Someone really needs to develop scratch and sniff on the internet. Smells are so evocative, particularly in relation to food. The aroma of a dish gets to you even before the taste. At Christmas, the spicy scent that for me conjures up the season is undoubtedly Cinnamon. It is present in so many of our sweet Christmas favourites. Mince Pies, Eggnog, Cookies, Mulled Wine and Figgy Pudding. Schwartz one of the world’s largest producers of dried herbs, spices and seasonings, have launched a 'Christmas Is Cinnamon' campaign for the festive season. Because they know that this particular spice evokes lots of lovely memories of Christmases past, they asked me to create and share a sweet, festive recipe that has significance to me. The one that immediately came to mind was Brandy Snaps, from my Mum's Cordon Bleu Cookery Course.
I vividly recall helping my Mum to make Brandy Snaps at Christmas time. The recipe she used was from the Cordon Bleu Cookery Course. This was a 72 part cookery magazine from the 1970's. The Brandy Snaps take pride of place on the cover of the first issue of the magazine (priced at a hefty 75p). They are the suggested desert for your very first Cordon Bleu Dinner Party Menu which comprised of: Potage Madrilene to start, followed by Chicken Veronique with Julienne Potato Cake and rounding off with Oranges in Caramel and the ubiquitous Brandy Snaps. To enable you to 'make the meal a success without wasting a single precious second in the kitchen' a detailed timetable was provided to make it possible for even 'a beginner cook to produce a Cordon Bleu meal'.
When it came to Brandy Snap making at Christmas it was always for a large gathering of friends on Christmas Eve. We used to unearth all the wooden spoons and spurtles in the house to shape them around. Asbestos fingers were definitely required as there is a very fine line between the brandy snaps being too hot to handle and having cooled so much that they break when you try to roll them.
My Brandy Snap Baskets are definitely an evolution of a later decade and are much less fiddly to make. The combination of Ginger and Cinnamon is always a winning one, although I was somewhat surprised to discover that most Brandy Snaps don't actually include any Brandy in the recipe! A wee bit of Googling led me to discover a few possibilities for the name. One being that the cream they are filled with should be flavoured with brandy another that brand-schnap came from them being burnt gingerbread and a third that uneducated palates made the use of brandy redundant thus manufacturing the biscuits without brandy was cheaper! Whatever the true origin of the name, Brandy Snaps most definitely encompass the sentiment of 'Christmas is Cinnamon' for me.
Brandy Snaps Baskets
60g Demerara Sugar
60g Golden Syrup
60g Plain Flour
Pinch of Salt
1/2 Tsp Schwartz Ground Cinnamon
1/2 Tsp Schwartz Ground Ginger
1/2 Tsp Lemon Juice
1/2 Tsp Vanilla Extract
Preheat the oven to 180c
Put the butter, sugar and syrup in a saucepan and and heat gently until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. This will take about 15 minutes over a low heat. Don’t let the mixture boil as it may crystallise.
Leave the melted ingredients to cool slightly then sieve in the flour, salt, cinnamon and ginger.
Pour in the lemon juice and vanilla extract and stir well to combine.
Line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper or a reusable non-stick liner.
Spoon the mixture into 4 'blobs' on each sheet.
Space them well apart as they will spread. Cook for 8 – 10 mins until set, golden brown and lacy in appearance. It's best to do this in two batches.
Leave for a minute before shaping. The biscuits should still be pliable but set enough not to tear. If they start to cool too much and become brittle, return to the oven for 30 seconds
To make baskets, oil the base of small ramekins or dariole moulds and drape the biscuits over them.
Once set, transfer to a cooling rack.
If not using straightway, store in an airtight container for up to 7 days.
Serve the Brandy Snaps Baskets filled with whipped cream (with or without Brandy) or ice cream. Top with your choice of fresh fruit, berries, fruit, toffee or chocolate sauce or try my seasonal Mulled Fruit Compote.
Mulled Fruit Compote
500g Mixed Frozen Summer Fruits
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 tsp Ginger
1 Tbsp Cornflour
Gently heat the frozen summer fruits in a saucepan until they are fully defrosted and there's plenty of juice.
Add the Cinnamon, Ginger and Port and stir through
Slake the cornflour with a splash of water and add it to the pan, mixing well to combine.
Turn up the heat and allow the sauce to thicken.
Serve in the Brandy Snap Baskets along with cream or ice cream and finish with a sprinkling of Cinnamon.
Disclosure : This is a commissioned post for Schwartz. As always, all views expressed are my own.
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