Tag Archives: Honey Biscuits

Merry Christmas!

We would like to wish you and yours a very Merry and blessed Christmas! Even if happiness feels like a pipe dream during Covid; even in the darkest of times, there is still good to be found. Moreover, 2020 hasn’t been universally bad. Indeed, our family has experienced much worse, and we’ve actually had some significant breakthroughs. This has included having Geoff working from home, giving him at least an extra three hours at home, saving us money and enabling him to get some work done on the house.

It’s now the day after Boxing Day. So, Christmas Day is done and dusted. We had a wonderful day. My parents drove up from Sydney. I did all the cooking and we had roast chicken with stuffing and gravy, roast potatoes and pumpkin baked in duck fat, leg ham, thyme damper rolls and Avocado, Mango and Cashew Salad. For dessert, there was Macadamia Nut Caramel Tart, Honey Biscuits straight out of the oven, and my Christmas Cake. I was so proud of myself for timing everything well, and relieved that lady luck was on my side, and everything worked out. You can never assume a dish is going to work out perfectly, even if you’ve made it 20 times without a hitch before. There are no guarantees, although the more you cook, the better you get at masking your mistakes.

Dessert: Honey Biscuits warm straight out of the oven, Caramel Macadamia Nut Tart, Christmas Cake and extra caramel sauce.

By the way, the weather here deserves a mention this year. Firstly, you need to remember that we’ve Australian it’s Summer here, and that usually spells HOT. Indeed, it’s often so hot, you could fry an egg on the footpath, and you almost get sunburnt just looking outside. Usually, when we’re having the big family Christmas at my auntie’s place, half the family ends up in the pool and you can almost see the steam rising as they’re hot and bothered bodies cool off. However, this year it was wet and cool, and my Dad was actually wearing his jumper. That was pretty exceptional, and definitely blogworthy.

How has Christmas or the holidays been for you? I hope you and yours have had a Merry Christmas, and now it’s time to start thinking about resolutions for the new year. Now, there’s something that’s going to be complicated.

Best wishes,

Rowena and Family.

Blitzing the Great Honey Biscuit Baking Challenge.

Avoidance should be one of the seven deadly sins, and I’m sure many of us don’t even realize we’re doing it. Instead, for whatever reason, we believe the task is beyond our capabilities often without even having a go.

I realized earlier this year that there were so many things I’d wanted to bake, but I didn’t think I could do it. However, after seeing this same perfectionist fear of failure avoidance in my own children, I started to recognise it more in myself. So, as we started coming out of covid lockdown, I started making fancy cakes and desserts for our weekly Church life group where there were enough people to consume most of what I’d made, but leaving a bit left to bring home for the kids. This way, I could make something big and extravagant without us eating it for the next week.

However, while I’ve made plenty of pavlovas, Key Lime Pie, Banoffee Pie, Lemon Meringue Pie, I still haven’t attempted tiramisu (even though the ingredients are in the fridge and the mascarpone’s about to go off) or Pecan Pie. However, with Christmas rapidly approaching and after finding my grandmother’s Honey Biscuit Recipe and getting some advice from fellow German-Australian descendants, I decided to test it out tonight with a half batch to see how it goes.

It’s a balancing act getting the quantity of flour right. Clearly, more needed to be added at this point. These hands reminds me of the Abominable Dough Monster when I made pizza dough with the kids.

Well, I was pleasantly surprised. Actually, scrap that. I was doing the happy dance before the biscuits even came out of the oven. I knew that smell. It was like something primal from my childhood. Part of my DNA. We were family, in a strange sort of way. The smell must’ve been rather alluring because our 16 year old son suddenly appeared in the kitchen. “What are you baking?” He definitely had that look in his eyes. He ate one and left with three or four which rapidly vapourized. Forget the Masterchef judges. There’s nobody more critical of food than my kids. So my son’s seal of approval, was a very good endorsement.

These ones were made without the honey glaze. It does seem to add a bit of shine.

After making the Honey Biscuits, I can now speak more authoritatively about what they actually are. Indeed, they’re heading towards being more of a cake than a biscuit and are soft, light and airy. I followed my grandmother’s example of separating the eggs and beating up the egg whites and then adding the sugar. I used Capilano Honey which has a middle of the road honey flavour. My grandmother’s recipe didn’t mention adding a honey glaze. However, when I took the first batch out of the oven, they looked like something was missing. So, I mixed about a tablespoon of honey with a dash of boiling water and brushed it over the biscuits before they went in the oven. A good, generous splash of the honey glaze reproduced the honey biscuits just as my grandmother had made them…golden clouds of honey with an almost magical roast almond in the centre.

