Friday, March 4. 2011
Tomorrow I will be departing early to make a special personal delivery of 2300 hand-made biscuits to Ely Cathedral, specially commissioned for the installation of the new Bishop, Stephen Conway. This large project has been occupying my thoughts for over two months now and has involved sourcing moulds from the Czech Republic, cutters from USA and a recipe from Holland.
It all started when a university friend, Bridget, who works in the Diocesan Office in Ely got in touch after getting my Christmas email newsletter. She wanted to let me know that the Deacon of the church we attended when at Durham Uni was about to be installed as the new Bishop of Ely. Then, very tentatively, she asked if I would be interested in baking biscuits to celebrate the occasion. Also tentatively, I said I would - what sort of numbers, what sort of biscuits?
Quickly we started discussing St Nicholas biscuits, a tradition of the low countries and some central European countries. St Nicholas is often depicted as a Bishop, which made his image appropriate. A bit of research started to lead me to Speculaas biscuits, a Dutch and Belgian Christmas speciality. This shop in Antwerp gives you some idea of the sort of thing and they often use St Nicholas as a design as he is closely associated with Christmas in central and northern Europe.
The next question was where to find a mould suitable for the job. My research took me to the wonderful online resource, The Saint Nicholas Centre. A vague speculative email enquiry produced the most full and generously helpful email reply from Carol Myers pointing me in all sorts of useful directions for moulds, cutters and recipes. Very soon, I was in touch with the lovely Oldrich Kvapil in the Czech Republic, one of the few remaining reverse relief mould carvers around. Olda was also extremely helpful and, once I had provided a link to this image, he was off and carving. Imagine my delight when, a mere 10 days after ordering it, this arrived:
It is perfect and quite beautiful. Such a privilege to be making use of wonderfully skillful hand trades like this wood carving. I would be using this mould to make just under 300 biscuits for the children attending a children's service on 5 March.
Next I had to source a cutter for the 2000 biscuits (yes that does say two thousand!) for those attending the main installation service in Ely Cathedral. Again, Carol of the Saint Nicholas Centre proved invaluable and quickly despatched a cutter in the shape of a bishop's Mitre.
Finally, a suitable recipe...once more Carol came up trumps, and I could start test baking biscuits and working out how to get the best results. With only two weeks until delivery, time was pressing!
After a couple of dry runs and a tweak or two to the recipe, I was ready to get on with the production of 280 St Nicholas biscuits and 2000 mitre biscuits.
Stage one was to roll the dough and rough-press the mould into the dough while it was on the table. I then cut around each biscuit by hand and lifted it back onto the mould to press in the detail.
I then left the biscuits on trays overnight to set and dry out a little before baking.
Once baked, though we have lost some detail, I am very pleased with the result.
Next to the mitre biscuits...time to draught in some help from Becky!
My a-level maths skills finally kicked in when we worked out the ideal tessellation for mitre-shaped biscuits!
And they baked just beautifully! 2000 biscuits is a lot of rolling and cutting though!!!
So job done. All that is left to do is for me to deliver the biscuits in one piece to Ely Cathedral tomorrow morning and hopefully the good folk of Ely will enjoy them!
Thank you so much to Carol, Olda, Becky, Bishop Stephen and, of course, Bridget for the order and for advice during the research.
There are some pictures and links to the event as it happened here.
I had a lovely trip over to Ely for the Installation of Stephen Conway as Bishop of Ely. The event is fully written up on the Ely diocesan website and there is a link back to my blog entry about the bishop's biscuits, which is nice! As photography wasn
Weblog: the loaf blog
Tracked: Mar 07, 17:44
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
Fabulous blog Andrew and wonderful biscuits - you've inspired me to pull out some of my wooden cookie moulds again. An awesome number of biscuits you've managed to produce so quickly - probably one of the few people reading this who know what an achievement it is. Thank goodness they didn't need icing!!! xxx
Fantastic. Well done with your biscuits. I know when I did just 500 gingerbreads for a mayor making that the end seems a far away place!
Thanks Peter. Not sure I will be volunteering for this quantity again any time soon!
Hope you are still thriving and enjoying life.
Wow! What a task. Well done. They look great. I can't believe you got the mould in 10 days. What service.
I can endorse that they taste fantastic (particularly the Bishop's mitre!)
make sure you get a snap of the biship with his biscuits to go on The Loaf wall! A phenomenal achievement If they gave out biscuits like this at church every week imagine the attendance! Looking forward to next weekend x ps why don't you do some for another Conway with a celebration this autumn, to celebrate her 2 best assets?!
Wonderful job mon ami, look for a version of this in next CACN magazine(sadly not out til June ). Can you try work closer to my deadlines for next major undertaking???
You made me very happy. I like when my molds are living.
Olda, thank you for your beautiful mould. I have presented it to Bishop Stephen who is most delighted with it.
They look stunning and I am excited at all the tessellating going on (not a word you hear used much)! I would love to try one. Have a lovely day in Ely and be sure to try and get a tour of the cathedral as it is really unusual and has the most fab views from the roof.
HOLY COW - What a production, and a lobor of love!
Thanks for the plug!
I would like to say that we went to the Childrens service and experience these biscuits and they were delicious, even to the point there were some leftovers and we took another one each to enjoy at home. Fantastic - Well done
Thank you Helen, lovely to have this feedback. I enjoyed my day in Ely greatly and it was nice to see people munching happily!
You really can do anything! What a lovely post, I really enjoyed reading this. I have looked at recipes for these biscuits in that Warm bread and Honey book but never got round to making them, maybe I should try now. x Jo
Syndicate This Blog
back to top For help and enquiries about the site, . Copyright © The Loaf Ltd 2008