As you might have heard, I do adore a chewy cookie, but I am pretty liberal regarding food and I tolerate crispy, crunchy treats too. Growing up in New Zealand we didn’t use the word ‘cookie’; everything was a biscuit. But now it makes sense for me use those different words to distinguish soft, chewy cookies from crispy, crunchy biscuits, which we are talking about today.
My recipe for biscuits that you can roll out and cut into shape is derived from my Basic Cookie Dough recipe but with less fat and sugar for the same amount of flour, and it does not have baking soda in it. The general rule with baking powder and baking soda, at least when it comes to biscuits/cookies, is that baking powder makes things rise, and baking soda makes them spread.
So when you want a cookie, which both rises and spreads, and remains soft and chewy, you are going to use a combination of baking soda and powder, and more fat (and consequently more sugar). To make a shorter, crispier, more biscuit-like product that you can shape with a cutter, you will use less fat and sugar for a firmer structure, and only use baking powder so that your biscuits rise, but don’t spread and ruin your cute shapes that you have painstakingly stamped out.
As with many of my base recipes, this has plenty of applications beyond the ones I am talking about here. Once you have the basic recipe you can change the flavours any which way you like. Sometimes it makes sense to use all butter, not a combination of cream cheese and butter, depending on what you want out of the recipe. The rich, deep, nutty flavour of butter that has been baked to a dark colour suits a spicy biscuit well, and the cutting of the fattiness of butter with tangy cream cheese suits citrus flavours better. Likewise with brown sugar and white sugar; sometimes you might want deeper flavour and darker colour, so brown sugar works better than white.
Basic Roll & Cut Biscuit Dough
- 150g Butter, softened OR 100g Butter + 50g Cream cheese
- 150g Sugar (White, brown or 1/2 & 1/2)
- 1 Egg
- 1 tsp Vanilla
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Baking powder
- 300g / 2 C Soft flour
- Put the butter, or butter/cream cheese mix and the sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Cream them together using the paddle attachment until they are pale and fluffy.
- Add the egg and the vanilla. If you are making spiced biscuits, add the spices now to allow them to combine well with the fat in the mixture. Beat the mixture until it is mixed and thickened.
- Add the salt, baking powder, baking soda and flour. Mix gently until it comes together as a dough, but no more.
- Turn your biscuit dough out onto the benchtop and squish together, into a round, flattened disc. This will make it easier to roll out once it has firmed up.
- Wrap your dough in cling film and put it in the fridge to chill for a while.
- Once the dough is more firm, you can sprinkle a dusting of flour onto your work surface and over a rolling pin, and roll it out into a thin sheet about 5mm thick.
- Time to pick your cutter shape! Dip it lightly into some flour and cut away.
- Lay out the biscuits onto trays lined with baking paper.
- Get your oven pre-heated to 180°C. Once it is hot, cycle your trays through one by one, in the middle of the oven. Bake the cookies until they are golden brown brown and crisp, which takes about 20 minutes. You can bake more than one tray at a time but you need to rotate them so that they each get time on the top rack and bake evenly.
- Transfer the biscuits to a cooling rack. Once they are cool, store them in an airtight container.
Turn the page to see how to make the Belgian Spice biscuits I made with my roll & cut biscuit dough, and how to make a Dutch-style speculoos cookie.