Library and church biscuits: Mocha pecan cookies & Almond and lemon curd drops

Mocha pecan biscuits for hungry library workers

Mocha pecan biscuits for hungry library workers

I didn’t want to lose the bright colours and sunshine of the last post, so made the biscuits last night and got up early to photograph them outside in the sunshine on the jaunty colours of the hexagon quilt from the previous post.

This is the third week of our ‘squash and biscuits’ for those hard at work in the library and although we can only cope with such an event once a week, it has proved very successful in several ways. Libraries can seem bursting at the seams (excuse the sewing analogy) with rules and regulations. We try not to have too many notices plastered around because,on the one hand, they don’t look especially nice in an old building of fine proportions and some splendid woodwork and, on the other hand, because experience suggests people don’t read them. But this stage of Trinity term  finds us presenting a somewhat fierce face to the students as we try to control the Manhattan sky lines of books towering on desks and teetering on the floor which both inhibit anyone but the possessor of the books from using the desk and us from re-shelving returned books. We don’t like having to be stern and forbidding, so it is  a delight to walk through the library  calling the students to squash and biscuits and to see smiles break out on faces overdosed on the tension of concentration. For 5-10 minutes, and it really is little more, they relax without having to escape, have a chat and a laugh and an intake of a bit of sweetness and energy. Suddenly  library staff are possibly human and approachable and so too do the students appear to us. Rapprochement through sustenance and the sharing of food and drink. 


Grotesque on the outside of Balliol College Library showing the facial contortions of concentration while writing

Mocha pecan cookies


115 g/ 4oz softened butter

115 g/4 oz light muscovado sugar

85 g/ 3 oz caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp instant coffee granules dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water

1 egg

115 g/ 4 0z wholemeal flour

55 g/2 oz plain flour

scant half tsp baking powder

scant quarter tsp bicarbonate of soda

55 g /2 oz ground almonds

55g/ 2oz dark chocolate pieces or chips

55 g/ 2oz pecans coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C for a fan oven/180 degrees C/350 degrees F/Gas Mark 4.

Grease and line with baking parchment 2-3 large baking sheets. 

Cut the butter into chunks, put in a good sized bowl and mix with both the sugars until the mixture is lighter in colour and fluffy. In another bowl put the vanilla extract, coffee and egg and whisk lightly together. Now gradually add the coffee mixture to the butter and sugar and beat until even fluffier. Sift the dry ingredients and lightly fold these into the mixture. Now add the chopped pecans and chocolate and stir them in so they are distributed fairly evenly. Heaped spoonfuls of the mixture can now be placed on the baking sheets allowing room for the mixture to spread. Bake in the preheated oven 10-15 minutes until the outside has a crisp skin though the inside is still soft and a bit wobbly. Cool on baking tray for 2 minutes to set and then remove to a wire rack to complete the cooling .

I try to make the dollops of dough on the tray nice and round but I am never very successful at producing a pretty biscuit – and quite often they vary enormously in size, however hard I aim for a bit of standardisation.

Grotesque on the outside of Balliol College Library showing the self absorption of reading

Grotesque on the outside of Balliol College Library showing the self absorption of reading

The church biscuit of last Sunday was a more hurried affair. I had tried to make carrot cake muffins and was rather disappointed with the result. (In fact they were very good when we tried them on Sunday after the service but somehow the sloppiness of the mixture convinced me that everything had gone wrong.) So, at  9 pm I found myself starting again, then everything went on hold while we got in the car to pick up daughter no 1 + beloved son-in-law from the train station. After that I was inattentive as to the cooking time, so the biscuits were a bit overcooked and didn’t look their loveliest. 

Almond and lemon curd drops 

Almond and lemon curd drops

Almond and lemon curd drops


225 g/8 oz softened butter

140 g/ 5 oz caster sugar

1 egg lightly beaten

2 tsp almond extract

225 g/ 8 oz plain flour

115 g/ 4 oz ground almonds

55 g / 2 oz chopped mixed peel

a few spoons of lemon curd

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C/190 degrees C/375 degrees F/Gas Mark 5. Line 2-3 baking trays with baking paper. Put butter and sugar in a good sized bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Add the lightly beaten egg and almond extract. Sift the flour into the mixture, fold in the almonds and mixed peel and mix well. Take little dollops of the mixture and shape into balls. Place these on the baking sheet  (spacing well apart ), press a hole in the middle of each ball (either with the end of a wooden spoon or with your finger) and fill this with lemon curd. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes until golden. Allow to cool on the tray for a few minutes and the remove to a wire rack to complete the cooling.

The verdict: delicious but they would have been even better cooked a little less so that the lemon curd didn’t over run and caramelise. 



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