I am quite a traditionalist when it comes to my baking equipment, I like my metal baking trays and am happy using non stick baking parchment, so when I was asked if I would like to try some silicone mats I must admit to being a little dubious.
Kitchenways kindly sent me this set of two to trial run and here is how I got on with them.
My first observation was that they have two sides – a smooth side and an imprinted side – the instructions on the back of the packet are rather generic to all of the silicone bakeware products I suspect and I wasn’t sure which side to use. As a silicone newby this would have been helpful information. Secondly do I need to grease or not? nothing helpful there either.
My first outing with the mats was when making meringue shards – unfortunately a complete disaster – I have heard that macarons don’t cook well on silicone mats either – The meringue didn’t dry out enough ( I feel the thick silicon changed the way the heat was conducted from the metal baking tray) and stuck terribly to the mat (I hadn’t greased it). So I would definitely not be using it for those again. I canvassed a bit of opinion from bakey pals who do use silicone and decided to try biscuits and greasing!
I was given Eric Lanlards new book, Afternoon Tea for my birthday and as there was a biscuit challenge over on twitter #GBBOTwitterBakeAlong run by Bakes4fun and @BakingNanna this was the ideal chance to try a new recipe.
The full recipe for these biscuits can be found in Afternoon Tea by Eric Lanlard, but here is how I got on.
The basic biscuit is a shortbread style dough so rubbing in cold butter to flour and sugar, with just a small amount of ground cardamom.
I get mine from Steenbergs – it has a lovely flavour.
There is quite a high butter content which makes the ‘rubbing in’ a bit tricky – make sure to use the tips of your fingers so you don’t melt the butter to get to this ‘breadcrumb’ stage – it will make for a lighter biscuit.
You then add the vanilla bean paste, I like this Nielsen Massey one as I can get it in the supermarket and it has a lovely flavour, finally bring together into a dough.
It is key with biscuit making to allow the dough to rest in the fridge, the recipe says for 1 hour, so wrap well in cling film to be sure it doesn’t dry out.
The next step in the recipe was to roll out the dough. My tip here would be to split the dough in half so you don’t keep re-rolling the same dough over again, as this will cause the biscuits to go tough.
The recipe said to roll out to 1cm or 1/2inch, that seemed extraordinarily thick to me and certainly didn’t seem to match the picture in the book – I suppose shortbread is often quite thick but I felt that this wasn’t quite right so opted for 1/2cm instead. I have a fab rolling pin with guards on with measured thicknesses, this really helps get an even layer of dough for cutting.
You are then told to cut your desired shapes, transfer to a greased baking mat, I decided to grease my silicone ones this time, and press a blanched almond into each biscuit.
Chill once more for 20 minutes before baking.
So onto my next bone of contention with the recipe – the instructions say to bake at 170C or 140 fan oven, 30C is an awful lot to reduce a temperature by for a domestic fan oven and as the baking time was only 12 minutes I guessed 140C fan would be too low (even more so had I stuck to the original 1cm depth).
So 12 minutes in, the biscuits weren’t golden brown at all, in fact they barely had changed colour, so I added on 3 minutes, then maybe 2 more minutes? Still no better, so I turned the oven up by 10C and gave them another 3 minutes. By this point I was worried they would be drying out but they still hadn’t achieved the lovely golden colour in the book.
The next step was to leave them to cool enough to handle, remove from the baking sheets (which they did perfectly) then dip the corners in golden caster sugar, which I duly did but you couldn’t see it at all, the whole thing looked really insipid.
These were to be a gift so tasting good alone wasn’t enough I needed them to look tasty too. I ended up resorting to my blowtorch to caramelise the sugar and the almonds and finally they looked the part
If I make them again, and I probably will as they were delicious, I think I will sprinkle the biscuits with the golden caster sugar before I add the almonds and bake at a higher temperature. The ones in the book have a light sheen to them under the almond and the dipped sugar which I reckon was achieved this way. Its such a shame when recipes seem not to have been tested properly in books, but I will try some others before I condemn this particular book to the charity pile.
As for the mats – yes they bake biscuits very nicely, they save the need to use baking parchment which then gets thrown away and are easy enough to clean, my only request is some more detailed instructions on using them on the packet.