250 grams* butter
2 cups of icing sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla essence
1/2 cup of toasted almonds
2 and 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon of backing powder
Whole cloves or or ground cloves or ground cinnamon
- Whilst staring out the window at your neighbourhood being lashed by an overly enthusiastic rain storm, decide that you want to make biscuits and spend 10 minutes trying to remember where you hid the mixing bowl.
- Gather your ingredients, utensils and measuring bits and bobs and find the biscuit trays whilst you're at it. Marvel as the rain manages to get even heavier.
- Pre-heat your gas oven** to 160 degrees Celsius*** and put some baking paper onto the biscuit trays.
- Sift the icing sugar into a mixing bowl, pop the chopped or slivered almonds under the grill and go to give the butter a quick zap in the microwave to make it more compliant if it is straight from the fridge.
- Come racing back into the kitchen and quickly pull the almond slivers out from underneath the griller before they go from toasted to charcoal.
- Cream the butter and icing sugar together.
- Blink stupidly as the power goes out and you are plunged into complete darkness, except for the gentle glow coming from your pre-heating gas oven****.
- Bump around the place for a bit locating that torch you are sure you bought a while ago and the candles for your oil burner. Light a bunch of candles, turn on the torch and stick it under your bra strap***** so that it is pointing at the mixing bowl.
- Add the egg and vanilla essence and beat well, tilting your shoulders every now and then to redirect the torch beam from the mixing bowl to the recipe.
- Add the almonds and stir through.
- Read the direction to sift the flour and baking powder twice. Remember that you are using your only mixing bowl. Sift the flour and baking powder into a saucepan, and then into another saucepan.
- Mix the flour lightly into butter mixture and knead until smooth. Almost drop the torch into the dough.
- Take pieces of dough the size of walnuts and shape. You can either just roll them into a ball and flatten them with a fork or roll them into a tube/cylinder shape and then curve them into a crescent.
- Press a clove into the top of each biscuit, or one on each half of the crescent, or sprinkle ground cloves or ground cinnamon over them instead. Drop some of the cloves in the darkness for standing on barefoot later.
- Put the biscuits in the oven to bake for about 30 minutes. Realise that your mobile phone battery is almost flat and it cannot be used as a time keeping device, that your alarm clock is not on as there is no electricity, that you still haven't bought yourself a new watch despite regularly declaring that you are going to since last April then wonder if you are going to have to count to 1800 before remembering that you have a wall clock that runs on those old-fangled batteries. Hazard a guess as to how long all this intellectual reckoning took and then take note of the time.
- When you go to take them out of the oven the biscuits will have puffed up a bit and will still seem soft but will dry out as they cool. As long as they aren't shiny and smooth but lightly dry looking when you take them out they should be OK. If you leave them in until they 'seem' cooked they will be harder, crunchy and more biscotti-like when they cool. So whatever you prefer.
- Allow them to cool, remove the cloves and then dust them with icing sugar so that everybody can experience the joy of dropping icing sugar down the front of their shirt whilst they're eating them.
- Treat yourself to a celebratory biscuit and a cup of tea/coffee/cocoa/whiskey made by boiling water on your gas stove-top****** or a glass of whatever takes your fancy. Congratulate yourself on having freed yourself from the shackles of electricity dependence. Decide this must have been what it was like in the old country back in the day, despite the fact that the people in the old country back in the day probably didn't do damn fool things like try to bake in the dark. If you don't have an old country or can't remember which one it is, the first country that pops into your head at this point is now your 'old country'. No you can't swap, it's too late, birthrights are like that. Raise a glass/mug/bottle/whatever to your possibly newly acquired heritage and feel smug.
- Blink stupidly as the power comes back on and you realise that you are standing in the middle of your kitchen with a shirt front that is a sweetly flavoured constellation of icing sugar and crumbs with a torch jammed in your bra strap.
- Abandon your new found self-sufficiency in the face of adversity and disdain for electricity and check if there's anything good on TV/put on some music/fire up your Tesla coil. Whilst eating a biscuit.
*A little over half a pound, 0.55 pounds according to the internet.
**Yes, fine, the recipe does work with electric ovens as well but this is important in this instance, trust me.
***320 degrees Fahrenheit
****See? I told you it was important.
*****If you don't have a bra strap you could stick it into the neck of your shirt or your mouth or something.
******If you haven't got a gas cooking range by this point I really can't help. Oh and you needn't heat the whiskey unless you want to make yourself a Hot Toddy.