Okay, I realise that there has been a bit of an unexpected blogging hiatus. I was getting so good at posting with something that could be said to approach regularity. Then I went and mucked it all up by taking some time off and going to explore the lovely scenery of the Peak District national park. Long and bracing outdoor walks, charming country pubs, pretty villages and spectacular stately homes. Great to escape the big smoke and disconnect (and I mean really disconnect – almost no mobile phone coverage during the day, so no surfing the internet on an iPhone in the middle of a forest or on top of a hill…and that’s a good thing!). Of course, also less great for regular posts, so time to resume normal service.
Anyway, just as I’m back in town, I’m delighted to find that the Great British Bake-Off is back on our screens. We can experience the week by week baking trials and tribulations of an intrepid group of bakers as they take on breads, pies, biscuits and cakes, all the while seeking to deliver a “good bake” while avoiding the dreaded soggy bottom.
In honour of what is frankly my favourite TV show, today I’m going to get a little bit retro with a classic British biscuit. These are called Viennese Whirls, and are made from two very buttery shortbread biscuits filled with raspberry jam and vanilla buttercream. While these little babies look very fancy, I’m not too sure that they would make it as a technical challenge – they are fairly easy to do well, so the judges might be faced with tray after tray of perfect cookies.
If you are British and of a certain age, you’ll be quite familiar with Viennese whirls, most likely the Mr Kipling variety. If so, I really recommend having a go at making them – they taste, on the one hand, just like you remember them, but as you’ve made them yourself, they also taste so much better than what you can buy. They are also fun to serve guests – you can fully expect to get gasps of excitement when you present them alongside a cup of tea.
Now…I think I have to burst the bubble here. In spite of the name of these fancy biscuits, I’m not too sure that they have anything to do with either Vienna or Austria more generally. A quick search on the web does not make even a vague attempt to explain their origin. The only theory I can put forward is that when these biscuits were created, they were seen as sufficiently fancy to be biscuits fit to serve in the smart grand cafés of Vienna. Maybe the swirling of the biscuits recalls gentlemen and ladies whirling around at those famous Viennese Balls?
These are quite a fun biscuit to make – yes, it involves piping the mixture, but it’s quite easy to have a few practice shots (just scrape any less than perfect biscuits back into the piping bag and keep going), and the effect looks really good. They also taste quite decadent – the biscuits are very buttery, and using cornflour in the mixture makes them extra-short and crumbly, which goes fantastically well with the rich buttercream filling and fruity raspberry jam.
I liked the look of these Viennese whirls as they are, but it is traditional to dust them with icing sugar – this will help to highlight the shape of the biscuits and showcase your piping skills to maximum effect. But dusted or au naturel they look very elegant on a plate served with tea, and perfect for a quite moment on the sofa with a good book.
To make Viennese Whirls (makes around 20):
For the biscuits:
• 250g salted butter
• 50g icing sugar
• 250g plain flour
• 50g cornflour
• 1-2 teaspoons milk (if needed)
For the filling
• 100g butter
• 200g icing sugar
• ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
• 100g raspberry jam
• icing sugar, to dust (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (340°F). Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper.
2. In a large bowl, mix the butter, icing sugar, flour and cornflour until smooth. You should have a very soft dough – if need be, add a teaspoon or two of milk.
3. Transfer the dough to a piping bag fitted with a large star-shaped nozzle. Pipe out rosettes, leaving a decent gap between them, aiming for around 40.
4. Bake the biscuits for 12-15 minutes until they are a light golden colour (you may need to turn the baking tray half-way through to get an even colour). Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
5. Next, prepare the jam. Warm it in a saucepan until just boiling, then pass through a sieve to remove the seeds. Discard the seeds, and leave the sieved jam to cool until thick.
6. Make the filling – beat the butter, icing sugar and vanilla until smooth and pale. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a large star-shaped nozzle.
7. Assemble the Viennese whirls – take one biscuit as a base, add some jam, then pipe a generous amount of filling. Top with another biscuit. Do the same until all the biscuits have been used (you might have some jam and buttercream left over).
8. Arrange on a plate to serve, dusting with icing sugar if desired.
Worth making? These are actually very easy to make and the result looks super. The flavour is also excellent – but be sure the use salted butter for the biscuits themselves, as this provides a better flavour. And don’t skimp on the filling – it should squish out as you bite into them!
