3 January 2012

Vanilla Mouse Biscuits

These biscuits were made in an attempt to use up the large excess of grey icing that I had left over from the New Year cake. I made the template for the mice myself, then halfway through realised that a triangular or heart-shaped cookie cutter would have sufficed, but never mind. After filling a baking tray with these little mouse heads I had a rifle through the bag of cookie cutters we have and found a bear one. Bears can be grey, right? They are now, anyway:

I'm not sure what the bear on the left is so grumpy about.
The bear on the right has no legs because there wasn't really enough dough left for them. He seems quite content without them, anyway.

For the biscuits I used a rosemary biscuit recipe from Emma Patmore's What's Cooking:Baking, which is pretty good for tray bakes, chocolate chip cookies and millionaire shortbread. I added about three times the amount of vanilla essence than should be ncessary to the grey icing from last week and it still tasted of nothing but food colouring. Hopefully it hasn't ruined the biscuits, though.

The cream cheese and pear sponge in last week's New Year cake was actually very nice, but unfortunately the icing didn't taste at all good so I had to advise my family members to cut most of it off before eating any of the cake. I think I'll try the sponge again, along with some (hopefully) fancy decoration in a few weeks, once the January exams are over.

The icing I'm giving you in the recipe is not the horrible mess that I described above, but a nice and non-disastrous topping. Of course you won't be limited to the colour grey so feel free to make whatever shapes you please. I'd love to know if you've made anything of your own so let me know either via the comments below or the Facebook page.

Makes (At Least) 24

  • 50g Butter
  • 100g Caster Sugar
  • 200g Plain Flour
  • 1Tbsp Vanilla Essence/Extract
  • 1 Egg
  • 100g Icing Sugar
  • 5-6 Tbsp Water
  • 1 Tsp Food Colouring
  • Currants and Silver Balls for Decorating
  • Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan and line a baking tray or two.
  • Cream the butter and  caster sugar together.
  • Stir in the vanilla essence and egg. The mixture will look a bit lumpy at this point, but don't worry.
  • Slowly add the flour until the mixture forms a dough.
  • Place the dough on a clean floured surface and roll it out to about 0.5-1cm thin. If the dough sticks to the rolling pin, flour it a little bit and try again. If you don't have a rolling pin you could use your fingers or a smooth glass to roll the dough out.

  • If you want to make up your own shape like I did, take a sheet of paper and draw the shape you want your biscuits to have. Keep in mind that you're going to be cutting lots of these out yourself, so try to keep the design simple. You also need to make sure the design isn't too small so that the biscuits aren't too tiny!
It took me several attempts to get a good size. It's harder than you think!

  • Now, cut out your design and place it, pen side up, on the corner of your dough. Take a knife and cut around it. Move the template to the nearest free piece of dough and repeat until you either get bored of cutting out your design (see my bears) or run out of dough. If you're using a pre-made cutter, just do the same thing without the knife as the cutter should be sharp enough to cut through the dough for you.

  • Use a spatula to pick up the shapes and carefully place them onto the lined baking tray. There should be spare bits of dough from around your cut out shapes, so roll this up back into a ball, roll it out and cut out more shapes until there's no more usable dough left.

  • Put the biscuits into the oven. If you made small shapes like my mice, you'll need to check them after 15 minutes; if you made larger, more conventional shapes then check them after 20 minutes. The biscuits are done when they have turned slightly golden on top and are almost solid (biscuits tend to crisp up as they cool so don't worry if they still seem a bit soft.)
  • Place the biscuits on a cooling rack while you make the icing: Put the icing sugar in a bowl and slowly add small amounts of the water. Stir the icing into the water between additions until it is a consistency that you are happy with. Add the food colouring.
  • Use a teaspoon (or a piping bag if you've got a complex design in  mind) to drop the icing onto the biscuits. If your icing is a bit runny it might be an idea to ice the biscuits on a cooling rack placed over a sheet of greaseproof paper or tissue to catch any drips.
  • Decorate  the biscuits however you like, leave them to set and enjoy!
They're not perfect, but they still look alright. Some look more like dogs and cats than mice, though.

There are probably several hundred variations of this recipe, but you could make chocolate biscuits by adding  20g of cocoa to the mix in exchange for 20g flour. The original recipe replaced the vanilla with 2 tsp finely chopped rosemary, or maybe you could add cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg for a wintry spiced biscuit. 

If you don't understand any of the terms I used in the recipe above, have a look at The Basics.

For those of you who were wondering, a cake and thirt odd biscuits were still not enough to dispose of the horrible grey icing, so reluctantly I threw it away because I go back to the North on Thursday and to be honest I couldn't face ruining any more recipes with it before I go.

It's going to be a busy couple of weeks: two exams and my 21st birthday! Baking is hence being put on hold until that's all over (I might make some brownies on Saturday, though, as a last baking hurrah before hardcore revision and exams begin), but rest assured I am planning some sort of boozy post-exam celebration cake for when I do return. Keep your eyes peeled for the brownies, then, and to those of you who are also sitting exams this month: I feel your pain!

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