Is it possible for silly little bunny-shaped biscuits with fluffy tails to be elegant? Probably not. But I’m confident that this is the closest we’ll ever get.
I am irreparably clumsy and lacking in artistic talent in and out of the kitchen. Since I started baking, this has really irritated me. When I’m cooking comforting, hearty meals, it’s not really a problem; no one ever expects an oxtail stew to look like anything other than an oxtail stew. But sweet bakes are a different kettle of fish. These biscuits are my secret weapon. If you can scatter glitter over pritt stick, you can make these biscuits look utterly charming.
If I ever need to ice a biscuit, this is the basic recipe I go for. It is my failsafe biscuit recipe: they hold their shape perfectly when cut and baked, and when cooled are sufficiently rigid to not crumble under decoration.
I’m a little embarrassed to be giving you a recipe or method for these biscuits, as they are clearly so simple and straightforward, but their simplicity is their charm, and frankly I love them too much not to share them. They are so easy and methodical to make that they are a particularly good activity for restless children over the Easter weekend. I confess that I say this without experience. My kitchen helper when I decorated these biscuits was my nearly-27-year-old boyfriend, who appeared at my elbow aghast that I hadn’t even considered dying the coconut pink to give the bunnies silly little pink tails. So I offer that option below.
These biscuits are flavoured with almond; they are the perfect ‘plain’ biscuit. I don’t say that lightly; a lot of my life to date has been devoted to biscuits, and it is rare that I would opt for one not at least half coated in chocolate or spiked with spice or chunks of ginger. But these are attention-worthy. They’re not insipid, they pack a real almondy punch, helped along by the ground almond content, they are crisp, and gain a surprising edge from the small amount of white chocolate and coconut.
So, forgive me for doing the baking blog equivalent of teaching my grandmother to suck eggs, but they are completely delicious, and adorable, and foolproof. I love them, and I hope you will too.
(If you’re allergic to almonds, or just don’t like them, I would suggest making the recipe with 180g flour, and either upping the vanilla flavouring to a teaspoon, or eschewing it in favour of the zest of half a lemon or orange and a tablespoon of the juice.)
It goes like this:
Easter Bunny Biscuits
Makes: 20 biscuits
Takes: 40 minutes including refrigeration
Bakes: 15 minutes
85g soft unsalted butter
100g soft brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
165g plain flour
40g ground almonds
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
30g White chocolate
30g Dessicated coconut
Pink food colouring (optional)
1. Cream together butter and sugar until light and pale. Add in your egg and the almond extract and vanilla.
2. Now add your dry ingredients bit by bit, stirring with a wooden spoon: flour, baking powder, salt, ground almonds. You may need a little more flour than listed, to make your mixture manageable. Remember, although you’re going to have to roll it out, you’re just about to refrigerate the dough which will help it stay together, so go gently, you don’t want tough dough.
3. Shape your dough roughly into a disc and wrap your dough in clingfilm or grease proof paper. Pop it in your fridge for at least half an hour; in my fridge, it needs a bit longer to properly chill down.
4. As you take your dough out of the fridge, preheat oven to 160 degrees C/gas mark 4.
5. Sprinkle a suitable surface (generously) with flour, pop your unwrapped dough disc on top, and sprinkle that with flour. Roll the dough out to the thickness of a pound coin. Now cut out your biscuits using your cutters and lay them on baking trays covered with grease proof paper with a little space between one another. This is most easily and successfully done with a palette knife (or fish slice), gently shimmied under your biscuit and used to lift it onto the tray. If you’re jauntily folding down any bunny ears, as I have in the photos, now is the time.
6. At this stage you can refrigerate the trays of biscuits for fifteen minutes to help them maintain their shape when they bake; my doing this or not depends on little more than whim.
7. Bake for 8-12 minutes until the biscuits are just starting to colour but still look worryingly undercooked. Trust. Gently lift the biscuits onto a cooling rack whilst they are still sitting on the grease proof paper.
8. When they biscuits are cool, melt your white chocolate over a bain marie. Scrape it into a piping bag and cut the tip off. Pipe small bunny-tail-sized blobs onto each of the biscuits then sprinkle coconut onto each of them. Wait a minute or so and then gently shake off the excess coconut into a bowl. Allow to set.
9. If you want to give some of your bunnies pink tails —and who wouldn’t? — add a drop of two of food colouring into a small bowl of the desiccated coconut and mix together (although it’s messy, this is easiest to do with your fingers, as if you were rubbing butter and flour together).
10. TA DAH!
For a long time, even when I was baking quite a lot, I had no idea what ‘creaming’ actually was.
When it was called for in a recipe, I would half-heartedly hit a fridge-cold lump of butter with a wooden spoon, and then dispiritedly pouring sugar on top of it and attempting to mix the two. Here’s what you need to do:
- Start without the sugar. Try your very best to use butter that hasn’t been in the fridge for a while; it will make your life considerably easier. It’s not impossible to cream straight from the fridge, it will just require a lot more of elbow grease.
- Now, using a wooden spoon, start squidging the butter against the side of the bowl. Do this repeatedly until the butter is so soft you can begin making whipping motions through it with your spoon. Make those motions until the butter starts to look moussey. It really will start looking paler.
- Now add your sugar, and make the same whipping motions until all the sugar is combined. Now it will look fluffy.
- Congratulations, you have now creamed your butter until pale and fluffy.
Sometimes, when you add your egg to your mixture, it can look like it’s curdling.
The mixture sort of splits and becomes lumpy. Don’t panic. I promise you’re not going to end up with a scrambled egg cake. And remember: the proof of the pudding is in the eating. No one will see this bit. Just add a tablespoon of flour and mix vigorously. Keep doing this until the mixture visibly smoothes out and stabilises, and then return to the rest of the method.
Don’t have a piping bag? Not a problem.
If you have a freezer bag or sandwich bag, just use that.
If you don’t have a piping bag, you can use a freezer bag or sandwich bag, if you have those, clingfilm or baking paper. With the first two, just spoon your mixture into the corner of one of the bags, twist it closed, and cut off the tip.
If you want to use clingfilm, you can use Xtin’s ingenious method: lay a sheet gently over a mug or glass, spoon a small amount of whatever you’re piping onto the dip over the mug or glass, twist the clingfilm up, and pierce the bottom with a pen or make a very small snip with scissors.
If using baking paper, fold your paper into a cone, pour your mixture in, snip off the end of the cone, and pipe away!
Never used a bain marie? Simple.
You need a pan with water in it, no more than half way up the height of the pan. Put it on the heat, but you only really want it to simmer, not boil, otherwise the chocolate can burn or water can splash into the melting chocolate. Then place some kind of heat-proof container that is big enough that it can happily balance on top. Ideally you should use a glass bowl, but I don’t have one, so I use a bigger pan, or a small enamel bowl. You put your chocolate in the top bowl and just let it melt. You don’t need to stir it, in fact you shouldn’t. If you’re melting a large amount, you can tap the unmelted chocolate, to encourage melting, but stirring will introduce air, which you don’t want. The one thing to be super careful about is water: if you get water into your melting chocolate, it can seize. If this does happen, you can remove it from the heat, and add vegetable oil a drop at a time, mixing it in; this should save it.