29 responses to “Give it a whirl…”
I love Viennese Swirls – thanks for the recipe. I have made them before but found them VERY hard to pipe – maybe this recipe is softer than the one I have been using? Thanks!
Hi Patricia – you make a good point, when I made them, I tested how soft the dough was an added a couple of teaspoons of milk, just enough to loosen it slightly to that it piped easily. One trick that I’ve seen from a Dutch baker is to put the dough on a worktop, and push it with your palm – this works air into the dough, and makes it softer and easier to pipe (as well as giving the finished biscuits a lighter texture). And if all else fails…just squeeze hard and hope the piping bag does not explode!
I’ve made these before and it tired me out so much to pipe them i had to take a break… I did the technique with the pushing of the dough but i’m going to try yours with the added tip of extra milk.
I know that problem – when I made some Dutch cookies called Utrechtse Spritsen the dough was too firm, my hands were sore!
One tip if you’ve got warm hands is to work the dough in the piping bag – it will help to get the dough soft and easier to pipe. If you do add milk and it gets a little too soft, then just pipe them and chill in the fridge or freezer before baking, and they should keep their shape.
Thanks for all the feedback on the stiff dough – glad to find out it’s not just me, there I was thinking I was a total wimp! Loving GBBO – happily I can watch in the US via YouTube – hooray!!
Wow, thanks for this recipe. Being from the states, I haven’t seen these before, but they look absolutely delicious. I wouldn’t write off the whole “Vienna” part yet either. It’s a town known for it’s pastry.
I’m from the states too. Never heard of these cookies. But I’m really wondering why we don’t have them here! I need to make these ASAP!
Do give them a try – once you’ve nailed the piping, they are quite easy and fun.
I won’t write off the Vienna link…I’m actually quite curious now to discover the origin of their name.
Given that it is 9 pm and still 32ºC and has been around 40ºC for over a week, I have to resist the urge to bake these right now! Cannot wait for it to cool off so I can use my oven again-these will be on the “to bake” list!
Oh wow…I don’t think I could survive those temperatures! Agree probably not best to make buttery cookies in the middle of such a heatwave!
I haven’t tried Viennese swirls before, but your pictures are making me want to bake them! My boyfriend is English, I might make them for him and see if he recognises them!
Ha, what a great idea – a little surprise!
Love these swirls and love the peak district – are they connected?
You know, I didn’t make the connection…maybe my brain made some sort of subconscious connection after being up in the Peaks?
Yum!!I have always wanted to make these amazing little biscuits but have never quite got around to it…. they are definitely on the agenda 🙂
Hi – glad to price a little inspiration 😉
These Viennese Whirls are simply perfect! Delicious Ingredients and wonderful photos. I’m Italian Girl, but I love american and english kitchen. Especially the desserts and sweet. I will try of prepare these cookies stuffed of “cream”. I think they are spectacular! Thank you very much for the original recipe. KiSSes and See you soon!
Hi – glad you like them. There are lots of surprises in British baking. Maybe not as fancy as French cakes, but that means they are also a bit easier to make at home.
Those look fantastic. I will definitely be trying that recipe. Mine probably won’t look as nice though.
Best of luck – try trick is to get a good star nozzle, and it does all the hard work for you.
Similarly hooked on GBBO although it’s getting more complicated which is perhaps a bit of a shame. Your baking is simple but so perfect – these Viennese whirls are absolutely lovely.
Glad you like the baking – I like going back to traditional recipes and having a go at them myself.
I know what you mean about the GBBO – everyone seems to spend all week practising recipes, it is all getting so very serious. Half the point of home baking is that it should be a pleasure – no-one needs to see a grown man lying on the floor crying about burnt biscuits!
Those are really pretty, as in prominently-displayed-in-the-window-of-a-High-Street-pastry-shop pretty, but I bet they taste better than that. Well done!
Ha ha, thanks! I think the nice thing about Viennese Whirls is that they do look very pretty, thanks to the piping. It was actually really impressed with just how good they looked. And the taste…it’s a jammy, creamy, butter mouthful of pleasure!
These just may be the most beautiful cookies I have ever seen. And I speak as a fan of cookies! Thanks for making my mouth water. I can just imagine them with a cup of Ceylon…
Gosh, thanks! I was very pleased with how they turned out, and you’re exactly right – they are perfect with a cup of tea.
Give me some of these and I’ll do anything for you. Anything. Negotiations optional.
Long time since I’ve had Viennese whirls and yours look so perfect.