Crisp brandy snap baskets filled with soft, sweet chantilly cream and topped with bright pomegranate seeds are equally at home on fine china at the dining table, or on a napkin at a party. At our friends’ New Year party, we set out the 3 elements on the buffet table and let the guests serve themselves.
Brandy snaps are an old British, Australian & New Zealand favourite. They are super simple to make, if a little time consuming because they have to be baked in small batches. A soft dough is used to bake discs which are then traditionally shaped into a tube. They don’t normally contain any brandy themselves, the name actually coming from the brandy-spiked cream they are often filled with. I added a touch of brandy to the snaps themselves for flavour, knowing that the alcohol would be cooked off (we were serving to children and I didn’t want brandy in the cream), and the basket shape is a popular variation, frequently served as an edible bowl for ice cream.
Makes about 30 small baskets
Preparation: about 20 minutes for the brandy snaps and 30 minutes for the chantilly cream, plus cooling time for everything
Baking: about an hour for baking brandy snaps in batches
Brandy snap baskets
100g (3 1/2 oz or 7 Tbsp) unsalted butter
100g (3 1/2 oz or 1/2 cup lightly packed) dark brown (muscovado) sugar
100g (3 1/2 oz or 2 1/3 fl oz) golden syrup
100g (3 1/2 oz or 4/5 cup) all-purpose (plain) flour
1/4 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp brandy (optional)
Preheat oven to 180°C (360 °F) and line a baking sheet with parchment. Either set out some upside down silicon cupcake pans or oil the underside of a muffin pan, the base of small ramekins or narrow drinking glasses. It’s best to do this on parchment, too.
Put the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved – about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool a little.
Whisk together flour and ginger in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the lemon juice and brandy. Pour in the butter mixture and beat it into the flour until the mixture is thoroughly combined. It may be a bit lumpy at first, but persevere.
Use a teaspoon to drop heaps of mixture onto the prepared baking tray, spaced well apart because they will spread a lot, to about 10cm (4″). A good rounded teaspoon is enough for a small basket. I did 6 at a time, but if you are making them bigger then 4 per sheet would be best.
Bake in centre of oven for 9 – 10 minutes until set and light golden brown. Leave for one to two minutes before shaping – they should still be pliable, but set enough to move without tearing.
Carefully lift the brandy snaps from the parchment with a palette knife or fine spatula (I used both, one on either side) and drape them over the cupcake liners/muffin pan wells or whatever you organised for shaping. Press down the sides a little to create basket shapes. Don’t mold them too tightly or they won’t release easily when set.
Allow brandy snaps to cool and harden, about 5 minutes, then remove them from the molds and proceed with the next batch.
The baskets can be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days, but they will soften over time.
480ml (2 cups) whole milk
2 Tbsp cornstarch
65g (6 Tbsp) granulated (white) sugar
seeds from 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla paste/extract
1 large egg, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
240ml (1 cup) heavy or whipping cream
seeds from 1 large pomegranate (or berries, if you’d prefer)
Dissolve cornstarch in 1⁄4 cup of milk in a mixing bowl.
Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan, add the vanilla seeds or paste/extract, bring to boil and remove from heat.
Beat the whole egg and the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.
Bring the remaining milk back to the boil and pour in the hot egg mixture in a slow stream while continuously whisking.
Continue whisking until the cream thickens and comes to a boil and thickens, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and pour into a clean bowl, press plastic wrap firmly against the surface, and chill until ready to use.
In a separate bowl, whip the cream to firm peaks, then fold into pastry cream by tablespoons until combined. If making ahead, cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate.
Spoon the cream into the brandy snap baskets, sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and serve immediately – the filled baskets will soften if left to sit for too long.