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St Clement biscuits

For something quite sophisticated, these are incredibly moreish!    It’s rare that I cook a biscuit because I always prefer a soft, chewy cookie, but these are so crisp, so crumbly, with the perfect balance of sweet and spicy that I’d be hard pressed to choose between these and a favourite cookie.   The spices make them ideal for Easter (and they’re fun to make with the kids if you have a rabbit, egg or bunny shaped cookie cutter) but they’re great all year round, especially with a sweet cup of tea!  Don’t miss out on refrigerating the dough as these can become quite sticky and tricky to work with once the mix starts to warm in your hands (which is why I suggest keeping the spare dough in the fridge while you work).  I tend to be quite liberal with the flour on the work surface and rolling pin just to make sure; and do be careful when lifting the cut cookies from the surface as the mixed peel has a tendency to stick if you rush, leaving a peel shaped hole in your cookie!  I lift them carefully with a spatula.

 

Ingredients

Method

Cream together the butter and caster sugar on a medium-high speed for 3-4 minutes until pale and fluffy.

Beat in the eggs and zest.  Sift in the flour, baking powder, spices and a pinch of salt and stir.

Add the remaining ingredients (except the Demerara) and combine well.

Shape into a ball and then on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin, flatten the ball into a large disc an inch or two high, wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 90 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180c (160c fan) and remove the dough from the fridge, setting the clingfilm aside (just in case you need it again).  Break the dough into two halves and break those into halves again.  Working with one of the quarters of dough (keep the others in the fridge to remain firm) on a floured surface with your floured rolling pin roll out to about a tenth of an inch or 3mm thick.

Using a large round cutter (preferably 7cm or around 2½-3 inches) cut out your biscuits and place onto a lined baking sheet.

Repeat with the remaining dough and sprinkle liberally with demerara sugar (I use two good pinches of sugar per biscuit).

Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until crisp and starting to golden.

Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Tips

To measure the rather precise tenth of an inch or 3mm I mark a cocktail stick and poke this into the corner of my rolled out dough just to make sure it’s the right thickness.  Don’t worry too much if you’re a millimetre or two over as you’ll still end up with delicious biscuits – but if you can keep them nice and thin you’ll reap the benefits as you’ll get that lovely crispy crack when you bite into them!

I usually get between 40 and 50 biscuits, dependent upon how thinly I’ve managed to roll the dough.  You can place them relatively closely on baking sheets, perhaps a cm apart, as they don’t spread.

Trivia

St Clement biscuits get their name from the church in Eastcheap, London. The old nursery rhyme “Oranges and lemons says the bells of St Clements” supposedly reflects the fact that the church was close to the London wharf where the imports in the citrus trade were landed, but other London churches were closer, and would also have overlooked the fruits passing by on their way to Leadenhall Market. In truth, the rhymer probably chose the name because of its consonance with “lemons”. Any recipe with St Clement in the name is likely to have a citrus ingredient.