I have a new job. Well, more accurately, at the beginning of the year my job at Hatchards was tweaked a little and I have become The Shop Scribe. The title was mentioned jokingly at first but it has stuck and I rather like it. The images it conjures up are of dusty Dickensian desks and quill pens. My reality is a laptop that the cat uses as a bed, that is, when she’s not helping me edit.
In addition to writing the shop’s catalogue I am writing a weekly newsletter and reviews etc as and when they are needed. A quick look at the website revealed that the last blog had been written in 2016 so I am also writing a monthly blog, selecting books loosely based on an event or particular date: The Boat Race, St George’s Day, The Chelsea Flower Show. I was telling someone how shockingly out of date it had got and they replied ‘Yours isn’t much better!’ Rubbish, I thought…… but then I checked and realised that our track record isn’t much better. So, my not-so-new-year’s resolution is that when I write a blog for Hatchards I’ll also write a post here. My hope is that resolutions made in mid-March are easier to keep than those made on New Year’s Day. I prefer the word post to blog but a little distinction between the two may not be a bad thing; Hatchards customers probably won’t want to know my opinions on gardens, although they might want this wonderful biscuit recipe.
One of the most important dates in culinary history was 1977. This was when the recipe for Delia Smith’s Chocolate Orange Biscuits appeared in her Book of Cakes. Over the years I have adapted it for all manner of fruits and nuts, combining them with dark, milk or white chocolate. Particularly good combinations that Sally and I discovered for our books Berries, Nuts and Cherries and Mulberries (to be published in June) are:
- Hazelnuts and milk chocolate
Walnuts (replace the orange juice with maple syrup)
Dried cranberries and white chocolate
Dried cherries, cocoa and dark chocolate
Dried mulberries and white chocolate (don’t be put off by the appearance of dried mulberries; they look rather like something you might put on a fishing hook. Once cooked they disappear into the biscuits, giving a lovely chewiness)
- Makes 25-30 biscuits
125 g / 4 oz / 1 stick soft butter
175 g / 6 oz / 1 cup caster (superfine) sugar
225 g / 8 oz / 2 cups plain (all purpose) flour
25 g / 1 oz / ¼ cup cocoa (if using)
2 teaspoons baking powder
75 g / 3 oz / ½ cup dark, milk or white chocolate, chopped into small chunks
100 g / 3 ½ oz dried berries, chopped
- OR 30 g / 1 oz nuts, chopped OR
for the original biscuits, grated zest from 2 oranges
- 1-2 tablespoons orange juice (or 4 tablespoons maple syrup) as necessary
Heat the oven to 180 C / 350 F / Gas 4
Beat the butter and sugar together till pale and creamy. Sift the flour and baking powder and mix well. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix together. You should have a stiff, slightly crumbly dough. Don’t be tempted to add too much orange juice.
Lightly flour a work top and roll out the dough to roughly ¾ cm / ½ inch. It will be very crumbly but that doesn’t matter, just squish it together. The biscuits will hold together once cooked. Cut into 5 cm / 2 inch rounds and place on a greased baking tray. Allow space between the biscuits as they tend to spread. Bake on the top shelf for about 10-12 minutes until golden, be careful not to burn them. Leave to cool on the baking tray for a couple of minutes to firm up and then transfer to a wire rack to cool fully. In the unlikely event that any are left, these biscuits can be stored in an airtight tin.