Tuesday 10 November 2009

The Wall, Rose Petals and Biscuits

It was the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall yesterday. I was not really interested in politics when it came down in 1989 so it wasn’t a huge event in my life. But I did visit Berlin in 1998 and viewed the remains of the wall including the wonderful “graffiti” on the East Side Gallery. So to celebrate the anniversary, I have a special photo of the weekend’s biscuits with one of my travel pictures and my tacky souvenir of a little bottle of rubble from the wall.

While the world was remembering the fall of the wall, my family celebrated my brother, Dave’s birthday. I went down to Geelong on the weekend for a barbecue and cake. I took down some pink heart-shaped biscuits, which are not really suitable for a boy’s birthday, but I had a yen to try them. They gave Dave a smile anyway.

I saw the cut out biscuits recipe on Cakelaw’s blog a few weeks back and bookmarked it. She used lavender, which I want to try. Then soon after she made the recipe again with rose petals. It was perfect timing as I was looking for ideas for some rose petals I had just purchased. At the same time I bought some beetroot powder and decided to try making the biscuits pink with it.

They are part of the amazing Herbies spices range that I found at Two Prickly Pears in Lygon Street. When I opened the rose petals the heady aroma took me back to my childhood. I am not sure why. Possibly because we would attempt to make perfumes with petals from the garden. I hoped the scent would remain in the biscuits but was not as strong once baked with the more dominant orange zest. The beetroot powder surprised me with a strong smell of beetroot but I was glad that this smell didn’t remain with the baking.

I decided to bake these biscuits at 10.30 on the night before going to my parents’ place. I was filled with foreboding and feared I would regret this as I have had a few baking spells late at night when I am waiting for something to come out of the oven and I just want to go to bed. But these biscuits were a cinch. Cakelaw put her dough in the fridge to chill and warned that the dough was so soft that it needed to be handled quickly and carefully. I didn’t chill the dough and found it quite easy to handle. It helped that I rolled it out on baking paper but I hardly used any flour. I was finished by 11.30, even with having to settle Sylvia during baking.

The dough might have been softer for Cakelaw because she is in Brisbane, which is hotter than Melbourne was on Friday (though I might need to chill the dough if baking it today with temperature at 34 C). She might have also found it harder to handle because she used larger cookie cutters. I decided to use heart shaped cookie cutters because they seemed appropriate for pink rose biscuits but you should check out Cakelaw’s gorgeous biscuit shapes – baby bottles, prams, ballgowns and shoes.

We loved these biscuits in our house. E was very impressed. They were a bit like pretty shortbreads – pink, very soft and buttery with a subtle fragrance and studded with the odd rose petal. I was impressed that they stayed pink. I was a bit unsure of the beetroot powder and didn’t use much, partly because I was worried it would flavour the biscuits but I think I will try using more next time. One reason I bought it was that it seems a more natural way to colour food than the usual chemical-filled pink food colouring.

After the barbecue on the weekend, we had a birthday cake for Dave. My mum had made a sponge cake with cream in it. As usual, she couldn’t resist making a few other treats. We were all amazed at her take on gluten free jelly slice. This is a favourite of my childhood, which I rarely have now because I have not come across a gelatine-free version (but I must try one with agar agar). It had well cooked Aunty Kath’s choc chip cookies and butter on the base, condensed milk, cream cheese and lemon in the middle layer and jelly on top. She made delicious little caramel tarts with gingernut crusts and some caramelised leftover condensed milk. My pink hearts joined the spread and were appreciated but too many in the family are on diets that don’t allow such food.

E was poorly and stayed at home but Sylvia and I had a nice time. She loved the swing in the yard and played with Cooper – when he wasn’t sucking on the door. My dad set up a tent in the backyard for my nieces who had lots of fun playing in it. I was amused to hear about 4 year old Ella discovering the origin of meat last week. She asked about the pork they were eating. When told it was a pig’s leg, she was asking about the pig who only had three legs. No, it was killed, she was told. Ella then quite cheerfully went around telling people about the dead pig! I was surprised she wasn’t that upset but at least she knows where her food comes from.

As for the rose petal biscuits, you only have to look around my parents’ garden to see where they come from. It is a blaze of colourful roses, although they are starting to feel the heat. Biscuits from the kitchen and roses from the garden are simple pleasures I highly recommend.

Orange and Rose Petal Biscuits
Makes about 36 small biscuits
From Cakelaw

125g butter at room temperature (I used margarine)
55g sugar
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons orange zest (of about half an orange)
150g plain flour
60g almond meal
35g cornflour (cornstarch)
1 tablespoon dried rose petals, chopped (or lavender)
½ tsp beetroot powder (optional)

Mix butter, orange zest, sugar and the egg yolk in a large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix till it comes together into a dough. At this point, Cakelaw flattened hers between two sheets of baking paper and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes but I didn’t and my dough was ok to handle. Briefly knead dough into a smooth ball.

