Sue wanted biscuits. In fact she demanded biscuits. She even went out as far as digging out the cookery book and leaving it open in the kitchen with a post-it note stuck on the page saying Make these with a large arrow pointing to the required recipes.
The book was The Dairy Book of Home Cookery. It used to belong to my mother – she got it originally from the milkman. There have been various editions of this book, this particular copy was printed in 1978. Somehow, we ended up with two copies of it, so when I left home, this one came along with me.
It’s a pretty eclectic book – and was probably reasonably adventurous for late 70s British cookery. It covers all of the basics that you’d expect, and a fair few more esoteric dishes. None of the dishes are particularly complex, and instructions are short and to the point. One area in which it excels, however, is baking. Recipes for biscuits, cakes and pastries abound, and the vast majority are simple and straightforward, and more importantly, they just work.
Sue selected two recipes: Chocolate Drops and Coconut Biscuits. So, Chocolate Drops first.
- 100g softened butter
- 50g caster sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
- 90g plain flour
- 15g cocoa powder
Cream butter and sugar, with the vanilla essence until light and fluffy. Stir in the sifted flour and cocoa. Drop teaspoon sized dollops onto a greased baking tray. It’s quite a stiff dough, so I end up just rolling it into small balls with my hands. The recipe says it makes 18 – 20. I forgot to count as I made them and we’ve eaten some now. I guess it probably did make around 18.
The recipe is very precise about baking – bake for 17 minutes at 190˚C. I dropped that to 180˚C, as I have a fan oven, but stuck rigidly to the time. 17 minutes later, they came out of the oven and I transferred them to a wire rack to cool.
On to the Coconut Biscuits.
- 225g self-raising flour
- Pinch of salt
- 150g butter
- 100g caster sugar
- 50g desiccated coconut
- 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
- 1 egg, beaten
Sift flour and salt into a bowl and rub butter in finely. I confess, I cheat and use the food processor to do this. I have no shame. Add sugar and coconut and mix. Add egg and vanilla essence and mix to a stiff dough. Knead gently until smooth, wrap in cling film and put in fridge for 30 minutes.
Roll out fairly thinly and cut into rounds with a 5cm biscuit cutter. The recipe claims you’ll get about 30 biscuits out of this – I manage closer to 50. Maybe I rolled too thin?
Place on buttered baking trays and prick well with a fork. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes at 180˚C. I went for 170˚C; I’m pretty sure fan ovens weren’t much of a thing in 1978. I check after 12 minutes and they look like they’re done so I take them out, leave them a minute to cool slightly and then transfer to a wire rack.
The Chocolate Drops are very nice, but it’s the Coconut Biscuits that steal the show – they are delicious. Very nice texture, and just the right buttery coconut flavour. They’re a keeper. Not bad for a 42 year old book.