Saturday, 14 March 2015

Digestive biscuits

Digestive biscuits

I particularly love making (and eating also) cookies! And the number of recipes for cookies published on the blog so far are a clear demonstration of this passion of mine.
Excluding few types that I really don't like, I hardly can say no to a cookie, be it simple or of a rich and more sophisticated variety.

I'm not a big fan of store bought cookies (indeed not only cookies); as I have already said in previous posts, two are the main reasons for which, when possible, I prefer to make from scratch as many foods as possible: the first is that it is not possible to know the quality and origin of the ingredients used in industrial stuff and the second is the presence, in all store bought products, of additives (only few of which are necessary for hygienic or conservation reasons) and flavors, in most cases artificial (that usually taste good but are not the real, natural flavor of what we are eating).
Anyway there are few industrial products that I continue to buy, because I like them no matter what they are made of. And one of these are Digestive biscuits. I've always liked their rustic texture, as well as the sweet-savory taste: simple things can sometimes be very pleasant and enjoyable.
But recently I started thinking of making them on my own: considering how simple they seem to be, they are probably also easy to make at home, I thought. And I was right.

I scoured the web for a good recipe, and I also found some interesting pieces of information about these biscuits (or cookies, as Americans call this kind of baked goods).
Digestives are the most popular and consumed cookies in the UK, where they were created in the 19th Century (have a look at this video to know more about their origin).
Their name is related to the belief that the bicarbonate of soda originally used as raising agent was beneficial for digestion - by the way the recipe was developed by two Scottish doctors.
As for the recipe, the original is kept secret but it is anyway possible to find several interesting "imitations", which differ from one another for the ingredients used and their proportions. Some recipes use only wholewheat flour, others a mix of white and wholewheat or spelt flour, others add ground oat; there are versions with butter, others with margarine or other vegetable fats. Somewhere white sugar is used, somewhere else demerara or brown sugar or muscovado.
The raising agent, in most cases, is baking powder, sometimes baking soda, sometimes both.
Some recipes require to chill the dough before rolling (for variable times), others say it can be rolled and baked straightaway.
Digestive biscuits
It was not easy to choose; and in fact the recipe I used is a combination of more than one. Even if oat is not mentioned in the list of ingredient of the original Digestives (I checked the packet), I used a combination of wholewheat flour and ground oat flakes, as I wanted a very rustic texture; also, loving the flavor of butter in baked goods, I didn't even think to use any other fat. My personal addition was a bit of vanilla to give a nice flavor.
The result was surprisingly good. Maybe in future I will experiment with different recipes, maybe a different combination of flour or another type of sugar, but for sure the number of packets bought from supermarkets will decrease significantly.
And also future developments will be chocolate covered digestive biscuits as well as a cheesecake made with homemade Digestives for the base.
Digestive biscuits

Digestive biscuits
makes about 20 cookies
100 g wholewheat flour
100 g oat flakes roughly ground in food processor
50 g soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder (or ½ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda)
pinch of salt
100 g butter (or margarine or other vegetable shortening)
1-2 tablespoons milk
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract 
Mix together the flour, oat, baking powder and sugar then rub in the butter to a breadcrumb texture. Now add the vanilla and enough milk to create a moist pastry consistency. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to firm the mix.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C (350F) and line with parchment paper a baking tray. 
The dough is quite delicate and tends to break easily, therefore roll it gently between two sheets of parchment paper to 3 - 4 mm thickness;  cut into 6-7 cm discs re-rolling any trimmings.
Place the discs on the prepared baking sheet and bake in the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned and firm to the touch.
Remove from the oven and leave to rest for five minutes before transferring onto a wire rack.
The digestives keeps well for 4 to 5 days in an airtight container.
Digestive biscuits


  1. I haven't made these for ages. Homemade is definitely best.

  2. They look better than McVites! Looks very very good:)

  3. To be honest, my mouth is full of water after seeing the pictures in the post :)