Viennese fingers recipe
The buttery melt-in-the-mouth biscuits can prove very difficult to master
Photograph: Harry Weir
Some things look deceptively easy to make. Viennese fingers, the short buttery melt-in-the-mouth biscuits, fall into this category. They were invented and popularised in Britain, but inspired by Austrian pastries. They are the type of dainty biscuit that reminds you that baking is a scientific craft and can go very wrong if you play fast and loose with a few basic rules.
The first wake-up call comes when you commence piping and find the dough is too stiff and doesn’t flow easily. Gently massaging the dough in the piping bag will soften it and also remove air bubbles that might create a vacuum. Another tip is to warm a steel piping nozzle before fitting it in the bag.
The second wake-up call is when you bake biscuits in the oven only to find the dough has spread horribly leaving you just as deflated as your delicate Viennese fingers. If this happens to you, subsequent batches will leave your nerves shot. This recipe makes 10-12 biscuits – the perfect amount for a little practice.
So, what makes the biscuit dough spread?
The most important thing is to chill your biscuits after they have been piped but before baking as the mixture will have softened while you were handling it in the piping bag. Baking at a high oven temperature shortens the baking time, whilst giving enough time for the biscuits to rise and their shape to set. Watch them carefully towards the end of the baking time as the butter can turn biscuits from golden to burnt in seconds.
The best thing about these biscuits is they are very quick to make. Once you perfect the recipe you can whip the dough up in no time. You can also have lots of fun piping them into round whirls or even rings that can be sandwiched together with sweet fillings (there is very little sugar in the dough). Once you know what you are doing with this easy to follow recipe, they are well worth the effort.
Chocolate-dipped Viennese fingers
125g softened salted butter
25g icing sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
110g plain flour
¼ tsp baking powder
1 tbsp milk (use only if needed)
75-100g dark chocolate
1. Preheat the oven to 190C fan before baking. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (for a piping guide, use a pen to draw 7cm lines on the reverse of the paper).
2. Place the butter and icing sugar into a bowl and using an electric whisk beat until fully combined. Beat in the vanilla extract. Sieve together the flour, cornflour and baking powder, then mix in the sieved ingredients in 2-3 batches and continue to beat, until thoroughly mixed. The consistency should be smooth but not extremely stiff (only add milk if you think the dough needs loosening for piping).
3. Fill a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle with the mixture (if the mixture does not flow, massage the bag gently). Pipe 10-12 fingers on the baking sheets allowing space between them (for good piping, aim directly downwards, squeeze the bag evenly and firmly). Refrigerate for 30 minutes (this will reduce spreading during baking). Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 8-10 mins until just golden in colour (the baking time will depend on the size of piping nozzle, so larger fingers will take longer in the oven). Cool on the baking tray for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool and harden.
4. For the chocolate-dipped tips, melt the chocolate in a small bowl (either gently in a microwave or over a bain marie). Take a cooled Viennese finger from the cooling rack and dunk one end deep into the melted chocolate with the patterned side tilting slightly towards the chocolate. Return to the wire rack and place in a cool place (not the fridge) until the chocolate has hardened. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.