Preheat oven to 180 C and line two baking trays with baking paper or silicone mats. Roll out dough on a sheet of baking paper to about 5mm thick. Cut shapes and transfer to prepared trays with a little room between – but the biscuits hardly spread. Bake for about 12 minutes or until just starting to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on the trays.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead until smooth. Flatten the dough with the palm of your hand, and place between two large pieces of baking paper. Roll the dough out with a rolling pin to a thickness of approximately 5mm. Roll out dough on baking paper and cut shapes – transfer to prepared trays.

On the Stereo:
The Velvet Underground and Nico


  1. Super cute biscuits. I love the beetroot powder for coloring! I wonder if I could find some in the states.

    I can't resist sharing a recent story that your story about 4 year old Ella reminded me of. My coworker brought his 4 year old son to the office for the afternoon and the little guy looked bored as can be. I remembered that I had a vegetarian coloring book that I picked up at a book show and I thought I'd offer him one of the photocopies I made of the funniest page. The coloring book as a whole is pretty harmless, with pages stating things like, "I love broccoli" and "Salad bars are fun!" Then there was the one page they slipped in there that says "Animals are my friends. I don't eat my friends." What a riot! So anyway, I had made many photocopies of this page for some friendly office propaganda but here was a real live kid itching for something to do. I asked his dad if it was OK for him to have it, after all he can't read, right? He said that if he was able to figure it out he'd probably think it was funny. So he gave his son the page, and as the little guy gazed down at the picture of smiling cows, pigs, and chickens, his dad said, "We eat animals, don't we son?" His son replied, a bit shocked, "No!" To which his dad insisted, "Oh come on, yes we do.. What kind of animals do we eat?" And his son's answer was, "The cooked kind."

  2. Ha! Perhaps not a typical choice for a gent's birthday, but those biscuits look gorgeous - just perfect for an afternoon tea!

  3. beautiful biscuits... i have never dares cook with roses, although, as a budding herbalist, i should be integrating plants much more in my cooking! this is just the ticket!

  4. Looks cute:)The color and the shape...Those would have tasted heavenly!

  5. Ohhhh, your biscuits are so gorgeous... The pink color is positively dreamy - I love your idea of adding the beatroot powder! Pure genius!

  6. I love those pink biscuits, they are so pretty. You are taking me back to my childhood too. I had forgotten all about making perfume with rose petals. We were so easily pleased as children.

  7. This is a lovely post. I'm glad your family was able to celebrate Dave's special day during such an emotional time. Those cookies are precious.

  8. There's an award on my blog for you! =)

  9. Beautiful biscuits. I love rose-petal-anything, my dad made rose jam a couple of years back and it was divine.

    The idea of a pig with three legs made me laugh...

  10. gorgeous and great to take food to a party and come away some of the best goodies avoided by the dieters. Shall remember this recipe come next summer when the flowers are blooming again

  11. the colour of that dough is amazing!

  12. What gorgeous biscuits! I love the use of the beetroot powder to tint them - it gives such a delicate colour and is not artificial.

    Love your Great Wall rubble!

  13. Thanks Sarah - I love the sound of your vegetarian colouring book - great story - as for beetroot powder, if you can't find it in the US, you can probably order it from Herbies online?

    Thanks Cindy - they are very posh high tea aren't they!

    Thanks Johanna - I'd love to see what you would come up with re roses - and your blog was the first place I heard of herbies spices so you should be able to find them.

    Thanks Shri - they did taste great - colour and shape are no good without taste, are they!

    Thanks Astra - I can't wait to try more beetroot colouring

    Thanks Jacqueline - yes we were easily pleased as kids - makes me wonder at all these fancy toys for kids when you think of the simple things that amused us

    Thanks Susan - my family loves an excuse to get together and eat :-)

    thanks Ashley - very kind of you

    Thanks Rachel - I have never tasted rose petal jam - sounds interesting

    Thanks Nic - I would love to bake with petals from the garden but am not that brave - would love to hear how you go if you do

    Thanks Philippa - the colour is quite something - though next time I would go for a deeper colour

    Thanks Cakelaw - nice to have a little great wall rubble in our house (though I do wonder if it is genuine!)

  14. Lovely biccies! I can fondly remember rose hip jam as a child, but never tried rose petals w/ anything else. The beetroot does create a beautiful shade of pink, too. And that heat--amazed you could bake anything!

  15. Thanks Ricki - I made these before the heat really hit us - have been avoiding the oven til today when it cooled to a lovely 28 C!!!!


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