Cookies vs. Biscuits

7 Jan

Ask most foreigners what they think of British food, and the answer will be probably be a synonym for “yuck.” I concede that British cuisine’s bad reputation isn’t entirely unearned, but there is one arena at which British cooks excel: dessert.

From the caramelly delights of sticky toffee pudding to the fruity, creamy, crunchy mélange that is Eton mess, British puddings are a joy to behold and to eat. The knack for sweet things is especially made manifest in the national snack, a cup of tea and a biscuit.

Americans (at least, this American) first learned that biscuits are just the British word for a cookie. But after extended sampling I’ve determined that the former is significantly different from the latter. Unlike the squidgy softness of American cookies, biscuits are crisp and compact, designed to stand up to a thorough dunking in tea. And while Americans tend to like contrasting, balancing flavors – chocolate and peanut butter, anyone? – the British like their sugar topped with further sweetness.

After a few years living here, I have come to appreciate the joys of a dark chocolate digestive or a bourbon, and the occasional custard cream. But I think my heart will always belong to the warm gooeyness of a fresh-baked American-style cookie. The following recipe is very much an American cookie, but it has also gotten kudos from British biscuit enthusiasts!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (via the Joy of Baking)

Makes 20-24 large cookies

170g unsalted butter, at room temperature
210g packed light brown muscovado sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
105g all purpose flour
0.5 teaspoon baking soda
0.5 teaspoon salt
0.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon
260g porridge oats
200g 70% dark chocolate, chopped into 2-cm chunks

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees F).

Using either stand or a hand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until they’re creamy and smooth, approximately two minutes. Add the egg and the vanilla and beat until just combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and beat until incorporated. Stir in the oats and chocolate.

Take a tablespoon and place golf ball-sized scoops of cookie dough on baking sheets. Bake the cookies for approximately 12 to 15, until golden brown at the edges, but still a little soft in the centres (they’ll solidify as they cool). Remove from the oven and put them on wire racks to cool.

Or just eat them when they’re steaming hot!

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2 Responses to “Cookies vs. Biscuits”

  1. Erin January 11, 2012 at 11:16 AM #

    I know this is a little late but what about ginger nuts? They are sweet but also spicy while having the sort of texture that NEEDS a good dunking in a cuppa.

    P.S. That cookie recipe looks amazing!

    • tomatoesandradiowire January 11, 2012 at 11:33 AM #

      That’s true – the texture of ginger nuts reminds me a little of biscotti, though they’re not quite as rock-hard! They are tasty, but I make soft, American-style ginger molasses cookies which I think are in a whole other league from ginger nuts.

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