Hello and welcome to the fourth instalment of my blog feature 'Great British Bake Off (GBBO) Challenges with a Twist'. In this instalment, I attempted to put my own spin on Prue Leith's Iced Ginger Biscuits. If you missed the first instalment (Blackberry and Pistachio Mille-Feuille) and want to start from the beginning, CLICK HERE. If you want to read the second instalment (Coffee-Caramel Almond & Hazelnut Dacquoise), CLICK HERE and if you want to read the third instalment (Apple, Rhubarb & Raspberry Princess Cakes), CLICK HERE.
The original GGBO challenge from series 8 episode 10 required finalist contestants to recreate Prue Leith's intricately Iced Ginger Biscuits. You can find Prue's original recipe HERE. For my version I added my own twist by stuffing the biscuits with homemade marzipan (though you can use shop-bought to save yourself some time and effort) and adding a few extra spices to kick things up a notch.
The pairing of ginger, marzipan and additional spices makes for a beautiful Christmas treat of a biscuit! It also makes a softer and chewier biscuit, which is just my cup of tea. However, if you prefer your biscuits with a bit more of a snap and a crunch, you may choose to make Prue's original recipe without the marzipan.
I also decided to make a range of different shaped and sized biscuits and adapt Prue's icing designs to the various shapes and sizes I had chosen. This was probably my first mistake... I think I had much higher expectations of myself and my biscuit icing ability in this task than what I could actually achieve. After all, how hard can icing a biscuit be?
As it turns out, it's really hard and I am really not good at it. AT ALL. To all those incredibly skilled biscuit-icers out there who can ice a biscuit and make it look like Prue's designs without wanting to throw everything at the kitchen wall in frustration, I salute you. You are very talented people. Well done you.
I, on the other hand, promptly gave up my attempt at recreating Prue's icing designs because I didn't want to ruin a whole batch of biscuits with my rubbish icing skills. Instead, some improvisation and SPRINKLES (who doesn't love sprinkles) saved the day. And soon I didn't want to throw everything at the kitchen wall anymore. Success.
Utensils: large mixing bowls, hand or stand mixer with whisk and dough hook (not needed if buying ready-made marzipan) attachments, sieve, wooden spoon, rolling pin, 2 large baking sheets, assortment of cookie cutters (I used small and large round and square cookie cutters with frilly edges), sharp knife, cooling rack, medium and small bowls, up to 5 piping bags fitted with writing nozzles, toothpicks.
Top Tip: I have included the icing ingredients for Prue's designs in this recipe as well as the icing ingredients I used for my biscuits so you can pick and choose which designs you want to have a go at. If you attempt Prue's designs, good on you! Though I do recommend having a backup assortment of sprinkles just in case things don't go quite as planned!
150g butter, softened (plus a little extra for greasing the baking sheets)
100g light muscovado sugar
2 teaspoons molasses / black treacle
3 tablespoons beaten egg
225g plain flour
¾ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
200g ground almonds
75g caster sugar
125g icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
1 medium egg, beaten
1 teaspoon almond extract
* Or to save time and effort you could buy 400g of ready-made marzipan
If you'd like to have a go at Prue's icing designs, you will need:
3 large egg whites
750g icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Blue, yellow, green and red colour paste
If you're aiming for sprinkle-mania like me, you will need:
2 large egg whites
500g icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Assortment of your favourite sprinkles
Makes: 12 biscuits if you follow Prue's recipe, though with my assortment of shapes and sizes I believe I made approximately 20.
1. Make the marzipan (skip this step if you're using shop-bought marzipan): Mix the ground almonds, caster and icing sugars using a hand or stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, before adding the egg and almond extract. Knead the mixture in the bowl until it forms a stiff dough.
2. Turn the dough out onto a surface lightly dusted with icing sugar. Knead the dough briefly until the dough is smooth. If you'd like to colour your marzipan to make the insides of your biscuits look more exciting, now is the time! Using a cocktail stick, add a tiny amount of your chosen gel food colouring and knead the dough to an even colour (my marzipan was unintentionally a pastel green colour because it was my leftovers from when I made Princess Cakes, though I ended up really liking the colour in contrast with the ginger biscuits). Wrap tightly in cling film and place in the fridge until needed later.
