Custard cream biscuits are rated highly in biscuit popularity polls… nearly 90% of British people say they are their favourites. They are a rectangular sandwich, of two crispy vanilla flavoured biscuits, often stamped with a fancy pattern surrounding a lozenge shape with the words ‘custard cream’ inside, and a vanilla and custard flavoured cream holding them together. The cream should have the flavour of Bird’s custard made with custard powder, not ‘proper’ custard, the sort made at home with eggs and milk and cream. Maybe I should have a go at making them, they sound easy enough… but maybe that should be when I’ve lost a few of those extra pounds which seem mysteriously to have appeared…
I thought custard creams must be an old traditional biscuit,with origins going back into the mists of culinary time; apparently they were first made in the early 1900’s, although the idea of sandwiching biscuits together with a filling is much older, and ‘printing’ patterns on biscuits, bread, pastry etc is even older. Almost every biscuit maker makes them, including supermarkets ‘own brands’, and apparently there are some which have different flavoured fillings such as chocolate – well, that doesn’t sound authentic to me!
One thing about custard creams which may not be apparent or familiar to people who aren’t British or who haven’t visited here, is the number of different ways in which they can be eaten.
- just bite them like an ordinary biscuit, the size of bite depends on how big your mouth is and how genteel or greedy you are
- put them in whole – the trouble with this is one biscuit eaten like this leads to another, and another, and a whole packet may disappear before you know it
- the opposite to the method above: nibble as a mouse might in tiny-weeny bites so the biscuit lasts for ages and often avoids the one-after-another problem as outlined in the previous method; the downside is that it may cause an excessive amount of crumbs on the chest
- as above, avoiding crumbage – 1. the backward tip: tip your head backward so as you nibble the crumbs fall into your mouth (this make present a choking hazard); 2. the cuppage: have a hand cupped beneath your chin, or a plate/saucer/small dish to catch the crumbs 3. the forwards lean: lean forward so all the crumbs go on the floor
- nibbling the edges of the biscuit away from the cream filling before eating the middle
- nibbling the edges then carefully remove the top biscuit or ‘lid’ leaving an open sandwich of a single biscuit and the cream filling
- nibbling the edges, then carefully taking off the top or lid, and then, extremely carefully the bottom or base, leaving just the cream filling
- dunking… now I am not a fan of dunking, in fact I find it repellent and disgusting… but I have to face the fact that many, many British people like dunking their biscuits in their tea or coffee, and that custard creams are a favourite ‘dunker’
- left over or soggy custard creams should not just be thrown away; if you really can’t bring yourself to eat them, put them in a blender and reduce them to crumbs and use to make biscuit bases for cheese cakes, chocolate truffles, tiffin, sprinkles for trifle and as an ingredient in many other delicious sweets and desserts
Here is a recipe for custard creams which I have not tried, but I will… maybe to take on the family holiday this year!
- 7oz plain flour
- 2oz Bird’s custard powder
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 3oz caster sugar
- 125 g (4oz) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into cubes
- 1 beaten egg with 1 tbsp milk
- 3oz soft butter
- 5oz icing sugar (or less – as you mix it use your judgement)
- 2 tbsp Bird’s custard powder
- rub the flour, custard powder, baking powder, sugar and butter together to make a fine crumb
- Add the egg and milk stirring in with a knife or metal spoon
- pull it together with your fingers to form a dough and leave to chill, wrapped in cling film (or an old butter paper) for more than 30 mins (you can even do it the day before you are actually going to make your custard creams)
- sprinkle some flour onto your work surface and roll out the dough until it’s really thin, about ⅛ inch
- cut it into regular and exact rectangles of about 1¼in x 1¾in – make sure you have an even number of biscuits because each bottom needs a top! You can use the leftover bits pulled back into a ball and rolled out again.
- mark the biscuits however you want – it might be too difficult to write ‘custard cream’ on each one but you could make a lozenge shape
- put the biscuits onto greased and line baking trays and bake for 13-15 minutes until they are a light golden brown
- leave them on the baking tray for a few minutes then put them onto your cooling rack
- to make the cream; beat the softened butter, custard powder and sifted icing sugar -if it really gets too thick, don’t add all the icing sugar, but it does have to be thick enough to sandwich the biscuits together
- when the biscuits are cool, spread half with the filling and carefully put the other half on top
- make a nice cup of tea and enjoy – if you have friends to share with so much the better, more fun and better for the waist line!
Here are a couple of interesting sites if you want to know more: