Sunday, February 20, 2011

the unlaced chef: asylum funeral biscuits

Sundays are a rare treat for me- mainly because they're my only day off during the hectic work week.  Unfortunately I spend most Sundays trying to keep up with laundry and cleaning the apartment.

I decided to spend this particular Sunday, however, making a recipe that I have wanted to try for some time now: The Asylum's Funeral Biscuits, from Emilie Autumn's The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls.

One may wonder: How does one go about making Asylum Funeral Biscuits?  I won't tell you, because I consider giving full ingredients and directions of any recipe online some form of copyright infringement. There are two things I will share about this particular recipe: the key ingredients are caraway seeds and cardamom, two spices which I have never worked with before today.  I do recognize cardamom as an ingredient in my beloved Earl Grey and Lady Grey teas, so I knew I was in for something rich and strong.

Scott bought me the two spices while I made sure that I had the other ingredients.  Then the baking began.

Step one: Blend Ingredients.

One ingredient I expected on the list were eggs.  We are fresh out of eggs at my apartment.  Seeing as EA is vegan, however, this problem is easily remedied. I decide to double the recipe to make four dozen biscuits instead of two dozen so that there is more for me to eat later.

Step Two: Combine sweet ingredients.

This is the part where I realize that I don't have enough butter to make the doubled recipe, rush out to the convenience store to get some, and in my haste to mix everything together forget to take a photo on my lousy laptop camera. Note: there is a lot of butter in this recipe. 

Step Three: Mix all ingredients together, knead into dough.

 Step Four: Chill for one hour.

Here I clean up what dishes I have used so far and put all of the ingredients away, then go off to read other people's blogs for the remainder of the hour.

Step Five: Preheat oven, take out dough, roll it out, and cut into evenly sized shapes. Chill for 15 minutes.

This part involves some improvising.  I don't have a rolling pin, so Scott suggests that I use a bottle of orange cream soda that's lying in the fridge.  It works like a charm.  I don't have a cookie cutter, so I use a glass cup as a template for cutting the biscuits into even, round shapes.  While this method works, I think that the biscuits are made much too large, because I end up with 31 biscuits instead of 48.

Step Five: Place into oven and bake.

Now I run into real problems, as my apartment has the second worst oven ever invented (the first is the gas oven that my grandmother uses, where you turn on the gas, throw a lighted match into the oven, slam the door shut and pray that the place doesn't blow up while the gas catches the flame.) My oven doesn't have a temperature gauge.  It's marked "Off," "LO," and "HI".  No matter how many times I check whatever is baking in the oven, normally the first batch burns.  Which is exactly what happens.  But the second batch turns out all right- not fluffy and flaky like American biscuits, but flat like a cookie, as British biscuits are made:

 Step Six: Serve with port or sherry and enjoy!

Neither Scott (my guinea pig) nor I drink alcohol.  He hates the taste and I stay off of it because depressed people shouldn't consume alcohol- it's a depressant, and cancels out the effectiveness of my anti-depressant medication. So we tried it with herbal tea.

The verdict: These biscuits were deliciously buttery, but the caraway seeds and cardamom made it way too strong of a taste.

No wonder it's suggested that one dips these in port or sherry- the sweetness of the alcohol will cancel out the strong taste of the spices. That, and apparently I am not a fan of caraway seeds, because when I got a few stuck in my mouth after all of the bread of the biscuit was gone, the aftertaste was just horrid.

I'm taking these into work tomorrow, as I had originally planned, but I think only my boss will eat them.  He likes strong, spicy foods, so these will actually probably be a rare treat for him.

On Tuesday night I'll see if my friend Candy will have them with me with some port or sherry this time.  If I still can't abide the taste then, I'll make sure that I only put in half the amount of required spices if I ever attempt the recipe again.

Update 2/21/11:  As predicted, my boss, a native of India, loved the Asylum Funeral Biscuits due to their spicy, yet sweet and buttery taste.  I think he's eaten about six of the two dozen biscuits I brought in so far. Now I know what I'll be giving him for the next major Hindu holiday. 

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