I'm not sure what my favorite part of baking is, but I know near the top is measuring out my ingredients. I'm sure eating the baked goods it up there, too, but there's something very zen about measuring out my ingredients. I love seeing the flour, the sugar, the butter, all lined up in their bowls, ready to be mixed or creamed or melted. There's something very calming about having what you need on-hand, and not have to fumble with measuring cups and scales while you're cooking. You can concentrate on the task at hand, and just take everything one step at a time, because you have each step ready ahead of time. Sure, it's methodical, and probably a bit too much for some people, but I find that you still get creative and alter the recipe as you see fit in the heat of the moment, but having all your stuff ready ahead of time gives you a few minutes to think about the recipe, or the weather, or just clear your mind and be in the moment.
I hate meditation, but I love baking.
People often ask me what I do with all the baked goods that have been coming out of this project (and all the baked goods in-between--you don't think this is the only thing I get up to in the kitchen, do you?). I usually have a couple of whatever I create, but for the most part I give them away. I bring them to work, or I drive up to my family and leave them with my brother to eat. However, sometimes a recipe comes along and I get selfish and I eat the whole thing. Last week's bread was one of those occasions (okay, I shared some with my brother-in-law and his wife, who were visiting), and this week's brandy snaps was another one of those occasions (we did have help from our friend Diana).
In my defense, they get less crispy after a day, so really it was just a race against the clock. I totally did not eat them out of pure desire. Totally not my fault. Right....
This recipe, once you have everything together, is actually pretty easy. It's a bit of a time investment, since you can only cook 4 cookies at a time, but the recipe couldn't be simpler. I say "once you have everything together" because this recipe is super British and calls for 1) demerara sugar, and 2) golden syrup. Both of which are not easily found in the United States.
First, demerara sugar. Demerara sugar is a raw-ish sugar that is, they say, less refined than regular white sugar, so it retains more of the natural molasses cane sugar is found with. It also is larger in granule size, so has a bit of a crunch to it -- not that it matters in this recipe, in which you melt everything down. A good, more easily found substitute would be turbinado sugar, marketed as "Sugar in the Raw," which is similar, but not quite exact. Technically, the grains in turbinado sugar are finer than demerara and they are less "sticky," meaning they have less molasses in them, but they're roughly equivalent.
I used brown sugar, which is a perfectly fine, and much more easily accessible substitute. We're not using the sugar for its texture, so the grain size didn't matter, and I like my baked goods more on the well-cooked/burnt side, so the greater molasses content of brown sugar didn't bother me. Plus, it was raining -- I didn't want to find my way to a specialty store in the rain.
Second, golden syrup. Golden syrup is just a barely caramelized sugar syrup, which gives baked goods a nice nutty and hint-of-lemon flavor. You could definitely substitute corn syrup or molasses for golden syrup in many recipes, and the chemistry of these cookies won't change, but the flavor will. Corn syrup will make them more bland, and molasses will make them slightly bitter. I would opt for molasses if you're in a pinch. I, overachiever that I am, realized I had everything to make golden syrup at home though, so I found a DIY recipe and made my own -- it was well worth the time spent.
After you have everything together though, these are fun cookies to make, if just slightly painful, depending on how calloused your fingers are. I'll explain. Brandy snaps are a shaped and filled cookie, meaning you have to shape them into something (anything!) that can act as a receptacle for, in this case, whipped cream (though I could totally see them shaped into a bowl and hold some vanilla or pistachio ice cream).
In order to do this, you have to handle them while still hot. These cookies cool off quickly, and if they cool enough, the "snap" part of their name will come into play and you won't be able to form them into anything. Right when they come out of the oven, they're still very molten, so you have to wait for 1-2 minutes until you can slide a spatula under them without them breaking or melting. At that point, you have to lift them with the spatula and your fingers, grin through the pain if you're sensitive (I found it pleasurable because my kitchen was cold), and wrap them around your cylindrical implements. I suppose if you're professional you could use cannoli molds, but I'm cheap with a small kitchen, so I used some oiled handles of various tools I have in my crocks. Press the seam together and rest them seam-side-down for another 4-5 minutes until they cool completely. It's easier than it sounds, and after doing 5 batches of these things, it becomes second-nature.
