Sunday, 20 November 2011

Baking Sunday: Afghan Biscuits

I've written before about Edinburgh Cake Ladies cake events but I thought I'd write about another baking event in Edinburgh, Baking Club at Sofis Bar. Sofis is part of the Swedish pubs chain here in Edinburgh which also comprise Joseph Pearces, Boda Bar and The Victoria which are all on Leith Walk.  Sofis is based out by itself in Leith, on Henderson Street near the Shore. It's a great little local pub, a relaxed and quirky place with local artwork and fairy lights, and traditional Swedish dishes and drinks on their menu too.  It's well known for it's events, with a regular film night, knitting club, book group and writers night.  The Baking Club at Sofis is the third Wednesday of the month with a different theme each time, with each of us bringing a home baked dish.  November's theme was biscuits and over pots of tea and hot mulled wine we ate homemade jaffa cakes, raspberry melting moments, coffee and walnut shortbread, chocolate chip cookies, Alfajores (a South American shortbread biscuit, sandwiched together with dulce de leche and sprinkled with coconut), white chocolate and cranberry cookies, Anzac biscuits and my highlight of the evening, Afghan biscuits.

Afghan biscuits at Sofis Baking Club

These biscuits originated in New Zealand and are a simple chocolate cornflake biscuit with chocolate icing and topped with a walnut.  It had been a really long time since I'd had one of these biscuits and I was keen to make some at home, particularly as I knew that one of my favourite new baking books, the Primrose Bakery book, had a recipe for them. This the Primrose Bakery's second baking book, the first focussing primarily on cupcakes. The new book still has a lot of cupcake recipes (that is what they're famous for after all) but also  sections on Breakfast, Layer Cakes, Loaves and Slices, Bisucits and Wedding Cakes and a particularly detailed Techniques and Tips section. There's a lot of old favourite standard recipes (coconut cake, caramel slice, cinnamon buns and plum cake), some variations of classics (rose biscuits, violet cupcakes, pear and ginger cake and apple and blueberry loaf) and some interesting inclusions which are great to see, such as Neenish tarts, chocolate orange icebox cake, Candian ginger snaps, jam filled croissants and ginger cream Christmas cake. These Afghan biscuits are so easy to make and a lovely treat - ingredients you would never guess would work together taste delicious in these crunchy cocoa-rich treats.

Afghan Biscuits (makes 6-8)

For the biscuits
200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
75g golden caster sugar
175g plain flour, sifted
25g cocoa powder, sifted
50g cornflakes

For the topping
Chocolate Buttercream Icing (recipe follows below)
6-8 walnut halves

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
2. In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with an electric hand mixer, until the mixture is pale and fluffy (approximately 5 minutes). Gradually add the flour and cocoa powder and beat again. Lastly, add the cornflakes and sir in with a spoon until combined.
3. Put approximately 2 tablespoonfuls each of the mixture in neat piles on the baking tray, leaving a little space between each one, and flatten them slightly with the back of a fork. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until just becoming firm to the touch.
4. Allow to cool slightly on the tray and then transfer to a wire rack.
5. When the biscuits are completely cool, use a spatula or a flat-edged knife, to spread a small amount of the Chocolate Buttercream Icing on top of each biscuit and decorate each one with 1-2 walnut halves.

Chocolate Buttercream Icing

175g good quality dark chocolate
115g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125 icing sugar, sifted
1/2 tbsp semi-skimmed milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract


1. Melt the chocolate either in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water or in a microwave safe bowl in the microwave, until the chocolate is smooth and has a thick pouring consistency. Leave to cool slightly.
2. In a bowl beat the butter, sugar, milk and vanilla together until smooth. Add the melted chocolate and beat until thick and creamy.
3. The icing can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Remember to beat well before reusing. If it looks too runny to use to ice the biscuits, simply keep beating - this will thicken the icing and improve its consistency. 

These biscuits will keep for 2-3 days in an airtight tin or wrapped in cling film and stored at room temperature.