Arlettes: Swirly Biscuits of Squirly Joy
This year, as the world becomes quietly obsessed with dainty biscuits and decadent forest gateau, I have embraced the Great British Bake Off by recreating the technical challenge from each week. It seemed the best way to both praise our baking overlords, Mary and Paul, while improving my baking skills for the day of retribution. Only the good bakers among us will survive.
However, after Mary chose an affront to cake with her Walnut Layer Cake in the first week, I decided to wait until biscuit week to begin the project. After all, we all know walnuts are merely an adornment to a walnut whip, or occasionally a needless addition to coffee cake. Wasting the ingredients to create a cake devoted to the nut is nutty and had to be avoided (forgive me Mary, I know not of what I speak).
So, my first attempt started with Arlettes, a light puff pastry biscuit, flavoured with cinnamon. As I had never made puff pastry before, I thought this may be a challenge, but a doable one. I prepared myself for the satisfying first bite of these flaky, slightly sweet biscuits.
The original dough is very easy to make, however, the whole thing becomes problematical once the butter outer layer is added. Once the dough is trapped in its buttery prison, it becomes almost impossible to handle. Butter melts, it’s sticky, rolling butter makes as much sense as rolling glue, so the rolling out of the arlettes was no easy task. I have a feeling that I added at least another 50 grams of flour just through liberally dusting the work surface.
While the dough was chilling I made a brief trip to the dentist. That’s right, there’s a dark side to baking and that dark side is experienced in the dentist chair. While lying there, my mouth numbed, I visualised how perfect my arlettes would look. My dentist assumed the smile on my face meant I was dreaming of my new cavity free future, how poorly he understood the inner workings of my mind.
Once the arlettes were chilled they were easy to work with, in fact, the recipe is not particularly complicated and the final rolling was quite simple. The biscuits take a bit of time to execute as you need to chill the dough between each rolling, the cooler the butter is the less it sticks. But other than that, it is great fun to make.
And the finished product? The arlettes are large, swirly creations of joy. Each time I look at them I think: ‘oh look, I made something squirly and edible, how wonderful’. They radiate competence while remaining fun, pretentious yet frivolous, a beautiful combination. But the taste, well, they’re ok. I would have liked more cinnamon, even though the two teaspoons seemed excessive at the time. With icecream, yes, that’s a good choice. For a cheeky afternoon snack on their own, no, pass me the shortbread.
I ate my arlettes while watching this week’s Bake Off, which has determined my fate for next week: Baguettes. Well done Paul, that’s a tasty choice — I look forward to taking on the challenge!