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Thursday, May 1, 2014

May ABC Challenge: English Digestive Biscuits



I've been a long-time fan of digestives.  I don't know what they're "supposed" to taste like, exactly, but since I thoroughly enjoy the McVitie's brand, that has become my ideal. They're very short, not too sweet, with a nubbly texture and a little bit of salt just on the tongue.  But they're also expensive.  So when I found a recipe for digestives years ago by Marion Cunningham (from whom delicious things issue), I gave it a go.  Unfortunately, her recipe fell far short of expectation.  (I think it was the egg.  From now on I vow to spurn any digestive recipe containing egg.)

I've been intending to have a Digestive Bake-Off  in order to find a recipe with that perfect balance of shortening, sugar, and salt and just the right crumbly texture. This month's challenge gave me a chance to make some headway, at least with one recipe.  I  tried to follow it faithfully, since you can't compare recipes if you start mucking with them.  I  must confess, though, that on seeing the recipe contained no salt I knew that they would not pass muster.  Therefore, I changed the butter to salted.  I also made only one quarter of the recipe, which could have altered the proportions slightly due to the smaller margin of error.

Here's what I used:

1/2 cup 1/8 cup (0.5 ounce) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups 3/8 cup (2.5 ounce) whole wheat flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted salted butter at room temperature
3/4 scant 1/4 cup (0.75 ounce) confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup 1 tablespoon (0.5 ounce) cold milk

Baked at 350°F for 15 minutes, the thinner ones over-browned on the edges.  Yield:  8.

Conclusion:  These were quite good, but ultimately lacked something.  They were about the right level of sweetness, but the salt was completely integrated and wasn't detectable.  The texture was quite smooth.  The ones that had browned too much had a better taste and texture, with the butter having nicely crisped up the dough, while the blonder ones tasted a little raw and were slightly tougher.  It could be that I didn't prick them enough.  (Since I'll be making several different recipes over time, I wanted to mark each with the recipe source.  I should have just pricked right through the name!)

Original recipe:  English Digestive Biscuits via King Arthur Flour

14 comments:

  1. Love the way you have marked out the biscuits. Sorry that the recipe did not pass muster. I tweaked it quite a bit and was happy with the result.

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  2. Mine lacked that toasty flavour and crumbly texture I associate with a digestive - interesting that over-baking might produce these results. I'd love to hear which recipe comes closest once your testing is complete.

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  3. The biscuits look pretty. Too bad the taste was not up to mark.

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  4. I loved the marking...How did you accomplish that? Annette @ churchworkhome.com

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    1. Thanks! I have an alphabet stamp kit that I used.

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  5. Your biscuits look so pretty - do you have a stamp? I don't think we ever had a ABC project before where opinions were so divergent. I read all the reviews before I started, and therefore cut down on the sugar and added some salt to the dough.

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    1. Yes Karin, I used a stamp. Since they don't rise much the imprint stayed nicely. I also made a different recipe that used a lot less sugar. They're both good -- it really just depends on what you're looking for.

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  6. WOW, had did you get the name on it?

    Sorry you didn't like them.

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    1. Hi Judy! I have an alphabet stamp kit. A bit of a pain to use, which is why I cut the name short. I actually did like them -- they're just not THE ONE. :)

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  7. Nice job with the alphabet stamp! They look great!

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  8. Lovely stamp indeed! Nice job on archiving all your Digestives adventures. I baked my third batch this month yesterday using 100% WW flour. I added ground cinnamon and salt. I'm thinking that salted butter is probably not "salty" enough. Try adding more salt (if you were inclined to bake them again). What I'd like to try next is probably Nada's recipe that has oats in it,

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    1. Hi Hanaa! I found the "salt effect" I was looking for by using unsalted butter, then adding salt separately. (That's how I did the batch in the following post, with a different recipe.) It gives a different taste than when you use salted butter, even if the salt quantity ends up the same. I have a couple more recipes to try -- I almost did another yesterday! I'll have to check out Nada's recipe. I do think the oats make a difference. (Also done in the following recipe.)

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    2. Keep me posted on your findings as you peruse through more Digestives recipes :)

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    3. Sure thing, Hanaa. (Did you see this one?
      http://dosgatosbaking.blogspot.com/2014/05/english-digestive-bake-off-foods-of.html ?)

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