I've come home from university for the weekend, and it's so nice to be back in The Shire among my fellow hobbits. I live in the Forest of Dean - a quiet, beautiful, out of the way sort of place right on the border of Wales & the West Country. It is, like the Shire, an assuming sort of place, where change comes slowly (if, indeed, it comes at all). There's an immeasurable amount of comfort in the fact that, whenever I return, I know precisely what it is I'm returning to. It's home, you know? It's just home. And whilst the people around here wouldn't consider themselves "foodie" types, I've never met a group of people who can eat as well as the inhabitants of this place. A love of good, honest food is at the heart of so much activity in the Forest of Dean - as evidenced by the fact that the country pub I've just returned from was packed to the rafters for Sunday lunch. When I went to see my Nan on Thursday she pressed some home made jam into our hands, and when my Grampy came over this morning he slapped a freshly caught trout onto the kitchen counter & proceeded to gut and behead it right there and then. It's all about local, and seasonal, and natural, and sharing with your family & friends. There are no gourmet restaurants here, no trendy organic supermarkets, no street food fairs - but there is a sincere love of eating. And, well, you can take the girl out of the Forest of Dean, but you can't take the Forest of Dean out of the girl.
You certainly wouldn't find these biscuits in any kind of fancy bakery, but they're delicious nonetheless. The shortbread base is a crumbly & buttery melt-in-your-mouth sort of affair, whilst the heavy chocolate topping is rich & milky - the antithesis of bitter. See, I'm not very good at "pretty" desserts. I lack creative flair, I'm not at all neat, and I'd win no prizes on Great British Bake Off. But, hopefully, I am quite good at tasty desserts, and these chocolate shortbread biscuits are a pretty good example of a bake with a fair bit of substance, but not too much style. In fact, much like red velvet cupcakes, these were a bit of a baking disaster - but because you were all so nice about those cupcakes, I decided to just go ahead & post this anyway. When I removed the shortbread from the fridge where it had been cooling, my butter fingers slipped & it crashed to the floor, breaking into pieces. I managed to salvage the majority of it, but I ended up with some pretty misshapen biscuits as a result. Still, once you're dunking it into a freshly brewed cup of tea in front of roaring open fire, who cares what they look like? These biscuits are simple & delicious - the perfect hobbit food.
To make approximately 20 biscuits, you will need:
- 225g plain flour.
- 175g unsalted butter (plus an extra tablespoon for melting chocolate).
- 75g caster sugar.
- 200g dark chocolate.
- 150g milk chocolate.
1. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C.
2. Rub together the flour & butter with your hands until it resembles breadcrumbs, as in the picture above.
3. Add in the caster sugar, and mix it all together with your hands until combined.
4. Pour into a square baking tin lined with grease proof paper. Press the mixture into the tin, flattening it down with your knuckles so that it is thoroughly spread out into the corners.
5. Bake for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until light golden brown in colour.
6. Once baked, remove from the tin from the oven & place into the fridge until cooled. This will probably take at least half an hour, so make sure you've given yourself adequate time. Pop it into the freezer if you're in more of a hurry, but make sure you don't forget about it!
7. Once cooled, remove from the fridge & carefully remove the shortbread from the tin to place on some kind of flat surface or wire rack. You'll coat the biscuits in chocolate on this surface, so I placed mine on a wire rack with the grease proof paper below to catch any chocolate that might drip off. This shortbread is very soft and crumbly, so I do urge you to be extra careful in handling - which I, obviously, was not. You can see how broken mine were from the picture below :(
8. Break the dark & milk chocolate into pieces, and place into a glass bowl with a tablespoon of butter.
9. Place the bowl over a pan of hot simmering water, and melt together. The use of milk chocolate & butter makes this chocolatey mix very thick and sticky, unlike the runny, glossy chocolate mix that you might be used to. This makes it ideal for spreading across your buttery biscuit base.
10. Using a palette knife if yo fancy or a regular old butter knife if you're not, scoop the thick chocolatey mix out and spread it evenly across your shortbread.
11. Leave to cool thoroughly. Again, this can take a pretty long time, so pop it into either the fridge or the freezer if you're in a hurry.
12. Once the chocolate has completely set, cut into even squares just using a large chopping knife.
A storm is currently building over the Atlantic & is apparently making its way to us tonight, sending sub-hurricane wind levels across the entire South of England. So, unfortunately, it looks like I might not be able to make it back to Scotland tomorrow as planned, and will simply be forced to stay here for another day, eating biscuits & making food & hanging out with my dogs... Oh no!
Dissertation? What dissertation?!