Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Bath Oliver biscuits

Inspiration comes from many different places, I've recently finished rereading Brideshead Revisited, a book that regularly comes back in to my reading rotation, and for some reason Bath Oliver biscuits stood out to me, even though they are only mentioned in a passage in passing (below), so I set about finding out about and how to make them. I ended up finding a recipe I liked the look of on Ladies a Plate and adapted that for my use. These crackers store very well, which is what bought them to fame, not needing to reheat purchased crackers to get the desired crunch.

"We had bottles brought up from every bin and it was during those tranquil evenings with Sebastian that I first made a serious acquaintance with wine and sowed the seed of that rich harvest which was to be my stay in many barren years. We would sit, he and I, in the Painted Parlour with three bottles open on the table and three glasses before each of us; Sebastian had found a book on wine tasting, and we followed its instructions in detail. We warmed the glass slightly at a candle, filled a third of it, swirled the wine round, nursed it in our hands, held it to the light, breathed it, sipped it, filled our mouths with it and rolled it over the tongue, ringing it on the palate like a coin on a counter, tilted our heads back and let it trickle down the throat. Then we talked of it and nibbled Bath Oliver biscuits and passed on to another wine; then back to the first, then on to another, until all three were in circulation and the order of the glasses got confused and we fell out over which was which and we passed the glasses to and fro between us until there were six glasses some of them with mixed wines in them which we had filled from the wrong bottle, till we were obliged to start again with three clean glasses each, and the bottles were empty and our praise of them wilder and more exotic."
Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh

Bath Oliver biscuits
30 ml warm water
3g dried yeast
50 g butter
150 ml milk
5g salt
340g flour

  • Combine the yeast and water and set aside to bloom.
  • Gently heat the milk and butter together over a low heat, keep the temperature down, just warm enough to melt the butter.
  • Combine the yeast and liquid in a bowl and add half the flour.
  • Mix well, cover and let it rest for 15 minutes.
  • Combine the rested batter with the remaining flour and salt to form a ball of dough.
  • Knead the dough until smooth, allowing it to rest now and then.
  • Place into a clean bowl and cover tightly, allow it to rest for about 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 160ºC, and set up a rack in the top third and another in the lower third.

  • Roll out the dough into a rectangle about 2cm thick.

  • Fold into thirds and roll back out, repeat this 8 times. You will need to rest the dough every 2–3 folds as it will be resistant to re-rolling.

  • Roll the dough out to 5mm thick, dock the pastry all over, then using a cutter press out large circles.
  • Arrange on lined trays, spray the rounds with a light misting of water and sprinkle over some flaky salt.
  • Bake for 25 minutes, swap the trays over halfway through, until golden and crisp, this may take a little longer sometimes.
  • When cooked move the biscuits to a cooling rack and then store in an airtight container.

This recipe is based on one from Ladies a Plate