Friday, 27 July 2012

Viennese Whirls

When I was a wee nipper, ours was never a particularly confectionary-heavy household. To this day, my Mum proudly tells stories of how I used to nibble at carrot sticks when the other kids were having sweets, and how, on warm days, I used to sit in a cardboard box in the garden, munching away on a bag of frozen peas. I'm pretty sure that this would be widely tutted at in today's society (by parties other than the vegetable-eating youngster, I mean), but that's not really the point...  

The point is, the first time I was introduced to some of the more spectacular-looking boxed confections, it made a pretty big impact. French Fancies seemed like cartoon goodies - out of this world - and Mr Kipling's Viennese Whirls were just about the ultimate in decadent chic.

So when I saw Mary-Anne on the Great British Bake off make her version of Viennese Whirls, 'Melting Moments', I knew I had to give them a try, and I've just been waiting for the opportunity to get around to actually doing it. I know that the buttercream she uses in the recipe is excellent, as I have used it in several recipes before, so I started out with very high hopes for re-living the sugar rush experiences of my youth.

Mary-Anne's original recipe can be found here, and is definitely worth a look, as is the rest ofher excellent blog. You will see by comparing her pictures to mine, that she's also a darn site better at piping than me. Hey ho, I'll live to pipe another day! For ease of reference, I've reproduced the recipe below, with instructions for making only a half quantity of the buttercream filling from the original recipe (which was ample for this amount of biscuits).



Viennese Whirls/Melting Moments


Ingredients

250g plain flour
58g cornflour
58g icing sugar
250g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
a little food dye (optional)


Method

1. Cream together the butter and icing sugar until very pale and fluffy. You will need to pipe it later, so take the hit now and do it properly, or your crampy fingers will never forgive you (I speak from experience here!)

2. Add in the vanilla extract and sift in the flour and cornflour. Beat together until the mixture is nice and smooth.

3. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a star-shaped nozzle, and pipe out in circles on a lined baking tray. If you are conscientious, you may want to draw out the circles so that you get a good shape. If you want the distinctive coloured stripe on your biscuits, then paint a line of food dye down the inside of your piping bag before you fill it. Mary-Anne suggests matching the colour to the flavour of jam that you use in sandwiching them together. I've made them twice, once with strawberry jam, and once with a strawberry and blackberry jam that my Mum made - hence the batch of double-coloured biscuits.

4. Pop the biscuits in the freezer for 15 minutes to help them retain their piped appearance when you bake them. I only have a teeny overcrowded freezer box, so I tried putting them in the fridge for half an hour instead. It really didn't work as well, so bear that in mind if you do have the freezer option available to you.





5. Bake at 180°C  for 12 minutes, until the biscuits are slightly golden in colour.

6. Put the tray on a wire rack for a few minutes, and when the biscuits have cooled for a few minutes, remove from the tray and allow to cool completely on the rack.

7. Sandwich together with jam of your choice, and Mary-Anne's delicious 'depression era buttercream'. If you prefer the biscuits simple, leave them unsandwiched, and they will keep for about 4 days in an airtight container with no bother. Once they are sandwiched, though, they'll go soggy fairly quicky, so put them together when serving if possible.



Depression-Era Buttercream

(due to the cooling time needed, it may make sense to start this before you start the biscuits, just sayin').

Ingredients

125ml milk
2tbs plain flour
110g unsalted butter
110g caster sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Method

1. Gently heat the milk and flour, together on the hob, stirring continually with a whisk until the mixture thickens.

2. Continue cooking and stirring for another minute to get rid of the floury taste.

3. Pour the mixture onto a plate, cover closely with cling film, and allow to cool. The cling film will stop a skin forming. The mixture musst be totally cool before proceeding to the next stage, or your buttercream will end up as a melty, curdly mess.  

4. Beat together the sugar and butter until fluffy and pale in colour. 

5. Add the thickened milk mixture and continue mixing together until fully incorporated, pale and thick. Mary-Anne estimates that this will take another 10 minutes.

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