Around the time of my birthday, I bought myself a present. It was one of those classic moments; I was browsing in the shop attached to Dobbies garden centre (other garden centres are available, though they probably don’t sell ostrich meat, which is why I was there in the first place), minding my own business and looking at all the delicious items that I was having to stop myself from buying, when my attention was arrested by a TV screen, which was showing a video of (if the video was to be believed) the most amazing piping bag and nozzle set you could ever hope to own. You know what these things are like; part of your brain knows that whatever product the video is currently trying to make you buy is almost certainly not something that you need in your life. The rest of your brain says ‘ooh look it’s the telly!’ and you end up standing and watching the screen as though it’s not just an advert, the likes of which you’ll change the channel to avoid when you’re watching TV at home.
Having watched the promotional video, I was sold and, like the suggestible and easily led individual I like to think I’m not, I bought myself one of these super bag and nozzle combos. There are five nozzles that some with the bag, and they all do a pretty flower shape. Well, for a given definition of the phrase ‘flower shape’, at least. I loved the pretty shapes and also thought this would bring an end to the issue of making small cupcakes that then end up with disproportionate amounts of icing piped on top. Now I’ll be able to apply more moderate amounts, and in a pretty shape, too! Some of you will be unhappy with the transition from ‘excessive’ to ‘moderate’ but it’ll save me having to make twice as much icing as I really need, and icing sugar doesn’t grow on trees, you know! If it did, it’d have to grow already in the bag, otherwise it’d just be too messy. The video also promised that I’d be able to make biscuits in pretty shapes, and if I happened to be serving anything like soft cheese or mousse then that, too, could be shaped like a flower. The price was right, too, so it went in the basket alongside the ostrich meat, wild boar sausages and bison burgers. That was the weekend I had my birthday barbecue. It poured with rain the whole day, naturally.
So far, I’ve only used my fancy piping bag once, to make these swirly shortbreads. They were very pretty, though I could use a bit of practise on the action, and it’d work better with an even thinner dough; the shortbread dough was gorgeously smooth and silky, but I still had to apply a lot of pressure to get it out of the bag, and I couldn’t use the nozzle I’d initially planned on using because I just wouldn’t get enough pressure on the bag to push the dough through the smaller gaps. As such, I went with the more commonly seen swirly nozzle which gave a nice result, just not the adorable, flower-shaped cookies I wanted. Life is hard. I made up for it by sprinkling little white chocolate stars and some glitter on top of the biscuits when they came out of the oven.
The recipe for these came from The Australian Women’s Weekly book Home Baking, and it’s the first recipe I’ve made from the book. It turned out perfectly pleasant little biscuits with a hint of lemon, but it wasn’t shortbread as we know it here in Scotland; the biscuits were much more crumbly and less rich. They were a little on the dry side, though that would be an issue with baking time rather than the recipe. If I was making them over again I’d use more lemon and maybe throw an egg into the mix, or just an egg yolk, to add some depth to them. Still, I was pleased with them, and pleased with the effect of my new piping bag in producing these little swirled numbers. I found it hard to finish the swirl without leaving a really flat or ragged middle, as you can see from the first picture below, but like I said before, I think practise is the key. To the kitchen!