It may come as a shock to you - it certainly was one for me - but lately I had lost my desire for cake. I didn't much feel like making it and I certainly didn't feel much like eating it.
There were attempts: I thought if I made a comforting old favourite, a pudding with a soft-as-a-cloud sponge topping over a squidge of summer berries, everything would be okay. Except after the first serve, warm from the oven, I put it in the fridge and forgot about it.
I thought if I tried a new recipe, I'd reawaken the tastebuds and thought processes. Only the jam-filled muffins turned out to be heavy and too big, and they sunk disastrously in the middle.
But one afternoon I was standing at the kitchen sink, mindlessly buttering savoy crackers and working my way thru their salty crunchy texture, when I realised: this is what I was craving! A hard crunchy biscuit. Something with bite, or maybe a shortbread, both hard and light. And maybe something citrussy? Orange or lemon-sharp shortbread?
After scouring my books and printouts, I found exactly what I was after, made with plenty of orange zest and the surprise ingredient: polenta. They looked plainish, but.
While making these was a lovely process - zesting and juicing the orange, adding the polenta and kneading the slightly sticky dough - the fun really began once they were in the oven. The raw dough smelt deliciously orangey, but as it baked (at a surprisingly high temperature), the house started to smell of - popcorn! Polenta is ground corn, I guess, but I wasn't expecting that. Did that mean the citrus notes were gone? No.
They turned out as hard as I'd hoped. Solid enough to, just for a moment, make you fear for your teeth. Good for tea dunking - a mug of bright Lady Grey is perfect, I have discovered. The polenta also gives the biscuits a pleasing grittiness, too.
And the eating? Well, let's just say I find it hard to stop at one. Or two.
Ah, baking! It's good to be back.
Orange polenta biscuits
Adapted from the Australian Women's Weekly 'Biscuits, brownies and biscotti' mini book. I halved the original and made about 18 biscuits.
- Cream 125 gms soft butter with 1/2 tspn vanilla, 100 gms icing sugar mixture, and the microplaned zest of two oranges, til well combined.
- Stir thru 45 gms polenta, 185 gms plain flour, and about 1 tbspn orange juice (I say about because I measured out that much and then gave the orange half another squeeze over the dough).
- Gently knead the dough to bring it together. Then shape it into a log and wrap tightly in clingwrap. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm (I left mine overnight).
- When ready to bake, preheat oven to 200 and prep some baking tins.
- Cut the log into slices no more than 1 cm thick. Use a normal knife or a wavy vegetable cutter if you have one (you can see the gentle rippled effect in the photos - nice for a change).
- Place on the trays and bake for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove and stand for a few minutes before cooling on wire racks.