My thick woollen turtle neck jumper slips on over my head and I pull a double layer of socks over my feet. Our little home, with its timber floorboards and cool draughts that sneak through the door can become quite the ice box at this time of the year. The season has changed once again and its now time for those slow cooked meals of comforting ragus, bubbling pots of thick, hearty soups and hot buttered toast. Cosy "home days" tucked up inside while the swirl of wood smoke fills the air from the surrounding chimneys. It's Autumn and its my favourite season of all.
Droplets of rain string together like little fairy lights, clinging to the branches and the added warmth of the oven is a welcome relief, standing in front of it as it warms the backs of my legs. Even though I do find myself turning that oven on in the heat of summer, there is not much else that I enjoy more than turning it on as soon as the cooler weather blows into town. It's as though my hands just want to create even more. That, or the fact that baked treats partner so well with the chillier, cosier months. (note: When i wrote this a week ago, I thought the warmer weather was well and truly behind us, alas, the weather had different ideas and today reached a top of 29 degrees! With the days ahead forecast for much the same, perfect for a long weekend camping trip!)
I had been awaiting the parcel eagerly, already playing around with the ideas in my mind as to what I was going to create when they arrived! It was the ruby red that glistened through the clear window in the package that caught my eye first, how could it not. I wasn't going to wait a moment longer. I cut open the bag and clasped a sticky sun-dried Smyrna quince slice in between my fingers and then I popped it right into my mouth.
Determined that I would not eat them all straight from the packet (which would be ridiculously easy to do, especially with a lovely wedge of blue cheese!) I set about creating a savoury tart. Layered with buttery leeks, creamy brie and ricotta which was all encased in a toasted walnut pastry shell. Keep your eye out for this recipe soon! The next required much toing and froing. Should I bake a cake, cookies, biscuits? Many thoughts and scribbled notes later resulted in these special little chocolate, ginger and sun-dried quince biscuits. Which may I add are quite more-ish.
They would make quite the lovely edible Easter gift for a friend or neighbour or you could simply make them to store in the biscuit jar. The dough also freezes really well which is perfect for when you need a little something quite quickly or for when the time does not allow for baking adventures. All that is needed to pretty them up is a dunk into a pool of melted dark chocolate and a touch of edible gold leaf and you have yourself a special Easter (or anytime) treat.
Chocolate and sun-dried quince Easter biscuits
Inspired by a recipe from Belinda Jeffery's "Mix & Bake"
250g plain flour
50g cocoa (I always like to use Callebaut)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp. ground ginger
20g crystallised ginger
100g sun-dried Smyrna quince (You can order these online from Singing Magpie Produce)
250g unsalted butter, left out of the fridge for at least an hour.
150g light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
about 80g dark chocolate, melted (double this amount if baking both of the logs)
edible gold leaf (optional) can be found online, or cake stores or places like Essential Ingredient.
If you have a food processor then it will come in handy here (I don't) but I do use my Vitamix which works perfectly fine too. So with whatever you have to hand, place the flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt and ginger into the processor/blender and whizz it around for a few seconds until its combined. Pop the crystallised ginger and the quince in now and then give it a good few bursts.
Pour this mixture into a bowl.
Now add the butter, brown sugar and the vanilla in and blend it all together until its lovely and creamy. You may need to scrape down the sides to make sure that its all blending together evenly.
Now pour the flour mixture back into the blender/processor with the butter and sugar. You want it to just come together. If using a high-powered blender (like I do) you will need to use the long stick thingy to help the mixture along.
Now scrape everything out with a spatula into a bowl and cover and pop into the fridge for at least 45 minutes, or until the dough firms up enough for you to divide it into two and roll each of them into logs. You may just be able to kind of press it into this shape. About 5cm in diameter should be about right.
Tear off two sheets of baking paper, a little longer than the rolled dough logs and place each one onto a sheet, then roll it up and then do the same with a sheet each of foil. Twisting the ends so that they look like Christmas bon bons.
Peheat your oven to 170*.
Now pop these into the freezer for at least 1/2 an hour, or until firm. You can leave the logs like this in the freezer for a month or two and then when you need a little treat or an edible gift to surprise someone with then all you need to do is to take one or both out of the freezer for about 1/2 an hour (depending on how warm it is) and then slice and bake.
If baking after that 1/2 an hour is up then you want to unroll them from their little sleeping bags and simply slice them into about 8-10mm thick rounds and place them onto a baking tray lined with baking paper, about 4cm apart.
This recipe does make quite a lot so it may be a good idea to keep one of the logs in the freezer for another time.
Bake for 10 minutes and then swap the trays over and around so that they all bake evenly and bake for another 5 or so minutes. Its a little more difficult to tell when chcolate biscuits are ready, but they should be just a little soft in the centre if you touch them lightly with your fingertip, as they cool they will crisp up.
Remove them from the oven when you are happy with the way they are and allow them to cool on the tray for 5 minutes before placing onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
Once they have cooled completely, set a small saucepan of water (you don't need much about 1/2 a cup) over a high heat and bring to a simmer, turn down and place a heatproof bowl over the top with the chocolate in it and stir with a spatula until melted. Turn the flame off and very carefully remove the bowl from the pot. Now pick up a biscuit, tilt the bowl so that you get a lovely pool of chocolate to dip one half of the biscuit into. place back onto the cooling rack to dry completely. Repeat with remaining biscuits.
If using the gold leaf, you will need a small paint brush, one that has a narrow tip. very carefully peel pieces of the gold leaf up with the brush and then place onto the biscuits. Try not to touch it with your fingers as it sticks to everything!
You can leave them to dry completely on your bench, or pop into the fridge for 1/2 an hour to set the chocolate. Then place into a container or package up and give them as gifts. They will keep for a week.