If you’re as fond of plunging your paws into a biscuit tin as we are, we recommend you have a go at baking your own treats. We have recipes for all skill levels, from basic child-friendly cookies, to elaborate decorative gingerbread.
Of the many baking options, biscuit-making is perhaps one of the least intimidating. The potential pitfalls of using yeast are avoided, and those with a more ‘rustic’ creative approach can get away with jagged edges and uneven mounds of dough. Maybe we’re romanticising childhood memories of running rampant with cookie cutters, but we’re extremely fond of these sweet discs. After all, a chat over tea and biscuits on a rainy day is about as British as you get.
That’s not to say there’s not an art to making biscuits. For every basic cookie recipe there’s a grandiose, show-stopping gingerbread house, and we have it all covered. Read on to find the right biscuit recipe for you…
First, stock up on kit…
Achieve a picture-perfect finish with only a lazy flick of the wrist by investing in a fun cutter. Everything from cats, hearts and initials are available online, and it beats trying to carve out shapes using a butter knife.
Whether you want to top your cookies with a chocolate drizzle, or flood ice your biscuits in an intricate design, piping bags will help you achieve the neatest finish.
Smooth-topped biscuits such as shortbread can be spruced up with a light dusting of icing sugar. Make your own template, or utilise the often-overlooked doily to make a ‘petticoat’ pattern.
The ultimate biscuit recipe
Follow this one recipe for basic dough, employ the following three techniques and you'll have yourself ten different biscuits...
1. The roll and cut out technique
This is the best way to make different shaped biscuits. Once you’ve made your batch of dough, divide it in two, wrap in cling film and chill for half an hour until firm. Then, roll it out onto a lightly floured surface to the thickness of a pound coin. Then use the aforementioned cutter to stamp out biscuits. Any trimmings can be gathered up and re-rolled.
Use this technique for…
Vanilla biscuits (30)
Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Make a batch of the basic biscuit dough, then chill until firm, roll out and cut out shapes as above. Bake on a non-stick baking tray for 10-12 minutes until pale golden colour. Carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool and crisp up.
Squiggle hearts (30)
Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/ gas 4. Prepare the basic biscuit dough, then chill. After rolling out the dough, use a 7cm heart-shaped cookie cutter to stamp out your biscuits, then bake as before and transfer to a wire rack. As the biscuits are cooling, melt 100g each of white and milk chocolate in small heatproof bowls in a microwave for 2 minutes on medium heat. While the biscuits are still on the rack, use the prongs of a fork to ‘squiggle’ the melted chocolate over the top. Leave to set until hard.
Lemony fingers (40)
Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Make the basic biscuit dough, adding the zest of two lemons to the sugar and butter mixture. After chilling, roll out the dough to a rough rectangle, then use a pizza cutter or knife to divide the dough into long strips, about 10 x 2cm. Bake as above. For the icing, mix 140g/5oz sifted icing sugar with four-five tablespoons of lemon juice and the zest of one lemon. When the biscuits are cool, half dip them into the icing, then dry on a rack.
2. The shape and slice technique
Make the biscuit dough and this time roll it into a log. Chill it for half an hour, or stick it in the freezer in cling firm. If you do opt for freezing the dough for a rainy day, take it out to soften for around 15 minutes before baking.
Use this technique for…
Crushed almond rounds (20)
Prepare the basic biscuit dough, substituting two teaspoons of almond extract for the vanilla. Shape the dough into a large oval log, about 8-10cm in diameter, then roll in 100g of finely chopped, whole blanched almonds, pressing the nuts onto all sides. Carefully wrap in cling film, then chill or freeze. To cook, heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4, then slice off 1cm thick ovals with a sharp knife. Bake on a non-stick baking tray for 12 mins until pale gold, then carefully transfer to a cooling rack to firm up.
Cranberry & orange polka dots (30)
Add 100g of dried cranberries and the zest of two oranges to the basic biscuit dough when mixing in the flour. Roll into a thin log, wrap in cling film, then chill or freeze. To make the biscuts, slice the log into 5mm slices and bake in the same way as the Crushed almond rounds, but for just 8-10 mins.
Caramel pinwheels (30)
Make a batch of the basic biscuit dough, then chill for 20 mins. Roll into a 30 x 30cm square on floured greaseproof paper, then spread with four tablespoons of dulce de leche caramel toffee (you should find this near the tinned fruit in most supermarkets). Roll up from one end, like a Swiss roll, then wrap in cling film and chill or freeze. Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4 and line a baking tray with non-stick parchment. Thinly slice the dough into pinwheels, then bake for 10-12 mins. Lift the biscuits onto a rack as soon as they come out of the oven or the caramel will stick to the paper.
3. The scoop and bake technique
These cookies can be ready in less than half an hour – there’s no need for chilling or rolling. Simply make your dough then add flavours, before dolloping scoops of dough onto the baking sheet. Press them out with the palm of your hand then bake – simple!
Use this technique for…
Triple chocolate treats (12)
Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Make a batch of basic biscuit dough, substituting 50g plain flour for 50g cocoa powder. Add 85g white chocolate chunks and 85g milk chocolate chunks, then mix well. Scoop the mixture into 12 large balls onto a non-stick baking sheet. Space well apart, as they will spread. Flatten slightly, bake for 12-15 mins, then transfer the soft, warm cookies to a cooling rack to firm up.
Cherry & coconut thumbprints (28)
Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Make a batch of basic biscuit dough, adding 100g desiccated coconut to the mixture with the flour. Scoop out spoonfuls and roll into around 28 ‘golf balls’ in your hands, then spread out over a baking tray. With your thumb, gently press a dip in the centre of each cookie, then fill the thumbprints with a little jam (we used cherry). Bake for 12-15 mins, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Peanut butter cookies (20)
Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Make the basic biscuit dough, stirring in 100g crunchy peanut butter with the egg yolk and vanilla extract. Spoon heaped tablespoons of the dough onto a baking tray, flatten slightly and top each with a whole roasted peanut. Bake for 12-15 mins, as with the Triple chocolate treats, until the cookies are golden.
More classic biscuit recipes...
Snaps, thins and crisps
Are you as nutty for biscuits as we are? We’d love to hear your recipe suggestions…