I frequently overlook anniversaries and significant dates but for some reason I have noticed that this blog’s been wandering along with a puzzled expression on its face for three years now. I recently looked back at the first ever post, which was inspired by a visit to Collioure, and it made me nostalgic for anchovies, blue seas, sweet wines and biscuits.
There’s a fine selection of biscuits available in Collioure. Le Croquant à l'Ancienne, a delicious, crisp almond biscuit, is the true local speciality, but the rousquille was my personal favourite. It’s a Catalan treat that can take a number of forms. The biscuits can vary in size, some don’t have the hole in the middle and some are traditionally made using hard-boiled eggs in the mixture. My version is closer to the one that I enjoyed on the sea front at Collioure but I admit to tweaking the flavours for my personal taste. Many versions have stronger flavours in the biscuit and less lemon in the icing. This little biscuit can be a bit tricky to get absolutely right, but, whatever happens, you’re likely to get a tasty nibble at the end of it even if it doesn't seem totally authentic.
This recipe makes around 12 biscuits. You’ll probably have a little too much icing, but I didn’t want to give a recipe that divided up a single egg white. You can serve these anytime with tea or, even better, coffee. Of course, a glass of the sweet wine from Banyuls would be pretty good, too. Best of all, serve with un grand crème while listening to the sound of the waves of the Mediterranean lapping gently on the shore. Well, I can dream, can’t I?
150 g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
50 g icing sugar
45 g unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp runny honey
2 tbsp milk
½ tsp vanilla paste or extract
1 tsp orange blossom water
1 tsp aniseed, lightly crushed
For the icing:
80 g icing sugar
40 ml water
1 egg white
1 tbsp lemon juice
To make the biscuit, sift together the flour, baking powder and icing sugar. Rub the butter in thoroughly until the mixture is even and sandy. Add the egg yolks, honey, milk, vanilla, orange blossom water and aniseed. Mix together to form a dough but don’t overwork it. Form into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge. Chill for at least two hours.
Preheat the oven to 170°C. On a lightly floured surface roll the dough out to a thickness of around half a centimetre. Cut out circles using a pastry cutter (a 7 cm cutter is about right but one a little smaller would be fine, too). Cut out a hole in the centre of each circle of dough. I’ve tried different ways of doing this and I think using an apple corer is easiest. Place on a greased or non-stick baking tray and bake in the oven for around 15 minutes until the biscuits have puffed up and are a light golden colour.
While the biscuits are in the oven, make the icing. Make a syrup by placing the icing sugar and water in a saucepan and bringing to the boil, stirring to make sure that the sugar dissolves. At the same time, whisk the egg white to the firm peak stage. Boil the syrup for around 3 minutes until it begins to thicken noticeably. Take the syrup off the heat, immediately stir in the lemon juice and then pour the lemony syrup onto the egg white in a steady stream while continuing to whisk. The icing should remain relatively firm but not too stiff.
Once the biscuits are baked, remove from the oven and allow to cool for a minute or two. Turn the oven down to it’s lowest setting – if your oven is anything like mine, that’s around 50°C. To coat the biscuit, I've been told that the truly traditional (if rather messy) method is to dip the entire biscuit into the icing but most of the examples I've seen clearly don’t do that. It’s easier to leave the biscuits on their baking tray and to brush them generously with the icing (a silicone brush seems to be the best thing for the job). Once all the biscuits are coated, return them to the cool oven to dry out for around 1 – 2 hours. (Depending on the type of oven you have, you might find that leaving the oven door a little ajar will be helpful.) Allow the rousquilles to cool completely before serving.
The destination for this month's Bloggers Around The World challenge hosted by Chris over at Cooking Around The World just happens to be France and so I can't resist entering this little treat even if it does slightly blur the border with Spain.