The marvellously teeny biscuit that it just crying out to be eaten topping first.
We started out sampling the real thing to try and figure out the best way to make the components. It seemed to us like the biscuit base was very similar to a Rich Tea in flavour and texture, so we hunted down the recipe for those via Google. The icing top seemed to be very light and fluffy, so we decided that coloured royal icing would be appropriate. Good Housekeeping New Basic Cookery provided the recipe for that.
So biscuit base first, then top with icing second.
Ingredients: 16oz flour, 2tbs baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 6oz butter, 1/2 pint milk. The dry ingredients were mixed in a bowl and then the butter chopped and rubbed in to make fine crumbs. The milk then gets added a bit at a time to make it into a dough. We made double the amount of the recipe, hoping it would be enough to make us a Iced Gem biscuit base 10 times the size of the original. I’m glad I bought that giant ceramic mixing bowl in the sale a few years ago – I said at the time it would come in useful for something.
Once the dough was mixed we kept back a bit to do the square pattern on the top of the biscuit and then made the rest into a big ball. The original Gem biscuit measures 20mm across and 6mm high, so we rolled out the dough ball to a little smaller than the hoped for 200mm x 60mm size, to allow for growth whilst cooking. The reserved dough was rolled into thin pieces to make the decoration and stuck down with a little milk and then a hole made in the middle. A skewer was used to make the dimpled lines around the perimeter.
After brushing the top with milk (the recipe suggested egg but we feared it would make it too shiny) the whole biscuit was now ready for the oven. We thought the 10mins at Gas Mark 8 suggested for normal size rich tea biscuits might be a little optimistic for our behemoth, so we lowered the temperature to Gas Mark 6 and then checked it every 10 mins. After worrying cracks started to appear, that made us fear for the Gem’s structural integrity, we lowered the temperature again to Gas Mark 4. A full 35 minutes after the biscuit went in the oven it appeared to be cooked.
Now time for the icing.
Before we started to make the icing we had to make a ginormous piping bag. A 1.5 litre Coke bottle conveniently has 11 plastic ribs around it that made it easy to mark out the ‘star’ pattern we needed. After a bit of quick work with a marker pen, and then Stanley knife and scissors, we had our nozzle. A large food bag sufficed for the piping bag and a bit of insulating tape held it all together.
Ingredients: 4 egg whites, 900g icing sugar, 1 tsp pink food colouring, 15ml lemon juice.
We decided to omit the glycerine from a standard Royal Icing recipe, as that is there only to keep the icing supple and the last thing we wanted was a floppy-topped Gem. The four egg whites got whisked ‘til frothy and the food colouring added, then the work of mixing in the icing sugar began. It starts off not too difficult but as the icing got stiffer and stiffer our arms began to ache. At this point we dipped a pink Iced Gem into the mix to test the colour match and added a little more pink food colouring.
We all took turns at beating in more and more sugar, and then eventually: it peaked! Satisfied that it stood up of it’s own accord, and wouldn’t collapse, we filled the piping bag with the masses of pink sugary goo. Being of a cautious nature we did a test pipe from our star shaped piping bag to make sure we had the technique down pat. It seemed to go well so, after scraping the icing back into the bag, we went for the real thing. Digger’s steady hand produced a fine peak and with a minimal amount of prodding we got it to a nice point.
Then we did a final measure up and the Gem has a proportionally pleasing 200mm x 60mm base with a 100mm high iced top.
When we placed the final object next to our original Iced Gems we felt it commanded their respect; bow down you mini-Gems before the mighty Iced Gem-normous.
At this point the cat took rather too much of an interest and had to be dragged away before he could dive into the middle of it.
The final thing to do was to allow the icing to harden and then try and snap it off in true Iced Gem style. We waited until the next day and although the icing hadn’t fully dried the top snapped off leaving a circle of pink icing on the biscuit base.