A lot of Spring themed play this week. We have had a spring themed sensory tray on the toddler table all week, made pictures with foam window stickers, spring accessorised play-dough (though these became monsters pretty quickly) read books about birds, rabbits, hedgehogs and squirrels, planted beanstalks and used a lot of yellow when colouring! It all got me hankering for something that tastes of sunshine and bananas and custard sprang to mind. I set about experimenting with my go-to sugar cookie recipe.
Inspired by some beautiful illustrations in a new picture book by Suzanne Barton that we picked up at the beginning of the week we ended up making 'beautiful bird sunshine biscuits' aka banana and custard cookies. I say cookies rather than biscuits as these don't have a biscuity snap (sorry Mr Hollywood) but a softer bite, which I really like as a texture to compliment the firm bite through royal icing when decorated. I used banana chips and custard powder to provide the natural flavouring, but you could always used a bottle of essence if you wanted something stronger. The chips and custard powder also provided a really nice creamy yellow colour for the dough, meaning that these looked and tasted great with or without icing and tasted good - the un-iced version made a nice accompaniment to my nap-time cup of tea!
200g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
400g plain flour
150g banana chips - blitzed to a fine powder
80g custard powder
1. Cream the butter, sugar, custard powder and banana chips - these should resemble ground almonds or finer by the time you're done blitzing. Don't over do it in the mixer or you'll encourage the cookies to spread in the oven.
2. Add the egg (you might want to menace it in a mug first) with a couple of spoonfuls of the flour to stop it curdling. Then add the flour and mix until a dough forms. If you're doing this in real time with the smalls rather than prepping the dough in advance, then get your hands stuck in at this point. It's just more fun that way.
3. Once you've got a dough you really need to gather it into a ball, wrap it and chill it for about an hour. This makes it more manageable and helps the cookies keep their shape in the oven. Obviously, little people struggle to wait to enjoy cutting out their shapes so you might want a little activity put by at this point. We like to lick the bowl and 'design' our cookies. I draw around the cutters we are going to use later and make a colouring in sheet. Alternatively, of course, you could make the dough in advance and just get the smalls to join in at the cutting out stage, but the weighing and mixing a mess making is by far the best bit in my opinion.
4. Roll your dough out to thickness of a pound coin, cut out your desired shapes and place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Ideally you would now chill the cut out biscuits for half an hour to ensure they keep their shape beautifully in the oven, but this may be too idealistic when baking with your little person. Bake at 180 for 6-10 mins depending on the size of your biscuits. These medium sized birds took about 7 minutes and came out just golden and a little soft in the middle. It's important not to wait until the biscuits are solid, as they will continue to cook as they cool down on the wire rack.
5. Decorate. I use a just add water royal icing mix from Squires Kitchen. 250g with 40ml of water made enough for 4 little bowls of coloured icing for small one to decorate with. I colour it with a dab of gel colour on a cocktail stick and swirl. I like to decorate the biscuits the next day unless you want a whole day activity. This way, these little cuties gave us a relatively quick late afternoon activity and a nice post nap decorating session the next day when we were stuck indoors poorly.
This recipe makes enough dough for a good 25 biscuits when using an average sized cutter. If you don't want this much sugar immediately accessible in your biscuit tin then you can freeze half of the dough. It should keep in there for 4-6 weeks and then you've got a quicker version of the activity ready for another day when you just want to cut and bake.