After you have everything together though, these are fun cookies to make, if just slightly painful, depending on how calloused your fingers are. I'll explain. Brandy snaps are a shaped and filled cookie, meaning you have to shape them into something (anything!) that can act as a receptacle for, in this case, whipped cream (though I could totally see them shaped into a bowl and hold some vanilla or pistachio ice cream). In order to do this, you have to handle them while still hot. These cookies cool off quickly, and if they cool enough, the "snap" part of their name will come into play and you won't be able to form them into anything.
Like I said, we ate these all in one day. The snaps truly snap. It's a satisfying sound and a satisfying crunchiness between your teeth. You can really fill these with anything that can be piped and stiffened. I could see filling them with cannoli filling, or a stiffer pastry cream. But I actually think whipped cream (or even a spiced whipped cream--I think a bit of cinnamon in the filling would pair amazingly with the ginger in the cookie) is best. The softness and richness of the whipped cream turns these simple cookies into a decadent snack. You can really pop them into your mouth with reckless abandon (and should do so).
I think they're missing brandy though. False advertising.
55 grams (2 ounces) BUTTER
55 grams (2 ounces) DEMERARA SUGAR (or brown sugar)
55 grams (2 ounces) GOLDEN SYRUP (see below for DIY golden syrup)
50 grams (1 3/4 ounces) FLOUR
1/2 teaspoon GROUND GINGER
1/2 teaspoon LEMON JUICE
WHIPPED CREAM (heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, spices of your choice -- I recommend cinnamon and/or vanilla extract)
1. Preheat oven to 350F, line two baking trays with parchment, and oil the handle of a wooden spoon or whisk
2. Heat the BUTTER, SUGAR, and GOLDEN SYRUP in a small pan over a low heat until the butter and sugar have dissolved -- about 15 minutes. Do not let the mixture boil, as it may crystallize
3. Leave the mixture to cool 2-3 minutes, then mix in the FLOUR and GINGER and pour in the LEMON JUICE, stirring to mix thoroughly
4. Drop four teaspoonfuls of the mixture onto each baking tray about 4 inches apart from one another -- if your mixture gets too solid in between batches to scoop, place the pan back on the heat for a few seconds to a minute until it comes back to its goopy texture
5. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until the mixture is spread out, looks like lace, and is a dark golden color
6. Leave the sheet to rest out of the oven for about one minutes, then work quickly as the snaps firm up -- if you can release the cookie using an offset spatula, but they're still pliable, you're in good shape
7. Quickly roll a circle of the warm mixture around the handle of the spoon or whisk, joining underneath, and pressing the seam slightly, then leave to cool completely (just a couple minutes) -- if any of the baked circles on the sheet harden too much to work with, put them back in the oven for a few seconds to soften again
8. Fill cylinders of brandy snaps with WHIPPED CRAM to serve
DIY Golden Syrup
makes ~8 ounces
50 grams GRANULATED SUGAR
3 tablespoons WATER
500 grams GRANULATED SUGAR
300 grams (3/4 cup) BOILING WATER
1 quarter LEMON
1. Dissolve first part of SUGAR into WATER over low heat, and cook until caramelized -- the darker your caramel color, the deeper your flavor, so personal preference wins out here, but I would aim for a dark golden orange color
2. When you've reached your desired caramel color, pour in the second part of SUGAR and BOILING WATER, and LEMON slice and bring to a boil, then down to a simmer, and cook for 45 minutes
3. Let mixture cool before pouring into a jar or can (preferably sanitized), and store in the fridge
A personal challenge to conquer every technical challenge, and select signature bakes, from The Great British Bake Off
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