My Downton Abbey obsession continues as I had the chance to pick up The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook from the library this past week. It’s filled with recipes of both the savoury and sweet variety, and from the upstairs and downstairs of the now infamous country estate.
I think one of my favourite ways to experience a new culture is through food and tasting new things. This proved to be true when I was in Europe sampling croissants in France, gelato in Italy, kebabs in Turkey, and moussaka in Greece. I think the same can be done for different time periods as well. It’s fun to sample a bit of 20th century England in 21st Canada, and cookies are a fool-proof way to start exploring!
I decided to give the Classic Custard Creams a try first, although I’m dying to try about 10 other recipes from the cookbook as well. However, there are no pictures so it was a bit of a guessing game as to what actually was required. The result is very much like a soft, delicate, buttery sugar cookie sandwiched around a rich layer of vanilla buttercream. Delicious no matter how it looks.
The custard powder (added to the cookie part and not the icing suprisingly) gives the cookies a wonderful vanilla flavour and chewy texture. The vanilla buttercream is a fairly standard recip but takes the finished product completely over the top in terms of taste and decadence.
I found the custard powder at Wal-Mart which has an amazingly well stocked selection of international foods. In Canada, you may also be able to find it at a regular grocery store, and in both Canada and the States you could be sure to find it at a European import store. Wherever you find it, it will be worth it as these cookies are truly delicious and a fun way to transport yourself back to the time of Downton Abbey!
Classic Custard Creams
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 tsp almond extract (or up to 1 tsp depending on your tastes)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup custard powder
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp milk
2 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Cream together butter, almond extract, and sugar until light and fluffy.
In a medium-sized bowl, sift together flour and custard powder, then slowly mix into butter-sugar mixture until combined. Roll dough into small balls and place on prepared baking sheet about 1 inch apart. With a fork, press down lightly on dough to make an impression.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until set, but do not let brown. Let cool for 7-10 minutes on cookie sheet, then move to rack to cool completely while you make cream filling.
For cream filling: Cream butter until smooth. Add vanilla and milk and beat to combine. Slowly mix in powdered sugar, being careful to avoid lumps. Beat until smooth.
Form sandwiches with cookies, putting cream in the middle (obviously). Let cookies set for 2 hours before serving (preferably with a cup of tea!).
Yield: 1 dozen sandwich cookies
(Adapted from The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook by Emily Ansara Baines)