Digestive Biscuits

Digestives

Plain, simple, humble. Above any other, this recipe for digestives, a type of cookie, lets locally-grown whole wheat flour shine in all its glory. They’re from Hanne Risgaard’s Home Baked: Nordic Recipes and Techniques for Organic Bread and Pastry, with special thanks to Joe for introducing us to them — they made for a perfect ending to a convivial evening among friends.

Digestives

Digestives, also known as sweetmeal biscuits, refers to the inclusion of baking soda, which counteracts stomach acid. A plate of these served at the end of a meal satisfies as well as settles, and can be equally effective the morning after or a lovely treat with afternoon tea. We like these cut in smallish rounds, no more than 2 to 2½ inches across, just large enough to nibble on and not feel guilty when we reach for seconds or thirds.

Digestives

The sandy texture of most whole wheat flour can make it challenging to bake with. Here, the graininess is an integral part of the biscuit’s tender crunch, with the barest amount of sugar added to enhance the natural sweetness of the whole wheat.

Digestives

Amounts are given in baker’s weights and, as Risgaard instructs, there’s pleasure to be found in mixing the dough by hand. Depending on how long it’s been left in the fridge, the dough may feel crumbly to work with. Don’t fret, unlike that for pie, it’s a forgiving dough and will become more pliable as it’s worked. Avoid underbaking the digestives — you’ll know they’re done when they begin to caramelize and brown around the edges, releasing a toasty, buttery aroma.

Digestives

250 g whole-wheat flour
5 g (about 1 teaspoon) baking powder
50 g sugar
3 g (about ½ teaspoon) salt
120 g unsalted butter
1 large egg

– Heat oven to 390°F. Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl, then mix in sugar and salt. Cube the bold butter, and rub it quickly into the flour mix. Add the egg, and knead until you have a smooth dough. Wrap dough, and refrigerate 30 to 60 minutes.

– On floured work surface, roll out dough until it is about ⅛ inch thick. Cut out digestives with a cookie cutter, and place them on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Prick with a fork, then brush lightly with a little water.

– Bake in the center of the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until they are lightly golden. Cool completely, then store in an airtight jar.

Adapted from “Home Baked: Nordic Recipes and Techniques for Organic Bread and Pastry” by Hanne Risgaard.

Local ingredients: Whole wheat bread flour from Brookford Farm; unsalted cultured butter from Casco Bay Butter; egg from Mona Farm; sea salt from Maine Sea Salt.

Note: Thanks to those who’ve mentioned McVitie’s digestives in the comments! We haven’t had them so aren’t able to compare the McVitie’s to this recipe; the recipe here is similar to the more familiar Carr’s. Two other versions — ones that might come closer to childhood memories — are Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s, which includes oatmeal; and King Arthur Flour, which employs a mix of white and whole wheat flour. Both versions include milk rather than an egg; I’ve also seen vanilla extract added in other recipes online.

I also wanted to include a note about the digestive dough — it can be stiff and unyielding when taken straight out of the fridge. If so, leave it on the counter for 20 to 30 minutes to soften a bit. Just avoid letting the dough get too warm; it will start to feel greasy when worked, and the butter will leak out of the biscuits during baking.

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10 Responses to Digestive Biscuits

  1. faizas7 says:

    I love digestive biscuits but have never thought about baking them before! It looks so simple! I can’t wait to try these.. Great post!

  2. Claire says:

    I’m so excited to try making these this weekend! I love digestives – especially with honey. Thank you for sharing.

    • leduesorelle says:

      It seems we’re not the only fans of digestives! Honey sounds like a delicious combination with them, maybe also with some cheese…

      • Oh, yes, a mild white cheese . . . complements the slight sweetness and the whole-wheat taste beautifully. (I also eat graham crackers with white Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, especially since I started making my own [minus high-fructose corn syrup].)

  3. Chris says:

    Loved McVitie’s Digestives when I was a kid in Belgium!

    • leduesorelle says:

      We’d been buying Carr’s digestives, and will be on the look out for the McVitie’s — both digestives and hobnobs!

  4. Liz says:

    My partner loves digestives so I will have to make these for him. He will be very pleased as he misses the McVities ones which aren’t as readily available here as they are in Britain.

    • leduesorelle says:

      From what I can tell, the McVities are a mix of white and wholemeal flour — I’ve added a note to the post with links to digestive recipes that might be closer to what you remember…

  5. Simona says:

    Your Digestives look lovely. Although I am Italian, I have fond memories of Digestives from my visits to the UK. I made them a while ago and now your post makes me want to bake some again.

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