This is an excerpt from my book ‘Magick‘ the second in the Radwinter series. Thomas helps his sister-in-law Ruthie develop new products for her food business:
“Easter biscuits,” I said to Ruthie. She looked puzzled which surprised me… surprised me because I thought she would know what they were.
“They’re big and round,” I said. “And baked pale, and they have currants in and sugar sprinkled on top and they are flavoured with… flavoured with… cassia oil!”
I wonder how I knew that and then I had a memory… a happy memory of my mother. She must have been going through a good period; she had met me from school and John was with her in his school uniform… maybe it was the first year he was at secondary school… she had met me and we had walked home together and it had been nice, so maybe we were living in one of the better places. We got in and in the kitchen she had got everything ready to make some biscuits and we were going to make Easter biscuits which she said was her granny’s recipe.
“Make some for me, Thomas,” Ruthie said. We were having what she describes as a planning meeting, but what just seems like doing lots of cooking and eating. I then go home with lots of boxes of stuff for us to eat which helps save money, and, as well as that, Ruthie insists on paying me.
We hadn’t got any cassia oil so I used cinnamon instead, but told her it didn’t quite have the right bitter taste. I googled some recipes and came across various other bits of information about them; if I had been at home I would have looked it all up and deviated away from the task in hand, but Ruthie was paying me to work so I concentrated on looking for a recipe which seemed to suggest results closest to what I remember.
I did notice however, that Easter biscuits were usually given out in church, in a little stack of three to represent the Trinity, and together with hot cross buns and simnel cake they are the key traditional Easter foods…
“Simnel cake?” I said hopefully. Ruthie laughed and told me to concentrate on the biscuits, but she jotted some things down in her little book.
I came across a recipe that seemed right:
- 10 oz plain flour
- 7 oz butter
- 5 oz caster sugar (plus extra for sprinkling)
- 2 oz currants
- 2 egg yolks
- 8 drops oil of Cassia
And I set to making them after Ruthie had insisted I put an apron on… I tend to forget and then stuff gets everywhere or I manage to wipe my fingers on my trousers and leave greasy marks, but I got on with it, mixing the ingredients using a little milk to bring it all together. Cooking for Ruthie meant I had to weigh everything precisely, even the egg yolks and the milk I used.
While they were in the oven, (at 160°C, 320°F, gas mark 2) cooking for 12 minutes, we looked at simnel cake recipes and discussed how they could be made at a reasonable cost considering how luxurious the ingredients were, butter and marzipan… mmm!
I wondered about hot cross buns; for Ruthie’s purpose I wondered whether they could be actual buns using a cake mixture not a bread mixture, in deep cupcake cases but with the same flavours of mixed spice and dried fruit and maybe a marzipan cross or an icing one or a fondant one or… I stopped as the timer went and I rescued the first batch of biscuits.
They looked perfect and I could hardly wait until they were cool, in fact I couldn’t wait, I had to try one to see how the cinnamon worked instead of the cassia oil. The thing is with the oil, it is such a particular flavour, too much and its nasty, too little and it’s not worth putting in.
I wondered if maybe adding saffron to the milk would give a primrose colour to the biscuits… they need to be pale, but maybe just a little pale yellow would be nice…
If you want to find out how the Easter biscuits turn out and what else Thomas gets up to, here is a link to my book – and i would be so grateful if you left me a comment on what you think of it on my Amazon page: