When I was about five or six years old, my parents noticed that when I ate chocolate bad things happened: not only would I get hyperactive, but I would get very, very angry; the kind of angry that incited rock throwing and hair-pulling of older brothers. Behavioural difficulties aside, chocolate would cause me to have severe stomach upset. I have this very vivid memory – whether it’s faithful or a blend of several different instances, I’m not sure – of asking my father for a chocolate biscuit or something of the like, and the conversation went something like this:
“Anna, you know that when you eat chocolate you get upset and a sore tummy?”
“So, do you think eating chocolate is a good idea anymore?”
And, I didn’t eat chocolate again. I didn’t eat it for about fifteen years; I did have a few lapses, I will admit, and every time I ate chocolate in those fifteen years it resulted in severe migraine headaches that would have me bedridden for at least a day, sensation loss in limbs and extreme endless nausea included.
However, one day, somewhere between being twenty and twenty-one, I was offered a chocolate biscuit by a work colleague. He was a nice guy, and his English wasn’t fantastic, and I didn’t want to offend him, so I took the biscuit; he walked away, happy in his work. I looked at the biscuit… it looked back at me… so I looked at it again… and played with the thought of what would happen; then ate it anyway, out of curiosity.
Nothing happened. Well, I probably digested it, but that’s not the point.
As you can imagine, I’ve been making up for a lot of lost time between now and then. Still, though, if I eat too much I get a little twinge in the top right corner of my head, and I get a little stomach upset, but it’s nothing compared to what used to happen.
So, now when I eat a Bourbon, which was one of my favourite biscuits as a little girl, I get this feeling of reunion with a long lost love: I thought I’d never be with it again when I left it, all those years ago, but when I returned it was still as sweet and chocolatey as it had always been. Dunk, bite, nom! And even though this darned wheat intolerance business has made enjoying the odd Bourbon a tad more difficult, it hasn’t stopped me yet. In fact, it is the wheat intolerance that spurred me into trying to make my own Bourbons. Even if I do say so myself, my version is just as awesome.
Here’s the biscuit recipe.
For the biscuits:
- 2 ounces (55 grammes) butter, at room temperature
- 2 ounces (55 grammes) caster sugar
- 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon (5 millilitres) vanilla essence
- ½ ounce (15 grammes) cornflour
- ½ ounce (15 grammes) cocoa powder
- 3 ounces (70 grammes) white spelt flour
- Pinch of salt
For the filling:
- 7 ounces icing sugar
- 1 ounce cocoa powder
- 5 ounces butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- Grated zest of ½ orange
- 1 tablespoon milk
First, make the biscuits:
- Sieve together the cornflour, spelt flour, cocoa powder and salt into a bowl and set aside for later.
- Cream the butter and sugar together using an electric hand mixer, wooden spoon, or rubber spatula, until pale and fluffy.
- Beat in the egg and vanilla essence until fully combined. Try not to be too vigorous, as you’re not trying to incorporate much air, just mix the ingredients.
- Add the sieved flour and cocoa mixture and mix with a wooden spoon, or just get in there with your hands. If you’re starting with the spoon, make sure you finish it with your hands so that it’s nice and smooth. Don’t use an electric mixer, as this will make the dough tough.
- Roll into a ball and flatten into a disc, 1 inch (2½ centimetres) in thickness. Chill in the fridge for about half an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F, Gas Mark 2½). Line one or two baking trays with non-stick baking paper.
- Take the dough from the fridge and work a little with your hands to make it malleable. Roll out to an ⅛ inch (3 millimetre) thickness and cut out shapes. You could make them round using a 2 inch (5 centimetre) cutter, or just use a knife to cut squares or rectangles, like I did.
- Arrange the biscuits 1 inch (2½ centimetres) apart on the trays. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes. Obviously, with chocolate biscuits you can’t tell doneness by browning, so when the biscuits are set and firm to the touch around the edges, they’re done.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the trays for 5 or so minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
Then fill them:
- Make the buttercream using this method: of course, you need to add the orange zest in with the butter at the beginning, and then sieve the cocoa in with the icing sugar. Adding the orange zest at the beginning means that the friction of beating draws the oil out gradually over the whole procedure.
- Using a piping bad fitted with a ½ inch (1 centimetre) nozzle, pipe one half of the biscuits with the filling and sandwich with the remaining biscuits.
As you can see, I’ve made them a little more exotic by adding some orange zest to make orange-chocolate cream, but you could just leave out the zest if you like and have plain Bourbons. The good thing about making them from scratch is that you can fill them with whatever.
As you can see in the pictures, I also made little patterns on the top. Because these biscuits don’t have any raising agent or liquid in them, they don’t spread that much or change shape a lot. This means, they hold onto imprints very easily. Use the tip of a small round piping nozzle to print patterns into the top, or you could use anything that you like to create any pattern you like; push them about half way in for the best-lasting pattern.
Unfortunately, homemade sandwich biscuits don’t stay crispy for as long as the shop-bought ones. Naturally, the moisture from the icing permeates into the biscuits and they go softer over time. They’re not stale, don’t worry, as these will keep for up to a week in an airtight container.