Monday 29 September 2014

Neapolitan Iced Gems -- Children's Day Special

Most of us who grew up eating old school iced gems would be familiar with Neapolitan ice-cream too. We may not know the ice-cream by its proper name when we were happily enjoying the dessert as kids. But we have definitely eaten blocks of ice-cream that was served with 3 flavours side-by-side each other, and the flavours would always be chocolate, strawberry and vanilla. I am combining 2 childhood favourites into a teeny biscuit. Presenting my old school iced gems dressed up in Neapolitan flavours!

What I like about these is they look pretty on their own without the addition of extra food colouring (strawberry paste already contains some artificial red colouring). As I have a busy week ahead, I decided to prepare the biscuit dough the night before baking to save time. As a result, the biscuit dough is smoother than my previous attempts! Perhaps this is something you may want to try if you prefer a smoother look. The biscuit is still just as light and crisp with a hint of milk flavour.

I made these for my elder kid to bring to school to share with classmates.

Ingredients (makes about 96 biscuits using 2cm round cutter):
Biscuit dough
100g plain flour
14g icing sugar
a pinch of salt
1.25 tsp baking powder
35g vegetable shortening (you may replace with butter)
39g milk (plus more as necessary)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Royal icing*
220g icing sugar (plus more as necessary)
15g meringue powder
3 tbs warm water (plus more as necessary)
2-3 tsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 tsp strawberry paste

* You may want to use the traditional method of making royal icing from raw egg whites if you can't get meringue powder or royal icing premix (just add water type of royal icing). You may dry the iced biscuits in the oven at about 90 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes or so if you are afraid of serving people raw egg whites. Putting iced biscuits back into the oven helps to dry them out as well as "cook" the raw egg whites.

1. Sift flour, baking powder, salt and icing sugar together in a large bowl.

2. Add shortening into the flour mix and use your finger tips to rub it in until the whole mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

3. Add vanilla extract into the milk. Gradually add milk into the flour mixture and use a spatula to mix until a dough forms. Add more flour if it is too sticky, more milk if it is too dry. I cling wrapped the dough at this point and let it rest overnight at room temperature. You may use it immediately too.

4. Roll the dough to a thickness of 3mm and cut out circles with round cookie cutter ( I used a 2cm one). Place the circles on a baking tray lined with baking sheet. You may place them pretty close to each other as they will not expand sideways.

5. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 170 degrees Celsius (fan mode) for 13-15 minutes or until lightly browned.

6. Let the biscuits cool completely before icing them. Sift together icing sugar and meringue powder into a large bowl. Use an electric mixer to mix them well at low speed. Add water and mix them, gradually increasing the speed. Beat for 5-6 minutes or until stiff peaks form.

7. Divide the royal icing into 3 portions. Add vanilla extract, strawberry paste and cocoa powder into each of the portions respectively. You may want to add more water for the chocolate icing, and more icing sugar for the strawberry/ vanilla icing as necessary.

8. Transfer the royal icing into ziplock bags fitted with a star tip. Pipe stars onto the biscuits. To make the Neapolitan flavoured biscuits, push the remaining flavoured royal icing into the other corner of the ziplock bags. Snip off the corner and pipe the stars next to each other into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip.

9. Pipe the icing onto a baking sheet until you get a nice Neapolitan pattern before you start icing the biscuits. You may air dry the biscuits for several hours or in the oven for 25-30 minutes at 70-80 degrees Celsius. Store the cooled biscuits in an airtight container.

Kids sure love this stuff!

Update: please checkout my updated post for improvements in preparing the royal icing. It is better to prepare each flavour of icing separately than to divide a big batch into three as adjusting the consistency of the icing after adding extracts/cocoa powder is more tricky.

With love,
Phay Shing

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