So, this is how the recipe turned out…

Honey BiscuitsRuth Haebich.

115g honey

225g sugar

2 eggs, separated

Squeeze lemon juice

2 teas bicarb soda

Plain Flour

1/2 teas ground cloves

1/2 teas ground cinnamon

Honey Glaze

Roughly 1 tablespoon of honey and a splash of boiling water.

Directions

  1. Beat egg whites using mix master until stiff.
  2. Gradually add sugar and beat well.
  3. Add honey. Mix well.
  4. Add egg yolks.
  5. Sift in about a cup of Plain flour with ground cloves, bicarb soda and cinnamon. Keep adding flour until it forms a dough and loses its stick. The dough is pale in colour.
  6. I rested it in the fridge for half an hour, although I’ve also heard others leave it overnight.
  7. Using a teaspoon, take heaped spoonfuls of mix and roll into a ball and place on a greased tray. Push half a blanched almond into the centre.
  8. Generously brush biscuits with honey glaze using a pastry brush.
  9. Bake at 180 degrees celsius for about 10-15 minutes. Remove when golden brown.

Guten Appetit!

By the way, I wanted to share one last tip I picked up from the German-Australian community page, and that was to put a slice of bread in the biscuit tin to stop them from going hard. I don’t know if that works. Meanwhile, I’ll be interested to see what they’re like in the morning, but they were absolutely incredible straight out of the oven!

Please let me know if you have a go with these, and how you went.

Best wishes,

Rowena

I tried to find a photo of my grandmother and I and had no luck. Well, at least looking through what’s been scanned onto my hard drive. Thought I’d share this photo, which reminds me of big family gatherings, even though it was taken long before my time. My grandmother is at the centre with my mother in front. Adults standing left to right: Pauline Gordon, Ottalie Gordon (Bruhn), Pastor Bert Haebich, Ruth Haebich (Gordon), Norman Gordon and Ed Haebich.

Honey Biscuits – My Grandmother’s Recipe.

Today, the forces of chaos which govern my scrambled egg existence, conspired together to prompt me to sort out my Grandmother’s recipe for Honey Biscuits. I am an Australian of German descent on my mother’s side, and my grandmother’s Honey Biscuits were as much a part of Christmas as my mother’s traditional English-style Christmas cake and my Christmas pudding. The biscuits were round with half a blanched almond stuck in the middle like the star perched on top of the Christmas tree. They lived inside big glass jars from another time zone, which always seemed strangely magical (even when they were empty).

These Honey Biscuits were very special, but they were also my grandmother’s thing. I’ve never seen my mother make them, although she’s always been an accomplished cook and was famous for her Sponge cakes, which were typically served with lashings of passionfruit icing and a thick layer of whipped cream.

Not having the recipe until after my grandmother passed away, I found an alternative in a German cookbook my grandparents had given me. These were very nice, definitely German, and were reminiscent of the Honey Biscuits, but were definitely NOT THE SAME!!

I don’t know if that really matters. Or, whether it’s just the spirit of the thing that counts. Moreover, I guess you’ve got to ask at some point whether you really want to keep on eating food from 200 years ago every Christmas just to satisfy tradition. Or, do you try something new? Indeed, do you make Christmas food that you and your current day family actually likes, and is more in keeping with your usual fare?

Being a lover of history, ceremonies and traditions, I’m all in favour of going retro one day a year and having the same old same old. Without the carving of the Christmas ham and the lighting of the Christmas pudding along with my aunt’s Mango and Avocado Salad with cashew nuts, it just wouldn’t be the same. Actually, you can add scorched almonds and shortbread to the list. However, what I really love about Christmas lunch is catching up with the extended family after another year and seeing how everyone’s changed. Or, indeed, how some have stayed the same. I come from a large family too, so that makes for added excitement, a swag of personalities and stories. Moreover, there’s always one of two who enjoy too much Christmas cheer.

However, this year our Christmas will be rather different, as we will be hosting Christmas Day at our place with only my Mum, Dad and possibly brother coming over. This has sent us into quite a tailspin and we’re currently in the throws of carving up an old piano and trying to vacate the loungeroom to get the new floating floor down in time. It’s a nightmare, but at least I now have a pile of cookbooks ready to exit the house.

