Thyme and lemon biscuits

thyme and lemon biscuits

A little while ago I went on a crusade to find a good replacement for butter. After plenty of searching, numerous palm oil woes, and debates with myself about using biodynamic butter, I pretty much decided to just avoid it where I can, using olive oil instead, or coconut oil if I’m feeling rich.

In the process of reaching this conclusion however, I came across a certain product by Melrose, which I think ethically is not too bad, though obviously pretty processed and quite far from being actual food. It tastes alright (but not amazing), and goes fine on toast. The jelly-like consistency did irk us all a bit though, so I made the call that it definitely wouldn’t work to bake with this stuff. Fast forward about 9 months, and the poor little tub is still sitting in the fridge; forgotten, but otherwise fine.

It really needed to get out of our lives, however being one to avoid wasting anything, I decided to give baking a go.

Biggest. Mistake. Ever.

Heating this spread seemed to just compound its not-amazing flavour, and ruined a batch of what would otherwise have been quite tasty biscuits. I was saddened by this defeat, but was sure that these biscuits could actually be quite good. Herbs in sweet biscuits – what a delicious paradigm shift!

Determined to eat these biscuits, I tried again with old mate nuttelex. It may not be the greatest solution to my butter woes, but it came through with the goods. I was rewarded with golden, sugary discs of thyme and lemon, and the realisation that I probably just need my own cow.

thyme and lemon biscuits 2

thyme and lemon biscuits 3

Thyme and lemon biscuits

Makes about 20

4 tablespoons butter/margarine
1/4 cup raw sugar
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
1/2 cup plain flour

Preheat oven to 180C, and line a baking tray with grease-proof paper.

Grind thyme to a pulp using a mortar and pestle. Whisk butter/margarine and sugar in a medium bowl, then add thyme and lemon rind and mix to combine.

Sift in flour and mix to form a dough. Roll out dough between two sheets of baking paper to approximately half a centimetre thick. Cut into rounds (or the shape of your choice) using a biscuit cutter, and transfer to prepared tray. Sprinkle lightly with raw sugar.

The baking time will vary with your oven, but will be around 7-12 minutes. You might need to rotate the tray halfway through if your oven cooks unevenly (like mine). Just keep watch – they’re done when they’re lightly golden. Allow to cool, then eat.

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Lavender and honey muffins.

Lavender and honey muffins

I promise this is the last muffin post for a while. It just can’t be helped. Being Christmas crazy time, it’s easy to get swept up baking elaborate fruit cakes and nifty edible gifts for others. I feel like it’s probably important to take a break now and then though, drink plenty of tea, and enjoy a muffin.

When I cook, I generally use what’s available, rather than making a special trip to the shops for ingredients. I enjoy the creativity that comes with this, but it’s also always nice to avoid unnecessary errand-running. This time, there was a shortage of sugar and apples in the cupboard, so I used honey and eggs. These muffins are therefore a bit of a deviation from my usual muffin formula, so although they’re not vegan, they could easily be made so with a couple of substitutions.

I’ve never actually used lavender before, but the bush in full flower outside the window was too lovely to ignore. When I was in Paris recently, I had a delightful lavender and apricot cupcake from a little place called Vegan Folie’s, so I knew it could be done. Here’s a little taste of how amazing vegan cupcakes can be: (The lavender one is at the front, and the one in the background is felafel and hummous flavoured… more on this another time.)

vegan folie's cupcakes

With a little help from Stephanie Alexander’s Kitchen Garden Companion, I figured out the right quantity of lavender so as not to overpower. Be careful though, some varieties are more suited to cooking than others. “Provence” and English Lavender seem to be a couple of the more preferred varieties.

Now, put the mince pies aside, hunt down a lavender bush and bake some muffins. Quite possibly the best antidote to Christmas mayhem.

Lavender and honey muffins 2

Lavender

Lavender and honey muffins 3

Lavender and honey muffins

Makes approximately 12 muffins

1 1/2 cups plain flour
3/4 cup wholemeal flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers (strip flowers off the stem after drying, or dry roast fresh flowers in a pan on the stove to speed up the process)
1/4 cup raw sugar
*2 tablespoons honey
*1 egg
3/4 cup soy milk
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 1 teaspoon vanilla essence)

*Vegan alternative:
Replace honey with either agave or another 1/4 cup of raw sugar.
Replace egg with 1/2 cup applesauce.

