Kitchen Tips

Test kitchen secrets: How to bake the best biscuits

Are your cookies crumbling – and not in a good way? Never fear, our experts are here, and they've brought a whole host of tips and techniques with them to save the day.

Which oven shelf bakes best?

As a general rule, the top half of a gas oven is best for baking biscuits, but in an electric oven, the lower half is usually best. Fan-forced ovens should maintain even heat throughout, so you should not have to change the trays around – however, you should check them once or twice.

Can I bake several trays at once?

Two or more trays of biscuits or slices can be baked in the oven at the same time, provided the pans don’t touch the oven sides or the door when it is closed, and each tray should have a 2cm space around it to allow for proper heat circulation.
For even baking, swap the positions of the pans halfway through the baking time. You may also need to turn pans front-to-back to brown biscuits evenly.

Are they done?

A good test for most types of biscuits is to push one biscuit on the tray gently with your thumb; if it moves without breaking, the biscuit is cooked. Biscuits generally feel soft in the oven and become firmer as they cool.

Cool it

Small, cake-like biscuits, often made with self-raising flour, need to stand a few minutes on the trays to firm a little, but then they need to cool on racks to prevent them from turning soft and steamy underneath. Some hard, crisp biscuits need to cool completely on the oven trays to become even more hard and crisp. Delicate biscuits need to be transferred to racks straight from the oven to let the air cool and crisp them as soon as possible. Use a metal spatula to move biscuits from trays to racks, regardless of their state of softness.

Where should I store them?

An un-filled, un-iced regular plain biscuit should keep in an airtight container or sealable plastic bag for about a week. If the biscuits soften, put them on a tray in the oven for up to 5 minutes at a slightly lower temperature than when they were baked, then cool them as if they were freshly baked. Or microwave them on medium to full power for 30 seconds or less.
Any biscuits that are filled or iced will soften in less time than plain biscuits. Keep iced or filled biscuits in the fridge in an airtight container.
All biscuits can be frozen for up to three months, but icings and fillings might change and can soften or crack as the biscuits thaw.

Troubleshooting

Biscuits are too hard
The ingredients may have been measured incorrectly or the biscuits may have been baked at too high a temperature or for too long.
Biscuits are too soft
The ingredients may have been measured incorrectly or the biscuits may have been baked at too low a temperature or for not long enough. If biscuits are not cooled as directed, or are stacked on top of each other to cool, they may be softened because the moist heat they give off cannot disperse.
Biscuits spread too much while baking
The mixture may have been too soft because of overbeating the butter and sugar (and egg in some cases); the ingredients may have been measured incorrectly; the wrong type of flour may have been used (self-raising instead of plain); or the oven may not have been hot enough to set the mixture quickly.
Biscuits don't brown
The pan is probably too deep and the heat of the oven is skimming over the top, hardly noticing that there are biscuits down there. An oven tray for biscuits should have tiny sides or none at all so that the heat can brown and cook the biscuits in a short space of time.
Biscuits are too brown underneath
The trays may have been over-greased; excess grease will burn and, in turn, burn the biscuits. Incorrect oven position and/or temperature can also cause over-browning, so can over-measuring sweet ingredients.
Burnt edges
Turn the oven trays around during the baking time at least once, more if needed. Opening the oven door won’t hurt the biscuits.
Shrivelled or burnt sultanas
Soak the dried sultanas or raisins in a little warm water for about 20 minutes, then drain the fruit well and pat dry before using. Also, after you roll or drop the biscuit mixture onto the tray, gently push any fruit that’s sticking out back into the mixture before baking.
Sprinkles come unstuck
Try lightly brushing or dabbing the top of each unbaked biscuit shape with milk or water, then scattering the sprinkles over the top. Pop them into the oven and most of the sprinkles will hang on.
Check out The Australian Women's Weekly's video tips on perfecting your biscuits.
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