Get the Recipe
I'm a huge, huge fan of the BBC. For years I've been using a combination of Netflix, public broadcasting, and internet cunning to watch shows like Foyle's War and Sherlock. With the exception of my parents, who started my own obsession, I thought that the American public was generally in the dark about the amazing programming coming from the other side of the pond. So imagine my surprise when Downton Abbey took off like a housemaid caught stealing the china. It seems like everyone is watching this show and I say, it's about time.
My favorite part of the series is obviously Maggie Smith— I think she's so brilliant I'd watch her do a one man show of Bleak House if she ever cared to do it. In close second are the sets and costumes which are particularly well wrought. The minute historical details add immensely to show's ability to evoke a time and place. In fact after watching an episode, I'm in the mood to don an evening gown and pour myself a glass of claret. Unfortunately my budget is a wee bit smaller than that of the BBC, so I will make do with another British tradition: tea and biscuits.
Madeira biscuits are incredibly simple. They're essentially a flat butter cookie sprinkled with raisins, though I like to make mine with a combination of raisins and Zante currants. This is an aesthetic choice as well as a culinary one: I think the currants make the cookies resemble spotted dick, another very British dessert, and they add a tang that cuts across the richness of the butter.
Like their more popular cousin, the Madeira cake, I assume these cookies got their name because they were often accompanied by a glass of Madeira. Having no Madeira on hand (see: budgetary restrictions) I enjoy mine with tea.
These cookies taste of pure butter accented by sugar and a hint of fruit. They're deliciously plain and perfect for all times of day. Best of all, they're slice and bake cookies, which means you can keep a log in your freezer and have a fresh batch ready in 15 minutes. Because if we've learned anything from this show, it's that the ladies of Downton would never be caught without a nibble to offer their guests.