Bring on the hot beverages! Strong, spiced, sweetened coffee, luxurious cream & marshmallow topped hot chocolates & of course my reliable, beloved cup of tea. It’s getting cold & dark outside which means that I am ready to hibernate & survive on ample comfort food & tea until the new year.
Milk, sugar, honey or lemon, however you take your tea its pure comfort in a cup. It’s the first port of call in the morning & the tool which helps to wind down in the evening (& get you through the working day!). But what should accompany a comforting cuppa? Cupcakes, macarons, petit fours, all popular choices in any modern-day tea room or cafe, beautiful Instagram-worthy treats (we’re all guilty here). Piles of buttercream, a rainbow of pops , pillows of cream & lashings of sprinkles… that’s all well & good but us British are still a nation of biscuit-lovers at heart.
Founders of the afternoon tea, our love of the tea leaves & our rituals surrounding its enjoyment have spread all across the world, with many unique takes on the tradition. For instance, in India a sweet spicy masala tea is drank, in China clay teapots are purposefully overflowed with tea, in France, chocolate crepes & pain au chocolat are enjoyed, whilst our American cousins much prefer to drink coffee & indulge in a cookie (not too different from our tea & biscuits I suppose) . With tea being the most widely consumed beverage in the world after water it’s easy to see how each of us have developed our own rituals & habits surrounding it.
A true advocate of Rich Tea biscuits & their beautiful simplicity, I do opt for other biscuits from time to time (believe it or not). Much like the rest of my cooking & eating habits my preference does tend to change with the seasons (apart from the Rich Tea of course, enjoyable at any time of year, or time of day even). For instance, in spring & summer it’s all about freshness so I’ll opt for something citrus, filled with a fruity jam or a pretty icing topped biscuit, in autumn & winter however it’s all about comfort, pure indulgence for indulgences sake.
For me, these comforting biscuits are all based around seasonal flavours, mostly found in the storecupboard. Warming spices, chocolate, nuts, ginger, caramel & toffee’s… all firm favourites at this time of year (basically anything that can trigger diabetes if consumed excessively). Taking a little inspiration from American cookies (biscuits) and their sweet storecupboard ingredients, I’ve paired the caramel, toffee-like flavour of maple syrup with the earthy but sweet flavour of pecans.
Maple syrup is made by tapping (extracting) the sap from maple trees. The sap is then boiled & reduced until a syrup if formed. The finished syrup is beautifully sweet, containing usually around 66% sucrose (or sugar), & had a unique, distinctive toffee-like flavour with a consistency & amber colour resembling honey. Very popular in America, maple syrup can be used in both sweet & savoury dishes, everything from candied nuts, pancakes, bacon & sweets.
Only a little maple syrup is needed to sweeten a recipe but it brings such a lovely, unique flavour to baking. The combination of maple & pecans is a pure, sweet joy (anyone who’s ever tried maple candied pecans will know), so adding these to a basic biscuit dough transforms something simple into something far more superior. Staying in theme, I used a maple leaf shaped cutter, purely because I love the novelty (not just because I own far too many cookie cutters in unusual shapes).
MAPLE PECAN BISCUITS
(makes 12 biscuits)
- 175g butter
- 200g caster sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 tbsp maple syrup
- 150g plain flour
- 300g wholemeal flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 80g pecans, chopped
- In a large bowl, beat together the butter & sugar
- Add the maple syrup & beat to combine
- Sift over the flours, salt & baking powder
- Stir until the mixture is well combined & a little stiff (you may need to add a little extra flour to stiffen)
- Add in the chopped pecans & mix through until evenly distributed
- Shape the dough into a flattened disc, wrap with cling film & place in the fridge to chill for 1 hour
- Once chilled, roll the rough out to approximately 1cm thickness
- Cut out the biscuits & carefully place onto a parchment lined baking tray
- Bake the biscuits at 180C for 12 – 15 minutes, until a pale golden brown
- Remove from the oven & leave to cool for 5 minutes on the baking tray before removing & allowing to cool completely on a cooling rack
- Optional: Mix 1 tbsp maple syrup with 40-50g icing sugar & drizzle over the top of the biscuits