tastebuds? You’ll find them all in Walkers. I’ve been enjoying their Shortbread Fingers for over 15 years. They go with a variety of teas, from Irish Breakfast (usually 100% Assam and having a rich, malty taste that comes through even when you add milk and sweetener) to Chai Green to a delicate white tea. Their mince pies (a Christmas-time favorite) are totally addictive.
Joseph Walker, being a true Scotsman, knew the goodness of shortbread. From the days of Mary, Queen of Scots, in the mid 16th century, when she frequently ate a thin, crisp, buttery shortbread flavored with caraway seeds, shortbread has grown in popularity in Scotland and across the British Empire (at one time so widespread around the globe that the sun never set on it). That empire is no more, but shortbread is as popular as ever, thanks to Walker.
Starting with a small bakery, Walker soon became the supplier of shortbread to shooting parties on estates nearby. They would even go out of their way to stop at his shop for a fresh batch. He soon expanded to a larger shop in Aberlour, a village in Speyside (where the river Spey flows through a richly verdant valley) and added horse-and-cart delivery.
The business grew into a real family affair, with sons James and Joseph getting involved in the 1930s. They introduced new cakes and confections and expanded delivery range by switching to vans. James’ two sons and his daughter all joined the fray by 1961. Surviving through two World Wars, they grew into an exporter, supplying over 60 countries with their teatime treats and winning three Queen’s Awards for Export Achievement.
The range of Walkers products, in their distinctive red tartan package, has grown to include:
- Plain Shortbread in several shapes: Fingers, Petticoat Tails, Triangles, Rounds, and Rings
- Flavored Shortbread: Ginger, Chocolate Chip
- Biscuits (cookies): Ginger
- Crisps (what we call chips) made with fresh potatoes and in a variety of flavors (Steak & Onion, Pickled Onion, Salt & Vinegar, etc.)
- Healthy treats like oatcakes (great with cheese, jams, or fruit) — in 2002 by Royal Warrant of Appointment, Walkers became the official supplier of oatcakes to her Majesty the Queen. Walkers products are fit for royalty
- Special diet products that conform to standards of Weight Watchers
- Baked goods: fruit tarts, fruit cakes, meringues, and mince pies
Still committed to ingredients that include real butter (not the less expensive margarine used by competitors), Walkers continues to please customers and add a note of sweet and salty deliciousness to teatime tables.
Think I’ll go dunk one of their “biscuits” in a nice hot “cuppa” now. Enjoy!
Irish Breakfast + Shortbread Fingers + A.C.’s blog = Time Well Spent!
Time for a shortbread showdown. There are a number of brands out there, but is there a difference between them? Let’s find out.
First, I have to say that one of my favorite teatime treats is shortbread. It goes equally well with black tea (brewed strong and smoothed with milk and sweetener) as well as with green tea. I’ve even had it with white tea. Sometimes I dunk, but usually not. It’s so tasty on its own and inspires the poet in me:
Shortbread at breakfast.
Shortbread at lunch.
Shortbread at teatime.
Love it a bunch!
So, you ask, why are these items so tasty? In a day and age when New York City is banning trans fats and salt, when the push is on against obesity, and when the Atkins diet vilifying carbohydrates hasn’t quite yet faded away, people still go for something that tastes good. One thing I learned while seeking to drop a few pounds (or 10…uh, 20…okay, it was 45) was that part of the trick of not overeating is to feel satisfied with what you’ve eaten. And the best way to feel satisfied, I found, was to have a bit of fat. Butter is an excellent source of fat, but having a tablespoon of butter isn’t very appetizing. However, shortbread contains lots of butter (according the package I have, half the calories are from fat), so one shortbread finger with tea was not only appetizing but very satisfying.
Showdown time: all shortbread is not made alike. Some of the top brands vary in quality and taste, sometimes quite a bit, since some makers have switched to margarine instead of butter (my tastebuds can’t be fooled). One of the tried and true brands is Walkers, making shortbread with the finest ingredients since 1898. They have never skimped on quality down through the generations, and their workers (some of whom have been with the company for generations) take great pride in this.
Another brand that’s been around awhile is Border’s. Their shortbread recipe is the same one they have used for many ages. Buttery and light and in a variety of shapes, including the traditional Petticoat Tails, Border’s shortbread satisfies with rich taste that goes well with your tea. Don’t miss the “Legend of the Thistle” series, plain or with chocolate chips, in packages decorated with images traditional to Scotland: the thistle (the national flower), Eilean Donan Castle, Robert Burns (Scotland’s most famed poet), and of course pipers playing those wailing bagpipes.
Of course, you can make your own shortbread, following the traditional recipe that calls for butter, sugar, flour, and ground rice (yes, I said “rice”!). Then, you’ll certainly know the quality of the ingredients in what you’re eating. Unfortunately, if you’re like me, the shortbread might not taste as good, if it’s even edible. I have an idea…I’ll get my hubby to bake some. Then, I’ll know they’ll be yummy!
Whichever store brand you choose or even if you make your own, shortbread is a real companion to your tea. Enjoy!
Note: Please check the ingredients listed for potential allergens (nuts, milk, soy, wheat, gluten).
Just like shortbread, A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill, is sure to satisfy!