As December rolls in, there are plenty of cooking/baking challenges to keep anyone busy. While mulling (dreading) over the Daring Baker monthly Challenge, I tackled the Retro Recipe Challenge #10 and the Novel Food Challenge #2. Both required using a book as the source of the recipe used.
Growing up in Québec, my early literary influences were naturally French. However, in the mid 1970′s, thanks to a French television series, this influence unexpectedly did a sharp 180 to the west of the English Channel into the Victorian foggy world of Baker Street. Arsène Lupin was a gentleman thief and womanizer plying his trade in late 1890′s, early 1990′s Paris. The literary creation of Maurice Leblanc, Lupin was a Gallic Robin Hood, doing good, on the wrong side of the law, usually with a very good looking woman on his arm. Portrayed by Georges Descrières, he was the consumate debonnair gentleman, drinking champagne, stealing jewellery and other priceless baubles while continuously evading the police (Inspecteur Ganimard, in particular). It wouldn’t be long before this character crossed swords with his English “counterpart” (1906). Following Arthur Conan Doyle‘s protest of Leblanc using the Sherlock Holmes name, the author changed it to “Herlock Sholmes” for the detectives appearance in “The Adventures of Arsène Lupin and Herlock Sholmes” and “L’Aiguille creuse” (“The Hollow Needle”).
I became intrigued by the reed-thin detective from London and picked up one of the stories at my local library. Before long I had fallen in love with Conan Doyle’s writing and the Victorian world of gas lights, shady characters, hansom cabs, Inspector Lestrade, Mrs Hudson, the Baker Street Irregulars, Dr. Watson and, of course, the quirky and brilliant detective himself. It was a sad day when I realized I had just read the last of the original stories of The Cannon. The Granada series starring Jeremy Brett brought this world to life beautifully.
So, when I came across these two challenges, the source to turn to was pretty obvious. I had come across a collection of recipes inspired from the stories. Dining with Sherlock Holmes: A Baker Street cookbook, by Julia Carlson Rosenblatt and Frederic H. Sonnenschmidt, first published in 1978 by Thames and Hudson,…
“…was conceived when more than a hundred Holmes enthusiasts enjoyed a grand Sherlockian repast in Hyde Park, New York in 1973… every recipe in the book has its canonical raison d’être.”
I picked up this book in the early 1980′s. Flipping through it, I found a sweet recipe titled: Mrs. Hudson’s Biscuits. This is the one I chose for these challenges. I’m not sure what the origins are, if it actually pre-dates 1978, but it sure turned out really nice biscuits. Light and not too sweet, with the refreshing tang of lemon. They would be “spot on” with a nice cuppa’, sitting beside a blazing fireplace, listening to the strains of Holmes’ violin, as he ponders his latest case.
Mrs. Hudson’s Biscuits
125 g. butter
125 g icing sugar
2 tsp vanilla sugar or 2 tsp sugar with 2-3 drops of vanilla extract
1 pinch of salt
juice and grated peel of 1/2 lemon
125 g. flour
125 g. cornflour
1 knife tip baking powder
butter to grease pan
100 g. icing sugar
2 tbsps lemon juice
Whip the butter until it is fluffy, then slowly add the icing sugar;
Add the vanilla sugar, egg, salt, lemon juice and peel;
Add the flour, baking powder and cornflour slowly and mix well;
Grease a baking tray with butter;
Fill a pastry bag with the dough and press small biscuits onto the baking tray;
Bake in a preheated 400F oven for 10-15 minutes
Make the glaze by mixing the icing sugar and lemon juice. Brush biscuits with it, and let it dry.
Makes about 70 biscuits.