Back when I started this baking project, the lovely Cynthia over at Adventurings mentioned that I should join in with some folks who bake along with The Great British Bake Off every year. At the time I thought that sounded like a fun idea, and then promptly forgot about it.
Cut to last week, when I scrolled through Twitter and saw piles of #GBBO… was it back? How did I not know this? Yes it was, and I don’t know how I hadn’t heard it was coming. Oh well, I was just in time to tune in the next night for all the candy-colored scenery, Sheep Cats and the usual amount of self-effacing behavior from the contestants. Basically everything that makes it good is the exact opposite of every American reality show. Go watch, if you haven’t, you weirdo.
As it turns out the old link-up isn’t really happening this year, but since I’m already baking anyway, I’ll be giving it a try. Not much got baked this summer, as we were really trying to avoid turning on the oven if we didn’t have to, but the time is ripe now. As is all the fruit. But that will have to wait.
The first week of the bake off this year focused on biscuits, or cookies, as we philistines in the U.S. call them. The contestants made a regionally-specific English biscuit, and I decided to do the same. Hence, Knerken, or Cardamon Snap Cookies. Also, I found the name funny. Good reasons.
The only cookies I’ve tried from the book thus far were two types of Christmas cookies last year, and I had mixed results. But the Knerken looked relatively simple, are regionally-specific to the Halligen Islands in Schleswig-Holstein (where I’ve never been), and contained cardamom which is a major house favorite. Cardamom in hand, we were off!
The first step involved browning butter and then allowing it to cool. I’ve only browned small amounts of butter at a time before, which meant that though I started strong, I promptly burnt the first try, leaving it on the stove just a minute too long.
Second batch of butter lightly browned and toasty-tasting, it got set aside to cool while I tossed together the dry ingredients. Then the butter was combined with the other wet ingredients, and the kitchen immediately smelled like cardamom.
The dry ingredients also included something new for me. This recipe calls for Baker’s Ammonia, which sounds mildly terrifying, but it’s just a leavening agent. I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to find, but it was right in the baking section, easy-peasy.
It was all fun and games until I got everything mixed together, which required some elbow grease as it was pretty crumbly at the beginning. Eventually I got everything pressed together, as it needed to be divided, rolled into two logs, and refrigerated for a few hours. Before I did that though, I did what I usually do, and popped a bit of dough in my mouth for a taste.
The baker’s ammonia is obviously meant to go into food, and you don’t taste anything weird from it when your recipe is baked. But beforehand? Tastes pretty funky. I immediately ran into the bedroom and asked BV what my chances were of dropping dead. He had no idea but assumed they were probably pretty low, especially as I hadn’t eaten too much of it. I returned to the kitchen to roll out my dough, and also spent the next half an hour sticking my tongue out constantly like a dog after they eat peanut butter. I don’t know if it helped any. Just couldn’t get that taste out.
Also, did I mention I got a new toy? Clearly I didn’t use it to accurately divide my dough for GBBO-worthy exactly perfectly even cookies, but I could have!
Several hours later, I retrieved my chilled dough from the fridge, and got to slicing. Then it was into the oven with this extremely monochrome tray.
It didn’t take long to bake the two batches, and I soon had another monochrome sheet of potential tastiness.
It’s easy to see the second batch, as they’re slightly smaller and also slightly darker than the first. BV emerged, lured by the scent of cardamom, and we got to tasting.
BV thought they looked like “nice cookies.” I thought they looked… austere. Granted, I’m much more used to the colorful sugar bombs found in U.S. supermarkets, not so much cookies for long sea voyages, like these ones. But the good news is, we agreed on the taste!
They have a great snap-factor, are light and airy thanks to that Baker’s Ammonia, and the cardamom taste is really unique in a cookie. Definitely a winner!
I realized several hours later, when I spotted the brush still sitting unused on the counter, that I actually missed a step. They were supposed to be brushed with milk before baking, so I’m curious to see what difference that makes the next time these get made… which will be soon.