Some people may recognise these as jammy thumbprints or simply jammy biscuits but they are in fact thumb buns. It's ok, I'll forgive you, especially if you go bake some of these right now to see how wonderful they are. I first learned how to make these during a cookery lesson at primary school from a friends mum who came in to show us how to make these and the odd other thing. I thought that they were so great that I guarded the recipe that we were told to copy out after we had come out of the tiny student kitchen for years, before I put it in a safe place. Yep, one of those very special safe places that are safe even from themselves. As a result I've had to go many years without eating these while I find another recipe from a book that looks similar enough. You see, it isn't as simple as picking any old plain biscuit recipe and sticking a hole in the middle of it to fill with jam. Proper thumb buns are a cakey biscuit, one of the rare variety where you don't want to wail when you bite into it expecting perfect crispness after all your hard work and attention only to find a soft centre. Some things are so wonderful from a person's childhood that they shouldn't be changed if it is the authentic taste that is desired. This is one of them, the true thumb bun. Sadly, I can't claim full credit for this particularly recipe, which I found in the book that accompanies the first series of The Great British Bake Off but I am going to tell you a whole load of adaptations that are just as fantastic if you are willing to divert from the original.
As you can probably tell front the above, I love tradition but there are some things about being older that are highly beneficial. For instance, as a child going shoe shopping there was no way on earth that I would've got away with trying on multiple pairs of shoes that I wasn't even going to buy. Earlier today while my parents were off down the other end of Brantano I amused myself by trying on shoes that were, for me personally, a ridiculous height. I surprised both my parents and myself by being able to walk in them within barely a wobble. No really, I didn't fall over or anything. I was only on the first pair when the male shop assistant started giving me funny looks like he knew I was only having a bit of fun instead of seriously browsing. Somebody really needed to point out to him that if he didn't want people to try the shoes on then they shouldn't have been on display. It's not as if I was leaving the discarded shoes all over the place, I put them all back in their proper places taking as much care as if I was handling my most precious piece of baking equipment. Then again, this was the same assistant that I saw move a dismay ballet shoe about 1cm because someone put it back at the wrong angle so may be I was causing him undue distress by even momentarily disrupting his some parades. It's not as if I was completely wasting his time. Since leaving the store I have completely fell in love with a pair of shiny mint green heels that are making me toy with the idea of changing my outfit for my cousin's upcoming wedding. This picture doesn't do them any justice. But before I get any more attached to shoes that would have me hammering on the shop doors before they open tomorrow morning, here is the recipe for fun, yummy and nostalgia inducing biscuits.
225g self raising flour
100g salter sugar
125g butter, softened but not as muck as for a cake
1/2tsp vanilla extract
Milk or white chocolate buttons (replace 25-50g of flour with cocoa powder for a double chocolate biscuit)
- Mix together the sugar and flour in a large bowl, dice and rub in the butter until it looks sort of like breadcrumbs. Most rubbing in methods call for chilled butter but I couldn't be bothered to wait until the butter had hardened again after I took it out of the fridge too early and I found this worked really well for getting the right texture.
- Mix the egg, milk and vanilla with a fork then mix into the flour mixture to make a soft dough. If it is sticky, add a little more flour or if it is dry, add a little more milk. Now set the oven to 200 C/180C fan.
- Line a couple of trays with greaseproof paper. Roll the mixture into balls and place on the baking tray with lots of space in between for them to puff up and spread. (I did 12 on one sheet and the rest on another.) The size of the balls really depends on how generous you want the biscuits to be. I did them weighing about 25g each. I'm not ashamed to admit I weighed out each one. I do it quite often - I like to get things even at the start, even if when they go into the oven the don't necessarily rise and spread evenly. At least I've done my bit to help them on their way to GBBO uniformity!
- Partially flatten the balls with your fingers then flour your thumb and poke a holl into the centre of each biscuit-to-be being bareful to not go all the way through. Spoon a little jam/marmalade/curd/Nutella into each hole or place one or two buttons in each. Make sure you don't overfill the holes or the jam tend to go all over the biscuits in the oven. My mum used to go off to do some housework while I was busy filling the thumb holes as a kid so naturally I put as much jam in them as possible only to find they came out of the oven looking like exploded strawberry craters.
- Next, place in the preheated oven for 10 mins ish then reduce the temperature by 20C , rotate the trays and time another 5 mins ish. Take the tray out of the oven when the biscuits are a light golden brown. Cool on the tray for a few mins then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Do this with a fish slice or palette knife if you are a careful person. I often don't do this because I am slowly getting asbestos fingertips but I am in no way whatsoever encouraging anybody to play silly devils and touch anything hot with bare fingers. Really now, that isn't very sensible. Bake the other biscuits on the second tray in the same way. These are a biscuit that might be even better when eaten warm. Mum caught me dunking mine and even though they aren't the best for doing so, if you judge it correctly you can get a bite where it disintegrates perfectly to give you a moment of bliss. Hmmm, I wonder what a mocha thumb buns would be like.
Happy baking everyone!