Saturday, 24 September 2011

Monkeyface biscuits

Last weekend in Adelaide I had quite the cooking weekend, knocking three items off my 101 Things list. This is one of them - monkeyface biscuits. If you're not familiar with the monkeyface, it is basically a simple jam biscuit with three holes, one for each eye and one for the mouth, the most basic icing imaginable, and finished with toasted coconut. Yum. It's funny, though - when I Googled the recipe with this particular challenge in mind, I kept coming up with all sorts of bizarre combinations involving crushed Flake chocolate bars, and none involving coconut. I'm wondering whether it's an Australian thing, and I'm also wondering whether it's one of those recipes that everyone kind of takes for granted because it's a bit of a no-brainer.

It involves making a basic biscuit recipe, adding jam and sandwiching the biscuits together and then whacking them back in the oven for a little under ten minutes to help the jam set, and then icing and dipping them in toasted coconut. They're a little bit fiddly to assemble but altogether I would still rate them as a simple recipe.

This bias may be in part related to the fact that the other two recipes I tackled last weekend were lemon tart, and gnocchi. As in, from scratch.

110g butter, softened
1/2c castor sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 plain flour
3/4 self raising flour

Raspberry jam (allow approx. 1-2tsp per biscuit. Smoosh it around in the jar with a spoon so that there are no lumps. No doubt the more sophisticated bakers out there would heat and strain it, but I happen to think that's a colossal wank waste of time unless you're sticking sugarpaste to a cake, in which case it's important not to have lumps)
1c icing sugar, sifted
1tbsp (+a little extra) boiling water (it will depend on how spreadable you want your icing)
1/2c shredded coconut, lightly toasted (you can do this in a nonstick pan but be aware that it needs constant attention and continues to cook after you take it off the heat. I originally toasted a whole cup and had heaps left over, so I'm estimating that half a cup should suffice. Don't kill me if I'm wrong!)

Do the usual biscuit thing - cream butter and sugar, add egg and vanilla and combine, then add flour.

If you're not the sort of person to stock SR flour in the house and rely instead on baking powder and plain flour, swear loudly when you realise that you have none left and the shops are shut because you're in Adelaide not Melbourne...

... then breathe a sigh of relief when you realise you have the ingredients to make your own baking powder! I seem to recall that baking powder = 1 part bicarb soda to 2 parts cream of tartar.

You then have to go a bit silly over the super-cute tin of biscuit cutters you bought that day for the purpose. True monkeyfaces, after all, have a fluted edge, and you can't very well use the plain round cutters you already have.

And if you're smart, like me, you'll get more bang for your buck and buy a nested set, in a super-cute tin, that also happens to be double edged. I just kept kicking goals all around there, didn't I :)

Knead the dough on a lightly floured bench until it's smooth and sticks together, and then roll out using a floured rolling pin and cut using floured cutters. I experimented a bit with the sizes to get the most bang for my buck with the dough. I was a bit disappointed by the number the recipe made but I guess if you make them a bit smaller it's no biggie (hah! Oh, you know what I mean. Obviously if they're smaller they're not big. I meant that it's no big deal, as in, not a problem. But you got that, right? Yeah, you're right, I do need to go to bed...).

Once you've cut them out, use the end of a wooden spoon handle to make the eyes and mouth in half of the biscuits (make sure that if you're making different sizes, that you have pairs consisting of one intact biscuit and one with facial features, both of the same size). You may need to scrape the cavities you make out a little using a sharp knife once they're cooked (sounds feral to be scraping out the eyes of a poor innocent monkey, but you'll see what I mean!).

Cook on tray lined with baking paper for 8-10 minutes at 160oC, cool on tray for a minute or two and then transfer to a rack. This is how many this recipe made. The largest one was quite big and the smallest one was about the size of a "normal" biscuit, perhaps slightly larger. See what I mean about the eyes? It's like they've been punching on...

Spread jam in the middle, sandwich together (bottom sides facing in) and pop back in the oven at 200oC for about another 8 minutes (mind they don't catch) to heat the jam a little and help it to set. Let them cool on the rack completely before decorating.

Make up the icing (note that the above quantities will probably make about double what you need, but better to have too much than too little). You may need to play with the consistency a little but you don't want it to be too thick or too thin. I used 1tbsp of boiling water and that was a little stiff, so I added a tiny splash more and it was fine. Spread it in a "peace sign" shape around the eyes and mouth with a pallet knife, being careful not to use too much icing otherwise it gets in the eyes and you have to clean it out with a knife again, and now that it contains jam that just seems wrong.... and then you dip it in the coconut while it's still wet and then leave on a wire rack to dry.



  1. Wonderful job. Thanks for a great recipe with photos of Aussie supermarket ingredients included! You beauty! Your monkey faces look AWESOME.

  2. Thanks, glad you like them :) And now you've got me wanting to bake them again...

  3. These were my favourite bakery treat as a child in Melbourne (no coconut though, just icing) but I've never seen them in WA. Can't believe I've never tried making them before - thanks for the great recipe!

    1. Oops, looks like I missed seeing this comment by more than a year. Sorry about that! I, too have been frustrated by a dearth of them, even in Melbourne. The closest I've found is at the Malmsbury bakery which is about an hour and a half out of Melbourne up the Calder Freeway. The obvious solution was to create my own :)

  4. Thank you so much! These were my favorites as a kid in Melbourne and rarely find them in Qld where I live now. I've been searching everywhere for the recipe! Thank u! Thank u! My son can now enjoy them :)

    1. Frustrating, isn't it! I Googled the hell out of the recipe before deciding that there wasn't a suitable one out there and winging it myself. I'm glad I could be of service because I imagine there are other, equally-frustrated wannabe monkey-face makers out there (say that one three times fast!).

  5. Yes, I made these and my children decorated them. Very tasty indeed. A childhood fave of mine, now my children love them. Thanks for uploading an easy to follow recipe :)

    1. I'm glad I could be of service, Jossy, and that your kids love them! When I decided to make them I was horrified to discover that there didn't seem to be any recipes out there for them, or, at least, not the way I remember them being. So it seemed like an essential community service to provide a recipe immediately ;)


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