It was sorting through these cookbooks, which took me back to my grandmother’s Honey Biscuit recipe. You see I found a recipe book from Hahndorf, the German-Australian village in South Australia which my grandfather and three generations before him called home…”Recipes From My Grossmutter”. I also found “The Barossa Cookbook”, which was published at the end of WWII. The Barossa Valley is best known as a wine-producing region, and it’s not far from Hahndorf. So, when it came to sorting out this recipe, I thought this cookbook was almost a sure fire bet. After all, it’s one of those community cookbooks where people contribute their favourite recipes, and their names are printed down below.

Fortunately, although I’ve never made my grandmother’s Honey Biscuits, I do have her recipe and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen her make them. However, while this sounds like I’ve got it sorted, the handwritten recipe didn’t inspire me with confidence. Had she left something out? It was also written in pounds and ounces, which always does my head in, and is almost a sure fire recipe for catastrophe.

My Grandmother’s Recipe for Honey Biscuits

1/2 lb Honey

1 lb Sugar

4 eggs

4 teas bicarb soda

a little acid

a few drops of lemon essence

Flour – flour enough to roll out.

After she lists the ingredients, she seemingly inserts herself into the process, and it soon becomes clear that my grandmother is leaving the main road and making her own way cross-country. There’s what the recipe says, and then there’s HER WAY which she introduces as “I use”. She then proceeds to halve the recipe, which seems fair enough, as I reckon the full amount would keep the entire Von Trapp family in biscuits from one Christmas to the next.

However, it’s the next bit which really captures my attention: “I beat the egg whites till stiff, add sugar and beat for awhile then add the yolks and beat again.”

Why does she separate the eggs and beat up the egg whites by themselves? This is what you do for making sponge cakes. However, as I glanced through the other recipes for Honey Biscuits in the Barossa Cookbook, nobody else mentions that. So, why did she do it? Was this her special secret for producing feather-light Honey Biscuits? Or, was she just making more work for herself?

I don’t know, and that’s one of the reasons I’ve decided to post her recipe on the blog. I need help. Do any of you know why this is so? If so, please explain.

The other thing I’d like to address is what constitutes your authentic German-Australian Honey Biscuit, and how does it compare to the German original? Or, is there a German equivalent?

I thought the Honey Biscuits were a form of Lebkuchen. However, Lebkuchen is more of a spiced biscuit based on ground nuts, where the Honey Biscuits are only lightly spiced, use flour and are as the name suggests, honey flavoured. Apparently, the Honey Biscuit is an adaptation to the Australian context, where German immigrants couldn’t access spices easily back in the day, and in a sense developed their own baking dialect in the same way they came to speak: “Barossa Deutch” (Barossa German). That said, there are variations of Honey Biscuit which are a lot more spicy, and more in keeping with their authentic, German roots.

So, there is this sense of recipes migrating from the mother country and being translated and adapted to the new one, with Australian-Germans putting their own stamp on this old tradition. On top of this, you have people like my grandmother who did their own thing, experimented and adapted. For me, this is very much in keeping with the same pioneering spirit, which saw my ancestors embark on ships for an unknown country on the other side of the world and take a chance.

So, which version of the Honey Biscuit is the real McCoy? Which should I bake and carry forward to my own children?

I wasn’t sure. However, an inspiring solution hit me in the face this morning, after I’d had time to sleep on it. That just like Refrigerator Biscuits where you can make variations from the one basic dough, you can also make a batch of Honey Biscuits where some taste more like honey, and others are more richly spiced. After all, nothing is set in stone – even traditions. They can always be taken forward and adapted with themes and variations.

Have you ever tried making Honey Biscuits and how does your recipe compare to my grandmother’s recipe? Meanwhile, in addition to baking the Honey Biscuits, I’m going to have a go at making authentic German Lebkuchen from a recipe over at Daring Gourmet. She even making her own candied peel and spice mix, so it could be a bit much on top of getting the house ready for Christmas, but isn’t Advent the season of insanity where we always do, spend and eat too much? It’s too late for me to challenge that this year, but January is only round the corner along with an end to 2020. I know for many, that will be the be st Christmas present of all!!

Best wishes,

Rowena

Here’s the link to the “Authentic German Lebkuchen Recipe” if you’re feeling daring.. This recipe is based around ground nuts, has no flour, and seems heavily spiced: https://www.daringgourmet.com/traditional-nuernberger-elisenlebkuchen-german-lebkuchen/