The biscuits are soft, chocolatey, crunch and all things delicious rolled into one. I do think they are the perfect home-made biscuit. If I said things like “my signature bake” then these would be it.
I bake quite a bit for my workmates, when I’m practicing baby shower cakes, trying out new recipes and using up all the bananas in my freezer, but Afghans are what I get the most requests for. I definitely don’t mind obliging either, these are my favourite biscuits to make. They are so simple and quick and it’s one of the few recipes that I have committed to memory, so I don’t even need to hunt through the cookbook any more.
Almost as much as I get requests for the biscuits though, I get questions about the name. Why is it called an Afghan? The simple answer from me is that I have no idea. Neither does Wikipedia. An interesting but very long blog post has been written on the subject and in the end the writer calls on re-naming them. If it ever comes to that I hope we give them a quintessentially New Zealand name as they are a great part of our very limited culinary history. Especially when Australia keeps trying to claim the Pavlova.
For me, the Afghan biscuit is a huge part of my childhood. My nana used to have them in her biscuit tin often. When I was young the whole family used to pile into the car on Sunday afternoons and make the 30 minute drive from Petone to Island Bay to visit nana and granddad. My two sisters, cousins and I would be placated with board games or sent to the park while nana would set up afternoon tea. There would be a spread of what she had in her tins for that week, usually scones or pikelets, Neenish tarts, lemon or orange cake, Tan Square (a caramel biscuit slice), ginger slice and always, always a sponge with cream and jam. The adults would have tea in nana’s dainty cups and saucers and us kids would have homemade lemonade.
So many of my baking memories come from afternoon tea at nana and granddad’s place, my nana was such a committed baker and used to make so much from scratch. Not only sweets and lemonade but tomato sauce, preserves, pastries, crackers and even home-made chocolate eggs at Easter. Not to mention the evening meals and lunches. She was an impressive lady and has inspired me more than she could ever know.
So here is the recipe, give it a try. Let me know how you get on.
200g butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1/4 cup cocoa
2 cups cornflakes
walnuts to decorate
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Sift flour and cocoa into creamed mixture. Fold in cornflakes. Spoon mounds of mixture onto a greased oven tray, gently pressing into a ball. (I then flatten these slightly with a fork). Bake at 180 degrees celsius for 15 minutes or until set. When cold, ice with chocolate icing and decorate with a walnut if wished.
Tip: The mixture should be firm and sticky like below. If you find it’s getting too soft and the butter is melting, then once you have spooned the mixture onto the trays put them in the fridge to set for about 15 minutes before baking.