A frequent response I get from Damian when I ask him if there is anything he would like me to bake is “something crispy”. That’s it, no more detail, he’s awkward like that…and a bit texture obsessed. He loves crispy textured things and hates things with the texture of cheesecake…which is rather annoying and why I never really make cheesecake as I’d end up eating the entire thing by myself…and as amazing as that sounds it’s probably not the best idea…(Pretty much the only time I make cheesecakes is when visiting my sister…she’s very much pro cheesecake).
The “something crispy” line usually leaves me a little clueless as to what to bake (any suggestions?!), I tend to go by flavours, not textures… but this time I knew exactly what to make, It’s been a while since I last made biscuits and I’d been thinking about making some before I even asked him, so that’s what I went for. But of course they had to be crispy biscuits, I figured that the addition of some cornmeal would help create a crisp texture and flavour-wise I went for orange as there are some really nice ones around at the moment. So here they are – perfectly crisp, buttery biscuits with a delicate orange fragrance and sunny yellow colour, perfect for dunking in your tea.
They are very simple to make – just whisk together some butter and icing sugar then add vanilla extract and orange zest and whisk again, then mix in plain flour and cornmeal to form a stiff dough. The dough is rolled out and cut in to rounds straight away, no chilling first, as it is quite crumbly and would be difficult to work with cold. Instead the biscuits are chilled until the dough is cold and firm before being baked, this helps to create a crisp biscuit that doesn’t spread too much in the oven. They should be baked for about 10-15 minutes, until golden; I baked mine for the full 15 so that they were properly crunchy, but if you prefer a softer biscuit then just bake for 10 minutes, or even 8 if your oven is fierce. Finally, I sprinkled them with a little (entirely optional) extra sugar as they came out of the oven (doing it while the biscuits are hot helps it to stick), before transferring them to a wire rack to cool.
Orange Cornmeal Biscuits
(Please note: although I have provided a conversion from grams to US cup measurements I cannot guarantee the accuracy as I do not bake using cups, I thoroughly recommend investing in a digital metric scale, it is far more accurate.)
- 115g (1 stick) soft unsalted butter
- 85g (3/4 cup + 2tbsp) icing (powdered) sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- finely grated zest of 1 large orange
- 150g (1 + 1/4 cups) plain flour
- 55g (1/3 cup + 1tsp) fine cornmeal (polenta)
- caster/granulated sugar for sprinkling
Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment.
Beat the butter and icing sugar together with an electric whisk until pale and fluffy, add the vanilla extract and orange zest and beat again until combined. Mix the flour and cornmeal together and add to the butter mixture, beat gently, then bring the mixture together with your hands into a stiff dough, it will be quite crumbly, knead very gently for a few seconds just enough to form it into a smooth ball.
Roll out on a lightly floured surface to about 5mm thick and cut out biscuits using a 6cm plain round cutter (or cutter of your choice), place on the baking sheets and chill in the fridge for 1 hour, or the freezer for 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.
Bake the biscuits in batches, one tray at a time, for 10-15 minutes until golden. As soon as they come out of the oven, sprinkle with a little sugar then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
(Recipe adapted from Leiths Baking Bible by Susan Spaull and Fiona Burrell)