Somerset Easter Biscuits

This butter-rich short dough is flavoured with those ingredients associated with Easter: warm, fragrant spices, dried fruit and candied peel. To make a good crunchy topping, brush the biscuits with egg white and sprinkle with sugar towards the end of the baking time. 

You will need
125g unsalted butter, softened 
75g caster sugar 
1 medium free-range egg, separated 
200g plain flour 
a good pinch of salt 
a good pinch of baking powder 
1⁄2 teaspoon ground mixed spice
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
50g raisins 
1 teaspoon finely chopped mixed peel 
extra sugar, for sprinkling 
a 6.5cm fluted round biscuit cutter 
2 baking trays, greased with butter

Makes about 16
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6.
In a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy, using a wooden spoon or an electric whisk or mixer. Gradually beat in the sugar and continue beating for a couple of minutes, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk (save the egg white for the topping) and beat for a further minute. Sift the flour, salt, baking powder, mixed spice and cinnamon into the bowl and stir until thoroughly combined. Work in the raisins and chopped peel with your hands to make a firm dough.
Turn out on to a lightly floured work surface and roll out to about 5mm thick. Cut into rounds using the fluted cutter. Re-roll the trimmings and cut out more rounds.
Arrange the biscuits, slightly apart, on the greased baking trays. Bake in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes, until firm and pale golden.
Remove from the oven and lightly brush each biscuit with the gently whisked egg white, then sprinkle with a little caster sugar. Return the biscuits to the oven and cook for a further 3 to 5 minutes, until the tops are golden and crunchy. Leave to cool on the trays for a minute, then carefully transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
Store in an airtight container.

Stem Gingernuts

A very easy, old-fashioned biscuit made by the melting and mixing method. As well as ground or powdered ginger, this mixture includes stem ginger, sold preserved in syrup, a combination popular since the eighteenth century. 

You will need
350g self-raising flour 
1 tablespoon ground ginger 
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda 
200g caster sugar 
115g unsalted butter 
85g golden syrup 
1 medium free-range egg, beaten 
35g (2 pieces) stem ginger, drained and finely chopped 
3 baking trays, greased with butter

Makes about 24
Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/gas 3.
Sift the flour, ground ginger, bicarbonate of soda and sugar into a mixing bowl. Gently melt the butter with the syrup in a pan over a low heat and set aside until barely warm. Pour this mixture into the mixing bowl, add the beaten egg and the stem ginger and mix with a wooden spoon. When thoroughly combined, roll the mixture into 24 walnut-sized balls, using your hands.
Arrange on the prepared baking trays, spacing them well apart to allow for spreading. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until a good golden brown. Keep an eye on them and, if necessary, turn the trays around halfway through the cooking period so that the biscuits brown evenly.
Leave the biscuits to cool on the trays for a couple of minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

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