I bought a piping bag and nozzles ages ago, partly intending to attempt to replicate the 'Sex and the City' Magnolia Bakery style cupcake frosting that I keep seeing on people's blogs. I tried using said nozzles when I made the buttercream frosting for the red velvet cupcakes, but rather than looking like an elegant swirl of luscious frosting, my attempts ended up looking rather more like something a dog would do..... hence why the only picture of the finished article has a rather flat layer of buttercream on it. I know it doesn't make any difference to the taste, but I was aiming for something rather different aesthetically! I came to the conclusion that my buttercream was slightly too stiff and predominantly that the nozzle was too small. So in the manner of Homer Simpson (If something's hard to do, then it's not worth doing) I gave up. For a while.
I then spotted (and subsequently bought!) a set of nozzles from lakeland limited. These are much bigger than the other ones, which I've realised are probably for writing icing and the rope effect you seem to see on Wedding cakes (which I'm not likely to be attempting in the near future), and hopefully more suited to piping buttercream. Anyway, in the meantime I was too impatient to make cakes and then ice them, so decided to go for a biscuit mixture that I could pipe, to practice the skills of stopping and starting neatly and trying to make the shape you want with the unwieldy mixture coming out of the nozzle (much harder than it should be!).
So, butter whirls it was then. This recipe is from the Dairy Book of Home Cookery. My mum has had a copy of this for longer than I can remember (and possibly before I was born) and I managed to get a more recently published version. (I actually prefer her version because mine is full of useless microwave instructions for parts of a recipe like melting butter, cooking veg etc that are either easier or quicker to do in a different way, plus I don't have a microwave.) Anyway, it's full of useful recipes for basic things that I don't seem to have in the rest of my plethora of cookery books, things like how to calculate how long to cook a joint of beef/pork for, or a variety of different jam recipes, or how to make fudge, coconut ice and other sweets etc which just aren't fashionable enough to be in celebrity chef cookbooks. This is illustrated perfectly by the biscuit chapter which has lots of classics in it. So...
50g icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
8 or 9 glace cherries
Preheat oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3. Cream butter with sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Stir in flour. Transfer mixture to a piping bag fitted with nozzle of your choice (see later). Pipe 16-18 flat whirls onto a greased baking sheets. Put half a cherry on each one. Bake for 20 minutes or until pale gold. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes, otherwise they will be too soft to transfer to a wire cooling rack. Store in an airtight container.
I think it's important to use real butter for these, as it's the predominant flavour. I sometimes use Stork (margarine) when baking cakes, especially if there are lots of other flavours in the cake such as ginger/spices etc. (or I've forgotten to take butter out of the fridge to soften) but not in recipes where the flavour really comes through.
I made the recipe twice, having been impressed by just how delicious these were - crumbly and buttery and crunchy in the nicest possible way. The photo above is from the first time round. I subsequently tried a number of different nozzles, and came to the conclusion that the one I picked the first time round was the best!