Biscuits as madeleines
Whenever my father talks about his grandmother´s house in Las Arenas, his eyes mist over slightly. Ours tend to glaze over. Sometimes there´s even an eye-roll, and an impatient supressed groan.
The stories are all about a lost world of nannies in starched aprons overseeing millions of cousins playing cowboys and indians. Of my grandmother´s Balenciaga frocks, of slow dancing to Françoise Hardy, and everything smelling of beeswax.
All very nice, no doubt, but too Natalie Wood-ish for me. Lacking in drama and verve, you could say.Plus, we´ve heard it a few times by now.
My interest only perked up when food was mentioned. Surprised? No? Ok, so the food my father most talked about was something called "bísquetes". He´d smile when he talked about them, freshly made, somewhere between bread and cakes, hot for teatime. It was rumoured that one of my aunts had the recipe, but she never actually gave it when asked.
The house is now a hotel, the dresses are in a museum, the bísquetes seemed to be lost to history, and that was that. Life goes on.
Then the internet came. And with it, food blogs.
I usually read them in the morning, when my brain is still a little foggy. One day the Amateur gourmet was going on about some biscuits, and Atlanta. I struggled to understand.
I learnt to speak English in England, you see, and there a biscuit is crisp and thin, and may or may not be dunked in tea. This thing of the A.G. seemed different, and yet somehow familiar.
I read on, and then it hit me. Bísquetes! Of course! Biscuits, pronounced with a Basque accent. Wonderful.
I tried them at the earliest opportunity, and folks, the smile on my father´s face...These celestial little biscuits have now more than made up for all the eye-rolling and the "oh, God, not another Ariatza story". I rule.
Apart from bringing back my father´s childhood, in a Proust-sur-Bidasoa way, it´s been a life changing recipe. I make them all the time. As Laurie Colwin says, everyone who walks into a kitchen should know how to bake a biscuit. They´re so good and so easy and so versatile. You´ll end up memorizing it and it will pay you back a thousand times. Apart from tea and breakfast, they´re also great with soup, or for pies. They´re the perfect thing to make when you´re a house guest. The ingredients are probably to hand, and you´ll get so many kudos for producing these babies.
The recipe is here , with pics and Adam´s deathless prose. I, myself, use one cup mixed yogurt and milk, and two tsp baking powder. No processor needed, either. You can also use this other one, from Laurie Colwin´s More home cooking . These will be more crunchy, and better suited to rolling out and cutting into shapes, or using as a pastry case.