The church biscuit, a Sunday quest: 2. Dutch vanilla butter biscuits

Chocolate topped Dutch vanilla butter biscuits

The snow lies clean and white all around the vicarage, including on the road at the front. Only 4x4s have dared venture out and their passage seems to have compacted the snow there before them. The vicar’s car has remained in the same position since Friday and is fast becoming a hillock of indeterminate form, somewhat reminiscent of the elephant eaten by the boa constrictor in Saint-Exupéry’s ‘Little Prince’.  Gentle snow continues to fall.

I prepared thermos flasks of coffee for church this morning, 2 large glass cafetières not being sensible travelling companions on such a day and for the same reason we unearthed plastic cups rather than try to negotiate the short distances to and from the car with a tray of pottery mugs.  The snow up to the church door lay ‘deep and crisp and even’ as the carol says, perfectly white it was beguilingly innocent so we were very grateful for the kind person who had cleared a section of path in front of the door. We thought there would be few intrepid enough to venture out on such a day but we were wrong and the 16 stout souls that came were in such good voice  and spirits that we all returned home with a spring in our step. (Perhaps too much of a spring in my case as I slipped over as I tried to negotiate the sloping lawn up to our front door.)

In my quest to find the ideal church biscuit, I again raided Linda Collister’s ‘Christmas treats to make and give‘.

Dutch vanilla butter biscuits

225 g unsalted butter (at room temperature)

175 g caster sugar

1 vanilla pod, about 8 cm long or 1 teasp. good vanilla extract

I large egg

250 g plain flour

scant 1/4 teasp. baking powder (too much and it makes your mouth dry)

good pinch of salt (I didn’t add any)

 Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F), though less for a fan oven/ Gas 4

Cream butter and sugar with the vanilla seeds or essence until light and smooth. Then add the egg and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt (if desired) and mix gently (if using a processor).

Flour your hands and roll a piece of dough the size of a walnut into a ball which can then be put on a greased baking tray. Continue until all dough used up. (The recipe says there is no need to flatten the dough as they will spread on heating. Mine didn’t, so after the trial tray, I flattened the others slightly. None of mine spread like those pictured in the book but were none the worse for that.)

Cook for 15-18 minutes until lightly golden.

Let biscuits cool on a wire rack. The biscuits should keep in an airtight container for up to five days or, in a freezer for about a month.

It seemed to me that anyone who staggered out this weekend deserved chocolate on their biscuits, so I melted c. 60 g chocolate in a bowl over hot water and put a good size blob on each biscuit. I made about 40 smallish biscuits, the size of petit fours. The chocolate worked well with this buttery shortcake-like biscuit and they were good with coffee.

Dutch vanilla butter biscuits (from Linda Collister’s Christmas treats to make and give; Ryland Peters & Small, 2008)
How the biscuits should look.


Dutch vanilla butter biscuit – my version


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