rose and raspberry valentine biscuits
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Food styling is an art. It requires no less skill than clothes designing or interior decorating. You need to be able to visualise what you want to achieve; understand the harmonies and contrasts of colours, textures and shapes and know how to put the elements together. You need to understand light and shade; depth and focus; plus you have to be a damn good photographer.
All those features are ones I do not possess.
I usually set enthusiastically about displaying my food, except when it’s hot and needs to remain so for imminent consumption – then it’s mad rush and I snap whichever way I can. Dishes that don’t mind waiting are apparently easy, but they are not for me. The longer I faff about, juggling plates, napkins and worktops, the worse the result. A bunch of flowers – no, all wrong colours. A pretty vase in the background – except the shot is overhead.
Very occasionally I get something right; the light is particularly lenient or the food is just pleasing on the eye. But more often than not it’s toil and trouble. The same green dish on the same wooden table.
In fact my accidental styling turns out usually better than my planning and visualisations. I would throw in the towel probably long ago if it wasn’t for one thing.
My food may look not so special but it tastes bloody damn good.
rose and raspberry valentine biscuitsServings: 2 dozen cookies, depending on sizeTime: about 45 minutes
- For the biscuits:
- 15g (½ cup) freeze-dried raspberries
- 220g (1¾ cup) flour
- ½ tsp fine salt (fleur de sel if possible)
- 110g (1 stick) butter, softened
- 110g (½ cup) caster sugar
- 1 large egg, beaten
- For the buttercream:
- 100g (1 stick minus 1 tbsp.) unsalted butter
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp rose water
- ¼ tsp fine salt (fleur de sel if possible)
- 140g (1 heaping cup) icing sugar
- For the glaze:
- 3 tsp icing sugar
- 2-3 tbsp. hot water
1. Place the raspberries between two sheets of parchment and crush with a rolling pin into crumbs. Put a tablespoon aside for decoration and stir the rest into the flour together with the salt in a large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer.
2. Cut the butter into the flour mix and beat with electric or standing mixer until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add the caster sugar and the egg and mix on low speed until it all just blends together – it will look very much like wet sand. Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead lightly into a ball.
3. Roll it out to a pound coin thickness. Cut the biscuits with a heart-shaped (or any shape you fancy) biscuit cutter and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment. They can go quite close together as they only spread a little.
4. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Bake the biscuits for 10 – 12 minutes (depending on the size) until pale and just set. Transfer them to a wire rack and cool completely.
5. In the meantime make the buttercream: melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat until the boiling point; turn it down a little when it starts to sizzle. Cook it, stirring occasionally, until it stops making noise, turns clear and the milky bits that have dropped to the bottom start browning a little. Take it off the heat and strain into a bowl.
6. Add the vanilla and rose water, salt and stir in the icing sugar. Beat with an electric mixer or by a hand whisk until smooth, creamy and fluffy, for about 5 minutes. Use it more or less immediately as it will thicken within 10 minutes or so.
7. Turn half the biscuits upside down and spoon or pipe with a piping bag blobs of buttercream in the middle of the biscuits. Sandwich with the remaining halves and let them stand until set; 20-30 minutes.
8. To decorate, make runny icing with the icing sugar and hot water and brush over the tops of the biscuits; then dip in the reserved crushed raspberries.