Oatmeal biscuits for cheese or a deserving friend

This recipe was, I think, from Sainsbury’s magazine about eleven years ago. I think it was Nigel Slater – apologies if that’s wrong but it’s impossible to remember accurately and who would think I’d be sharing it on a blog a decade plus later? I do however, remember what attracted me to the recipe which is (like so many recipes that attract me, I’m so shallow), the photo accompanying it had a pile of these stacked up.

They just looked so good. And they are. I have been known to make a present of these biscuits with a cheese humidor, and some nice cheeses, to a host(ess) for the weekend.

I don’t think these bics are the same made in a round shapey. They have to be square, and until my dear friend Lucy bought me a square cutter I used to cut round a medium sized Post-it Note…

You need:

50g medium oatmeal

175g wholemeal (plain) flour

2 level teaspoons of baking powder

95g diced (unsalted) butter, but if you use salted, omit the pinch of salt later on

3 level tablespoons caster sugar

3 tablespoons of milk – any fat content

a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6.

Sift the oatmeal, flour, baking powder and salt if using, into a large bowl. Tip any bran that’s left over in the sieve, into the bowl too. Add the butter and the sugar and rub lightly until it resembles breadcrumbs. You can – I do – do this in the food processor using the pulse function but don’t over do it.

Pour in the milk and continue to mix until it’s all moistened. A few more pulses in the processor should do it, but don’t wait for it to come together as if it does you will have overworked it. If you’re unsure, open up the food processor and try to squeeze some of the mixture together – if it holds together fairly easily it’s ready.

Draw it together into a ball/abstract shape and cover. Rest for ten minutes. There is no need to do this in the fridge but if you want to make the pastry in advance, put it in the fridge for a day or two. You will need to take the chill of it (room temperature for a few hours) before you start working with it however.

When you’re ready to make the biscuits, you can flour your table top but I very lightly oil a large chopping board. You do need to roll out the pastry (I hate this bit). When it’s about 5mm thick you can start cutting into whatever shape you want. Mine are approx 3″ square. Don’t make them too thin – they’re more liable to break and burn. You don’t want to overwork the pastry either – don’t make it any work harder than it has to – so I roll these out in two batches. The mixture makes about 16 of them.

Lift them onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment (it’s really worth using baking parchment, trust me). You may need to use a very fine bladed spatula to separate them from the surface you’ve rolled them on. Place on the tray. You can place the fairly close together – but not touching obviously. They do rise, but minutely, so you don’t need to space them really far apart. Get a fork and prick each biscuit three times. I find this unbelievably satisfying.

Cook for 10-12 minutes. My oven is very hot so it only takes 10 minutes. Leave on the tray for five minutes, then gently lift off onto a cooling rack. I’ve left them too long on the baking tray (not using parchment) and they’ve stuck horrendously. So learn from my mistakes!

You can even eat these on their own. They remind me of a really good digestive biscuit. Very nice with cheese and some left over from Christmas cranberry sauce.

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