I’ve got a lovely collection of cookbooks. There are some books my grandma used to cook from years ago; there are some of my Mum’s books contain all my doll and ballerina shaped childhood birthday cakes, childhood memories tucked away between the pages; there are books purely dedicated to cupcakes or chocolate; books about Indian, Greek and German cooking; there are reams of new books, Nigella, Jamie Oliver, James Martining, Paul Hollywood. Unfortunately my collection of cookbooks is currently about 8000 miles away. Cook books are, apparently, too heavy to pack into your suitcase. A ‘non-essential’ when relocating abroad. Every time I go back to England I enjoy opening them up, reading through them. Sometimes to cook from them, sometimes to read them, other times just to bring back memories from a certain night or party. Then, sadly, when I leave back to the shelf they go.
In the meantime I get most of my recipes from the internet and from whatever is in stock at the local library. I’ve been waiting for Nigella Lawson’s ‘Feast’ to come onto the shelves for a while. I saw it there a few months ago, but some sneaky person has frustratingly had it out for months on end! So, you can imagine my excitement when I popped into the library and there is was on the shelf! I’ve been leafing through it for much of the weekend, sticking in post-it notes and scribbling down lists of recipes to try out.
These little Custard Cream Hearts actually come from the Valentine’s section, where Nigella hopes we’ll be tempted into recreating Custard Creams in our own kitchens if she is to market them as little ‘lurve tokens’. You really shouldn’t need this extra detail to pursuade you though. They are buttery, light and melt deliciously in the mouth. Nigella says they are a re-creation of packet Custard Creams, her ‘Wildean thing about reproducing artifice by more natural means’. I, however, am going to have to do something rare for me and disagree with Nigella here. These aren’t a reproduction of the humble Custard Cream, these are something far better.
Custard Cream Hearts
For the Biscuits
70g plain flour
1 1/2 tbsp Bird’s custard powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
25g unsalted butter
25g vegetable shortening
1 1/2 tbsp caster sugar
1/2 tbsp milk
For the custard cream
1/2 tbsp Bird’s custard powder
50g icing sugar
25g soft butter
1/2 tsp boiling water
Mix together the flour, custard powder and baking powder in a large bowl. Add the butter and shortening in small cubes. Rub the fats into the flour until you’ve got a crumbly, bread-crumb like mixture.
Mix in the sugar. Beat the egg and the sugar together and add into the dry ingredients until it’s all come together. You might not need all the milk and egg mixture. If the mixture is too dry to come together you might need to add a little more milk. Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in clingfilm and put it in the fridge for half an hour.
Roll the chilled dough out on a floured surface to a thickness of 4mm. Cut out the hearts using a heart shaped cutter. Make sure you have even numbers of hearts. Nigella uses twice the mixture and cuts out 28 hearts in order to make 14 biscuits – perfect for valentines day!
Prick the edge of each heart. I used a fork, but Nigella suggests a corn on the cob holder which would be better to turn around the corners of the heart.
Bake on a lined baking sheet for about 15 minutes until they are golden. Cool completely.
While they are cooling, make the custard cream. Sift the icing sugar and custard powder together in a bowl. Add in the butter and warm water and mix to a smooth cream.
Sandwich each biscuit with a little cream mixture. Spread the cream onto one biscuit, then wiggle the other biscuit very gently on top as they are quite fragile.
Try them out and tell me if you can even begin to compare them from the ones out a packet.