Saturday, June 12, 2010


The title of this post actually has very little to do with what it will be about. Amandine was the original name I had picked out for this blog. Incidentally it was taken, so I was left to ponder other names. Eventually I fell on Brandy Snap. I love everything about brandy snaps. Their deep caramel flavour, their crisp crunchy texture, mingling with the subtle sweetness of whipped cream. But mostly I love the memories they recall. They are the epitome of everything I want this blog to be. Not just about food, but the traditions, rituals, and memories that go along with it.

For me, and probably for many of my family members, brandy snaps mean Christmas. I do realize it's the middle of June, so Christmas treats aren't exactly in season, but who says they can only be eaten at Christmas? Anyway, every Christmas, without fail, my grandmother makes brandy snaps. She strategically keeps them hidden away in tins until the dinner table has been cleared of the evening meal. There's always a bit of a gap between dinner and dessert at Christmas. We have to digest the turkey and work up our appetites again. Then she places the plate of brandy snaps on the table. They're gone in seconds. I don't think it's possible for them to hang around for more than a minute. My cousins and I tease each other, threatening to eat the others' precious treats.

To really give you an idea of the reverence in which we hold the brandy snap I'll give you a little anecdote. A couple years ago my cousin Natalie and I were bringing the tins of brandy snaps up to my grandmother to be filled with cream. We were, of course, joking around, acting as though we would steal the entire contents of the tins for ourselves, when she dropped one of them. Given the fragile nature of brandy snaps, they shattered. My grandmother took it in stride, but I thought Nat was going to cry. My grown up, adult cousin had a look on her face as though she'd ruined Christmas. Literally. She hadn't of course. Though there was a bit of a silent shock in the room. A momentary panic where we contemplated the horror of no brandy snaps. But the other tin was perfect and whole, so we filled those, took the broken bits and mixed them up with the left over whipped cream and turned it into a kind of caramelly Eton Mess.

Some members of my family will probably consider it base treachery that I'm about to give you this recipe. We have a funny thing about recipes. But upon discovering several other recipes floating around on the wide web that are nearly identical, and all curiously devoid of brandy, I don't feel too badly about it.

Grandma Bull's Brandy Snaps

3 tbsp golden syrup
3 oz butter
1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup plain flour
pinch of salt

1. Place syrup, butter, and sugar in a saucepan and stir over low heat until butter melts. Remove from heat and add sifted flour, ginger, and salt. Mix together well.
2. For small brandy snaps use level teaspoonfuls, heaping teaspoonfuls for larger ones.
Drop onto lightly greased tray (or silpat lined if you happen to have one, silpats are a godsend for making these and various tuilles). Make sure to allow room for spread, there will be a lot of it.
3. Bake in moderate oven for 5 minutes, about three at a time, until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool about a minute.
4. Lift them off the tray one at a time and wrap around the handle of a wooden spoon. Allow to cool on the handle.
5. Fill with whipped cream right before serving.

Some notes:
*You can store the brandy snaps, unfilled, in air tight containers for some time (I'm pretty sure my grandmother keeps them around for at least a week).
*Once filled they will go soft and mushy within hours, so don't fill them until you're ready to serve them, otherwise they fall entirely short of their name by neither containing brandy nor having any snap.
*Once out of the oven they will harden quickly so you have to work fairly fast. Don't be discouraged if the first few don't work out. Practice makes perfect and you can always bake only one or two at a time until you get the hang of it. I think my grandmother can do about five or six at a time, but then she's been making them for years. If you find you get through two and the third has hardened up too much, throw it back in the oven just to warm it up and make it malleable again, but be careful not to burn it.

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