A Loveliness of Ladybirds

My sister’s Christmas gift to us was tickets to see ‘What the Ladybird Heard’ at the Curve theatre in Leicester. Well the day finally arrived and we embarked upon our family outing with Buzz the class bear in tow. At the outset, I think I was the most excited, but by the time we had arrived at the theatre Seb could remember our previous trip and was getting excited too.

It was a well-honed production complete with catchy music and plenty of opportunities for excited children to join in. The whole family had a wonderful time and our big surprise was Ophelia (22 months) seemed to enjoy the show the most! We purchased the CD and have now listened to it several times and the children are already singing along when it goes on in the car! I am guessing it may start to grate after hearing it many times over, but we can always rotate it with the music from ‘Room on the Broom’ or ‘Hairy Maclary’ so that’s fine…

We did talk a lot about ladybirds in the car on the way back. Seb saying that they have symmetrical spots and Atticus mentioning they were red. That was when Simon turned to me and said maybe you can make ladybird biscuits with them. This made me exceptionally happy as it isn’t often that the husband of an avid baker actually suggests making more baked goods (we never seem to be short of them), but also he was thinking about a baking project before I had even considered it! It makes me smile just remembering it!

The boys enjoyed weighing out the ingredients and then sifting the dry ingredients to ‘make it snow’ and then rubbing in the butter. I do think their favourite part is licking the remnants of the mixture off their fingers before I insist they wash their hands!

After the biscuits were made and iced, the boys went on a ladybird hunt in the garden. They both managed to find where I had hidden their ladybird biscuits and then happily sat in the sort of sunshine eating them.

We did bake our biscuits, but if you want to do this with minimal effort you could use chocolate digestives as the ladybird, ready-made icing with a little red food colouring added, chocolate buttons as the spots, tubes of icing for eyes and a line down the middle . If you wanted to put more spots on the ladybird than just one each side, maybe consider using chocolate chips instead of buttons as the chocolate digestives would be slightly smaller than our biscuits.

We used the following recipe:

  • 125g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 1/4tsp salt
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 125g unsalted butter

For the icing:

I like to use a thick buttercream as I find it easier to ice biscuits with than glacé icing as it doesn’t drip off the biscuit as easily. I do tend to make buttercream by sight rather than use a recipe, but below you will find approximate measurements. Do add a little more icing sugar to make it more firm and more butter to loosen it if you need.

  • 40g butter
  • 125g icing sugar
  • Red food colouring (we use Wilton gels)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 150°c fan.
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, salt and cocoa powder into a bowl. Usually I give the kids a metal spoon each and get them to stir it through the sieve as they do seem unable to understand gently shake to get the flour through and we end up with flour everywhere. This way is more contained!
  3. Rub in the butter until the mixture combines.
  4. Wrap the shortbread in cling film and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  5. Roll the biscuits out on a floured silicone baking mat or surface cutting out circles (we used 7.5cm diameter cutter). You will probably need to re-roll the shortbread in order to cut out all the biscuits. Depending on how thin you like your biscuits, this recipe will make around 12 biscuits. We did find the thicker biscuits cracked more easily when the boys were holding them to ice them.
  6. Place in the oven for 10-12 minutes. Remember: as these biscuits contain cocoa it is harder to see if they are burning. I tend to cook them for 5 minutes, rearrange them in the oven and then cook for another 5-7 minutes checking them to ensure they haven’t burnt.
  7. Leave the biscuits on the baking trays to cool for a while and then transfer them to a cooling rack.
  8. While the biscuits are cooling mix the buttercream ingredients with an electric mixer. This is the only bit the children didn’t help with as they were playing so nicely and I don’t really like them getting too close to food colouring (my fingers are still red!)
  9. Once the biscuits have cooled cover just over half of each one in the red buttercream. Draw a line down the middle of the buttercream with a dark coloured icing tube and add the chocolate buttons for the spots. Give the ladybirds eyes with a light coloured icing tube. I did have to help mine with the icing tubes as it can be difficult to get the icing out and get it where they want it.

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