Do you know what one of the best meals I have ever eaten was? It wasn't in a top restaurant or a meal whilst on a memorable holiday; no it was a vegetable lasagne (an old Cranks recipe) that was served with french beans and followed by chocolate brownies. Every mouthful was heaven and I had seconds. It's sounds lovely, but why 'the best ever meal' you ask? Well, the previous day I had given birth to my second child and whilst I was taking in the gas and air a dear friend of mine was preparing this 'home coming' meal for me. I don't know if it was just me, but I found that I always had a great appetite after going through labour. It was 'new mum' present I had ever received.
I saw a friend over the weekend who had just had her second baby the matter of weeks ago. Knowing the comfort a little homemade food can bring I made her a jar of biscuits. If there is ever a time you can indulge yourself with your very own jar of biscuits it's when you've just had a baby. They are just perfect with a cup of tea on those night feeds.
In fact a jar a biscuits can being a fitting gift for many special occasions. It did however take me a while to find the 'right' recipe. To ice the biscuits, as I have done here, you need a biscuit that will hold its shape to some degree whilst cooking. My little biscuits are by no means perfectly square, but to be fair I have a less than adequite set of scales and two children were tugging on my apron strings (quite literally) whilst I was making them. But once they are crammed into a pretty little jar they look lovely.
The recipe I use (every time) is a Nigella one, which I have detailed below. The icing is just royal icing sugar and water made up to the packet instructions. The trick to getting a neat edge on the icing is to pipe an outline of icing first and then fill with icing of slightly looser consistency. Then just add sprinkles or whatever decorations you like before the icing completely sets. The jars I used were as cheap as chips and bought in Ikea as were the adorable number tags. I attached a '2' and a '5' as the baby in question was born on the 25th.
Butter Cut-Out Biscuits
175g soft unsalted butter 200g caster sugar 2 large eggs 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 400g plain flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon salt 300g icing sugar, sieved and food colouring You'll also need biscuit cutters + 2 baking sheets, greased or lined
Pre-heat oven to 180c
Cream the butter and caster sugar together until pale and moving towards mousiness, then beat in the eggs and vanilla. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter and eggs, and mix gently but surely. If you think the finished mixture is too sticky to be rolled out, add more flour, but do so sparingly as too much will make the dough tough. Halve the dough, form into fat discs, wrap each half in clingfilm and rest in the fridge for at least half an hour (and you can leave it in there for a couple of days if it helps).
Sprinkle a suitable surface with flour, place a disc of dough on it (not taking out the other half until you've finished with the first) and sprinkle a little more flour on top of that. Then roll it out to a thickness of about half cm. Cut into shapes, dipping the cutter into flour as you go, and place the biscuits a little apart on the baking sheets.
Bake for 8 - 12 minutes, by which time they will be lightly golden around the edges. Cool on a wire rack and continue with the rest of the dough. When they're all fully cooled, you can get on with the icing or simply keep plain and simple.