I think the reason why I rarely make desserts may be that knowing all of the artery-clogging, calorie-overloaded ingredients that go into them might kill my love for sweets. Take afghan biscuits, for instance. Dylan and I spent last November trekking around New Zealand and naturally we felt obliged to sample the local sweets. There were lamingtons, pavlovas, and these little treasures, afghan biscuits. We first stumbled across them in a supermarket late in our journey when we went to pick up dinner supplies. Seemingly innocuous chocolate cookies with a thin coat of frosting and a walnut perched on top, they turned out to be shockingly good, so much so that for the remaining few days of our travels, we actively searched bakeries and coffee shops for more. The flavor was rich and intensely chocolatey, with a sort of dry texture and an unusual little crackly crunch. (I’ll wait to reveal the secret behind the crunch until the recipe below.) Given that they seem to be a treat found exclusively in New Zealand and Australia, as far as I can tell, I’d be left to my own devices were I to ever have another afghan biscuit…
Well, wouldn’t it be fun, I thought, to find a recipe and put together a batch to send to my best friend and my brother as a Valentine’s Day treat? I managed to come across a few recipes (all seemingly from Kiwis and Aussies) and chose this one posted by Norma on Recipezaar . The ingredients, you’ll see, are almost all things you’ll have in the cupboard anyway. I’ll admit I was alarmed by the seemingly grotesque amount of butter (which I reduced a bit to 7 oz) and could only justify it to myself by promising to ship off 2/3 of the cookies as soon as they were sufficiently cooled. My batch turned out to be pretty authentic though there are a few changes I would make were I to do it again.
For starters, I might put in a bit more cocoa powder as I think the ones we had in New Zealand were a little more chocolatey than this batch. But most importantly, though the recipe calls for putting “balls of dough” on the cookie sheets, these cookies don’t really expand very much while baking. In order to get a flat surface to put the walnut on, I would flatten them into discs, rather than balls, to give a slightly better shape to the final product. The frosting manages to glue the walnut to the top anyway, but I think they’d work a bit better with a flatter shape. This recipe also calls for coconut, but I left it out as I don’t think the ones we had in New Zealand included it. Finally, keep a close eye on them as the ones in the bottom rack of my oven were on the verge of burning on the bottom after 15 minutes. Enjoy!
Afghan biscuits (makes approximately 30 small cookies)
7 oz of butter
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 cup corn flakes, slightly crushed so there are no whole flakes left
1/2 cup dried coconut (optional, I omitted it)
for the icing:
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
3 tbsp cocoa powder
3 tbsp water
1. Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter and sugar until slightly fluffy. Sift flour and cocoa into butter mix and mix well. Fold in corn flakes and coconut, if using.
2. Spoon tablespoon sized balls of dough onto lightly oiled cookie sheets (or better yet, use Silpat, as I did). Bake for 15-20 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and let cool to room temperature.
3 . For the icing, mix the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder together, then add water until it reaches a spreadable consistency, about 3 tbsp. Ice the cookies and put a walnut in the center of each one.