Taking the biscuit

As you may know, I have been trying to cut palm oil out of my life. Palm oil has certain properties that make it a great ingredient for manufacturers and it can be tricky to avoid unless you cook everything from scratch, particularly since it isn’t always listed as ‘palm oil’ in ingredients lists. Anyway, I discovered a few months ago that it’s in most commercially-produced biscuits (including my beloved digestives). The answer, however, was provided by two friends: Sue sent me three recipes and Kate sent me one. Since January, therefore, I have not bought any biscuits and I have made all the ones we have eaten at home. This not only avoids palm oil, but also greatly reduces plastic packaging since most of the ingredients (including the butter) come in paper or glass.

The key to a good biscuit (rather than a cookie), according to Sue, is to use a hard fat. The choice comes down to butter or hard white vegetable fat. However, it turns out that the latter (e.g. Trex) is made from palm oil. So, I’m sorry vegans, but all the successful biscuits I have made have contained butter.

I’m going to share the four recipes here, for those of you who also want to make your own. The measures are in the original units in which each recipe was written, so there is a mix of ounces and grams.

Ginger nuts

16 Biscuits 15

ginger nuts

 

8oz SR flour
2 heaped teaspoons ground ginger
4oz sugar (white or golden granulated)
3oz butter
4oz golden syrup
1 egg

Mix the dry ingredients, melt the butter and syrup, mix everything together. Shape teaspoonfuls into rough balls and press down a little, then arrange on greased baking trays with plenty of room to spread. Bake at 150C for 15 mins or until golden and becoming crisp. Cool on a rack and put in tin as soon as cold.

Shortbread Biscuits (Mr Snail’s favourite, especially dipped in chocolate)

16 Biscuits 3

We love shortbread biscuits

200g butter (soft)
100g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
250g plain flour
50g ground rice

Cream together butter, sugar and vanilla, work in the flour and rice. Roll out to 1/4 inch thick, cut into rounds (or hearts) and bake at 160C for 15-20 mins.

Granny Boyd’s biscuits

16 Biscuits 11

lovely and chocolatey

 

250g butter
125g caster sugar
300g SR flour
30 g cocoa powder

Cream together butter and sugar. Sift cocoa and flour together and work into mixture. Form into walnut sized balls and arrange on trays. Flatten slightly with the back of a fork. Bake at 170C for 5 mins then turn the oven down to 150C for another 10-15 mins. The top should be firm and the inside slightly squidgy – they firm as they cool.

Digestive biscuits from a Victorian recipe

16 Biscuits 2

digestives

 

4oz fine oatmeal
2oz wholemeal flour
2oz white plain flour
2oz soft brown sugar
Quarter of a teaspoon of salt
Half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
3oz butter
1 egg

Rub the butter into the dry ingredients and then add the egg. Mix well. Roll out to about 0.25-0.5 cm, cut into rounds and place on a baking tray. Bake at 190C for 10-15 minutes. Allow them to cool and if they aren’t crispy enough I put them back in the oven for another 5 minutes.

I would add another recipe to my collection of favourite biscuits and that’s Delia Smith’s chocolate chip ginger nuts, the recipe for which is here. These are very rich and very delicious:

16 Biscuits 13

chocolate ginger nuts with chocolate chips

So, do you have a favourite biscuit recipe to share?

 

 

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19 Comments

  1. Have you experimented with coconut oil? I imagine that for most of the year in the UK it is a hard fat… My tried and trusted recipe is one for a cookie, but it is GF and flourless in case anyone’s interested: 1 cup crunchy peanut butter, 1 cup sultanas, 2/3 cup soft dark brown sugar, 2 eggs, 1 tsp cinnamon. Mix all together well, and blob large heaped teaspoonfuls onto a baking paper covered cookie sheet. Bake at 180°C for 15-20 minutes. Also very good with choc chips instead of sultanas. It’s quick and a very good recipe for unexpected visitors.

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    • Because coconut oil becomes liquid at such a low temperature, my experience is that it generally behaves like oil. You can’t beat it up with sugar like you can butter because the energy you put in melts it! I’m happy to use butter, but I know some folks aren’t.

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  2. Mmmm, my all time favorite cookie (biscuit) is called toffee bar cookies. 1Cup butter; 1 cup brown sugar; 2 cups flour; 1 6 oz package chocolate chips; 1 cup chopped walnuts. Cream butter and sugar, add flour to create a crumbly mixture, then add nuts and chocolate chips. Do not overtax or the cookies will be oily. Press the mixture into a large cookie sheet (15 x 24? I normally halve this recipe and use a 9 X13 pan) Bake at 350F for 25 minutes and cut when you remove them from the oven, as they will harden up. They are lovely. Sorry for the converting you’ll have to do. I’ll be trying the digestive recipe!!! Love those things, but … as you said, the ingredients…

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  3. Laurie Graves

     /  June 4, 2017

    Oh, those look delicious! Not much time for baking nowadays, but I’ll keep these beauties in mind.

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  4. Glad the recipes are working for you! The ginger nuts comes from a Be-ro cookbook I sent for in 1971! They were my late husband’s favourites and when he worked in local government for a while he always had a tin of them on his desk – amazing how many people needed to see him about a query at coffee time! The shortbreads came from my daughter and I found the granny boyd ones in a Nigella Lawson book from the library. I will be trying the digestives – I miss those too. And the others people have posted in the comments. Thank you to all.

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  5. Your biscuits made my mouth water! 🙂

    I don’t blame you going for butter in your search to avoid Palm Oil – since your last post on the subject, I’ve been looking at the food we buy, and you really can’t escape it’s use in practically everything ready made! 😦

    By the way, Happy Anniversary to you both 🙂

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  6. I do love a ginger nut, and your short breads look so crisp and moreish. Do ginger florentines count as biscuits?

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  7. Oooh, I am dying to get baking after reading this lot! My favourite cookie recipe is in the River Cottage Everyday book – I’ll look it up and add it when I get a sec! It’s a basic chocolate chip cookie, but it can be adapted any number of ways. My favourite improvisation involved matcha and white chocolate 😋 Now all I have to do is decide which recipe to try first…

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  8. Thanks for delicious post. I am sharing it. 🙂

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  9. I’ve recently started to cut palm oil (or use sustainable palm oil) out of my diet too! Are there any other tips you would give, whether they are in or out of the kitchen?

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    • My best tip (although it’s time-consuming) is to make as much of your food from scratch as possible – that way you are in control of all the ingredients. Gradually cutting out processed food is quite straightforward and, before you know it, you are in the position where you are making informed choices about all aspects of your diet.

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      • Thank you for the advice!! Have been trying to do this for the past week and a bit now and although it can be tiring when i’m not in the mood to cook, it’s totally worth it knowing no animals are dying etc. because of the food i’m eating!

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