I’ve never met a person who doesn’t love brandysnaps. They’re a buttery, toffee-crisp, lacy bit of teatime royalty. Fox’s, the English biscuit people, started manufacturing these in the 1850s to sell to fairground traders, but they’re a much older recipe (the owner of Fox’s borrowed a family recipe from his neighbour in Yorkshire), which used to be cooked in the home. You can still buy them in packets – but they’re much, much nicer when they’re homemade.
There’s no brandy in the recipe – from what I can make out, brandysnaps never contained any at any point in their history. Some modern recipes will suggest that the cream you serve them with should have a couple of tablespoons of brandy whipped into it, but after some experimentation I’ve decided that this is overkill (and inauthentic overkill at that). The gentle spicing of the brandysnap can be overwhelmed by a strong-tasting filling, so I have used a simple Chantilly (which is just cream whipped with sugar and vanilla) alongside them. These fragile little gingery curls are delicious with cream and soft fruit as a dessert, but they’re also near-perfect eaten completely unadorned, alongside a cup of good coffee.
To make about 20 brandysnaps, you’ll need:
75 g caster (superfine) sugar
125 g golden syrup
125 g salted butter
90 g plain flour
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
Zest of one lemon
Start by measuring out the sugar in your measuring bowl, and spread it carefully over the bottom of the bowl. Then measure out the golden syrup into the same bowl, on top of the sugar. This will stop the golden syrup from sticking to your bowl, and will ensure that you don’t lose any because it’s adhering. Tip the sugar and syrup straight out into a small saucepan, add the butter to the pan and cook them all together over a low flame, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the butter is melted and you have a smooth paste. Don’t allow the mixture to boil. When it is smooth, remove the pan from the heat and tip in the flour, ginger and lemon zest. Stir vigorously until you have what looks like a smooth, thin batter.
Set the pan aside for about 30 minutes, until the mixture is cool, and heat the oven to 190° C (375° F). Grease a baking tin thoroughly.
You’re going to be cooking the brandysnaps four at a time -the mixture spreads out so four just about fill a baking tin, and you will have to curl them while they are still warm – handling more than four at a time is very difficult because they harden quickly, and if you cook more than one tray at a time, by the time you get to your fifth it is likely to have set solid.
Place four heaped teaspoons of the mixture, about four inches apart, on the greased baking tin and put in the oven for ten minutes, until the brandysnaps are bubbly and lacy. Remove the tin from the oven and allow the brandysnaps to cool for about a minute, until they are stiff enough to manoeuvre. Use a spatula to release each flexible brandysnap from the tin, and wrap them around the handle of a wooden spoon to create the tube shape. Cool on a wire rack. (If you want brandysnap baskets rather than curls, drape them over an upturned ramekin rather than wrapping them round a spoon.)
Repeat the process for the rest of the mixture.
I served my brandysnaps with Chantilly (150 ml whipping cream whisked into stiff peaks with 2 teaspoons of vanilla sugar, or 2 teaspoons of caster sugar and a few drops of vanilla essence) and blueberries. You can pipe the cream into the little tubes or serve it alongside them, but don’t fill them more than about half an hour before serving, or the brandysnaps will lose their crispness. Surprisingly, brandysnaps freeze very well once cooked, maintaining their crunch.