Preheat oven to 180C, and grease muffin pans.

Combine flours, baking powder and soda and lavender in a large mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl, lightly beat egg, then mix in sugar, honey, milk, water and vanilla until well combined.

Add wet ingredients to the dry, then mix until combined. Divide mixture among muffin pans, filling each to roughly 3/4 full.

Bake for 18-20 minutes until slightly golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Serve with cups of tea, warm or cold, alone or with a mildly-flavoured spread of your choosing (eg butter/coconut butter).

Rose and almond muffins.

rose and almond muffins

I am a fan of muffins. It’s barely a secret. They are so easy to make, versatile, not terribly unhealthy, and a brilliant multipurpose food (breakfast/snack/dessert anyone?)

They’re also a fun medium for playing with flavour combinations, and although these ones aren’t terribly adventurous, I have been known to make banana and coriander seed muffins in the past. Whoa!

Though I don’t have any exciting stories to tell today, it’s probably afternoon tea time somewhere in the world, so why not bake some muffins?

These vegan lovelies are deliciously rose-flavoured with crunchy almond bits. Might I suggest enjoying with a cup of tea, probably from a teapot, because it’s always better that way.

rose and almond muffins 2

rose and almond muffins 3

rose and almond muffins 4

Rose and almond muffins

Makes 12 small-medium muffins

1 1/2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup almonds
1 apple
4 tablespoons water
1/2 cup raw sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons rose water
1 cup non-dairy milk (I used rice milk)

Preheat oven to 180C and grease or line your muffin pans.

Lightly toast almonds using your preferred method. I threw them in a bowl in the microwave for one minute. Once toasted, roughly chop.

Core and roughly chop the apple, then whizz it in a food processor (a small one if possible), with the water. This makes a kind of instant applesauce. If you have applesauce on hand, use about half a cup of that instead if you like.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the applesauce, sugar, rose water and milk. Use a whisk or a fork to mix it well.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and powder and chopped almonds, then add the wet ingredients, whisking to combine well.

Spoon the mixture into your pre-prepared muffin pans, until they’re about 3/4 full. Bake for around 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Vanilla chai biscuits.

A few years ago I travelled to India. Of all the things I brought back with me, possibly the coolest but least-useful items were wooden stamps.

On the odd occasion, I’ve felt really creative and dusted them off to create stamped gift cards or decorated book covers and such. But I have never been so excited when I thought of using them to stamp food. “Such genius!” I told myself, as my mind raced with possibilities.

I have to confess that stamping biscuits has quite possibly become my new favourite activity. I thought that a vanilla chai flavour would be quite fitting for the Indian stamps, though the flavour seems somewhat less important than the fact that these just look really cool! The biscuits themselves are flavoured with spices, with the vanilla flavour coming from the icing on their bottoms.

Might I suggest enjoying these with a cup of tea?

Vanilla chai biscuits

1 egg white
1 egg yolk
1/8 cup sugar
1/8 cup olive oil (or other oil)
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
approx 10 cardamon seeds, ground (or a small pinch of ground cardamon)
1 tablespoon ginger powder
1 cup plain flour

1 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
dash of water

Preheat oven to 180C.

Whisk the egg white until fluffy, then add in sugar. Whisk the yolk with the oil, then add to the egg white along with the spices.

Fold in the flour until combined.

Roll teaspoon-sized quantities of dough into balls, then space evenly on a lined baking tray. If you have a stamp, now is the time to get funky. Push the stamp into the balls of dough to flatten. If you don’t have a stamp, try using a fork or a spoon.

Bake for approximately 12 minutes or until solid and turning golden. Meanwhile, mix the icing sugar, vanilla essence, and enough water to form a just-runny mixture (which will fall from a spoon, but not in a continuous stream).

Cool the biscuits briefly, then dip the base of each in an icing mixture. Allow to dry on a cooling rack. Tasty!