Chocolate Pazuzu biscuits

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I know last week I promised fondant, but it’s been a busy week. Sense would suggest waiting this ludicrous and pointless blog until the busy-ness has died down. But sense is not what this blog is about. It’s about wasting large amounts of time on fairly reasonable cakes that, if squinted at in the right light, look a bit like something historical. And this week, it’s biscuits that are vaguely reminiscent of Pazuzu amulets. Pazuzu amulets like these:

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Now, making these is very simple. It only took me a couple of hours, and those people who don’t accidentally loose their piping bag, forget where the butter is and burn themselves on the oven, should find this even quicker. Firstly, make the biscuits. I’ve already given the recipe for these under “Glazed brick mushhushu biscuits” (substitute 25g of flour for 25g of cocoa powder to make them chocolate). While the dough is resting in the fridge, make templates of the Pazuzu amulets. Roll out the dough, cut out the template shapes, put them on the baking tray and then put the baking tray in the fridge for about half an hour. Then, put them in the oven.

While they’re in the fridge/oven, make up two bowls of chocolate royal icing – one stiff and dark, the other liquid and lighter in colour. Fill a piping bag with the stiffer icing, and use it to outline the biscuits, and draw in any of the features that look “lower” on the amulets (I did the mouth and ears for the one on the left, and the strange beard thing for the one of the right). Leave that to set, then “flood” the biscuits with the liquid icing. Once that’s set, draw in the stronger facial features with the stiff, darker icing in the piping bag – the eyebrows, the eyes, the moustaches.

And you’re done. All that’s left is to cover them in Sainsbury’s metallic lustre, wonder what possessed you to think Sainsbury’s metallic lustre would be any good, and only show one photograph of them covered in said lustre on your blog.

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My early birthday present from my boyfriend (early because I am an impatient child, and he is too indulgent of this) is a set of stamps and tags for baked goods. I think they match the Pazuzu amulets perfectly.

Next week, fondant. Really.

Gingerbread ziggurat

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This Christmas was a little busy for me, and I didn’t have time to make even a gingerbread biscuit, let alone the traditional gingerbread stupidity. But this site has given me the perfect excuse to manufacture myself a terrifyingly huge heap of gingerbread, and, because it’s not Christmas, there’s no family around and I can eat it all myself. I should definitely do this more often. The ziggurat I made was based on Woolley’s reconstruction of the ziggurat of Ur, which looks like this:

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You may notice some enormous differences, like the fact that mine seems somehow squished, and not quite as wide as it should be. That’s mainly the fault of the cake board. And the baker. If you want to make this (I highly recommend it – gingerbread, it turns out, is delicious at any time of the year), this is how:

First, make the gingerbread:

Ingredients:

  • 250g butter
  • 7 tbsp golden syrup
  • 600g plain flour
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 200g dark brown sugar
  • 6 tsp ground ginger (I like my gingerbread so strong it burns my tongue. If you are making this, as I’m sure everyone who reads this blog does, you may want a little less).

Method:

  1. Preheat the over to 200°C.
  2. Melt the butter, syrup and sugar in a pan.
  3. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, then pour the butter, syrup and sugar mixture into it.
  4. Stir until the mixture forms a dough.
  5. Leave to rest.

Then, make up some templates. I suggest starting with the four sides of the ziggurat base, and then building templates from there. That’s mainly because the sides should lean in at an angle, and no matter how perfectly you cut the templates and the gingerbread, there’ll be some slipping in the icing, and that might leave all your other gingerbread cut-outs useless. Building up is definitely the way to go in this case. The gingerbread should be rolled out to about a quarter of a centimetre thickness, and baked in the oven for about 5-15 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces.

You’ll also need a good quantity of royal icing – i used around 400g worth of icing sugar and 2 egg whites, and coloured it with espresso. Use the icing to stick together the gingerbread cut-outs. Surround the edges of the ‘stairs’ and the bottom tier with chocolate fingers, and use mini-marshmallows to make the crenellations. If you want to go for the sandcastle look, as I apparently did, use crumbled cake offcuts to surround the ziggurat. Then, use black royal icing and a toothpick to draw in the stairs.

And you’re done. Well, actually you’re ready for the best bit of making a gingerbread house, which is covering it in inappropriately scaled, poorly decorated, jelly baby dioramas. Here, for example, is the moon god Nanna (with horned helmet) presenting a poorly draw rod and coil to Ur-Namma (with bead and silly hat and touching his nose):

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And here is an overseer (with cuneiform tablet) looking somewhat suspiciously (use your imagination) at what’s been built instead of actual stairs, while a worker looks on:

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Next week – I’m hungry for fondant. So something with fondant.

Glazed brick Mushhushshu biscuits

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So, this is what I was trying to make – a mushhushshu dragon from the Ishtar gate in Babylon:

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Before I begin explaining how to make the goofiest looking mushhushshu possible, there’s a very important point to consider, namely: is the title of this post a pun? I mean, the bricks from the Ishtar gate are referred to as ‘glazed’ and ‘glazed’ is synonymous with ‘iced’ in American English, but I feel bringing in American terminology counts as cheating. I think the answer may be that it is a pun, it’s just not a very good one.

So, if you desperately wish to make this, I suggest you start off by buying blue food colouring somewhat darker than mine. Then, make the sugar cookies:

Ingredients:

  • 140g icing sugar
  • 1 egg yolk (save the white for the royal icing)
  • 250g very softened butter
  • 350g plain flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

  1. Beat together the icing sugar, egg yolk, vanilla extract and the butter with a wooden spoon.
  2. Add the flour and keep beating until it forms a dough. Split the dough into two balls, wrap them in cling film and chill them for about half an hour. While they’re chilling, pre-heat the oven to 190°C, and cover a baking tray in greaseproof paper.
  3. Roll out the dough on a floured surface, and cut the ‘bricks’ out with a knife. I suggest using a flash card as a guide. They’re a good size, they’ll keep their shape better than something cut from paper, and you can test yourself while you bake. Don’t say I don’t know how to have a good time.
  4. The ingredients given above should give you 12 cookies. You’ll only need 9, but biscuits break. And get eaten. It’s always good to have spares. Put them on the tray and bake them for about 10-15 minutes, or until the corners are golden brown. You’ll probably need around 2 batches.
  5. Let the cookies cool on the trays, and then transfer them to a wire rack.

While the biscuits cool, make the royal icing from 400g of icing sugar and 2 egg whites. Divide the royal icing into two bowls and set one aside. Fill a piping bag with around half of the icing in first bowl, and ice the outline of the mushhushshu onto the biscuits, making certain that the shape has continuity over the joins.

Take the remainder of the icing from the first bowl, and add a spoonful of water, until it is smooth and liquid. ‘Flood’ the iced outline, gently easing the liquid icing into the corners. Leave the biscuits to dry.

While they’re drying, take the second bowl of icing, and colour it blue. Fill another piping bag with half of this icing, and outline the biscuits. Take the remaining half of this icing, make it liquid, and flood the remainder of the cookies with it. Leave this to dry, and make up some edible blue paint (what, you don’t just have that lying around the house? What do you do when you need to paint things you want to eat? Honestly). Paint on the the bricks.

Then, realise you should have set aside a small bit of the royal icing while it was still white, and hurriedly make a new, smaller batch. Divide it into three bowls – dye one red, one yellow and one black. Using a toothpick, draw on the eye and the tongue, and colour in yellow the tips of the tail and talons, the horn and the curl.

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And you’re done. Next week, Lamashtu amulets made of fudge. Prizes for anyone who can come up with a better pun than ‘Lamashtu Jam-ulets’. Prizes in the form of fudge.