It came to my attention last week that a) it's Valentine's Day tomorrow, and b) it's possible to use rubber stamps on icing. What to do with this information? Make rubber-stamped Valentine's postcard biscuits, of course!
A plain, sturdy biscuit works best here - I used Nigella Lawson's party biscuits recipe from her book Feast, although I added some ginger extract to mine, because it's an aphrodisiac, innit? Oo-er. Might as well do things properly or not at all.
I wanted a really smooth, even top, so I chose fondant icing (I bought a packet of ready-rolled, and I am not ashamed). Royal icing would work just as well here, however, and it has the added benefit of setting quickly.
I only used a couple of rubber stamps on these - the postage stamp with a heart where the Queen's face should be - TREASON - and the bunting. I also experimented with a more intricate birdcage stamp with mixed results - my advice would be to stick to the simple designs. Of course, you don't need to use rubber stamps at all - I was just taken by the novelty of it. Scribble and scrawl away if that's what you prefer. Indeed, I did plenty of freehand doodling. Behold my postmark:
I AM TREMENDOUSLY PROUD OF MYSELF.
Valentine's Postcard Biscuits (makes 5)You'll need:
- 90g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 100g caster sugar
- 1 large egg
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp ground ginger or ginger extract
- 200g plain flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 450g ready-rolled white icing OR 450g royal icing sugar, plus 75g cold water
- Food colourings of your choice
- A small piece of foam (a brand-new kitchen sponge is ideal)
- Selection of rubber stamps, unused (with normal ink) and thoroughly washed and dried
- Food colouring pens
- Fine paintbrush, unused (with paint) and thoroughly washed and dried
- Cream the butter and sugar until smooth and pale. Add the egg, vanilla extract, and ginger, and beat some more. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt, and then plonk them in with the wet ingredients. Mix until you have a firm dough.
- Press the dough into a thickish circle, wrap in clingfilm, and chill for an hour.
- While it's chilling, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Cut parchment to fit two regular baking sheets - you'll be cutting your biscuit shapes directly on the parchment for ease.
- It's time now to make a template for your biscuits (unless you have a cookie cutter the right size and shape). Using a thin piece of cardboard - I used a Tunnocks Teacake box - cut a 10 x 15cm rectangle. Try not to lose it in the next half an hour.
- Have a wee rest.
- Sprinkle both pieces of parchment with flour. On one piece of parchment, roll just over half the dough out until it's about ½cm thick. Using your template, cut three postcard rectangles, leaving a small gap between each. I used a pizza cutter for this job, but a sharp knife will do. Beware fingers!
- Remove the excess dough, and add it to your other just-under-a-half of dough. Roll this out on the remaining piece of parchment, and cut two rectangles from it (if you can get three, go for it! I couldn't, but I had enough dough left over to make a handful of tiny heart biscuits).
- Like a magician whipping a tablecloth out from under crockery, quickly slide your baking sheets under the parchment, so that the shape of your freshly-cut rectangles isn't disturbed. Bake for 12-15 minutes, swapping shelves halfway through, until the edges are golden. The middles will be squidgy, but will set as the biscuits cool.
- Carefully remove the biscuits to a wire rack to cool.
- Once the biscuits have done their thing, start preparing for the fun part! If you're using ready-rolled fondant icing, roll it a little bit more (on an icing-sugared surface with an icing-sugared pin), so that it's about 2-2½mm thick. Use your old mucker, the cardboard rectangle, to cut five pieces of icing to fit your postcards. Dampen the undersides of each with some cold water (this will help the icing stick to the biscuit), and place carefully atop each baked postcard. Even up the edges with a finger, and trim any wild excess.
- If you're using royal icing, combine the royal icing sugar and water, and beat for five minutes, gradually increasing the speed of the mixer. The icing will form soft peaks when it's ready. Spread evenly across all your postcards, using the back of a spoon for a really smooth finish.
- Let the icing set (fondant icing won't set firm straight away, and that's okay - we can still decorate it while it's soft). Then start stamping! Pour a little of your chosen food colouring onto the foam pad, and stamp as normal. Practise on a sheet of paper first, or - better still - any leftover icing you might have lying about.
- Use food colouring pens for the writing and any fine details. You can use your paintbrush dipped in colouring to fill in any gaps in the stamp designs.
- Leave to dry thoroughly. If you're using fondant icing, I suggest leaving the biscuits uncovered overnight (or for a goodly while at least) on a wire rack, so that the icing can set.
- Present the fruits of your labour to your beloved. Oh wait, you all wrote "For me, with love from me" on your postcards? Fair enough.
- Clean up any smudges with a cotton bud dipped in vodka or vanilla essence.
- Make sure your lines are straight by gently making an indent first, and then drawing over it with food colouring.
- You can ice both sides of the postcard, with images on one side, and a traditional postcard layout on the other. Just make sure the food colouring is properly dry before starting work on the back, and rest the biscuit on a piece of kitchen roll or a clean tea towel to protect the underside. If you choose this option, you'll need double quantities of icing.
Have a lovely, love-filled Valentine's Day tomorrow, everyone!