No self respecting Afghan biscuit would be seen without its walnut hat secured into buttery chocolate icing. I just couldn’t leave the topic of walnuts topic without mentioning one of my favourite biscuits the Afghan.
Why it was called an Afghan I haven’t really questioned, until now. The exotic title and walnut top made them a memorable treat for us. As children how we loved opening Mum’s baking tin to discover Afghans.
|I like to make my afghans the size that we had as children and
this means that each bite contains a taste of walnut.
|Instead of regular cocoa I used the rich dark Dutch cocoa.
This makes the Afghans a little darker and richer. I should have reduced the butter
a little to take into account the cocoa fats present in the Dutch cocoa.
Sift together the flour, cocoa and a pinch of salt and mix into the creamed mixture. A little salt helps to heighten flavour in baking but it’s optional.
Add the cornflakes.
Make spoonful lots and fashion into a ball shape onto a tray covered with baking paper.
Now do you flatten or not flatten your Afghan? If you don’t flatten your Afghan it’s less likely to be crispy and have a flat platform for the icing and walnut. As we don’t like a soft textured Afghan Penny and I opt to flatten out our Afghans.
In the Edmonds Cookbook the recipe says to bake at 180 C (350 F) for 15 minutes. As my oven is very hot I cooked mine more like shortbread at 150 C for a little longer – you can smell them once they are cooked and they took around 20 minutes.
|You can see the cooked biscuits only flatten a little more than
what what was placed on the tray before cooking.
After carefully cracking walnuts to extract walnut halves (Rex variety from Canterbury) it was time for making the icing.
Melt 1-2 Tbsp of butter and sieve together 1 Tbsp of cocoa and 1 cup of icing sugar to get rid of lumps in the icing sugar and cocoa. It depends on how much butter you add as to how much milk or water you add to the icing sugar.
|Icing is best mixed together with a kitchen knife.
You want the icing to be soft enough to easily spread. Dipping the spreading knife in hot water also assists in getting the icing spread easily.
|No worries if you don’t manage to shell perfect halves,
you can always place pieces of walnut together like a puzzle.
Once iced, place a walnut half in the centre. and treat yourself to the biscuit first created in New Zealand.
The Afghan did not appear in the Edmonds Sure to Rise Recipe book until after the 1920’s and neither were cornflakes introduced to New Zealand before 1920.
This is a box dating back to the 1960’s when
the cereal companies gave away toys in each packet.
|This was me at around 10 years of age giving my brother Jamie a piggyback ride, with Kerry and Don lining up.
And this would be when the Walnut tree was first planted at our place.
|The same walnut tree taken a few days ago – you can
guage the size by the cabbage tree beside it.
If you are growing a walnut tree in your home garden or commercially like Valda and Otto Muller from Bannockburn in Central Otago, you have to be patient. When I talked with Valda a couple of years ago I asked her how long it took to produce the walnuts she was selling and she said 20 plus years. I guess it depends on the variety and location as to the harvest timeframe. If you are interested in planting a walnut then the Treecrops Assn Walnut Growing Guide is a good first step.
I particularly liked the creamy flavour of the Vina walnuts, and I think they’re the nicest walnuts I have tasted. Added bonus is that their shells have a tight seal so are good keepers.
The other variety they and other Central Otago growers grow is the Franquette walnut. This is a very old variety grown in France since the 18th Century. They can endure colder growing conditions and are reputed to have an element of butterscotch and sweetness that is unique.
|Otto and Valda Muller with their walnut products; Photograph Sarah Marquet
from Otago Daily Times article Otto just nuts about inventing
Otto and Valda chose to grow walnuts because in the shell they can keep for longer than other nuts, and once established can take the cold of Central Otago. They were also their first choice because of walnut’s wonderful health properties. Otto at 90 is still farming walnuts as well as inventing labour saving harvesting machines. Otto is the perfect advertisement for the health properties of the walnut.
|The 50g of Cornflakes used in the Afghan recipe contains about 1 1/2 teaspoon of
hidden sugar. In comparison 50g Weetbix would only have 2/3rd tsp of sugar but 50g of Coco Pops
would have 5 tsp sugar.