A Saturday night gathering at a friend’s house presented the perfect opportunity for me to get my Cookery in Colour on. With 1085 recipes to go, I’m taking every chance I can get to cross one off.
But if you think finding a suitable recipe would be easy with so much choice on offer—think again. A large number of the party were vegetarian, eliminating a huge portion of the book. Even seemingly innocent recipes (e.g. Easter Bunny Biscuits) ended up including some kind of fat, beef paste or gelatin.
For some strange reason, I felt an overwhelming compulsion to make the “Busby Biscuits” (Or “Busby Cookies” if you’re American). They were meat-free, amusing and I incorrectly assumed they’d be fairly easy to make.
Also, if you’re wondering, “Busby” refers to the tall furry hats worn by English soldiers.
The recipe was exceptionally time consuming! Experienced bakers might find this a breeze, but that is not me. I have never before made icing, rolled out dough or used a piping bag. It was quite a learning curve.
At first, everything was pretty simple. Making the dough was a cinch and cutting out the shapes was straightforward, even if it was a little tedious. I left the decorating for the next day, thinking I would wake up early, decorate the biscuits and be on my way. How wrong I was.
Grating the chocolate took forever! My first attempt resulted in weak, colourless shavings, causing me to run out mid-grate to purchase the darkest block of chocolate I could find. The shavings got everywhere, and I ended up coated all over with small, stray melted chocolate blobs. With all the grating, the icing, the decorating and the piping, the final phase took a LOT longer than I thought it would.
In the end, I pretty happy with the way the biscuits turned out. They were nowhere near as perfect as Marguerite’s, but they looked pretty cute to me. Really, I think I was just happy the whole process was over.
And as far as how they tasted? Amazing. Guests at the party LOVED them, and the whole plate disappeared before I could blink.
It was only while I was explaining to one guest how much a pain making the hats was that I realized the biscuits may not have been such a success after all.
“What do you mean ‘hats’?” she said.
“Wait…this is supposed to be a thing?”
Clearly, no one realized these were traditional English soldiers, or in fact, anything at all. Just randomly decorated biscuits with weird white blobs. Well, at least they ate them.
Despite being delicious, I won’t make these again.
1080 Busby Biscuits
1960 photo from Cookery in Colour
- 8 oz. white flour
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- Pinch salt
- 5 oz. butter or margarine (for dough)
- 2 oz. castor sugar
- 1 tablespoon water
- 4 oz. dark chocolate
- Raspberry flavouring (vanilla essence works fine as a substitute)
- 8 oz. sieved icing sugar
- 1½–2 oz. butter (for icing)
- Red/pink food colouring
- 2½ tablespoons of milk (or margarine)
- Sieve the flour, cinnamon and salt together. Add the butter and rub it in to the dry ingredients until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and water. Knead well and roll out thinly (be sure to flour the surface first).
- Draw the shape of a soldier’s head, complete with a busby on a piece of cardboard. Cut it out, and put this over the biscuit dough. Cut around the shape with a sharp knife. Place on a baking tray on top of parchment paper. Bake for approximately 15–20 minutes at 350°F. Let cool.
- Coarsely grate the chocolate while the biscuits are baking.
- Put the butter, and milk into a saucepan. Stir over a low heat until the butter melts. Remove from heat, stir in icing sugar. Reserve a couple of tablespoons of the white icing—this will be used for the piping. Add flavouring and a couple of drops of pink icing to the main batch.
- Add some extra icing sugar to the reserved white icing, to ensure the piping is nice thick. Pipe a plume on each busby and a chain across the Guardsman’s face.
1080 Busby Biscuits
Recipe adapted from Cookery in Colour (1960)› See the original 1960 recipe