The official name for these tasty morsels is Easter biscuits, but in this house they are called Animal biscuits and they should actually be called Poorly biscuits. These are the ones that I am asked to make if either of the girls is feeling a bit off colour. This is because I made them once for the little one when nothing else would tempt her to eat but these did the trick. Ever since at the slightest sign of illness Animal biscuits have to be made. Well, the little one has a cold. Nothing too serious, but I am sure the other children at pre-school would prefer not to have it, so yesterday there was the usual request to make Animal biscuits.
I have recipes for these biscuits in two of my books; Jill Brand’s The Best Kept Secrets of the Women’s Institute, Cakes and Biscuits and Louise Walker’s The Traditional Aga Party Book. I normally make them from the latter, but yesterday I made them from Jill Brand’s book, in which she suggests removing them from the oven half way through cooking, brushing them with egg white and dusting with caster sugar and then cooking them for the rest of the time. Feel free to do this, but I can’t really tell the difference between this and Louise Walker’s advice to dust them with caster sugar as soon as they come out of the oven. As the first way is a faff, I would suggest following Louise Walker on this point.
Louise Walker explains that currants were once a prized possession and so these biscuits were made for special occasions and were often handed out to children after church on Easter Sunday.
This recipe combines both of the above recipes to make them mine.
Makes about 20-24 biscuits depending on the size of your cutter.
100g (4oz) softened butter
75g (3oz) caster sugar
1 egg yolk (feel free to use the egg white as described above)
200g (8oz) plain flour
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
75g (3oz) currants
splash of milk
caster sugar to sprinkle on the cooked biscuits
Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk. Add the flour, spices and currants and mix with a spoon. You will probably need a splash of milk to get it to a soft dough that will roll out.
Place the ball of dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out until it’s about 5mm thick. Using any shape cookie cutter that you like (the tradition is for rounds) cut out shapes, re-rolling the dough when you need to, and place onto a baking tray (you will need two baking sheets). Place the trays in a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6 or near the bottom of the roasting oven of the Aga for 10-15 minutes until they are lightly golden. Sprinkle liberally with caster sugar whilst still warm. Place onto wire racks to cool. Eat and feel better.