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A plate of traditional biscuits - Custard Creams, Bourbon, Jammy DodgersI thought it was fitting that Signor Biscotti should end the year with some biscuits, although these are not Italian biscuits, but are instead about as British as you can get.

These Jammie Dodgers, Bourbons and Custard Creams are far more exciting than those that you would find on the supermarket shelves. With the possible exception of the Custard Creams, they look much more glamorous than their commercial counterparts, and they smell good too. They have a delicate, light, crunchy texture and, last but not least, are richly flavoured.

Someone once declared, after sampling one of the Jammie Dodgers, that it was the best biscuit she had ever eaten. Of course, such high praise could not occur without a great recipe to work from. This one will be found in Pam Corbin’s “Cakes”, which is one of the River Cottage Handbooks. As it happens, the recipe has also been published on the Guardian website. So I will confine myself to giving you some observations and hints based on my experience of making the biscuits.

General Notes

All three biscuits are made from variations on the same dough. It is very soft and needs to be well chilled before you attempt to roll it out. When you take it out of the fridge it will probably be too hard to work with, but a little gentle pressing and squashing should soften if up sufficiently.

I roll the dough between two sheets of cling film, with no extra flour. You might think the cling film would stick to itself, but it doesn’t, and you can re-use the same sheets several times.

"Marzipan" spacers of varying thicknessesTo get the thickness even, I use some home made spacers. Although I also own some commercially produced “marzipan spacers”, these particular ones are simply lengths of 4mm thick wooden moulding. I place them on either side of the dough as I roll. Once the rolling pin grounds on these I know the dough is the right thickness.

I chill the rolled biscuits well, to help them keep their shape in the oven. I put them in the freezer on their baking tray for 10 minutes or so, but 20-30 minutes in the fridge would do just as well.

I bake the biscuits at 150C fan, and find they don’t need as long as suggested in the recipe, in fact only about 15 minutes in total. So I’d suggest you check them regularly. They won’t object to the oven being opened.

Jammie Dodgers

I use a 5.5cm plain round cutter and I get nearly double the 6 or 7 biscuits suggested in the recipe.

I dust the tops of the biscuits with vanilla caster sugar just before they go in the oven.

Bourbons

The suggested quantify of cocoa results in biscuits that are too strongly flavoured for my taste, so I now use 10g less. This still produces very chocolaty biscuits, with a flavour more like a brownie than a regular Bourbon.

I use a skewer, rather than a fork, to prick the biscuits, making two rows of holes along each biscuit. I think this looks more “authentic”, although I’ve since realised that strickly speaking there should be five holes on each side and not four.

I sprinkle the biscuits with granulated sugar just before baking.

It is hard to judge when these dark coloured biscuits are baked. I give them the same time as the Jammie Dodgers, roughly 15 minutes.

Custard Creams

Despite their rather plain appearance, these are still quite delicious.

I was concerned that the use of raw custard powder in the butter icing might result in a raw flavour, but this was not the case.

Happy New Year!