When I was a kid, my Granny Lil’s flat had a fantastic stash of chocolates, at any given time. It just wasn’t altogether clear where to find them. In contrast, my great-aunt Freda (Lil’s younger sister) had a perennially disappointing stash of those sugar-covered dried fruit ‘dainties’, and some strange sticky thing made from prunes. These were always out on the lounge table in a crystal sweet dish. No mystery there. The delicious thing in great-aunt Freda’s flat was the tin of biscuits, which would be regularly filled by the housekeeper, Sophie, a diminutive Mrs Pepperpot of a woman, who produced the most wonderful little round coconut biscuits. There was (often but not always) a stash of these in an old Danish biscuit tin. That, too, required some searching out. Always worth looking for the hidden stuff, they taught me.
Sadly, I never asked Sophie for the recipe, and both she and my great-aunt are long gone. Usually there’s just about nothing you can’t find on the Internet, but for some reason, everyone around here extols the virtues of the thick chewy coconut biscuit, rather than the thin, round, snappy version I grew up with. So I’ve been experimenting with these for a while to get the sweet, flat, snappy version I wanted. I’ve fiddled around with melting the butter, cutting cold butter into flour, blitzing it all in a food processor, and creaming it in a cake mixer. This is the best version I’ve come up with:
Crisp coconut butter biscuits
230 g butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup coconut
2 cups flour
a pinch of salt
1. Sift the flour and salt together. Stir in the coconut.
2. Cream the butter really well. Add the sugar and continue creaming for another couple of minutes.
3. Beat in the eggs. Scrape down the bowl and beat again.
4. Mix in the dry ingredients. Blend to a smooth dough.
5. Divide the dough in half, pat it into flat patties, wrap in plastic and put it in the fridge for at least an hour.
6. Preheat the oven to 200 ˚C. Roll out the dough thinly, sprinkling with flour and turning over now and then so it doesn’t stick. Use a cookie cutter to cut out thin discs. Mine were about 3-4 mm thick.
7. Place discs on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or til discernibly golden-brown.
8. Cool on a rack. Eat with tea!
optional variations: add some grated lemon rind if you like.
If you’re a fan of light, chewy coconut biscuits, you can sift in 1 tsp baking powder with the dry ingredients, increase the coconut up to 2 cups, and roll out your dough a bit thicker. They will rise more and have a bit of chew and coconut texture. (But they will not have the lovely snap of these flat ones!)
Then, for really chewy along with your crisp, here is a recipe for…
Classic peanut butter cookies
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
230 g butter, room temperature
1 cup peanut butter (no salt no sugar kind, preferably fresh from an organic shop!)
2.5 cups cake flour
1.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (or a fraction more if you like salty)
brown sugar for sprinkling
1. Beat the butter until creamy, for about 2 minutes. Add the sugars, beat for 2 more minutes.
2. Mix in the peanut butter and the egg.
3. Sift together the dry ingredients— the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the sugar butter mixture.
4. Divide the dough into two, roll into balls or patties, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
5. Preheat oven to 200°C. Shape the dough into little balls. Place the balls of dough about 3 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten in crisscross pattern with a fork. Sprinkle the top with some sugar – this will make them pretty, with a crunchy sugary top.
6. Bake until light brown, about 10-12 minutes. (Less time = softer, crumblier biscuits. Longer = more crispy and crunchy… I don’t need to tell you which I prefer.) Remove the cookies from the oven and let cool in their baking sheets for a minute. After a minute, transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely.
(The original recipe said, for chewier cookies, you can bake at 160°C for 15 minutes.