3. Make the ginger biscuits: Beat the butter, sugar and molasses/black treacle in a large mixing bowl until fluffy. Gradually add the egg, beating well between each addition until fully incorporated.
4. In a separate bowl, sift together the remaining ingredients and stir until combined. Slowly stir the dry mixture into the creamed butter mixture using a wooden spoon. Wrap tightly in cling film and then flatten slightly before placing in the fridge for at least 1 hour to chill until firm.
5. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C (fan 170°C) and thoroughly grease 2 large baking sheets. Unwrap the biscuit dough and cut in half. Unwrap the marzipan. On a lightly floured surface slightly flatten each piece of biscuit dough and the marzipan so that they are all roughly the same thickness and surface size. Sandwich the marzipan between the two pieces of biscuit dough and then roll out the sandwiched dough to about 8-10mm thick. If you're not using marzipan and are following Prue's original recipe, you will need to roll the biscuit dough to about 5-7mm thick.
6. If you're following Prue's recipe, cut out 6, 8cm square biscuits and 6, 10cm long oval biscuits. Place on the baking sheets. Chill until firm (about 20 minutes). If you're aiming for an assortment of biscuits, use a variety of cookie cutters to create different biscuit shapes and sizes. Place on the baking sheets. Chill until firm (about 20 minutes).
7. Bake in the middle of the oven for 10-12 minutes or until the edge of the biscuits are lightly browned. Make sure to check regularly from about 6 minutes, as the biscuits can brown and start to burn very quickly. Cool for 1 minute, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
8. Make the royal icing: Mix the egg whites with 3 tablespoons of the icing sugar in a large bowl and add the lemon juice. Add the remaining icing sugar gradually and mix very well using a wooden spoon or hand or stand mixer with whisk attachment on a low setting until the icing holds its shape, is thick and smooth and has the consistency of toothpaste. Do not over-beat or bubbles will form. If not using straight away, cover the surface of the icing with cling film to stop it from drying out and place in the fridge.
9. Ice the biscuits (Prue's recipe): If you're following Prue's recipe, divide the icing evenly between 2 bowls. Leave 1 bowl white and divide the remaining icing between 5 small bowls. Colour 4 of the bowls, blue, yellow, green and red. Add water drop by drop to the coloured icing and mix to a piping consistency. Spoon the coloured icings into 5 piping bags fitted with writing nozzles. Add water drop by drop to the white icing and mix to a piping consistency. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a writing nozzle. Decorate the biscuits as per the templates shown HERE, loosening or thickening the icings with water or icing sugar to the correct consistency.
10. Ice the biscuits (my version): If you're following my recipe, place a third of the icing in 1 bowl and two thirds of the icing in another bowl. Add water drop by drop (if needed) to the smaller bowl of icing (this will be your 'line icing') and mix to a piping consistency - it should be the texture of toothpaste and retain its shape once piped. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a writing nozzle.
11. To the larger bowl of icing (this will be your 'flood icing'), add water drop by drop until it is a runnier consistency and is pourable. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a writing nozzle (it's best to do this just before you're about to use it otherwise the icing can pour out of the piping bag at both ends if you're not careful).
12. To decorate the biscuits, use the 'line icing' to draw your outline or design onto the biscuits. Let the icing set for a few minutes. Then pipe enough 'flood icing' to cover the entire biscuit within your outline – don’t worry about it being neat at this point. Use a toothpick to spread the icing evenly inside the hard icing ‘wall’. If the surface of the icing isn’t flat, gently shake the biscuit back and forth until you have a smooth covering.
13. Continue to decorate with icing and sprinkles as you wish. For my decoration, I let the flood icing dry and then stuck sprinkles onto the biscuits with the 'line icing' but I'm sure you can think of something more creative!
Storage: These biscuits are best eaten with 2-3 days (as the marzipan tends to soften the biscuit) but can last up to 5 days stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.