• The Tenuous Purpose

    This Blog is built - not, as some might expect, on a flimsy whim but on a strong and single minded principle.

    That principle concerns Biscuits and their position in the world.

    We are really very keen on biscuits.
    As are many of you out there.
    We think.

    We wish to create an archive of Arrowroot, a backlog of Bourbons and a catalogue of Chocolate Fingers. Anybody can contribute an entry - or dispute somebody else's - provided they are not dull.
    Even Americans who perhaps don't really have the heritage of biscuitry that we are fortunate to have here.

    Or maybe they do and we are unaware of the full glory of the cookie.

    We realise that this whole subject is admirably and concisely dealt with by that excellent and unbeatable website A Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down. Our feeble efforts will be as the kicking of a gadfly in the face of their wisdom and experience but we hope that we may have a small contribution to make.

  • Biscuit Encounters on Twitter

  • The Synod of Biscuitry

    James Alexander-Sinclair of Blackpitts
    Gardener, Blogger, Journalist, Lecturer etc, etc. Much of his life is spent loafing around other people’s gardens issuing directives and generally cluttering up the place. However, like the great Mr Kipling, he does (occasionally) make exceptionally good gardens. (Although even Mr Kipling messed up a bit with the Carrot and Walnut Mini Classics.)

    Mark Diacono of Otter Farm
    He does sterling work growing many inappropriate plants in Devon. He dedicates a great deal of time and effort nurturing a plethora of plants that are (mostly) totally unsuited to our climate. His is a life of such extreme eccentric dedication that to start a Blog about Biscuits seems perfectly normal. He treads gently in the footsteps of people like the great William Buckland,a professor of Geology who claimed that he could tell location by tasting the local topsoil.

A la recherche du cookies perdu

AJOYCEAll due respect to The Convener, and hizzoner The Commissar, but this blather ‘bout biscuits upsets my sensibilities. Verifiably, the progenitors of biscuits date back to the Romans. And yes, the word itself rings out imperatively: Biscuit! Esteemed reader, this is not to dispute that few words resonate as indecorously as Cookie, and I apologize for it’s jangly resonance. One would not be misguided in blaming the Dutch. Apparently they added sugar, and brought the little cake-like bites to The Colonies. Thus, the koekje found its way across the pond to the shores of AMERICA.

Yet, cookies are at the heart of my tale-telling. Bloody cookies. Can’t go along contentedly for more than a day or two without them. Mortifyingly, I once mainlined common sugar wafers, greatly upsetting my delicate constitution. Perhaps you’re familiar with such multi-colored, rectilinear intoxicants, packed snugly together in a rainbow of cameo pink, ashen brown and beige; fundamentally sugar and little else?

A bit of the back story may serve to illuminate my predilection. Mother, bless her, prepared a rotating repertoire of unappetizing meals throughout my early years. An exception: Excellent pasta sauce based upon a recipe taught to her by my food-loving Italian papa. And a sweet specialty in the form of crescent-shaped biscotti, boasting a soft texture, anise flavor melded with finely chopped almonds, and a light dusting of powdered sugar.

Memories of these treats overwhelmed me not so long ago in Paris, when I discovered tea time at Ladurée, purveyor of precious pastries and haute couture cookies. Upon returning home, I wallowed in Remembrances of Things Past. Not the petite madeleine version, but rather, recollections from childhood of fragrant biscotti fresh from the oven commingling with visions of my Parisian idyll – the astringent bouquet of Rue Bonaparte, sidestepping doggy droppings to cross the threshold of Ladurée. Grasping a petite box of buttery morsels as I exited.

As fate would have it, I reside north of the Golden Gate Bridge at present, not far from a tony town with an authentic Italian cafe: A destination for cognoscenti of expresso, panini, and all who lust after gelato. I’m drawn to gawk at the cafe’s baked goods. Tableaux of cookies cosseted in sparkling glass display cases. A love/hate relationship, surely, for these gem-like, melt-in-the-mouth delicacies carry a steep tariff, priced rather like elegant bijoux.

