Time for another retro Kiwi favourite – the good old brandy snap. A relic of the past, which you’ll virtually never see in any self-respecting upmarket cafe, it’s still hugely popular nevertheless. The origin of the brandy snap isn’t entirely clear, though it’s likely they came from Britain, which would account for their popularity in New Zealand and Australia.
Brandy snaps are a unique type of biscuit comprised of golden syrup, sugar, butter, flour, ginger spice and lemon juice. As they bake, they spread rapidly into deep golden lacy discs which are then shaped before they set hard. They’re most commonly shaped into small tubes, into which whipped cream is piped. However, they can be just as easily shaped into ‘baskets’ which make great carriers for more substantial desserts.
And, just by the way, despite the name, brandy is not actually an ingredient. That said, brandy is sometimes added to the whipped cream to flavour it.
Thanks to Mary Berry for her brandy snap recipe which I found on BBC.co.uk. I opted to make baskets and filled them with sweetened whipped cream and some fresh fruit (sliced nectarines and grapes, mixed in with passionfruit pulp). Just for fun, and to help them live up to their name, I added a dash of brandy in with the brandy snap mixture for a little extra ‘kick’. And I also converted the recipe to gluten-free so everyone could enjoy them.
I don’t know why I’ve not tried making brandy snaps before now. I guess I thought they were going to be difficult, but actually they’re pretty easy once you get the hang of them. And, they’re an elegant, light dessert option that can be made at the last minute and yet look totally impressive. Enjoy!
GLUTEN-FREE BRANDY SNAP BASKETS
- 2 oz butter
- 2 oz demerara sugar
- 2 oz golden syrup
- 1-3/4 oz gluten-free flour blend (or you can use plain flour)
- 1/2 level teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp lemon juice
- Optional: 1 teaspoon brandy
- 10.1 fl oz heavy cream
- 1-2 tbsp icing sugar (confectioner's sugar)
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Fresh seasonal fruit or berries
- Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Line two baking trays with baking parchment and lightly oil four appropriately shaped moulds (I used 4 x dariole moulds, but you can use muffin pans).
- Measure the butter, sugar and syrup into a small, heavy-based saucepan.
- Heat gently until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved (this will take about 10-15 minutes over a low heat). You can check whether the sugar has dissolved by dragging a spoon across the saucepan base – you’ll feel any gritty sugar granules.
- Take off the heat and leave the mixture to cool slightly, about 2-3 minutes, then sieve in the flour and ginger. Pour in the lemon juice and brandy (if using) and stir well to mix thoroughly.
- Drop four tablespoon lots of the mixture onto each of the prepared baking trays to make neat circles, leaving plenty of space for spreading. If the mixture in the pan becomes too firm to drop in neat spoonfuls, roll a tablespoonful of it (adjust amount depending on the basket size you want) into a small smooth ball in your hands, sit it on the baking tray and flatten slightly with your fingers.
- Bake a tray at a time in the pre-heated oven for about 10-12 minutes, or until the mixture is well spread out, looks lacy and is a dark golden colour (be careful it doesn’t burn though! As they continue to cook on the hot tray, it’s best to take them out a little earlier than later).
- Remove the tray from the oven and place on a wire rack (and pop the next tray into the oven). Leave the brandy snaps for a minute or so to firm up slightly (check the edges with a small palette knife – it should be firm enough to lift, but pliable enough to shape). When ready, quickly but gently lift each brandy snap using a fish slice or large flat spatula and drape over top of your moulds (or inside the muffin pans). NB: If any of the brandy snaps on the sheet harden too much to work with, put them back in the oven for a few seconds to soften again.
- Remove each brandy basket from the mould once set (takes around a minute) and place on a wire rack to cool. Store the brandy snaps in an airtight tin or container; they will keep for at least a week. Don’t store in the fridge, as they will go soft.
- Add cream to a bowl, along with the icing sugar and vanilla extract and beat until firmly whipped(if it's too soft, it will leak through the holes in the brandy snaps).
- When ready to serve, spoon whipped cream into baskets and place fresh fruit or berries over top.