Saturday, January 26, 2013

Lamington Biscuits – nothing “poofy” or “woolly” about these, Sir!

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Like many famous dishes, the true origins have been lost in a tangle of legends. One popular explanation for the creation of the Lamington goes like this. A maidservant in the house of Lord Lamington, a Governor of Queensland, accidentally dropped the Governor’s favourite cake, a vanilla sponge, into chocolate, and the Governor suggested dipping it in coconut to avoid messy fingers. Hmmmm. Given that the Governor apparently referred to them as "those bloody poofy woolly biscuits" this seems unlikely.
Another story suggests that Lamington’s chef improvised a dessert for unexpected visitors by dipping leftover cake into chocolate and covering it with coconut. As the lord apparently hated waste, this seems more likely. Who knows!
I had set out to make Lamingtons to mark Australia day but reading about Lamington, he seemed such a disagreeable chap, and I wasn’t inspired. Instead, I have taken the flavours and turned them into a biscuit (cookie).
I have two reasons for using fresh coconut. The first is that a fresh coconut has been sitting on the kitchen table for the last month, begging to be used before it ossifies; and the second is that it plays such a starring role in these cookies that tender fresh coconut is much more preferable to the chewy desiccated stuff. These delicate lacy biscuits manage to be chewy and crisp at the same time. I’m sure Lord Lamington would heartily disapprove.

For approximately 1 dozen biscuits you will need...
... to pre-heat the oven to 180°C

125g butter
75g caster sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
a pinch of sea salt
150g plain flour
50g fresh coconut, coarsely grated
60g dark chocolate, chopped into pea-sized bits (you will be rolling the dough to a thickness of about 4mm so the chocolate pieces shouldn't be any larger than this) 

1                    Place the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl (or stand mixer) and beat together until fluffy and lighter in colour. Add in the vanilla extract and salt and beat until combined.
2                    Add the flour and beat until the mixture comes together in a ball.
3                    Add the coconut and chocolate and mix until distributed throughout the dough.
4                    Roll out on a floured work surface to a thickness of about 4mm. Cut into whatever shape you desire using a floured cookie cutter.
5                    Place on a baking sheet leaving plenty of space between the biscuits as they spread out. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 10 minutes or until lightly golden.
6                     Remove from the oven and leave to set for about 3 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. If you try to transfer them immediately they are lightly to fall to pieces, delicate little things that they are.
7                     When cool, dust with icing sugar 

I gave these to my coconut-detesting taste tester without mentioning the hated ingredient. The verdict: “Mmmm... mmmmmmmmmmmmm – even if they have got coconut in them!” Score! 

Happy Australia Day!
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