Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Old school.

This week I attended some training at work. It was a three hour session on Virtual Learning Environments, and was, somewhat predictable, almost a complete waste of time. Don't get me wrong, the trainers were excellent.I just didn't need the training. I have been using computers for a long time, I know people in the business, and I am, as you might have noticed, a blogger. I can use interfaces that publish and promote online learning. So I was a little baffled when it was suggested to me that my professional development might benefit from the "Getting Used to Moodle" session.

Notice I said almost a complete waste of time. Completing the ten exercises in our training pack in a little under twenty minutes allowed me ample time to investigate the tea and coffee facilites on show.

They were good. Very good in fact. Which, given the record at my institition, was a rather pleasant surprise. The coffee machine made proper coffee. And by proper coffee I mean not only strong enough to bend spoons,but flavourful too. Given the good start I expected an inevitable skimping on biscuit quality. Not so. I eyed-up, pondered, considered and chose wisely. I also chose well, as my selection blasted me into a moment of nostalgia that I'm not entirely sure belonged to me, but was very nice nonetheless.
The Shrewsbury biscuit - in this particular instance named simply the "fruit shortcake" is a small traditional English biscuit of shortbread and currents. It is cut using scalloped edge cutters and dusted with sugar before baking. And it is, quite simply, lovely. I feel that "lovely" is the perfect word as it conjures up quaint images of knitted cardigans, and afternoon tea and village fetes, and that is exactly what this simple little biscuit is about. It's not flashy, it doesn't even use vanilla extract (gasp! a recipe without vanilla extract, in this day and age!) and yet is a perfect little morsel of "lovely." Oh and yes, they are indeed traditionally little, which means that you are entitled to gobble up six or seven in the time it takes to drink a cup of tea.

This humble biscuit reared it's pretty little head in my training session and has stayed with me ever since. Fortunately I happened to mention this to a friend today, and she immediately commented that there is a recipe in Delia Smith's Book of Cakes. Naturally, why didn't I think of that.So, the minute I got through the door (before I'd even ditched my coat) I whacked the oven on to preheat, hunted down the recipe and by ten past six I had a place of quaint biscuits sitting on the table.

Sometimes it's the old recipes that are the best. The only way I changed the recipe was to put everything in a food processor. It saved all the rubbing of butter into flour and probably ten minutes of my time, and more and more time is of the essence. It also meant that there are smaller bits of currents throughout, and I liked the result.
If you have time, and are so inclined to add some quaint British biscuit charm to your weekend(or week night) whip up a batch of these. I don't think they'll last long, especially not if there is a pot of tea on the go.

Shrewsbury Biscuits - adapted, very slightly, from Delia Smith (makes about 20 small biscuits)

110g caster sugar
110g cold unsalted butter
225g plain flour
50g currents
1 large egg
1 tsp water

Preheat the oven to 180C and line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone liner.

Place the butter, flour and sugar in a food processor and whoosh until the texture of breadcrumbs. Then add the water, egg and currents and whoosh again until it forms a dough.

On a floured surface roll out the dough. It should be about the thickness of the biscuits you want to eat as there is no rising agent. I went for what I thought is "average" biscuit thickness. Cut with a small scalloped edge cutter (you can make them any size you want, but they are traditionally quite small) and then place on the baking sheets. Sprinkle with an extra dash of sugar and then bake for aprox 15mins - until golden (check though as mine became golden before the time was up)

Leave to cool completely on a wire rack and then serve.


  1. Ooh, thanks for the recipe (and reminder that these are a favourite of mine).

  2. Eeep! Those crinkle edges are just too sweet! Feel like I should tie a ribbon around a little stack and sell them at a village fete! Damn, now I really want to make them too! x

  3. I'd love some of those...goodness, on a cold day in North Florida that would be welcome on my plate with a hot cuppa coffee.