The one biscuit that I came to love from my time in England is the English Digestive. Ubiquitous yet unobtrusive, this most English of biscuits has found a place in the heart of many a visitor an local alike. The story of the English Digestive goes something like this: Known originally as a Wheaten, this sweet meal biscuit came to be called a 'digestive' as the use of sodium bicarbonate in the recipe led people to believe that the biscuit had antacid properties. Though records of its existence in England go back to the 1870s, it is believed that such brown meal biscuits were sold by English bakers from the 1850s!
A classic English Digestive biscuit is made of coarse brown wheat flour, wholemeal, butter, vegetable, raising agents, sugar and a pinch of salt. Sometimes it is covered in milk or dark chocolate and this version is known as the 'chocolate digestive'. It is eaten with tea, more often than not by dunking it in the steaming liquid and then biting the softened end off!! It is also eaten with cheese, jam, and fruit.
As I browsed the Internet looking for recipes for this biscuit, I was disappointed to find that almost every recipe I saw included all purpose flour. Eventually I worked on a couple of recipes to drop the all purpose flour and used a combination of Atta (Indian Chappati Flour) and Whole Grain Whole Wheat Flour (read Hodgson Mill) to recreate this flavourful cookie. The result was a deeply satisfying biscuit that we enjoy with afternoon tea!!
1 cup atta (Indian Chappati Flour)
1 cup whole grain whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup + 1 tbsp milk, chilled
- Place all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix.
- Chop the butter into cubes and drop into the bowl. Using your fingertips, rub the butter into this dry mix until it begins to resemble bread crumbs.
- Now add the milk one tablespoon at a time and work the mix into a dough.
- Do this slowly and deliberately working the flour with your hands every time you add some milk.
- Once the dough is formed, knead it until it softens.
- Shape the dough into a log and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
- Remove from the refrigerator, cut out a quarter of the dough, roll it out using a rolling pin to 1/8" thickness. Use a 2" round cookie cutter to cut out cookies. Place on a prepared baking sheet and prick with a fork.
- Bake in a preheated oven at 350F for about 15 minutes.
- Remove and allow to cool 3 minutes on the tray and then cool completely on a wire rack.
- Enjoy with tea!!
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