Monday, 2 May 2016

Taking the biscuit

Image result for speculoos biscuits

Speculoos biscuits- those little cinnamon nibbles you get with a cup of coffee- are all the rage in France. You can get Speculoos spread (like Nutella but with cinnamon), Speculoos Tiramisu, ice cream, instant dessert mix, flavoured yoghurt- you name it.

You can buy them in the UK too- under different brand names  like this one....Image result for speculoos biscuits and they are worth seeking out for their crispy-crumbliness and spicy flavour.

However, all these recipes work well with good old ginger biscuits too. Friends of mine even substituted Nice biscuits for some of them and apparently the result was pretty good.

The first recipe I set out to try was Poached Pears in a Speculoos crust.

Poach four pears in 400 ml water into which you have dissolved 100g of sugar and placed 4 star anise.

When the pears are tender, take them out to cool and strain the syrup into a jug.

Keep the star anise for garnish.
Now melt 100g butter in a pan and add 1 packet of crushed Speculoos biscuits. Mix well and allow to cool.

Use the sticky crumb mixture to coat the pears completely, moulding it around with wet hands.
Place them on a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes at 170 degreees until the coating is crisp.

Poached Pears in a Speculoos Crust

I have to admit that the rolling and coating of the pears was a bit tricky and so a simplified ( dare I call it 'deconstructed' version) is every bit as impressive.
Serve the pears sitting jauntily atop the crumbs ( call them Cinnamon Soil if you can keep a straight face) with the syrup on the side for pouring over.

Poached Pears on Cinnamon Soil

If you have biscuits, crumbs and pears to spare- layer it all up into a trifle. I sent this one to the Guardian - and it was the winning recipe. Do enjoy the editor's comments, by the way. Is anyone else reminded of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy?

The winning recipe: LeftoverLiz’s sugar and spice trifle made with speculoos biscuits.
Add cap

The winning recipe: LeftoverLiz’s sugar and spice trifle made with speculoos biscuits. Photograph: Jill Mead for the Guardian

Trifles are made for sharing. They’re the pudding you wheel out when you’ve a horde to please. Which is why, for this swap, we threw a party. A trifle party! Eight adults and four under-threes swarmed around a wooden table laden with layers of fruit, custard and whipped cream. Everyone was armed with a spoon, and we all dove right in there. It was a delirious, cream-splattered splurge.

The winning recipe: sugar and spice trifle (pictured above)

Speculoos as the biscuit base is an inspired choice in Leftoverliz’s offering here – as festive a pud as you’re likely to get. It’s got the requisite layers of biscuit, fruit, custard and cream, the first two bringing a ripe boldness to the bland unctuosity of the latter. These poached pears, by the way, are beautiful in their own right, and the whole trifle, deconstructed, is an excellent alternative if you’re particularly anti-assemblage.
Serves 4-6
4 pears
100g sugar
400ml water
3 star anise
275ml whipping cream
250g speculoos biscuits
2 tsp sherry
500g ready-made custard
1 Peel the pears, but leave them whole, with the stalks on.
2 Dissolve the sugar in the water, add the star anise and pears, then poach for 15 minutes or so, until tender. Drain, reserve the cooking liquor and allow the pears to cool.
3 Whip the cream to soft peaks and set aside. Put about half of the biscuits in a layer in the bottom of a trifle bowl.
4 Add the sherry to the pear liquor and spoon a few tablespoons over the biscuits to make them soft.
5 Slice the pears and place half of them in a layer over the biscuits, then pour the custard over the pears. Add another layer of biscuits, reserving a handful for scattering, and then a layer of pears.
6 Top with whipped cream and a final scattering of crushed biscuits.
If you are genuinely in the mood for an unctuous pudding- try these Cinnamon Cream Pots.

Mix 2 eggs and 3 egg yolks with 25g of sugar. (The egg whites freeze well for use another time).
Bring 350ml of milk and 150ml of cream to the boil. Add 200g of crushed Speculoos biscuits and an extra pinch of cinnamon.
Pour the hot milk over the beaten eggs, beating with a whisk as you do so to form a custard.
Pour into ramekin dishes or glasses and place in a baking tray half filled with hot water.

Cream pots ready for the oven
Bake for 45 minutes in a cool oven (100 degrees) until set.
Once cooked, cool and then chill until ready to serve.

Cinnamon Cream Pots

And yet more leftover biscuit crumb blends wonderfully with your usual crumble mix for a pud with warm hints of sugar and spice.

Speculoos Crumb Crumble

Finally- try a savoury recipe (or semi-sweet/semi-savoury at any rate). I am not a fan of goat's cheese so prefer to use a cow's milk roule like Fagotin, Boursin or le Roule for this, but I accept that the sharp tang of goat probably complements the crumb particularly well.
Get ready 3 plates - one of beaten egg, one of flour and one of Speculoos crumbs.

Flour, egg and Speculoos crumbs at the ready
Coat your roules of cheese (buches de chevre, Fagotin, Boursin or le Roule) first in flour, then in egg, then in crumb and lay on baking paper on a tray.(Make sure they are fully coated.)
Bake at 200 degrees for 10 minutes until the crumb is crispy ( tap it to check).

Cheese and Speculoos Roule

Serve as pre-dinner nibbles or as a starter with a dressed salad.

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