Once a week The Man Named Sous gets together with friends to play some music in his acoustically wonderful workshop. Musical choices for violins range from Bach to Bartok. A lot of Bartok’s work is delightfully infused with the essence of Hungarian and Romanian folk music and other music native to the Carpathian basin and beyond. His duets are refreshing to listen to and fun to play, therefore popular in the repertoire.
Every musician, of course needs a break from the rigours of the musical challenges. Although we supply the coffee, our hosting skills to provide sweet treats to go with the oh-so-wet coffee are perhaps not as spot on as would be customary and sometimes there is nothing much at all to offer. Meanwhile, cakes and biscuits are contributed by the visiting musicians. Poor show, shame on us (well me actually, the cook).
It would be somewhat of an understatement to say The Man Named Sous likes biscuits. Hot drinks are simply too wet without them, apparently. The problem is, I am not that partial to biscuits, although there are a few I do really enjoy; amaretti, biscotti, Florentines. Yes, a good biscuit for me means Italian and only consumed in earnest with coffee.
I enjoy making cakes and desserts, usually because of the complexities of processes, combining different elements; creams, meringues and pastry to deliver the dessert. I love the dark art of baking bread, constantly striving for success and improvement. However, I have singularly failed to engage with biscuit baking to any extent.
Inspired by Bartok and embarrassed by lack of hospitality (in fairness, I have managed the odd bit of cake – we just have to remember not to eat it all beforehand), I am planning a more consistent approach. I aim to provide a new biscuit each week for the musical gathering, hopefully for a run of 10 weeks (although work may impede occasionally) to see where my biscuit baking foray takes me, hopefully building confidence to produce some unique creations by the end, or at least unique in my culinary repertoire.
For the first ‘Biscuits with Bartok’ I’m going for a straightforward confidence building peanut butter cookie. I’ve still got my head in the Wahaca cookbook and found this recipe.
Peanut butter cookies
The beauty of this recipe is the speed and ease with which these biscuits can be made – thanks to the assistance of my KitchenAid. I’m sure it would be pretty quick by hand too. The recipe states it makes about 25 biscuits, but I got about 45, which was great volume and hence value (about 7p per biscuit) compared with inferior shop-bought biscuits. The recipe gives a cooking time of 12-15 minutes at 180C, but my first batch were a bit burnt round the edges at 12 minutes, so 10 minutes was fine for my fan oven. The biscuits turned out to be lovely, very simple to make, are very light and have a melt-in-the-mouth texture. They were perhaps a bit too rich and buttery for me (I know, that’s the point!). However, The Man Named Sous says differently and so they will devoured with fervour.
Preheat the oven to 180C
180g plain flour
3/4 tsp of bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
225g unsalted butter, softened
200g light brown soft sugar
1 egg plus one egg yolk
200g crunchy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla essence
120g roasted salted peanuts
- Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
- Cream the softened butter using a food mixer (if you have one) until pale, light and fluffy.
- Add the sugar to the butter, then the egg and egg yolk.
- Gradually mix in the flour, peanut butter, peanuts and vanilla essence.
- Put the mixture in the fridge to firm up for 30 minutes.
- Line baking sheets with silicone/parchment and place a heaped teaspoon of the mixture onto the sheet to form each cookie. Leave plenty space (about 5cm) between them to allow for spread during cooking. Top each with a half peanut garnish.
- Bake in batches for 10 minutes and cool on a wire rack before storing in an airtight jar.
- Get the kettle on and enjoy with your brew of choice.