Mary Berry’s Brandy Snaps

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History

Brandy snap or “Fairing” has been around for a while, but the exact origin of the item is not known.

In the early 1800’s, the brandy snap was also referred to as Jumbles.  They were made hot and served flat; but with time, the flat Jumble was wrapped around a wooden spoon handle to make a cone or a roll.

Traditionally, these food items were made at Fairs or at seasonal markets and were made from honey, treacle or molasses. The very first recorded mention of this dessert is at the Herefordshire Fair in the early 1900s. However, another legend also states that the brandy snap was derived from the French gaufres or wafers that were made in the 14th century.

It is possible that the colonists bought the dish over to the New World and it became popular in America too. Although the name of the dessert is “brandy snap,” I cannot actually find any reference to brandy being used early on; so who knows where that came from!

Popular Variations

The basic recipe has remained the same but cooks add spices like ginger, cinnamon, cardamom etc to flavor the wafers. For example, liqueur is added to the basic sugar mixture to make flavored snaps. The hot wafers may also be shaped into baskets to form brandy baskets that are filled with different kinds of flavored creams.

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My Experience

I have never made brandy snaps before. I’ve never even thought of making them. They mostly remind me of hotel Sunday lunches and being just a little bit retro. But that does mean they’re classic and I should now how to make them in case I ever feel the need to recreate a 1970s hotel dining experience.

The baking experience was really simple.  I agree with Mary in that they’re probably quite fun to make with your children.  I can imagine you could mould them into all sorts of different shapes.  I just took Mary’s advice and used the wooden spoon and the nectarines, which both worked perfectly; although a couple of times the damn things nearly got stuck on the spoon.  Also, don’t use a spoon with a really think handle or the snaps will just be too big and look silly.  I did try a miniature pudding tin to make the mould for the baskets, but it was too big, so reverted back to the nectarine again.

Also, I read that a few people have had trouble with the snaps sticking to the baking parchment.  I didn’t have this trouble.  I don’t know what others did that I didn’t, but I would say, just keep an eye on them when they come out of the oven.  As soon as they’re slightly pliable, get them off the parchment so you avoid any chance of them sticking.

Any advice?  Not really.  Mary’s recipe is pretty much faultless.  And combined with her Masterclass video, only a fool could go wrong with this recipe.  However, sadly, BBC have blocked the video on YouTube, so I can’t post the link to it here.  Bad times!   But it really is a simple recipe.  Just follow the instructions step by step.

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The Recipe

Less than 30 mins preparation time

30 mins to 1 hour cooking time

Makes 16 brandy snaps

Try piping whipped cream into Mary Berry’s classic brandy snaps for a deliciously retro dessert.

Ingredients

For the brandy snaps
  • 55g/2oz butter
  • 55g/2oz demerara sugar
  • 55g/2oz golden syrup
  • 50g/1¾oz plain flour
  • ½ level tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp lemon juice

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The method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line two baking trays with baking parchment then oil a thickish handle of a wooden spoon and lay it on a cooling rack.
  2. Measure the butter, sugar and syrup into a small, heavy-based pan. The easiest way is to measure the butter, then the sugar on the scales (in the pan if you have digital scales), then measure the syrup on top to make up to 165g/6oz total weight.
  3. Heat gently until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. This will take about 15 minutes over a low heat. Don’t let the mixture boil as it may crystallise. To check when the sugar has dissolved, stir occasionally, pulling the spoon across the bottom of the pan until you can no longer hear the gritty granules being scraped along and most of them have disappeared.
  4. Leave the mixture to cool slightly, about 2-3 minutes, then sieve in the flour and ginger. Pour in the lemon juice and stir well to mix thoroughly. Drop four teaspoonfuls of the mixture onto each of the prepared baking trays to make neat circles, about 10cm/4in apart.
  5. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 10-15 minutes, or until the mixture is well spread out, looks lacey and is a dark golden colour. Once baked, you need to work fast to shape the brandy snaps, so its easier if you bake one tray at a time. Remove each tray from the oven and leave for a minute or so to firm up slightly, then lift from the baking parchment using a fish slice. The mixture needs to be just firm enough to remove, but pliable enough to shape. Check by releasing around and under the edges with a small palette knife.
  6. Quickly roll a circle of the warm mixture around the handle of the wooden spoon, having the join underneath. Press the join lightly together to seal, then slide the brandy snap off the spoon and leave it to firm up on the wire rack, again with the join underneath. If any of the circles on the sheet harden too much to work with, put them back in the oven for a few seconds to soften again. Repeat until all the mixture has been used. If the mixture in the pan becomes too firm to drop in neat spoonfuls, roll a teaspoonful of it into a small smooth ball in your hands, sit it on the baking tray and flatten slightly with your fingers. When cold, store the brandy snaps in an airtight tin or container; they will keep for at least a week.

Recipe courtesy of bbc, full of more advice and videos

How did you get on with this technical challenge?  Please send me photos of your completed bakes for inclusion in the humble technical challenge gallery, so we can show off to Paul and Mary.

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The Taste

What can you say about Brandy Snaps?  They’re gingery biscuits.  They were nice.  I think they were nicer on the day I made them.  They did keep well, but they seemed to get a bit greasy as they got older.  I’m not sure why.

We tried them both with retro squirty cream and with much more sophisticated Chantilly Cream.  Of course the latter was much nicer.  And with some raspberries, they were quite fairly sophisticated!

Would I make them again?  Probably not.  But they are easy to do.  I’m glad I did it for the “experience” but I can’t say I’ll ever crave a brandy snap.  I think they’re probably a dessert garnish or coffee accompaniment more than anything else.   But at least I can make them.  So that’s an achievement.

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3 thoughts on “Mary Berry’s Brandy Snaps

  1. They came out really great! I really fancy one right now. My friend and I have discussed having a full on retro dinner party…. These could be just the thing!

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