Well, hey ho! Thanksgiving is around the corner. A holiday that justifies my craving. The arduous part is picking and choosing, gathering a tiny trove from amongst the cookies’ pretty profiles. First off, I will search for a bowed crescent shape… with anise on the palate.

Alice Joyce

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18 Responses

  1. How funny! I was thinking about Ladurée the other day after James posted some pictures of award ceremony macaroons.
    My memory of Ladurée is breakfast with the best ever coffee, croissants, pain au chocolat and fresh orange juice and a bag of macaroons to take away for later.

    And I had entirely forgotten about the crescent shaped anise and almond biscotti we had in Rome this year which were gorgeous and I’m not usually a fan of these things.

    Makes the bowl of self-righteous muesli I am about to consume seem really rather dull!

  2. *Giggle*

    I caught you out yesterday Mark – this post appeared in my Google Reader and when I clicked to see it in its full glory on t’blog I got the following message:

    Not Found
    Sorry, but you are looking for something that isn’t here.

    😉

  3. Arses…thought I’d got away with it.

    I wish we had something like Thanksgiving – is harvets festival a sort of version thereof? Forgotten as it pretty much is and a bit church based rather than everyone maybe. Good excuse to each a roast bird, and there can never be too many of those

    • My roast birds are known far and wide, btw!
      Thanksgiving is simply an excuse to roast the largest bird possible (to enjoy the leftovers),
      stuff it with a heavenly dressing, and slather the entire meal in gravy rich with drippings.

  4. Let’s adopt it as our equivalent immediately. I think it’s shocking our friends across the pond get a practice turkey dinner before the main event!

    Mind you, they’d say TG is the main event…

  5. When I was a child a macaroon was a pretty low-rent biscuit. It’s only plus was the rice paper which was at least a curiosity and stuck interestingly to the tongue.
    A Laduree macaroon is a different species altogether and is capable of weakening the knees of even the strongest among us. Except the licoricey one which is a bit nasty.

    • Um, I think my Christmas biscuit recipe which I was just about to start writing up for you might be an eensy teensiest bit like a macaroon. I hope you’re not going to say they’re low-rent?

      • I await your Xmas biscuit recipe with anticipation, VP,
        In the words of Carly Simon, “we can never know about the days to come,
        but we think about them anyway…” apropos of ?
        Besides, I can’t imagine you’d put forth anything low-rent for all the world to see.

    • Never have I or would I indulge in a licoricey Ladurée macaroon, James.
      However, all the local cafes serve exquisite macaroons, not just the tony spots.
      They’re all the rage.

  6. I am confused here, not my friend Alice? Hot cotter cookies? What will they think of next. Yeehaw.

    I do think you need a Thanksgiving. Even Canada has one and they are just like you, right?

    🙂

    • Frances,
      Shall we confer a sort-of Thanksgiving holiday upon the isles of GB?
      Would it be allowed? After we upstarts caused such a fuss about Independence?
      What in the world is a hot cotter cookie? xo

  7. I can’t see or hear the word macaroon these days without giggling. It’s all the fault of that guy on ‘Dead Ringers’ doing his Alan Bennett impression 😉

  8. The culture gap widens.
    ‘Dead Ringers’ hasn’t made its way here, as far as I know.
    Only the old creepy Jeremy Irons film. But when I google it, a BBC page pops up. Maybe i need to delve into the archives for ‘macaroon’ references.

    We’ve just had the 2-part film ‘Collision’ appear on public t.v.
    No talk of cookies in that one!

  9. Back to those anise flavored almond crescents, I’m looking for some help tracking down the origins of my Nana’s recipe for Kiplings – a very buttery almond crescent but no anise. The cookie itself is not sweet but is rolled in powdered sugar. We prefer extra fine (bar) sugar.

    Martha Stewart’s recipe for Almond Crescents is similar but too much sugar in the dough.

    Nana is long gone. My mother & aunt don’t recall the cookie at all. I’d just like to know why they’re called Kiplings.

  10. A great idea for future recipes this. Thank you for sharing it. Have you noticed how so many people appear to be cooking again? I wonder if the lack of funds due to the current climate has something to do with it and we all appear to be cooking again! its great!

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