When Sandi and Noel announced the technical challenge to close out this season of The Great British Bake Off, I thought ‘oh, ginger biscuits – that can’t be too bad.’ But then they said the word ‘iced’. And THEN, they showed us what they meant by ‘iced’…
How in the world was I supposed to do this? Just look at that lace pattern. And the one on the right needs to be flooded. I mean, really.
The recipe was Prue’s and involves lots of chilling of the dough in each stage to ensure you can cut shapes out of the dough without them expanding during baking.
For the ginger biscuits:
150g butter, plus extra for greasing
100g light muscovado sugar
2 tsp molasses (black treacle)
3 tbsp beaten egg – for me, this was about 1/2tbsp shy of a single egg.
225g plain flour
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cloves
For the royal icing:
3 large egg whites
750g icing sugar
1 1/2 tsp glycerin (this was mentioned in the methodology but not listed in the ingredients. A similar Mary Berry recipe suggested this was the right amount
1 tsp lemon juice
Blue, yellow, green and red colour paste – I accidentally forgot to buy yellow, but I had all other colours so I made a pink and used that in place of the yellows
Step 1 – Lightly grease 2 baking sheets with butter. Beat the butter, sugar and molasses in a bowl until fluffy. Gradually add the egg, beating well between each addition.
Step 2 – Sift together all the remaining ingredients into a bowl. Stir into the butter mixture.
Step 3 – Press the dough into a flat layer between 2 sheets of greaseproof paper. I rolled this out all the way at this stage but you only need to roll it a bit and then you roll it properly after it’s been chilled. Chill for 1 hour until firm.
Step 4 – Heat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5.
Step 5 – On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to 5mm thick. Cut out 6, 8cm square biscuits and 6, 10cm long oval biscuits and place on the baking sheets. I cut out all 6 ovals and 4 squares but had to re-roll out the dough to get the final two squares out. I didn’t rechill before doing this but I would recommend you do, otherwise the dough really does go quite soft and the squares don’t have such straight edges. Chill until firm.
Mine was definitely 5mm thick..
Step 6 – Bake in the middle of the oven for 8-12 minutes or until the edge of the biscuits are lightly browned. Cool for 1 minute, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Step 7 – For the royal icing, mix the egg white with 3 tbsp of the icing sugar in a large bowl and add the (1 1/2 tsp of) glycerine and lemon juice.
Step 8 – Add the remaining icing sugar gradually and mix very well until the icing holds its shape. Do not overbeat or bubbles will form. Divide the icing into 2. Leave one bowl white and divide the remaining icing between 5 small bowls. Colour 4 of the bowls, blue, yellow, green and red. Preparation is key…:
Step 9 – Add water drop by drop to the coloured icing and mix to a piping consistency. Spoon the coloured icings into 5 piping bags fitted with writing nozzles. My red was way too thin but the rest of my coloured icings were okay. Just have to be careful when using colourings that are liquid, not gel, as it does mess with the consistency.
Step 10 – Add water drop by drop to the white icing and mix to a piping consistency. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a writing nozzle. I had 2 different whites in piping bags, one with a super thin writing nozzle to be used for the outline on the coloured biscuits, and for the lace on the square biscuits, and then the other white had a much thicker nozzle to – in theory – flood the big white area on the oval biscuits. The ‘flooding’ white I’d also made thinner but both of my whites I think were still too thick.
Step 11 – Decorate the biscuits as per the templates below, loosening or thickening the icings with water or icing sugar to the correct consistency. The problem with this statement is that one the icing is in a bag it’s a real pain to loosen or thicken the icing – taking it all back out of the bag then putting it back in the bag, which would then be all messy.
I really did do my best but after 3 ovals – two of which I outlined before flooding, and one of which I freehand flooded, and after piping one of the laced biscuits, I just gave up.
So I just messed about piping the rest of my biscuits…
I was sort of frustrated that this was the final technical challenge of the year as I really didn’t do as well as I would have liked.. I think I could have done much better if I’d only had just slightly looser white piping icing as I was getting the hang of the pattern of the lace but my hand was just shaking and aching with the effort of piping.. Oh well, there’s always next year!