Sorry - I ate them all before I took a photo
I have told you before that I love a plain cake – simple, barely sweet. Of course you can fancy it up by serving it with fruit or icing or ice cream – or whatever – but a perfect perfectly-plain cake can stand on its own.
However, I’ve never contemplated baking a perfectly plain biscuit. Shortbread, I suppose, is close to it, but if you say ‘plain biscuit’ I’ll word associate and come back with store-bought biscuits like ‘milk arrowroot’ or ‘scotch finger’ biscuits, and I’m not really a fan of those. So make your own? Why bother?
Because you’ll be in for a lovely surprise. These are morning tea biscuits, mainly because you’ll feel compelled to dunk them in your cup of tea (which, when I think about it, is possibly not very ladylike or proper, is it?).
The flavour is not at all sweet, but warm and cosy – it’s hard to put your finger on it, but there is a distinctly pleasing flavour in each bite. Their subtlety will be your undoing – they are very morish.
These malt biscuits are also good fun to make because you get to play with your cookie cutters! This would be lots of fun if you were cooking with children, but adults should find it equally enjoyable. Can I just say though, that the original recipe’s instructions were frustratingly vague – without advising what size cutter to use, you were promised 12 biscuits at the end of it! Not good.
So go put the kettle on and enjoy one or two (or more) of these perfectly-plain plain biscuits.
Plain malt biscuits
Adapted from a Donna Hay recipe. A note on the malt: mum and I could not find malt powder (specified in the original recipe), only malt drinks loaded with sugar. I finally found a 1kg tin of liquid malt extract (Saunders brand). It’s very thick – almost like tar – to do spray your measuring cup with a little oil to help it slide off (and be patient!). At this rate, you’ll have the tin for the rest of your life.
- Beat 150 gms soft butter with 1 cup icing sugar until pale and creamy.
- Add 1 egg, ¼ cup liquid malt extract, 1 tspn vanilla and beat until well combined.
- Now sift in 2 ½ cups plain flour, 1 tbspn cornflour and 1 tspn baking powder and combine to form a smooth dough.
- Roll out dough between two sheets of baking paper til about 5mm thick. Slide onto a baking try (still between paper) and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- When ready, preheat your oven to 160.
- Choose your favourite cookie cutters and stamp away, flouring the cutter between each biscuit to prevent sticking, and transfer the individual biscuits to a lined baking tray. Once you have cut as much as you can from the sheet of dough, you can either re-roll the scraps and start again, or do as we did: roll the scraps into small balls and flatten slightly with a floured fork.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden, rotating the trays halfway thru. Once done, remove and cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Nice warm (they will be softer and slightly chewy) and of course cooled and hard. And dunked in tea.