Recipes:Peanut butter, oatmeal and chocolate chip biscuits | Vanilla and lemon biscuits

Lemon and Vanilla biscuits
Lemon and Vanilla biscuits
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CRISP buttery biscuits with peanut butter, vanilla and lemon or ginger and chocolate are a moreish treat

It is easy to buy a packet of biscuits, but homemade ones taste so very much better than anything bought from a shop. And biscuits make such an excellent present. Here are three recipes, each very different. They will store well in an airtight container for 5-7 days, and they freeze well too, but they are each at their best eaten within 24 hours of being made – the aroma as they bake is so enticing that it is almost impossible not to eat them as they cool. The more butter there is in a biscuit recipe, the more fragile the end result will be, so be careful if you are packaging them as a gift. But the texture and taste are so good it’s a small price to pay for the flavour and crisp crunch.

Peanut butter, oatmeal and chocolate chip biscuits


8oz/225g crunchy peanut butter – 
my favourite is that made by Skippy. It’s worth buying a few jars when 
you find it for sale as it isn’t 
stocked widely

3oz/85g soft light brown sugar 
mixed with

3oz/85g caster sugar

2oz/55g porridge oats

6oz/170g self raising flour, sieved

2oz/55g dark chocolate drops – the best are those by Callebaut

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Scoop the peanut butter from the jar into a mixing bowl and add the combined sugars, porridge oats and sieved flour. Work this all together – don’t be tempted to use a food processor because you don’t want to pulverise the crunchy bits of peanut. Add the vanilla extract and chocolate drops and work in well with your wooden spoon.

Divide this dough into even sized small balls, about walnut in size, and roll them between your palms, first dipping your hands into cold water. Do this repeatedly as you roll the biscuit balls. Put them evenly and fairly widely spaced onto a non-stick baking tray, and flatten each slightly, using the flat of your hand to do so. Bake in a moderate heat, 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 12-15 minutes – the biscuits should be spread and golden brown. Ovens vary, and I need to turn the baking tray around in mine, for part of the baking time. You may need to do the same, and the biscuits may need a few extra minutes to cook. Always set a timer.

When cooked, leave them for a minute on their baking tray before carefully lifting them, with a palette knife, onto a wire cooling rack. Only store them in an airtight container when 
completely cold.

Vanilla and lemon 


6oz/170g soft butter

6oz/170g granulated sugar

6oz/170g self raising flour, sieved

finely grated rind of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat the soft butter adding the sugar gradually. Beat in the sieved flour, and add the finely grated lemon rind and the vanilla.

Wet your hand in cold water, and divide the mixture into small even-sized balls, about walnut size. Put them, well spaced, onto a non-stick baking tray – don’t flatten them. Bake in a moderate heat, 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for about 12-15 minutes. When cooked, leave them for a minute before carefully lifting each with a palette knife onto a wire cooling rack. When cold, store in an airtight container.

Rich ginger shortbread

This is made as a tray-bake, and cut into squares. The dark chocolate top is optional, but very good.

8oz/225g softened butter

8oz/225g caster sugar

2 rounded teaspoons powdered ginger sieved with

4oz/110g plain flour

4oz/110g rice flour or semolina

6 pieces of preserved ginger, drained of its syrup and diced finely and small

In a mixing bowl, beat the butter, gradually adding the caster sugar. Add the ground ginger, sieved flour and rice flour or semolina, and the neatly diced ginger and mix in thoroughly but briefly – you don’t want to over work this mixture, because over-mixing toughens the end result.

Butter a swiss roll tin or baking tin, measuring about 12in/22cm by 10in/18cm. Press the mixture evenly into the buttered tin, right into the corners, and evenly press a fork in rows down the shortbread. Bake in a low moderate heat, 150C/300F/Gas Mark 3 for about 40 minutes. The shortbread is cooked when it shrinks very slightly in from the edges. If you are in doubt, bake for a few minutes longer. If you don’t intend to spread the chocolate mixture over the shortbread, then dust the hot shortbread with a combined mixture of 3 tablespoons of caster sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon ground ginger.  Cool in the tin, but cut it into even squares before the shortbread is cold.

For the chocolate coating (optional)

4oz/110g dark chocolate – I use Lindt 75 per cent broken into small bits into a Pyrex bowl

2oz/55g butter

Put the butter into the bowl with the bits of dark chocolate, and put the bowl onto a saucepan containing simmering water – don’t let the base of the bowl touch the water. As the bowl heats, and the butter and chocolate melt, take the bowl off the heat and stir the contents till smooth. Spread this over the cooled ginger shortbread before marking it into squares.