THE JOY OF BISCUITS.
They’re cooling on a wire rack in the kitchen, smelling of honeycomb, and getting crunchier and fudgier every 5 minutes. Don’t ask me how I know this.
You learn so much from baking a batch of biscuits. (You also learn how much you already know and can put to good use).
You learn about the importance of greasing baking tins, and how utterly dependent you are on baking paper.
You discover the importance of salt to balance sweetness, how it creates peaks and ranges of flavour instead of one long, flat, desert plain.
That the difference between a conventional oven and fan-forced is about 20 degrees (180C conventional equals 160C fan-forced, because the fan moves the air around whatever you are baking, contributing to faster cooking).
Then there’s that eternal reminder that your hands are the best kitchen tools you have to, um, hand.
And sugar. Using caster sugar will lead to greater crispness, and brown sugar to greater chewiness. And butter – I’ve never used unsalted butter in any recipe that has called for it, and probably never will, but there’s not a great deal of science in my decision.
Baking biscuits also makes you ponder why nobody has good old-fashioned biscuit tins any more, the ones that you struggled to open, and that used to keep biscuits crisp for weeks on end.
You also learn that while all biscuits are different, all biscuits are the same, with biscuit family trees spread out across the globe.
Take this recipe, for instance. Inspired by the snappy, crunchy, oaty, JoJo’s oat slice from Sydney’s Berkelo Bakery, I went down a rabbit hole trying to formulate a recipe, and emerged with South Africa’s favourite biscuit, oat crunchies. That’s when I realised they were almost identical in content, if not in form, to my recipe for Anzac biscuits.
And so we learn that wherever the Brits travelled, they took their Lyle’s Golden Syrup with them, binding together not only oats, coconut, flour and sugar, but the British Empire.
I’ve christened these new/old biscuits Oaties. Make them if only for the joy to be found in melting butter and golden syrup together then stirring in bicarbonate of soda to create a whoosh of wonderfully light golden foam.
So, a lot to learn this week. And with 30 to a tray, a lot to digest.
The crunch of oats and coconut, the caramel honeycomb sweetness, the fudgy centre - Oaties bring you the best of Anzac biscuits, Butternut Snaps and Oat Crunchies in one. They come out of the oven a bit soft, and harden as they cool, so leave for 15 minutes before cutting into fingers.
150 g rolled oats (porridge oats)
150 g desiccated coconut
150 g plain flour
150 g caster or light brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Half tsp sea salt
125 g butter
2 tbsp golden syrup
2 tbsp water
1 tsp bicarb soda
Heat oven to 180C (conventional). Grease a 20cm x 30cm lamington pan and line with baking paper.
Whiz the rolled oats and coconut in a food processor for 15 seconds to reduce to a coarse sand. Tip into a big bowl and mix with flour, sugar, cinnamon and sea salt. Make a well in the centre.
Heat the butter, golden syrup and water in a pan, stirring until just melted. Add the bicarb soda, draw the pan off the heat and stir with a wooden spoon as it whooshes up into a foamy, golden mass.
Pour the golden foam into the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula, or better still, your hands, until combined.
Press into the pan, levelling the top, and bake for 30 to 35 mins until golden. (If it starts to brown at the edges after 20 minutes, reduce temp to 160C).
Remove and cool for 15 minutes, then use the baking paper to lift the Oaties from the tray to a board. Use a long sharp knife to cut into fingers, then leave to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
Charles Dickens loved a biscuit. “Accidentally consumed five biscuits when I wasn’t paying attention” he wrote. “Those biscuits are wily fellows -they leap in like sugary ninjas.”
Thanks for reading! And liking, commenting, subscribing, or sharing. Again, special thanks to my right-hand man, Terry Durack, for being my right hand while mine is in plaster.
I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands and waters upon which I work, live, cook and play; the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. I fully support the Uluru Statement from the Heart, and for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voice to be enshrined in Australia’s Constitution.