Baking challenge: it was a (brandy) snap

This post is part of my personal challenge to bake my way through all the challenges of the Great British Bake Off. The challenge below is the technical challenge for week four (biscuits week) of series two: brandy snaps.

So I completed the technical challenge a while ago. What’s a while, you may ask. Well, I made these on Christmas Eve, while watching Skyfall with my boyfriend. Skyfall was amazing, if – as someone living in London – somewhat chilling, especially the chase scenes in the Underground. And yes, I have checked, and it would have been possible for James Bond to make the jump onto the back of that Tube train. If, you know, monumentally risky. Don’t try this at home.

Mary Berry's brandy snaps
Chunkily crocheted brandy snaps

Anyway, baking and rapidly revising one’s estimation of the Bond genre simulataneously is quite the juggle! And these brandy snaps were by no means perfect. The idea was to have twelve perfectly evenly-sized, lacy, delicate biscuits, shaped into loops, around a fatty, contrasting cream filling. Instead, I think my initial dropping mixture was too thick and they were all different sizes and very thick; the fine honeycomb lacing was more like chunky crochet. However, considering my dislike of fiddle and faff – something I am having to rapidly overcome with this baking challenge – I don’t think it was a terrible first effort. Doubtless Mary and Paul would have disagreed and sent me to the bottom of the row. I also think they were a little too dark – but actually I liked that darkness, the depth of caramelly flavour the extra baking time imparted. I can’t say I wouldn’t do it again.

Shaping the brandy snaps - easier than it seems
Shaping the brandy snaps – easier than it seems

Shaping the brandy snaps is not particularly difficult, but it helps if your fingers, like mine, are not particularly heat-sensitive, since they go crisp very rapidly and it’s best to pick them off the baking sheet directly after exiting the oven. You might want to bake them just one or two at a time if you think you’ll have difficulty handling them.

Also: brandy snaps do not contain brandy. I did think at first they had been baked to go with the drink, a bit like Madeira cake doesn’t contain any Madeira, but apparently not – the reference to ‘brandy’ comes, it seems, from ‘branded’, or burnt, although many recipes now do add a tot of brandy to the cream filling.

Brandy Snaps
From the BBC Food website

Ingredients

  • 55g butter
  • 55g demerara sugar
  • 55g golden syrup
  • 50g plain flour
  • ½ level tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp lemon juice

You will also need two baking trays baking paper and a wooden spoon and cooling rack.

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line two baking trays with baking paper. Oil the handle of a slightly thick wooden spoon and lay it on a cooling rack.
  2. Measure the butter, sugar and syrup into a small, heavy-based pan. Heat gently until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. This may take up to 15 minutes over a low heat. Don’t let the mixture boil as it may crystallise. To check when the sugar has dissolved, stir occasionally, pulling the spoon across the bottom of the pan until you can no longer hear the gritty granules being scraped along and most of them have disappeared.
  3. Leave the mixture to cool slightly, about 2-3 minutes, then sieve in the flour and ginger. Pour in the lemon juice and stir well to mix thoroughly. Drop four teaspoonfuls of the mixture onto each of the prepared baking trays about 10cm apart. The original instructions suggest they be formed into ‘neat circles’ which is certaintly desirable but wasn’t the easiest to do. Once baked, you need to work fast to shape the brandy snaps, so its easier if you bake one tray at a time.
  4. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until the mixture is well spread out, looks lacey and is a dark golden colour.  Remove each tray from the oven and leave for a minute or less firm up slightly, then lift from the baking parchment using a palette knife. The mixture needs to be just firm enough to remove, but pliable enough to shape. Check by releasing around and under the edges.
  5. Quickly roll a circle of the warm mixture around the handle of the wooden spoon, having the join underneath. Press the join lightly together to seal, then slide the brandy snap off the spoon and leave it to firm up on the wire rack, again with the join underneath (the biscuits seal surprinsgly well and harden very quickly. It helps if you have heatproof hands for this step).
  6. If any of the circles on the sheet harden too much to work with, put them back in the oven for a few seconds to soften again. Repeat until all the mixture has been used. If the mixture in the pan becomes too firm to drop in neat spoonfuls, roll a teaspoonful of it into a small smooth ball in your hands, sit it on the baking tray and flatten slightly with your fingers. When cold, store the brandy snaps in an airtight tin or container. Fill with cream just before serving as it will make them soggy.
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