Looking for some old-fashioned biscuit recipes? Mention coconut pyramids, shortbread, jam and melting moments and the Women’s Institute comes to mind. Famous for its baking prowess, the Institute has been providing us with home-baked treats for almost 100 years. Try one of their classic Biscuit Recipes and find out why.
About the Institute
The modern Women’s Institute is a diverse and welcoming organisation. Since 1915, it’s been a voluntary network for women interested in craft, cooking and worthy causes. It has also built a reputation for its fundraising efforts. Today, people make a beeline for the W.I. stall at the village fete – everyone knows they’ve got all the Best Jam and cakes! In April 2009 the Institute launches its own cookery school. Here are some classic W.I. biscuits for you to try at home.
This classic biscuit is light and crumbly, with an oaty coating and a cherry in the middle. The recipe comes from a W.I. cookery book published in the 1960s, but we have made some substitutions (original ingredients appear in brackets).
- 60g (2 ½ oz) vegetable shortening (or lard)
- 40g (1 ½ oz) butter (or margarine)
- 75g (3oz) caster sugar
- 1/2 egg, beaten
- 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
- 110g (4oz) self-raising flour
- 110g (4oz) oats
- Jam (or glace cherries, halved), for topping
Cream together the shortening, butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla essence, then sift in the flour and bring together gently to form a dough. Roll the dough in walnut-sized balls and press them into the oats to cover. Flatten on a baking tray and use a teaspoon to make an indent in each biscuit. Drop in ½ tsp of jam (or a glace cherry). Bake at 160 degrees C, gas mark 3 until golden.
This recipe is named after ‘Mrs N’, a neighbour whose borrowing habits made her reputation! Shortbread is certainly a W.I. classic, and this version sandwiches buttery shortbread with sweet jam. If you’re feeling exceptionally domestic, why not try making your own jam to go inside? Visit our Afternoon Tea pages to learn how. As the shortbread is very sweet, this recipe is best with a sharper jam such as raspberry, blackcurrant or blackberry.
- 225g (8oz) plain flour
- 110g (4oz) caster sugar
- 110g (4oz) unsalted butter, softened on the counter
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1tsp baking powder
- 200-225g (7-8 oz) jam
Using a wooden spoon, handheld whisk, or electric mixer, beat the butter until it’s smooth and creamy. Add the caster sugar and continue to cream the ingredients together until they’re lighter in colour and texture.
Add the vanilla extract and the egg and beat thoroughly to combine. Now, using a light touch, stir in the sifted flour and gently incorporate it. Pat the dough into a circle, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Flour a worktop and roll out the dough into a rectangle twice the size of your 12×16 inch baking tin. Cut in half and carefully press one layer into the tin. Spread with jam, and cover with the second half of dough, patting it into place – don’t worry if it tears – you can push scraps into any gaps. Bake at 170ºC, gas mark 3½ for 15-20 minutes, or until the shortbread is faintly golden on top. Cool for a few minutes in the tin before cutting into fingers and sprinkling with some more caster sugar.