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A cookie for minimalists

Vera Dawson
Summit Daily/Kristin Skvorc
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Devoured in less than two bites, this simple, sophisticated little morsel leaves you with tastes that are subtle yet pleasing: mild sweetness, a hint of madeira, and just a brush with the rich flavor of butter. The British are known for such understated pastries, for they go beautifully with tea. They also compliment fresh fruit and berries very nicely. I have served them with both.Because there are so few ingredients, each has an essential part in the success of this biscuit. So, make sure to use good, fresh unsalted butter. Don’t even think about making it if margarine or another butter substitute is all you have on hand. While the biscuit holds its shape quite well, select a relatively small cookie cutter with a fairly simple form; it may crack or lose its form if made with a large cutter or one with an intricate design.

British madeira biscuits*Makes about 40 one-and-a-half inch biscuits(* Called “cookies” on our side of the Atlantic) Ingredients1 cup all purpose flour plus _ (one half) cup of pastry four or 1 _ (one and a half) cups of all purpose flour1/2 cup of unsalted butter, softened if making by hand 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar, plus more to sprinkle on top of biscuitsA pinch of salt

3 tablespoons of Madeira1 eggTo make in a food processor: Put the flour and salt in the bowl of the processor and pulse to combine. Cut the butter into 8 pieces and add to the bowl of the food processor. Pulse until the dough looks like cornmeal. Add the sugar and Madeira and pulse to combine. The dough should still look like fine meal-it shouldn’t come together or make a ball. Dump the dough out of the processor bowl onto a sheet of plastic wrap or into a plastic bag. Knead it gently through the plastic (this keeps the heat of your hands from melting the butter) until it comes together. Form the dough into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes.To make by hand: Sift or strain the flour and salt into a large bowl. Cut the softened butter into about 16 pieces and add. Using your fingertips, two knives, or a pastry blender, work the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles oatmeal. Add the sugar and the Madeira and, using your hands or a spoon, mix until a stiff dough is formed. Form the dough into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 30 minutes.Preheat the oven to 325 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Line one or two cookie sheets with parchment paper or non-stick aluminum foil (like Reynold’s Release). Don’t grease the pan or the biscuits may spread.Remove the dough from the refrigerator. If it is too cold to roll, let it rest until it is rollable. Roll the dough to a thickness of about one-quarter inch (I roll the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap to prevent it from sticking). Using a cookie cutter, cut out the biscuits and place them about an inch apart on the parchment-lined baking sheets. Gently re-roll the dough once and cut out additional biscuits.Freeze the biscuits, on the baking sheet, for about 10 minutes or until quite firm. This will help prevent them from spreading.

Lightly beat the egg in a small bowl and use the beaten egg to glaze each biscuit. Sprinkle a bit of granulated sugar over the glazed top of the biscuits. Bake the biscuits for about 20-25 minutes, until the tops are light golden and the bottoms have just started to color. Remove them from the oven, cool them on the baking sheets for about 3-5 minutes, then take them off and let them cool completely on a wire rack.Store them for several days in an airtight container at a cool room temperature or freeze them for up to a month.Vera Dawson lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude. If you have comments about the Life Is Sweet column or questions about baking, contact Vera Dawson at veradaswon@aol.com.Vail, Colorado


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