Afghan Biscuits are about as Kiwi as they come, though no-one seems to know exactly when they originated or why they’re called Afghans. Latest opinion has them originating around the 1930s and there’s so much speculation regarding the name, that it’s pointless even entering into the debate.
One way or another, you’ll never walk into a New Zealand cafe without Afghans being available to buy, usually nestled in large glass jars. In essence, the Afghan is a chocolate biscuit with added cornflakes for crunch. On top you’ll find chocolate icing – usually chocolate flavoured icing sugar, or less commonly a milk or dark chocolate ganache – on top of which sits a half walnut. The biscuit itself is not sweet – in fact, with the high cocoa content, it’s slightly bitter tasting on its own. It’s the icing which ensures sweetness, so just be aware of that if you’re intending to use a dark chocolate ganache.
I went by the Kiwi standard recipe, supplied by Edmonds and found on TVNZ.co.nz , though I opted for a dark chocolate ganache icing. With a 50% cocoa content, the chocolate I used was only just sweet enough – next time I’ll probably choose dairy milk chocolate with a lower cocoa content – somewhere around 30% cocoa.
While Afghans are generally made with standard flour, I used a gluten-free flour blend and it worked a treat. My sister, who humbly (ahem) calls herself the ‘Afghan Queen’, uses the same recipe but with standard flour and says that the only difference really is the texture. Her wheat based biscuits tend to be more dense and cake-like, while mine were crispier. I imagine that the texture difference also has something to do with the fact that she makes smaller biscuits than mine, yet mounds them higher, which means that the interior doesn’t dry out so much during baking. So bear all that in mind if you make these and decide ahead of time whether you want these babies crisp or moist – either way’s good.
PS: If you’re thinking the ganache looks wet in my photos, it is! There was absolutely no time to wait for the chocolate to set before taking my photos – the natives were waiting, nay demanding, to be fed!
Makes 18-25 biscuits (depending on size)
Ingredients: (This recipe uses metric measurements – Click here for Unit Converter)
- 200g butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar (can be brown sugar if you like)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 1-1/4 cups standard plain flour (or use a gluten-free blend)
- 1/4 cup cocoa
- 1-1/2 – 2 cups cornflakes
- Chocolate Icing (see two alternative recipes below)
- Walnut halves (one half for each biscuit)
- Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes).
- Sift flour and cocoa in a separate bowl. Stir into creamed mixture (it’s a very stiff mixture, so I recommend a metal spoon). Fold in cornflakes.
- Spoon dessert-spoon sized mounds of mixture onto a greased oven tray (they’ll spread a little, so leave extra room). With a damp finger, press the edges gently into rounded shape and, if necessary, smooth tops.
- Bake at 180C (360F) for 15 minutes or until lightly browned and firm (actually, they’re not really firm when ready, but they do harden as they cool, so don’t be tempted to overbake).
- Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool. When cooled, ice with chocolate icing of your choice (see recipes below) and decorate with a walnut piece.
CHOCOLATE ICING (using real chocolate)
- 200g dark or dairy chocolate (I used chocolate with 50% cocoa content)
- 1/2 cup cream
- 25g butter
- Break chocolate into top of a small bowl. Add butter and cream.
- Set over hot water and heat, stirring constantly, unit it has melted and smooth. Alternatively, microwave on MEDIUM power for 1-2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. Let the chocolate cool till it’s warm, but don’t let it set.
- Beat until thick for a couple of minutes, then use a teaspoon to dollop icing on each biscuit, swirling the mixture with the back of the spoon. Decorate each biscuit with a walnut half.
- Pop the biscuits into the fridge to allow the chocolate icing to set, then remove and let them to come to room temperature before serving.
ALTERNATIVE CHOCOLATE ICING (using icing sugar)
- 1 Tbsp butter, softened
- 1-1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted
- 2 Tbsp cocoa, sifted
- 2 Tbsp boiling water
- Make the chocolate icing by beating the butter, icing sugar and cocoa together. Add enough boiling water so the icing is just spreadable.
- Spread the icing over cooled biscuits using a teaspoon or palette knife and decorate each with a walnut half.
- Pop the biscuits into the fridge to allow the icing to set, then remove and let them come to room temperature before serving.
Food Photography Info: Canon 550D (EOS Rebel T2i); Sigma 30mm 1.4 DC ‘Art’ lens / Natural lighting