The last few weeks have flown so fast, I almost can’t believe it’s December already. Busy working schedule aside, I spent the best part of November doing three things: counting down the days to my holidays, procrastinating my Christmas shopping, and baking biscuits for the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.
Wondering how it works? Think your office Secret Santa, but much more rewarding. Instead of risking to get a pair of oversized gloves from the awkward finance guy you never really talk to, you receive a dozen homemade biscuits from each of three bloggers you’re paired with – and get to bake for three potential new friends, too. I enjoyed very minute of it: from the thrill of discovering my matches, to the challenge of baking my biscuits, to the delight of opening my parcels. Indeed, the cookie swap lottery dealt me a very good hand:
- Festive Fig Rolls by Kate from The Little Loaf. It was hard not to leap from my chair when I saw that my first box came from from Kate, one of the food bloggers I most look up to. I’ve always admired her flair for creating new flavours, and loved the biscuits she sent me, made with soft almond pastry and a delicately spiced fig filling.
- Wholemeal Coffee and Chocolate Spiced Shortbreads from Bake’n’Shake. This lovely package reached me right in the middle of a very grim day at work. I could have easily spent it sulking in a corner, casting deadly stares to anyone who dared approach me; one glimpse inside the box was enough to turn me into the most charming, chirpy bird in the entire building.
- Stained Glass Biscuits from Ally (also known as Digital Diva). Together with four massive low-fructose flapjacks, Ally sent me the prettiest biscuits I’ve ever seen. Similar in look to Linzer biscuits, they have a thick, solid layer of sugar in the middle, perfectly encased in a star-shaped biscuit frame. I’m awestruck, and can’t wait to find out how she did it.
As for me, I made Butterless Crunchy Nut Biscuits: a sweet, guilt-free bake, similar in texture to Italian biscotti. Perfect with a cup of strong black coffee or a mug of piping hot tea, they passed my taste test with flying colours. As for what my matches thought…well, why don’t you check out their blogs and see for yourself.
- Gill from Tales of Pigling Bland received the first batch. I was glad to discover her blog, packed with a lot of chocolate and bread recipes that look right up my street.
- Baking for Nazia from This Baker Girl Blogs was a real honour: Nazia is the very first blogger friend I made, over a guest post I wrote what feels like a lifetime ago. Thinking of the long hours she devotes to her studies, a dozen sugar-packed biscuits that go well with coffee looked more than appropriate.
- Sophie from The Cake Hunter got the final batch. As it happens, she just published a guest post of mine, too – so check it out if you’d like to try a recipe for Blueberry Yoghurt Slices. As for the biscuits, I really hope she liked them. Sending my more than slightly unpretty biscuits to one of my favourite baking bloggers felt like accidentally swearing in front of the boss on the first day in a new job!
Butterless Crunchy Nut Biscuits
(makes 24 biscuits)
- 3 egg whites
- 125g plain sugar
- 125g assorted nuts (I changed my mix every week, depending on what I had in the cupboard: walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios and pine nuts all featured in one batch or the other)
- 90g plain flour
- Beat the egg whites in a clean, dry bowl, whisking until they form stiff peaks.
- Gradually add the sugar; continue beating until you obtain a smooth, creamy mixture.
- Add the flour and nuts, and mix with a metal spoon until well blended.
- Line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper. Pour in the mixture, evening out the surface with a spoon.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°, and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until golden. Leave aside to cool down completely.
- Place the loaf on a cutting board, and cut it in slices, around 5mm thick.
Baking tip 1: Slice the loaf as soon as it has cooled down. If you leave it too long, it may crumble when you cut it, so avoid leaving it to rest overnight.
- Place the slices on a baking tray, lined with greaseproof paper.
- Pre-heat the oven to 160°, and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden at the edges. Turn the biscuits after about 7 – 8 minutes.
Baking tip 2: If you find that your loaf is slightly undercooked, simply leave the biscuits in the oven for 5 more minutes at each stage. Your slices may be thicker, but that’s a blessing in disguise: chunky, uneven biscuits are very crunchy and fulfilling.
- Leave aside to cool down completely. These biscuits become crunchier with time, so if you make them in the afternoon, serve them on the next day – they will taste much better.
Baking tip 3: Store your biscuits in an airtight container. They will keep very well for at least one week.
Have you taken part in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap? If you haven’t, make sure you sign up for next year’s round. If you have, let me know what you baked and what you received: I’d love to hear about your experiments and keep sharing the fun.